Patricia Clarkson, taking more chances with 'Cairo Time'
Constance Droganes, entertainment writer, CTV.ca
Published Wednesday, September 16, 2009 4:20PM EDT
Attention Megan Fox: You could learn a thing or two from the truly sexy, uber-talented Patricia Clarkson.
"If I were a man I would run away with her." That's what one frazzled TIFF journo confesses, the two of us rushing into Toronto's Intercontinental Hotel to meet the "Cairo Time" star.
You know what? I'd have to agree.
Riding up the elevator, I find myself sharing the space with Clarkson herself. She and her publicist are running late, too, just like everybody and everything else at this crazy-paced film fest.
The famed American actress frets about keeping people waiting -- hey, not every star is so considerate. As Clarkson eyes the elevator's floor numbers, I survey the understated, all-out glam this woman has served up for the day.
Gorgeous red lips, elegant black stilettos, creamy white skin set off by a fantastic, sophisto-sexy little black dress, perfectly-styled blonde hair...Yup, Clarkson's a head-to-toe treat for the eyes all right.
And it only gets better once you meet her.
"Oh my gosh! That was you in the elevator," Clarkson smiles, exiting an interview room some 20 minutes later to find something to eat. "So sorry to keep you waiting," she says, squeezing my hand warmly. "You don't mind?"
Mind? Here. Take my protein bar, my water, my last stick of gum...whatever. Journos, photogs and handlers suddenly buzz about the place, tracking down some kind of sustenance for the New Orleans-born beauty. There's just something about Clarkson. "She's a real classy broad," whispers one veteran publicist in my ear. "Trust me. I should know."
A few moments later, I'm ushered into a suite to see for myself.
"Come on, come sit down here. Love your skirt," Clarkson waves. I compliment her stunning outfit. She shakes her head a little bashfully. "Well, you know. Ever since I hit my 40s I've learned to zero in on what works and what doesn't," she smiles. "I don't have a stylist."
"What?" I gasp. The way tabloids tell it, even handlers of handlers have their own entourage of stylists these days."
"Oh no," the 49-year-old actress grins. "I have really good relationships with some really great designers. Together we make it work."
That proves true, even in the outfits Clarkson wears in her new movie, "Cairo Time."
Under the painstaking eye of Canadian director Ruba Nadda, Clarkson plays Juliette Grant, a 40-something magazine editor who travels to Egypt to meet her husband.
Caught up with business, her mate is unable to meet her. The absent husband sends a retired colleague, Tareq Khalifa (Alexander Siddig) to meet his wife and settle her in to the strange, bustling city of Cairo.
Without wanting it to happen, an unexpected love affair catches Juliette and Tareq off guard. Nothing is ever sexually consummated. Yet with looks, touches and gorgeous mood, Nadda delivers an inner, emotional tale that hasn't been seen since David Lean's 1945 classic love story, "Brief Encounter."
"Juliette is a woman who isn't wanting for anything. And she's happily married," says Clarkson.
Her kids are grown. Her husband is busy. She's got a rich life and career. But as "Cairo Time" unfolds Nadda's heroine is as restrained as her wardrobe. Everything is classically chic. But it's all beige.
Once this affair of the mind and heart affair takes off, however, Juliette's clothes blossom with mouthwatering hues.
"Suddenly this womanly force in her begins to flower, and you see it through the colours she starts to wear," says Clarkson.
The actress earned gasps from TIFF audiences at Toronto's Winter Garden Theatre when she appeared on screen in a yellow sundress. It could become as iconic as Elizabeth Taylor's white dress in "A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."
Clarkson also appears in a blue gown so beautiful that it rivals Grace Kelly's iconic dress in "To Catch a Thief."
"I think what really makes this story so exciting is that it's something we just haven't seen from Hollywood in a very long time," says Clarkson.
"It's intimate. It's intense. The sounds of the city swirling about these two people make that quiet emergence of their feelings all the more powerful. The contrast is so moving and so beautiful," she says.
Yet without Clarkson, says co-star Siddig, "Cairo Time" would have been nothing more than a pretty, well-paced string of clothes and shots set against the pyramids of Egypt.
"Patricia will never be in 'Transformers.' She'll never be a blockbuster queen. But it doesn't matter. She gets all the best parts," says Siddig.
The star of such films as "Whatever Works," "Good Night, and Good Luck," and "The Untouchables," the Oscar-nominated actress has long been admired by peers and fans for her one-of-a-kind presence on screen.
"Patricia does what so few actors seem to do anymore," says Siddig. "She takes chances."
From the kooky bohemian mom-turned-artist in "Whatever Works" to "Cairo Time's" quietly tempted Juliette, audiences see something in Clarkson that they can relate to. The un-Botoxed humanness she delivers is always unforgettable.
"I don't know why people relate to me the way they do," Clarkson smiles. "Maybe it's because I'm not afraid to embrace who I am or my age. Hollywood isn't easy on an actress if you're over 40. But life doesn't stop. Why should I?"