Ready And Willing
Debi Mazar on acting, hip hop, and porn

Debi Mazar is hot. As spicy as a '50s pin-up calendar, yet down-to-earth and edgy, she's the gal Hollywood calls when they need to heat up a role. She's made her mark in more than 20 films this decade including GoodFellas, Malcolm X, Little Man Tate, and Batman Forever. Her latest big-screen role finds her opposite Al Pacino and Russell Crowe in The Insider -- based on the true story of 60 Minutes and a tobacco industry whistler-blower.

See also...
... by Lydia Lunch
... in the Dirt section
... from November 4, 1999

Debi made a quick detour en route to filming in the Everglades, where she and Dennis Hopper are now playing a murderous couple on a kidnapping rampage.

GETTINGIT: You came up in the East Village scene of the late '70s... What were you into then?

DEBI MAZAR: I had just dropped out of school. I was a hardcore disco fanatic. I hit the NYC scene at age 15 and started working at the Mudd Club. I'd tried to give myself a perm, but all my hair fell out, so I was the first one to arrive with a crew cut. I was into being wild, getting stoned, and living hard. New York City was great at that time -- with the integration of black, white, Puerto Rican, and Chinese cultures. It was almost like the '60s came back for a minute. Everyone was creating and making something new.

GI: Were you part of the Basquiat/Haring scene? Part of the early hip hop scene?

DM: I was one of the first white girls on the hip hop scene, which had just hit (with DJ Herc, Afrika Bambatta). I'd take the train up to the Bronx. I started doing makeup for Run DMC.

GI: Run DMC needed makeup?

DM: Yeah. Believe it or not. When I got my first East Village apartment, Jean-Michel Basquiat was my roommate for awhile. I was one of the only girls he didn't sleep with, so we remained friends until he died. Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, none of them were famous, everybody was just coming up.

GI: When did acting hit?

DM: I always loved performing. I started out doing makeup for theater and opera, standing in the wings, memorizing the dialogue, when I realized I could probably do it better. I took classes, got an agent... did a little theater...

GI: Was GoodFellas [1990] your first film?

DM: First studio film.

GI: You've worked with Spike Lee, Scorsese, Woody Allen... Who was the most challenging?

DM: They were all challenging. But it's tougher working with directors who don't know what they want. With Spike Lee, we wrote a lot of the dialogue together; it can be difficult because he's a friend and we don't agree on most things.

GI: Were there any characters you played that you couldn't shake?

DM: When I did GoodFellas. Playing a junkie is really difficult. For the Cassavetes film She's So Lovely, Harry Dean Stanton and I would go out drinking. I stopped working out and forgot my usual routine. I don't always get so method-y.

GI: Ray Liotta, Steve Buscemi, Dennis Hopper, John Travolta, Al Pacino... who made you moist?

DM: ALL OF THEM! I've worked with some great leading men.

GI: Did any of these characters come home with you?

DM: That I'm not going to tell you...

GI: Speaking of moist... would you consider doing an X-rated film if the screenplay was groundbreaking? And I've seen your credentials... They're very impressive.

DM: I'm not really into porno. It doesn't do a lot for me.

GI: Porno in general, or the porno you've been exposed to?

DM: The porno I've been exposed to. I would do an X-rated scene. I have no problem being sexual or taking my clothes off.

GI: What's the worst thing about Hollywood? Especially for an ex-New Yorker who's dealt with very real people on a very real level?

DM: The business end. What it's come to. Everything is about numbers. Nothing to do with talent. People have very short memories and no loyalty. Everything they say about Hollywood is true.

GI: Will you ever write a tell-all?

DM: I certainly could. I've got the photos.

GI: If not for acting, what?

DM: A nurse. Actually I was a dental assistant for a short time.

GI: Debi, I can't tell you how many people would love to have you in their mouths...

The Insider opens November 5th.

Lydia Lunch is a confrontational media-manipulator who has explored and exploited the written and spoken word, music, film, video, theatre, photography, and sculpture.