The Oscar-winner bares all about Brooklyn and bald men.
Thu May 29 2008
Illustration: Rob Kelly
Although Marisa Tomei is now a full-time Los Angeles resident, she will always be linked with the Brooklyn accent that helped her win a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her role as Joe Pesci's broody fiance in the 1992 comedy My Cousin Vinny. The 43-year-old New York native—who entered the public eye in 1987, playing one of the only white characters on A Different World—is back in the city as part of an impressive ensemble cast in a revival of Caryl Churchill's Top Girls, running though June 29 at the Biltmore Theatre. You can also see Tomei on the big screen this week in War, Inc., a political satire costarring John Cusack, in which she shows off the comedic timing that landed her the Oscar, and also made her beloved to George Costanza clones everywhere after her 1996 guest appearance on Seinfeld.
Time Out New York: I'm calling you from Brooklyn. 'Sup?
Marisa Tomei: I'm familiar with the 'hood. I grew up in Flatbush.
TONY: My notepad instructs me to say "Brooklyn—holla!" to you, but I actually don't know what that means.
Marisa Tomei: I don't know what that means either. I do know what Brooklyn halvah means.
TONY: I'm only interested in holla, though. The kids say stuff like that.
Marisa Tomei: Are you just giving me a shout-out? Are you just giving me a general shout-out in the middle of our conversation?
TONY: I think so. Or perhaps I might be offering you a loaf of Jewish bread.
Marisa Tomei: Could be the challah, yeah.
TONY: We're silly. Speaking of which, do you ever ponder your stint on A Different World and think, Why the hell did I dress like that?
Marisa Tomei: Yeah. That's not really a visual that's too pleasing.
TONY: This is in no way related to me, but is it true that you love quirky, funny, bald guys?
Marisa Tomei: I think that's an urban legend started by Jerry Seinfeld, isn't it?
TONY: You just crushed every quirky, funny, bald guy's hopes and dreams. You know that, right?
Marisa Tomei: Hey, I didn't confirm or deny—I was just telling you who the source was!
TONY: So you are into quirky, funny, bald guys, then?
Marisa Tomei: Let's put it this way: Quirky and funny is always good. Bald isn't a deal breaker, but you have to at least have the other two. I think what happens is the bald guys focus on only that. "I'm bald! I qualify!" No. You don't.
TONY: Got it. Congrats on the Drama Desk nomination for Top Girls. Sadly, Linda Lavin wiped the floor with you.
She did. She's been in a lot of really good plays. I was quite happy to see her win.
TONY: Did you challenge her to an arm-wrestling match after the ceremony?
Marisa Tomei: You know, me and Harvey Fierstein saw her in the hallway afterward and he said, "Let's rush her!" And actually we did bum-rush her. But only to smother her with kisses!
TONY: Well, you won a way bigger award anyway. Of course I'm referring to the 1993 MTV Movie Award for Best Onscreen Kiss that you share with Christian Slater, your Untamed Heart costar.
Marisa Tomei: Oh, I thought you were talking about Mr. Skin.
TONY: Right. You nabbed horny online film critic Mr. Skin's coveted award for Best Nude Scene for your role in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. Any regrets about taking the part?
Marisa Tomei: I mean, I said yes to the role and then I didn't think about it that much. And then I realized that I was going to be naked. But it really wasn't that painful—it actually was kind of fun.
TONY: Wow. I can't even take my shirt off at the beach.
Marisa Tomei: I felt really at ease, to tell you the truth. Also, so many times on a set the female character has so much less power. It was nice to have command of the set for a little while.
TONY: Was that the first time you've ever been nude?
Marisa Tomei: In my life? I've been nude before. I've been plenty nude—just not on camera.