K A T I E H O L M E S :
The Girl Next Door
Katie Holmes | You’re Saying You'd Like To Borrow A Cup Of Sugar? Here, Have Two
By Mui-Hai Chu
The first thing that you will probably notice about Katie Holmes is that she is statuesque and beautiful; confident, but with a gentle kindness in her movement. The second thing, if not the first in some instances, is her laugh. It retains a girlish charm and abandon that most of us can only dream of maintaining well into adulthood. It’s big and full, her entire face and eyes radiate with joy and amusement. It’s neither random nor cheap. A situation or comment has to earn the laugh, and one feels like the most thoughtful and hilarious person when one receives it. How does she do it? Is it Maybelline? It’s a mystery.
Holmes is so often defined by things in her past, as they’ve been monumental. Dawson’s Creek pierced an entire generation, and it wasn’t because of Dawson. It perhaps should’ve been called Joey’s Creek, and maybe in some minds, she’ll always be Joey. To a certain extent, she still feels like the girl next door, with that untouchable lightness. Others may forever associate her with Tom Cruise and as the loving mother of Suri. Others might only see her as a second coming of Jackie O., particularly as she’s been cast not once, but twice, as America’s chicest First Lady. Then, there’s her as a fashion icon, being the muse of so many designers and brands, but also a fashion creator herself, at one point having her own coveted label.
After spending all day with her on set, witnessing her natural ability to burst into dance given a good song, her kindness to strangers, and then a traffic-riddled car ride back with her for the interview (where, despite adding time to her commute, she insisted that we drive by the lofty Rockefeller Tree, which I had never seen in my life), it is clear that she has it. That je ne sais quoi. And no one really knows what the fuck that is, but you just feel GREAT being around it. Katie Holmes is, above all, a creator, brimming with curiosity and the need to be inspired. With two films coming out this year, The Secret: Dare to Dream, and Brahms: The Boy II, as well as a second directorial project underway, Holmes is quite busy.
Your next film, The Secret, is based off of the best selling self- help book about the power of positive thinking. Would you say you’re a positive thinker?
Not always! It depends on what time of day and what just happened. But I think that they did a good job with the script, because obviously it’s hard to turn a self-help book into a movie. They made a narrative that is somebody down on their luck and learning to have hope again. She learns to accept love and let good things happen, and so I feel like the film has sort of a magical realism quality to it. It reminds me of Field of Dreams. It feels different than what I’ve seen in awhile. There’s a sweetness and there’s a realness to it at the same time.
I think your film is perfectly timed. What was your favorite take away from The Secret?
It was a really wonderful experience making the movie. We shot it in New Orleans. Andy Tenant directed it and Rhonda Byrne, who wrote the book, was there everyday. We had to shut down, I think we had some weather problems or whatever. So it was similar to what was happening in the story and when we needed a certain shot, all of a sudden it would be beautiful out. There were some magical things that happened on the set.
Being around Rhonda was wonderful. I walked away with more hope. It kind of reaffirmed the power of believing in your- self and your dreams and your goals and what you want. What you are is valuable.
I read the quote from the book that “you become what you think about most.” What do you think about most?
Hmm... I’m very excited because I’m going to direct my second film, and I just found out that I got the funding.
Thank you. It’s really exciting. It’s been a journey to get there. Every time I started to feel like it’s never going to happen, I would go and either go see a bunch of theatre or dance shows or movies, because I felt like I wasn’t feeling myself creatively. Then, when I started really doing that, things started opening up, and then that happened. So I feel like, yes, I agree with that. The more you put things into your mind that are nourishing, fulfilling, and inspiring, that’s what you’re going to be able to give out. But if you’re filling yourself with non-inspiring stuff, then you’re going to feel that way.
Can you tell us about your film?
It’s called Rare Objects, and it’s a story about a girl in Manhattan. It’s a coming-of-age story, she’s in her late twenties, and the daughter of an Irish immigrant who is figuring out her own identity. She’s getting through tough times as a woman and coming into her own, and realizing that her flaws actually are the things that make her beautiful and worthy.
How would you say it differs to be in front of the camera as opposed to behind the camera?
