Chef Colette (Janeane Garofalo) in Ratatouille.
She’s done it all. Movies like Mystery Men, Reality Bites and The Truth About Cats and
Dogs. Television shows like Seinfeld, The Larry Sanders Show and The West Wing.
And lots (and lots) of stand-up comedy. She even survived SNL, hosted the MTV Movie
Awards and co-authored a book with pal and comic mega-star Ben Stiller.
Ratatouille is the first time
Janeane Garofalo has been in a Pixar film – and delightfully,
she plays the romantic lead, a captivating chef named Colette. We asked Garofalo about
French cuisine, Pixar standards and the availability of roles for female actors.
[Also, be sure to check out our interview with Ratatouille / The Incredibles
Fandango: You play a French chef in Ratatouille. What were the challenges of this
role, as opposed to a real setting and live-action?
Garofalo: You’re just standing there, pretending to get angry or really scared, or making
loud noises, or you’ll have to make out with a character and you’re kissing your hand. So I was filled
with doubt, especially as I was doing that French accent. I had a lot of moments of fear that I was
making an ass out of myself.
Fandango: Are there a lot of takes involved?
Garofalo: My experience was this: you go in, you do each line about three times each, and
then you do onomatopoeia words that they can lay in the soundtrack later, like “Oof!” “Ahhh!” “What??!”
You know, stuff like that.
Fandango: Any favorite French foods or restaurants?
Garofalo: There’s a restaurant near my place in New York called French Roast and I go there
all the time. I order the Crock Monsieur. It’s great, it’s all melted cheese on bread with ham…I’m a
vegetarian, except for ham, bacon, sausage, bratwurst and pepperoni.
Fandango: There are a lot of big blockbusters out this summer. How do you see
Ratatouille as separate from the pack?
Garofalo: It’s not a sequel, nor is it written as a blockbuster, paint-by-numbers crowd
pleaser. It is just a good story with some beautiful artwork. Brad [Bird] makes movies that he’d like
to see. And Brad makes them at his level of integrity, which is very high. He’s not capable of making
There’s nothing in Ratatouille that insults you, or your sensibilities, especially bringing your
kids to see it…and it’s not like you’re supposed to make every film palatable for the kids. But this
movie turns out to be great for adults and children on different levels, plus it’s a good story.
Fandango: You’ve been in the business for a long time. Is it harder for women, especially
as they get older in the industry?
Garofalo: It’s gotten better over the years, but women in general get short shrift
character-wise, age-wise, and looks-wise. And when it comes to women of color, I would assume it’s nearly
impossible to work consistently because there’s only a handful of parts they seem to be allowed to do.
The men that write these parts are under the impression that they “can’t write for women.” You hear that
a lot of the time. And I always say to them: just “write for people!” Those great parts you write for
guys? Change the name from “Paul” to “Paula.” That’s it. Don’t change one other thing.
There are these terrible rules [in the film industry] about looks and age and weight for women and the
same rules just don’t exist for men. It’s a paradigm that exists in our culture in many areas.
But then again it’s an elective profession. Nobody forces you to be an actor. It’s difficult to get
traction complaining about [women’s roles], because one could say, ‘then pick another profession’, and
that’s true enough.
Fandango: You have a natural rapport with Ben Stiller…
Garofalo: Right. But the problem is I ‘out-aged’ him [in the eyes of the industry], even
though we’re in the same age group. The parts for me in movies that he produces and works on - there’s
just nothing for me to do because of those rules that subconsciously or consciously are in play. Even
with Ben, who’s a good friend. You know, he will say things like, “I really wish there was something for
you in Night at the Museum.” And of course, I can’t be the love interest because of my looks or
my age, but I’m like, “Why can’t I be in an exhibit?!” It’s not done maliciously and it’s not
personal. But it feels personal, because you’ve got all these parts in a movie, and there’s this
[industry] idea that you can’t play them.
Fandango: It does seem, however, that those movies with great stories and good roles for
men and women are lasting longer at the box office. Movies like Ratatouille or even Knocked
Up seem to survive on postive buzz...
Garofalo: Good stories will survive by word-of-mouth, in the same the way older movies
continue to live on and on, and bear repeated viewings and DVD sales. In the case of Knocked Up,
[writer-director] Judd Apatow wrote a great story, and he surrounded himself with talent, talent, talent.
His actors are masters of improvisation and they have a real naturalistic acting style, and they’re all
friends in real life. So they have a built-in chemistry. The same thing with Owen Wilson and his
brother, Luke, and Wes Anderson. They’re making movies for people who appreciate good films. Most
studios don’t do that on a grand scale anymore.
Fandango: Do you have a preference between doing films, television, or onstage material?
Garofalo: I like standup comedy the best because I’ve been doing it for the longest and I
feel the most comfortable. I also like to write my own material, and say it the way I want to say it,
wear my own clothes and things like that. I like the hour-long television [shows] that I’ve done. There
have been some movies I’ve loved and some I’ve loathed, but just like any job, sometimes the environment
is great and sometimes it’s#@! But Ratatouille is the best movie I’ve worked on…I’m
very proud of it.
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