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In Showgirls, Gina Gershon played a bi-sexual stripper, while in her new movie Bound she gives a scene-stealing performance as a Lesbian ex-con who teams up with a gangster’s moll to rip off the mob. Paul Fischer had lunch with the actress in her favourite LA eatery to discover how she managed to come unscathed by Showgirls, and into the arms of Jennifer Tilly.

Gina Gershon is bemused by the status she has now gained with lesbian fans, following the US release of Bound, a black comedy/thriller. "Hey, they’ve been very supportive, so I’m thrilled. I’d rather be popular than not, right, and this a cool place to be."

Yet it’s hard to imagine that anyone who managed to star in Paul Verhoeven’s garishly excessive, critically maligned and commercially disastrous Showgirls, would have much to smile about. But Gina Gershon, days away from beginning work on a new John Travolta film (see later), not only survived the whole Showgirls thing, but is doing better because of it. "I was in Europe right before the film opened here", the actress explains in a Beverly Hills restaurant. "So I was a little out of the loop. I was surprised coming back at not being able to turn on a news or talk show without us being mentioned. There was SO much hype, that I realised that we were in trouble, because nothing could hold up to that much anticipation, so I was a little surprised how much they lambasted the whole thing."

Despite the enormously negative critical reaction to Showgirls, Gershon escaped unscathed, while co-star Elizabeth Berkeley had a tougher time after the film came out. "Firstly, that wasn’t my first film anyhow. I’d been working for quite a while, and I saw Crystal as one in a long line of interesting characters in hopefully a long career, so I don’t think there was the kind of pressure on me than was on Berkeley. I also always thought Crystal was the better part."

"It doesn’t matter if it’s a man or a woman; it’s who she is." Gina Gershon

It was actually while shotting Showgirls that Bound came Gershon’s way. "I thought it was such a good script, well written, but people around me were saying: there’s no way you’re going to do this, playing a lesbian character straight after playing a bisexual. But I never saw it that way."

In Bound, Gershon plays Corky, a woman trying to walk the straight-and-narrow after serving five years for "redistribution of wealth." She is doing maintenance work for a Chicago apartment building when she meets Violet (Jennifer Tilly), the beautiful, breathy lady living in the apartment next door. Violet is the kept woman of a low-level mobster named Caesar (Joe Pantoliano), but she also has eyes for Corky, and the feeling is mutual. Violet confides in Corky that she wants to leave Caesar, and hopes to take with her the $2 million Caesar is holding for his bosses while setting him up to take the fall. So Corky hatches a plan to steal the money and force Caesar to run...except that Caesar doesn't react quite according to plan.

Gershon refutes the notion that Crystal and Corky are parallel characters, not only in terms of their sexuality, but their attitudes towards relationships and sex. "For Crystal, sex was more an exercise in power; I think Corky is far more romantic, but at the same time incredibly guarded." Bound is very much a film about trust, and so getting this character meant tapping into that part of the actress which is guarded and cautious.

"Let me tell you, it’s rare to be involved in something you’re genuinely proud of." Gina Gershon

"To me, I definitely understood that guarded thing and remain that way until you allow yourself to fall in love with somebody. It doesn’t matter if it’s a man or a woman; it’s who she is." As for Corky’s lesbianism, the actress "didn’t think about that." Yet she does have one, intensely passionate, sexual love scene with her ‘leading lady’, Jennifer Tilly.

"We had a great time doing that", Gershon responds. "We laughed a lot. That was our biggest problem. Part of my willingness to do Corky was always dependent on who was going to be Violet. As soon as I met Jennifer I thought: OK, this’ll work, because immediately we had a kind of chemistry. We ended up with a kind of sisterly love for one another, which made the love scenes easier, and she was so funny. Like she’d say, in that amazing voice of hers, ‘now you hold this up here and don’t squoosh’, and I’d be going ‘now you keep your hand here’. So we really watched out for each other, even to the point of knowing what sounds we were making, when. We were like two little kids together."

Asked whether she tried putting herself into the position of a male lover, the actress responds resoundingly: "I never thought if I were a man, what would I do. I just thought: what would I do, or what do I want. If you’re a man or a woman, if you’re attracted to someone your needs are the same."

You can tell that Gershon has a genuine passion for this unique take on a once popular genre. "Let me tell you, it’s rare to be involved in something you’re genuinely proud of." In summing up the film, she hopes audiences, straight and gay, "will get past the lesbian angle. "When my mum saw it, she said, ‘At the end of the movie you want those girls to be together; you want this relationship to work.’ But I also want audiences to have a good time watching it. It’s a really fun movie, you know?"

Gershon first won notice within the theatre world as a co-founder of Naked Angels, a company of actors (including Rob Morrow, Sarah Jessica Parker) and writers (like Frank Pugliese, Jon Robin Baitz). Around the same time, she made her feature film debut with a small role in "Pretty in Pink" (1986) and her TV-movie debut in "Stark: The Mirror Image" (1986). It took another two years before Gershon won a film role that anyone really noticed, playing a socialite who seduces Tom Cruise in "Cocktail". That same year, she had a solid co-starring role opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Red Heat", in which she played an ex-hooker. She continued to appear in small roles including one in John Sayles' "City of Hope" (1991) and as a nasty development executive in Robert Altman's "The Player" (1992).

Before landing Showgirls, Gershon had her widest exposure in the 1992 TV miniseries Sinatra, in which she was the singer's first wife and mother of his children.

Since doing Bound, Gershon has been busy, with some four films due out by year’s end. First up, is another film noir, This World and the Fireworks, which had its world premiere at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival. She’ll soon be popping up in Paul Schrader’s Touch, starring Bridget Fonda, "which was a lot of fun, and this shows a comedic side to me."

The actress went to Prague to film a new romantic drama called Prague Duet, and two days after this interview, she was set to film Face Off, a major action thriller starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage. "It’s going to be huge. I’ve already seen some footage, and it’s awesome. I don’t have a big role, but it’s an important film to do."


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