Patricia Clarkson has a regal bearing to match the aristocratic nickname she has gained in the movie business: queen of independent film.
“People have given me that title, have bestowed that title on me. I’m honored,” Clarkson said in an interview Thursday before accepting an independent acting award from ShoWest, an annual convention for theater owners. “The independent film community is a powerful community, and if somebody wants to say I’m queen of it, I’m lucky. Very lucky.”
Clarkson’s latest film is “Whatever Works,” her second straight movie with Woody Allen after last year’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” Screening Thursday at ShoWest, “Whatever Works” stars Larry David as a New Yorker whose change in lifestyle throws him in with a Southern family, including Clarkson.
Late this year, Clarkson, 49, has the lead in the independent romance “Cairo Time,” playing a woman in a brief encounter with an Egyptian man (Alexander Siddig). She also co-stars in “Shutter Island,” the latest collaboration between Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, though Clarkson is coy about her role.
“I can’t really tell you a lot about my character because it’s kind of a surprise,” Clarkson said. “Leonardo DiCaprio encounters me in the film in a cave. I’m the lady in the cave.”
An Academy Award nominee for 2003’s “Pieces of April,” Clarkson has appeared in such independent pictures as “The Station Agent,” “Lars and the Real Girl,” “High Art,” “All the Real Girls” and “Far From Heaven.” Clarkson won two Emmys for a recurring role on “Six Feet Under.”
While independent films have been Clarkson’s bread and butter for years, she said recent turmoil in indie cinema may not be a bad thing in the long run. Some big studios have closed their independent banners and financing has tightened for smaller productions, which have had a tougher time making inroads at the box office.
“Making an independent film should always be hard. That’s the whole point,” Clarkson said. “The problem is there’s been too much product, and the industry can’t support it. There are not enough theaters, there are not enough distributors, there’s not enough money. The playing field is leveling.
“When I did ‘High Art’ back in 1997, I knew like two other people who were doing an independent film. Now everybody does. It was a rare event to get an independent film made, and I’m not saying we want to go completely back to those days, but we have to find the happy medium.”