By MICHAEL AUSHENKER | Contributing Writer
She wowed us as the precocious but overall charming Elaine Benes on the classic sitcom “Seinfeld.” She was the titular divorcée in “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and she’s currently straight killin’ it as President Selina Meyer on “Veep.”
Like Elaine’s awkward dance moves, critics have stuck their thumbs way up for multiple Emmy- and Golden Globes-winning actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Now Loyola Marymount University School of Film & Television has singled out the Palisadian as a “Hollywood Master.”
At the season-closing installment of “Hollywood Masters,” the youthful, petite Louis-Dreyfus blended in among the LMU students. The April 6 conversation featured a career-overview moderated by Hollywood Reporter Senior Editor Stephen Galloway and clips from key performances, including the acclaimed indie film “Enough Said.”
Louis-Dreyfus discussed “dialing down” her acting in scenes with James Gandolfini for the 2013 dramedy. She enjoyed working with Gandolfini—whose professional insecurities post-“Sopranos” boggled her. “He wasn’t that confident in his acting,” she said.
Before she was famous, Louis-Dreyfus had a tiny part in Woody Allen’s 1986 Oscar-winner “Hannah & Her Sisters.” She recalled repeatedly flubbing a scene.
The screw-up, however, didn’t discourage Allen from employing her in 1997’s “Deconstructing Harry.” She said that while making “Harry,” she was too in awe of Allen to ask if he remembered her “Hannah” bungling.
Louis-Dreyfus recounted her childhood, moving from New York to Sri Lanka to Washington, D.C., and later attending Northwestern University where she pursued improv comedy.
At 21, her life changed one night when a “Saturday Night Live” producer was in the audience watching one of the Chicago comedy troupes she belonged to. Her future husband of 29 years Brad Hall was also a member of the troupe. To their shock, she and her colleagues were offered “SNL” jobs.
What appeared to be a dream come true for the girl who idolized Gilda Radner as a teen quickly soured. “It was very misogynistic,” she recalled. “There were also a lot of drugs going on.”
She commiserated with one of the show’s writers whose material was equally shunned. “He couldn’t get a sketch on the air,” she said.
That person was future “Seinfeld” creator and erstwhile Palisadian Larry David.
Years later, as NBC was seriously considering airing David’s Jerry Seinfeld vehicle, the network insisted on a female character. The rest is history.
Of course, “Seinfeld” remains the crown jewel of her career. By the time the show ended after nine seasons, “I was sort of done with it,” said Louis-Dreyfus, who wanted to raise her kids.
She recounted how co-stars Seinfeld, Jason Alexander and former Palisadian Michael Richards broke down crying before the final episode. Seinfeld wept saying how this series would forever link the four of them, she said.
HBO’s “Veep” doesn’t emulate any presidential administration. Yet life seems to be imitating the show’s over-the-top art. “When we started out, it was satire and now we look at it as a sober documentary,” she deadpanned.
While Louis-Dreyfus didn’t name-drop her Pacific Palisades community, the actress alluded to her longtime home while sharing how she almost stepped on a rattlesnake while hiking.
Galloway pressed her for where this happened. Her response: “Will Rogers.”
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.