Viva la diva.AFTER SEVEN SEASONS OF DRESSING UP for her impressive repertoire of outrageous characters, including her infamous portrayal of fashion icon Donatella Versace, on Saturday Night Live, Maya Rudolph dressed down for Sam Mendes's summer dramedy Away We Go, in which she and John Krasinski star as a couple searching for the perfect place to raise a family. Now ready to reanimate her ruthless Rapunzel in next year's Shrek Goes Fourth, the 36-year-old fashion fanatic details her devotion to divas and why her SNL experience was such a drag.
There are many similarities between you and your character Verona in Away We Go. Though pregnant, Verona doesn't want to get married. You and your partner, filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson, have also stayed unmarried even though you're expecting your second child together. Do you not believe in marriage? Well, I don't really talk about that stuff. I never have and I never will, because I feel like it's one thing to make movies and another thing to unbutton your personal life until you're naked.
When did you first become aware of your gay following? My impression of Donatella Versace really brought out the excitement in gay people. People were grateful in some weird way that this bizarre woman was being represented.
During a phone interview you did with her for Interview magazine, Donatella gave you tips on how to do her better. Was she helpful? That was so bizarre. She's incredibly difficult to understand because her accent is very thick. It was as though someone was doing an impression of my impression. I had no fucking clue what she was saying.
When your Donatella and the real Donatella finally appeared onstage together at the 2002 VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards, somewhere a gay man probably burst into flames. Well, I almost burst into flames! VH1 called me up and said, "Donatella won't be able to attend, so we'll do a bit where they call her name and you're in the audience sitting next to P. Diddy or something." Then 15 minutes later I get another phone call, and they're like, "She found out you're going to be there, so she'll be there too." I was just happy I could fit into the one gown they sent from Italy--we had to use about three pairs of panty hose underneath because Spanx weren't invented yet.
Have you had any other memorable encounters with celebrities you've spoofed? Thank God I've never met Whitney [Houston], because I'd probably be dead. I was weirdly just on a plane with Diana Ross, another incredible woman I've had the opportunity to portray. I was sitting two seats down from her, and I kept sneaking looks, but I don't think she recognized me. I don't think she could see me at all because of her enormous cloud of black hair.
What draws you to divas? I lost my room when I was little, but when she was alive she was this glamorous woman always onstage singing into a microphone, so that was my idea of the most beautiful woman in the world. I've carried that with me, so almost every one of the characters I've created is my version of an ideal woman: They're all huge dames with enormous hairdos and personalities, and they're usually incredibly drunk and loud. Years into my tenure at SNL, I stepped back and realized that all of my characters were drag queens!
On NBC's Kath & Kim you played earthy life coach and spiritual adviser Athena, who always set off my gaydar. Oh, there's no doubt she's full-blown into everything. She did it with a bear on her first episode, so it's pretty clear she doesn't see any boundaries when it comes to sexuality.
What was it like to work with Molly Shannon again on Kath & Kim after briefly overlapping as SNL cast members from 2000 to 2001? I've always been a fan. She and Will Ferrell were the first people who really made me feel welcome when I got on SNL. She was like, "Yeah, I'm not threatened by anybody new. I know how great I am."
Does a night out on the town with your girlfriends look anything like your glamorous photo with Tina Fey and Kristen Wiig in Vanity Fair's Queens of Comedy issue last year? That actually was a night on the town with my girls, and Annie Leibovitz just happened to he there, which was weird. Yeah, that was a very typical Sunday night for me in New York City. I just threw on an old rag, grabbed one of my many black wigs, and put on an old pair of Balenciagas. Then I called Hector, my driver, and said, "Drive around Central Park, Hector. Drive around until you can't drive anymore."
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