Marisa Tomei is years past the blush of youth, more than a decade removed from her winsome, wise-cracking Oscar-winning turn in My Cousin Vinny. She turned 44 last month. Not many actresses of her age and stature would dare bare their all on screen. She dares.
Playboy magazine took notice, not with a pictorial, but with admiring words, echoed by Nerve.com: “Hotter Now than Ever.”
Tomei hears this and giggles. The “sex symbol” thing has come late to her, largely thanks to films with daring nude scenes — 2007's Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, which had her playing a bored wife cheating on her drug-addict businessman husband, and The Wrestler. She took the role of the stripper Cassidy in that film. The performance, as a woman whom director Darren Aronofsky describes as “trying to keep her real life separate from the fantasy world she earns her living in,” has earned Tomei another Oscar nomination.
But she didn't leap at the role. She took a week to ponder Aronofsky's offer. She's hesitant, choosing her words carefully, in describing that decision.
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“There wasn't enough time to think about it, to prepare,” she says. “Not the way I like to prepare, anyway, physically and emotionally ... I was concerned with, uh, it being ... OK, I had just done Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, after which I never intended to ever be nude again!”
But Aronofsky, a filmmaker whom she and many others describe as “visionary,” is also persuasive.
“Just give me preparation time,” she recalls telling him. “OK, I mean time in the gym, right?”
The Wrestler is about an aging grappler coping with the end of his working life and an aging stripper dealing with her final days of pole-dancing. It's a real take-stock-of-your-life-and-body moment for any actor.
“I think I look fine,” she says. “If that's what it takes to do these great movies with great directors, I'm there. Eventually.”