Behind the camera is more fulfilling. You get to see other actors’ processes, or how they shift in different takes. You get to collaborate in that way with them. Visually, it’s really exciting to work on something long enough where you can earn that long shot of a person walking down the street, and see it’s just as emotionally powerful as a close-up, if not more. And I think that’s the goal—where you can use, visually, certain things that express the story and the emotion in a way that maybe you haven’t seen before, or we all haven’t seen before. And that’s very challenging to me, and really fun. I love Agnes Varda movies and she’s a big inspiration. I love her films. So that kind of spontaneous opportunity you don’t always get as an actor, because you’re not in charge.
Yeah, it seems like you have more creative control. Do you feel that directing has informed your acting as well?
Yes, because now I know more questions to ask. The more everyone communicates on set, the better. It makes me feel more efficient and better at my job.
I feel like coming-of-age stories are one of the more popular kinds of storylines. Why do you think that is?
As a woman, we have to keep telling our stories, and keep showing what we all go through, and have that voice out there so that we all feel connected as women. It’s good to keep telling coming-of-age stories because it’s always different in a new time period.
It’s a communal thing that women just go through.
Yes. It’s totally normal. Or it’s not, but we’ve all gone through it! Add it to the list of things we got to work on.
So the other movie that you have coming out is Brahms: The Boy II. Was it scary when you were making it?
Yeah, sometimes it was! We had this doll. I mean, I love dolls, but some people are just naturally afraid of dolls and yeah, it’s a little creepy. It can be an overall weird experience if you don’t kind of go into it knowing exactly what you’re doing, because there’s a lot about making a scary movie that can feel as if suddenly you get home and you hear a noise and you’re saying, ‘Wait, what? What was that?’
All those horror movies always have kids. Do the kids go home afraid?
That’s a good question. I didn’t ask because if they’re not, I don’t want to make them suddenly think that they should be! But Christopher [Convery] was so lovely. He’s so talented. He and his mom were so kind.
Do you believe in the supernatural?
No. I mean we all have that choice I guess. Believe in the joy of life, or not, right?
You seem like you don’t have any pet peeves. Do you have any pet peeves?
I really don’t have that many pet peeves, but I do appreciate kindness and thoughtfulness from people.
Do you feel that kindness and thoughtfulness are something that you’re seeing less of, or more of, or just kind of the same?
People think it’s so tough in New York, but I find that there’s so much kindness and thoughtfulness here because you are with everyone. You see someone give up their seat on the subway for an older woman. I have moments where I go ‘Oh, it’s great to see things like that,’ and be reminded that can really make somebody’s day. Make them feel good.
That’s nice, I actually agree. I think that in New York, you do see it more, because in LA it’s so insular, you have this string of bad interactions.
Here I feel like people watch out for each other. You help people with their strollers down the steps of the subway, you know what I mean? Like there’s just that community feel. Or if you see a child walking by themselves and you kind of make sure they’re okay. There’s this sense of taking care of one another because you’re in a community and you’re not so spread out.
You have such positive, happy energy. How do you do it? What is your secret to staying positive?
I laugh a lot with my girlfriends. I try to have an awareness when things aren’t going well, to see the humor in it. This is because I tend to set my expectations high and then it’s never really what I thought, and that’s funny. Don’t we all do that?
I have to say I feel like I like your world more.
It’s whimsical, but I hope it has some sort of a nice overall effect. But you know, when I was directing my first film, I really enjoyed working with my cinematographer. He was very helpful since we did a lot of prep. We had our camera shots down and everything, but then I would get an idea and he’s really cool about that. You definitely need collaborators because it’s very difficult to do something on your own and to have the power to execute. You need people to help you with that. You might have a really good idea, but you might not, and somebody else does. It does take a lot of people to find something that works.
So you read a lot, and then you also see a lot of theatre and dance. Where do you find the time to do all that in addition to being a mom and working?
Our business goes in waves. So you are really, really busy for a couple months, and then you’re not working for a couple months. You have to keep yourself inspired. It can be sort of a let-down if you’re used to working and then you’re suddenly not.
What are some good books you’ve read recently?
I just read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, The Water Dancer. It’s incredible. And I just read Topeka School by Ben Lerner, and now I’m reading Year Of The Monkey by Patti Smith.
What are some good movies you’ve seen?
Parasite, very good. And then I was watching some old movies. The Pawnbroker I had never seen, and I’d never seen The Conversation. I liked the Agnes Varda documentary that was just at the New York Film Festival, that was really good. But I’m actually very behind on all the newer ones. Judy was great. Renee Zellweger was so good.
