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A "Creative Time" for Parker Posey

The Party Girl plays a college professor in Woody Allen’s new film, Irrational Man

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Left to right: Joaquin Phoenix as Abe and Parker Posey as Rita. Photo by Sabrina Lantos © 2015 Gravier Productions, Inc., Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

With her new blonde hair, golden manicure, and the leopard print Altuzarra dress she wore to the Los Angeles premiere of her new film Irrational Man, it’s clear Parker Posey will always be the ultimate “party girl.” But college professors can party too. In the new Woody Allen movie, the actress brings her deadpan humor and irreverent charm to her character Rita Richards, a science teacher with her own frumpish style sense.

“There are not a lot of women who are science teachers, so I toughened her up,” Posey said during an interview at the Fairmont Hotel. “She’s schlepping her bags around and thinking about other things. Science is really exciting right now, but it doesn’t stop her fantasies for wanting to be rescued.”

Rita’s fantasies center upon Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix), a haggardly handsome new arrival in the philosophy department at the picturesque New England college where Rita teaches. And Rita’s not the only one with her eye on the swarthy philosopher. Student Jill Pollard, played by Emma Stone, quickly falls under his spell. While Abe vows not to get involved with another student (his reputation is the talk of the school for weeks before his arrival) a love triangle rapidly ensues.

“She’s one of those great teachers,” explained Posey, who said that she has always loved a good teacher. “She’s cool enough to talk to the kids, she smokes pot, she hangs out at the bar, she has a great record collection, she’s got crazy theories... I loved being in a Woody Allen movie and playing one of these women!”

With an acting career spanning nearly 25 years and over twice as many movies, it’s astounding that Irrational Man is Posey’s first Woody Allen film. Her quirky humor and penchant for offbeat stories make the “indie queen” a shoo-in for a Woody Allen role. But the actress, who got the part after serving with Allen’s casting director on the Krakow Film Festival jury, said her entire career has been built around luck.

“It’s not something that I’ve been in control of,” she said. “In that, I feel very blessed, but I have nothing at all to do with it.”

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Left to right: Joaquin Phoenix as Abe and Parker Posey as Rita. Photo by Sabrina Lantos © 2015 Gravier Productions, Inc., Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

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Left to right: Parker Posey as Rita and Emma Stone as Jill. Photo by Sabrina Lantos © 2015 Gravier Productions, Inc., Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

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Left to right: Parker Posey as Rita and Joaquin Phoenix as Abe. Photo by Sabrina Lantos © 2015 Gravier Productions, Inc., Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Posey started her acting career in the soaps, landing a part in As The World Turns in 1991, while studying drama at the State University of New York at Purchase. An entire generation of film-goers fell in love with her after her appearance in the cult classic Dazed and Confused (1993), while Party Girl (1995) and The House of Yes (1997), which both debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, solidified Posey’s star track and earned her the Time magazine moniker “Queen of the Indies.” The much loved Hal Hartley and Christopher Guest films soon followed, along with blockbusters like Superman Returns and Scream 3, and now here we are adding Woody Allen to the Baltimore-born actress’s resume.

“He’s amazing,” she cooed. “He’s so funny and charming and intelligent, and just—his wit. And the way that he writes women.”

Posey describes her experience filming with Allen as “bittersweet.” “I’d look over at [him] and be like ‘wow.’ He’s the progenitor of this you could say, and the last man standing.” The actress is referring to—to put it dramatically—the rise and fall of independent cinema in America, which flourished in the 1990s and 2000s, but a shift in the culture resulted in less support for the directors who were just beginning to become established. “In France, they support the auteur filmmaker and in this country we don’t,” she said. “We never really saw enough of the second film or third film of a lot of these incredible directors of the nineties and that’s heartbreaking.”

While the scene may not be what it once was, Posey is as attracted as ever to a good story. Once she gets back to New York she’ll join Greg Kinnear, Paulina García, Marisa Tomei and Alfred Molina in the cast of The Silent Treatment, a new indie film directed by Ira Sachs. And the actress revealed plans for an exciting theater project she’s got coming up. “I dyed my hair blonde and I got back from Cannes and I met the theater director Marianne Weems,” she declared excitedly. “[We’re talking] about doing a play at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) of Rear Window. It feels good. It’s a creative time. This movie... what a gift to be in a Woody Allen movie. It’s great.”

Irrational Man opens in San Francisco on Friday, July 24.