Felicity Huffman is a household name. But, that wasn't always the case.
When Phoebe in Wonderland producer, Ben Barnz, approached her with the movie's script, she loved it, but said she didn't think she was famous enough to get financing for the film.
Not big enough? Felicity Huffman?
"I mean you have to understand I read it seven years ago. So this was before Desperate Housewives or anything had occurred. And I didn't have the juice to get a film made. I almost didn't have the juice to get a film audition, to tell you the truth," Felicity said.
Luckily, two weeks after Felicity read the Phoebe script, she was cast in Desperate Housewives, which opened the door for financing, and the movie was able to be made.
I say "luckily" because Phoebe in Wonderland is a magnificent film. Felicity stars as Hillary, the mom of Phoebe (Elle Fanning), a girl with a huge imagination, which helps her escape the strict rules of her school and society.
Hillary wants to believe that her daughter's quirks and fantasies are due to her creativity and intelligence. She doesn't want to admit that something could be wrong with her daughter, who seems to have increasingly more trouble fitting in with her classmates and the world around her.
And Phoebe isn't the only one having a tough time. Hillary and her husband Peter (Bill Pullman) are writers, and while Peter is getting published, Hillary barely makes any progress on her book about Wonderland. "In the publishing world," Felicity explained, "who you are is your work and whether you're producing. And Hillary is not producing... So she's been robbed of her only identity and then thrust into motherhood, which we all know is challenging and bewildering. And she feels like all she's failing at that, based on her daughter Phoebe who's having a very hard time."
So, what could Hillary have done to make her life easier? Although Felicity doesn't like to second-guess her roles, she said, "I guess what she should have done is asked for help."
Between playing Lynette Scavo on Desperate Housewives, and oh yes, being the mother to two daughters in real life, Felicity knows a lot about being a mom. She says that she and husband William H. Macy are just like any other typical American family, though she added, "I'm not sure you want to come over for one of my dinners -- you, know pizza and cold broccoli. But, we're all American families... and we're all kind of families next door. Once you get toward bath time and bed time, I'm fried. I'd really like to go to bed at 6 pm. I'd like to do the reading in the evening and my husband to do everything else."
Felicity brings her knowledge and experiences from motherhood to her roles, saying she wouldn't know how to do otherwise. At the same time though, she also learns from the mothers she plays. For example, Felicity said, "The lesson for me with Hillary is that I think a parent's job is to really see your child, not who you would like your child to be or who you hope your child is, but who that child really is. And it's a simple sentence but it's a tall order. Because our hopes, our desires and our best intentions get in the way."
Though Phoebe in Wonderland is not exactly a feel-good movie, it's powerful and profound. You will be transformed by the depths the actors go to, and you will leave the theater pondering how you would react in the same situation.
Phoebe in Wonderland hits theaters on March 6. -- Jacki Garfinkel
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