I love Paz de la Huerta. I remember reading then obsessing over that LEGENDARY New York Magazine profile on her from 2010 in which Paz is interviewed at her destination of choice — a unisex sauna in downtown Manhattan — where she “forgets” her bikini then “misplaces” her towel, so, you know, she goes ahead and rubs raw honey all over her breasts whilst a sea of men with beer bellies perspire and drool. As a result of this amazingness, I was thrilled to interview the confident, crazily compelling sex kitten and wondered if we would soon be hard-partying BFFs. But I would shortly learn that I was chatting with a brand new and improved Paz de la Huerta. Within the first MINUTE of our phone call, Paz tells me she’s finally feeling “amazing” after being struck by a stunt driver on a film set several months ago. Nowadays, she’s taking care of her “new body” and is “really excited for people to experience Paz as the whole artist. The actress, the director… even singing! I love to sing.” From the traumatic but ultimately transcendent experience to writing, directing, and starring in her first feature film, Paz, as expected — and for 31 minutes and 51 incredible seconds — didn’t hold anything back.
Let’s talk about that unfortunate accident. What happened? And how are you feeling now?
Paz de la Huerta:
I feel amazing now, but I should’ve died the day I was hit by that stunt driver on set. Even though I wasn’t diagnosed correctly and was in-and-out of the hospital for eight months, I survived. I fought for a diagnosis and I fought for a cure. I now want to be a patient advocate because it’s amazing how the medical system screws over people. Had I not been so relentless and fought for my life like I did, I would be dead for sure. I’m free now and I am here to tell a story
One of these stories you’re referring to is The Valley of Tears, your first feature film you wrote/directed/starred in and which is produced by BULLETT Media. What does its story mean to you?
It’s my take on The Red Shoes, but it’s not like the Michael Powell film at all. I had filmed part of it before the accident and the other half after the accident. It was kind of telling because it’s about the end of suffering. The first half is when my character’s life is pretty good and she’s just been adopted into a wealthy family. In the second half of the film, my character is raped, she gets her feet cut off, she’s looking for a church to redeem herself. Then an apparition of Mary appears and that’s when my character talks about redeeming herself and recites an excerpt from the Bible called “The Valley of Tears” which is about the end of suffering. There are two endings to the film: one in which I say the last word from the passage as I take my last breath and bleed to death. I recite the same passage for the second ending, and it seems as if I have taken my last breath and bled to death… but then it fades out and the audience experiences me at peace with my feet and beautiful wings as an angel. So the film has a real documentarian feel to it. It feels like God has watched over me and knows how I fought for my life. And now all of these beautiful things are happening. I’m editing my film, I’m in love… And when I was in the hospital, I started painting again, which is my first passion.
Tell me more about your art. Can we expect an exhibition of your work at some point in the near future?
I will be putting together an art show of all of the paintings I did while in the hospital, but right now I’m focusing on finishing the editing of my film. The thing is, everything I’ve been working on is very connected. I have a book coming out in March with my poetry and with photographs that were taken of me for a period of time after a breakup by this amazing photographer, Alexandra Carr. I was really down and out and living in this 300-square-foot apartment. She photographed me every weekend over the course of I’d say seven months. And then all of a sudden, I remember it was springtime after a really cold winter. I heard these birds chirping and I said, “Oh my God!” And I really meant it. I was asking God, “The birds didn’t die over the winter?” So that’s what we named the book — The Birds Didn’t Die Over the Winter.
How have you continued to maintain a healthy life following the incident?
I know who I am now and I’m not self destructive anymore. This is my new body and I am going to take care of this body. It was traumatic what I went through, but I like who I am today. I didn’t like who I was before.
Who is the Paz of today?
I’m introducing the world to the real me, not just the actress. You know, people in America are so stupid. They see you play a role like I played in Boardwalk Empire, and if you’re good at what you do, they automatically think you’re like your character. But I’m very far from Lucy Danziger. I’m going back to how my career first started off — I’m going back to working with real auteurs. There is no reason why anybody in this world should not be doing exactly what they want to be doing. I’m not just an actress for hire — I have an aesthetic. I have a vision of what my perfect world looks like.
What does your perfect world look like?
What I’m really fighting for right now is building my own production company — I’m in the process of building a studio in Puerto Rico. I’m so repulsed by the majority of the films that come out. And beyond that, it’s only television these days, which is really tiresome. I don’t watch TV, I don’t want my children to watch TV. There may be quality TV, but I want to bring back… film.
Are there any film roles that you would’ve killed for?
It’s funny… every film where they didn’t end up using me, it turns out it went straight to DVD and I’m like, “Hahaha, you f***ed up! You should’ve cast me!” But there was this one experience where I somehow got this script for an Antoine Fuqua film. The role was for an African American girl, but I just knew this girl inside and out — I knew how to play her! My agents thought I was crazy. I thought, well, okay, I’m auditioning anyway. And I went to the audition and there’s like fifty African American women in the room and they’re looking at me like, “What the f*** is this girl doing here?” And after like three callbacks, I screen tested with Richard Gere. It was down to me and one other African American girl, and it ended up going to her. I was totally devastated.
That’s a bummer. I’m curious — what is your advice to the young artists of today?
This country is in serious debt, and there are too many overeducated, over-talented young people out there with no jobs. If you can print this… “Hear, Hear! Join the Paz de la Huerta revolution!” The only way my films got made was because people believed in my vision and believed in what I had to bring to the table. I want to bring back amazing films — that’s what I want to do. After going through something where I now know miracles do happen, I just feel like everybody should shoot for the stars. It’s so sad that the world falls apart over money. I mean, isn’t that sad to you? But it’s in those times that revolutions happen. We live in a world where children look up to f***ing Kim Kardashian. How sad is that? It’s time for a revolution. So, for anybody who wants to come onboard the Paz de la Huerta revolution, sign up!
Why are you so amazing? In other news, you’re in LOVE! How did you two love birds celebrate Valentine’s Day?
I prepared a little dance routine for my boyfriend to “Coma La Flor” by Selena. I think we’re still celebrating our Valentine’s Day!
Aww! That’s a lot more romantic than mine, which was spent cuddling in bed with my cat.
Awww. No, no! It’s beautiful.
Well, it was lovely chatting with you. You sound so happy and that makes me so happy.
Thank you. I’m feeling great. When you’ve lost the ability to do things that people take advantage of everyday, like walking down the street, and all of a sudden you get your health back… it’s like you’re always high on life. It’s beautiful. Life is precious, and our jobs as artists is to make it a more beautiful world.
On set photos from The Valley of Tears courtesy of BULLETT Media. Paintings by Paz de la Huerta.