Do you get much into television series?
Yes, I guess I like to binge-watch. I just watched Fleabag on a flight to Australia and I think it is incredible, both seasons.
Wait, the whole first season you watched on one flight?
It’s a long flight!
So you just discovered Lizzo?
Well, I saw her in Hustlers, and I didn’t realize. I knew the song “Juice,” but I wasn’t putting it all together, and then I saw her on Friday at the Jingle Ball and I was like, ‘Oh my god!’ She’s an incredible performer.
Is she your favorite musical artist right now?
She’s one of them. I also love Beyonce, period.
Do you listen to a lot of music when you’re working?
I like music, but I’m not very well versed in it, so I feel a little bit shy about my music taste because I feel it’s very underdeveloped and I need to work on that. You know, whatever’s popular I just take it. I love listening to Jazz music. I love Whitney Houston, too.
Do you find where you live in New York is convenient to getting around where you need to go?
Yes, because we’re by the West Side Highway, that makes life a lot easier. But then getting down, I love the Lower East Side, and getting there takes pretty much an hour, because this time of year, you have to cross town and take the FDR down.
Do you drive?
No way. I am a terrible driver, I would get hit and hit.
When you said West Side Highway, I imagined you zooming down.
No way. Cab or Uber or something, but I have ridden a bike on the West Side Highway
That sounds terrifying!
No, they have a path. But the people are rude on the bikes.
You come across people that are training and you’re on a Citi Bike. They’re like ‘Get out! Move fast’ or whatever, and I’ll go, ‘Really? Go fuck yourself!’ and then it gives you an excuse to sort of get it out, even though it’s really not about that person, but you just want to feel it.
Instead of road rage, it’s bike path rage! The bike riders here are serious. I mean, there’s a lot of aggression. You have to be aggressive to bike in NYC.
You have to be aggressive, period. When you get on the subway, unless it’s an old lady or a lady with a baby, you rush to that seat and you take it. If it’s an old man, it’s questionable.
How long have you lived in New York?
This is my third year consistently. Before that we were in LA, then before that we were here, and before that we were in LA. Was it the New Yorker article that said if you’re in LA you’re like, ‘I really miss living in New York, I need to move to New York again.’ Then the weather is terrible, and you say, ‘I need to move to LA.’ It’s just constantly back and forth.
You’re properly bicoastal.
Properly bicoastal, yeah. We’re on the Upper West Side and I like that. But if I were in my ‘20s and single, I’d be on the Lower East Side.
There are more clubs and bars, right?
Well, there are more new restaurants open, it feels like it’s still developing, so there’s a freshness, like ‘Ooh what’s that building going to turn into?’ It feels more alive.
I really love New York, though. I love walking and the community, I just feel it’s more inspiring to see real people. In LA, I feel like you just get stuck in your same little circles.
It’s a challenge to meet new people as easily in LA. And here, if you have no plans, there’s so many things you can do in a night that have nothing to do with what you do for a living, and that is really fun. You can go hear somebody speak at the 92nd Street Y, for example. So I’m enjoying that part of it that I missed in LA, because, where do I go to do something like that?
It’s harder, I feel like it’s there but it requires so much digging. It has to be like a part-time job.
Yeah, or hire someone to find you stuff to do. You’re in charge of my mental health.
That would be amazing, a mental health event coordinator!
Yes, haha. Exactly! I went to some cool stuff years ago at UCLA where they were doing screenings of a great editor that would screen their favorite film and talk about it. That was interesting. And they have a great art scene out in LA.
Rent has gotten really high in LA. Clearly you get more space in LA, but people in New York are shocked that it’s not as cheap as it was a few years ago.
I wonder if it’s going to be a new communal city. I wonder if people are still going to buy large homes and live behind gates, or if it’s going to become more communal.
It’s fitting you say that, as this is our Home Issue. I do feel like there’s a lot of things to be anxious about and there’s a lot of things to be hopeful about, too. What are some things you’re anxious about?
Climate change, the economy, and politics. The constant flow of information can be a lot to take in. It can make you feel overwhelmed. So I have to take a lot of breaks from that, because it can start to feel very hopeless. We all have to keep going and keep working to make the world better and put things out there that are hopeful and inspiring.