She’s Got Gumption

A lifetime of theater propels Alameda’s Brigette Lundy-Paine into a role in Woody Allen’s new film Irrational Man.


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Photo by Katherine Lombardi

 

Brigette Lundy-Paine has acting in her blood. The 20-year old Alamedan and New York University drama student has been around actors and theater her entire life. It’s the family business. Her parents, Laura and Robert Lundy-Paine, both actors and directors, founded Virago Theatre Company in 2005 along with her uncle, Bruce Lundy, Angela Dant, and Eileen Meredith.

She took her first steps on the stage at age 1?, while her father was directing a production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And she was drafted into the family business during a production of The Bombing of the Innocents. “They held me up on stage at age 1,” she recalled. “I never had a choice.”

But nothing—or perhaps everything—prepared her for the moment last summer when she stepped onto the set to portray Jane, a college student, in Woody Allen’s new film Irrational Man, which opens in July. “It was insane,” she said. “Woody Allen and Joaquin Phoenix were walking right in front of me. They talked work the way many people I’ve worked with do. They talk about a scene and do it. They shot this scene 17 times. Joaquin never dropped out of character. He doesn’t play to the camera. He’s an inspiration.”

Her role came about after the director of a 2014 NYU play she was in liked her work and introduced her to Rhonda Price of Gersh Talent in New York, one of the country’s 10 top talent agencies.

Before getting the part Lundy-Paine had two callbacks for the movie, which stars Emma Stone, Joaquin Phoenix, and Parker Posey. The film, which was shot in Rhode Island and in New York in August 2014, is about a philosophy professor in the grip of an existential crisis who begins an affair with a student.

What was it like being directed by Woody Allen? “He’ll come over and whisper directions: ‘Don’t blow your load. Build up to it’,” she said. “He’s got an aesthetic, a look and sound he’s looking for. He has a very natural style. We improvised from the script.”

Even though Woody Allen has won Academy Awards and written and directed numerous famous films, as a child Lundy-Paine didn’t know who he was. “I thought Woody Allen was the Woody character in Toy Story,” she said with a laugh.

As a child actor, she performed with the Alameda Children’s Musical Theatre and landed challenging roles at the Berkeley Repertory Theater. At Encinal High School, she was cast as Hamlet in Remember Me: The Story of Hamlet and Ophelia, a rewrite of Shakespeare’s play by English and drama teacher Gene Kahane that portrayed Hamlet and Ophelia as a lesbian couple. Lundy-Paine also auditioned for and won the role of Juliet in a production of Romeo & Juliet with the Florence English Speaking Theatre Arts in Italy and left for Florence two days after she graduated.

“She’s always seemed much older than she was,” her father said. “Looking back, she was very young to do it. But she auditioned and did the work to get herself there. Lots of people decide to act at some point, but with Brigette, it’s been part of her life from the beginning.”

Lundy-Paine said NYU’s acting program has been very good for her. “It’s so immersive,” she said. “Whenever you’re not in class, you’re acting and working on something. People are so smart and are all dedicated to the same goal.”

“She was an outstanding actress in my Chekhov scene-study class,” said Anya Saffir, Lundy-Paine’s second-year professor at NYU who praised the young actress for her talent and congeniality. “Perhaps because Chekhov’s combining of the tragic with the comic, of lightness and weight, allowed Brigette’s natural depths, big-heartedness and glorious sense of humor to shine all at once.”

Besides the chops, she also has the looks to be a successful actress. Tall and slender, she has naturally brown hair and a flawless complexion.

Lundy-Paine will appear in an episode of MTV’s One Bad Choice in July, and is shooting a web series, Bergie and Mintz, which will air later in 2015.

As she completes her third year at NYU, Lundy-Paine has accelerated her graduation and will complete her degree this fall after returning from Italy. She plans to move to Brooklyn after graduation and try acting full time.

“I’ve been lucky,” she said. “I’ve consistently done it. I don’t know if it will be what I do with my life, but I’m going to try and see. I don’t have a backup plan.”

Brigette Lundy-Paine got her SAG card from acting in Woody Allen’s latest movie.

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