‘It's very bizarre being part of pop culture,' says Gwyneth Paltrow as though reporting a mugging. Her delivery is careful and puzzled and asking: Why is this all happening to me? But if they had a points system to set the parameters of such celebrity her arithmetic adds up.
In her case it is not a felony. She has the correct number of vouchers. The daughter of showbusiness parents as ‘Emma' in a Wonderbra not corsets she is the Jane Austen heroine of the moment and in T-shirts and deconstructed skirts the leading lady in the life of Brad Pitt.
Given that Pitt is adoringly rated by glossy magazines as more beautiful than she, that her mother Blythe Danner is one of America's most respected stage actresses and her father Bruce Paltrow a television producer responsible for series like ‘St Elsewhere', the young, willowy blonde actress might have been forgiven for seeking challenges in banking.
But, no, she stuck to acting and with it celebrity, first by default and now endorsed by acclaim. Moments ago she always sounded like a Truman Capote heroine murmuring ‘I'm just a girl' but she is telling herself -- and so is the calendar -- that she is grown-up.
She turned 24 this month (September):' I feel like it is a woman's age. Twenty-three is still kind of on the border. To me, at 23 you can still really be a kid. I just mean in terms of a number because obviously everybody is different. For example, if someone said they were 24, you'd know they would have to be a woman, right?'
For a generation Gwyneth Paltrow is cool and not just for the Brad Pitt connection. She has a crossover style which can grace the black-tie Oscar ceremonies or a pair of jeans. On film she can play a scuffball con artist (1983's ‘Flesh and Bone') or as at present the very English ‘Emma' in a film alive with British accents and actors.
Her upbringing was polite and it shows. All the attention -- and Hollywood attention is more glaring and passionate than a nursery of mothers with newborns -- is, if bewildering, not in the least terrifying.
She is infuriatingly capable. All involved with ‘Emma' which opens in Britain this month (September 13) were awed by her abilities. As Austen's busybody organising everyone but herself she plays the piano and sings harmony; she shoots a bow and arrow -- a talent she had before filming began. A stunt driver was called on to deal with a clever horse and carriage sequence but was left redundant when she took the reins and got it right on the first take.
‘After a while I started wondering if I should put in stunts to see if she could do them,' said director Douglas McGrath. ‘ What about having her drive a motorcycle over twelve burning oil barrels? Would that be right for the period?'
Earlier, what had been of more concern was how she talked. Her co-stars included Brit-talk actors Jeremy Northam, Juliet Stevenson and mother and daughter, Phyllida Law and Sophie Thompson. McGrath believed she could compete because she could sound like a cowboy:
‘The thing that actually sold me on her playing a young English girl was that she did a perfect Texan accent. I know that wouldn't recommend her to most people. I grew up in Texas and had never hear an actor or actress not from Texas sound remotely like a real Texan.