Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Seinfeld actress is more than Elaine

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TORONTO -- At the suggestion that she's the finest comedic actress of her generation, Julia Louis-Dreyfus sighs an expletive.

The grandness of the statement may make Louis-Dreyfus squirm, but it's worth considering. Think about her, as Elaine Benes on Seinfeld, swooning over John F. Kennedy Jr. Think about her, as Vice-President Selina Meyer on Veep, strategically finishing a 10K race behind a disabled veteran but before a costumed contestant ("I'm not going to get beaten by a banana!").

Few comedians have both her gift for physical comedy and vocal precision.

"It's a very joyful way to make a living," Louis-Dreyfus remarked in an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival. "I kind of crave it, in a way. But it's fun to make them cry, too."

And with that, she lets out a full-throated laugh -- a bright cackle that's ruined dozens of otherwise good takes. (Look up the outtakes from her police station confrontation with Jerry Stiller's Frank Costanza on Seinfeld.)

In Enough Said, Louis-Dreyfus, transfers her comedic gifts to the big screen and, finally, gets to exercise her tear-inducing chops.

Enough Said, she joked after the Toronto premi®re, was her first dramatic work since doing The Cherry Orchard in high school. It's also, somewhat staggeringly, the first lead role in a feature film for the 52-year-old actress.

"I've spent the bulk of my career doing television and raising two children, who I'm still raising. So the idea of working eight, nine months on a series and then on my break going off to do another project is something I just couldn't work into my life," says Louis-Dreyfus. "So I didn't, much to my agent's chagrin."

In Enough Said, which was written and directed by Nicole Holofcener (Please Give), Louis-Dreyfus plays a divorced Los Angeles masseuse and mother who begins dating the ex-husband (James Gandolfini) of a new friend (Catherine Keener). It's an un-formulaic romantic comedy about the distrustful stage of middle age when romantic opportunities seem like inevitable disappointment and children leave for college.

"There was plenty to draw on," says Louis-Dreyfus who, despite a career playing interminably single or divorced women, has been happily married for 25 years to Saturday Night Live alum Brad Hall. "I brought all of it."

"I could see how emotional she was," says Holofcener. "She showed me pictures of (her sons), she started crying and I thought, 'Oh, OK. This is a no-brainer. Obviously she can relate to this part, and obviously her emotions are very accessible."'

After casting Gandolfini, Holofcener realized she had played matchmaker of two TV icons: "It's like Tony Soprano dating Elaine Benes."

The release of the film has been bittersweet, coming just three months after the death of Gandolfini. Louis-Dreyfus was a big admirer of the actor before working with him: "I thought he was sort of dreamy," she says.

"James was very much like the character, Albert, that he plays in this movie: very dear, thoughtful, self-effacing kind of guy," she says, choking up. "It's lovely for his legacy and even for his family to have this performance documented because it shows him as this loving, dear man, which he was."

Like Gandolfini, Louis-Dreyfus could easily have been pigeonholed for her famous TV role.

"The test is always time," says Jerry Seinfeld. "When your talent is thin, you get cycled through the machine fast. When your talent is deep, like hers is, you get a much longer ride -- which is very obvious to everyone at this point."

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 19, 2013 C17

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