Godzilla's Lucy, wife of a photographer named Animal, is a cheerleader of sorts for her husband, played by Hank Azaria. "She's the person rooting for the home team: they're going out doing the battle, and she's at home going, 'Yeah, honey, you can do it!' But she's tough. I keep my husband in line," Field chortles. "I boss everybody around - I play Maria Pitillo's best friend, and she was always joking, 'God, you're abusive to me - I need to get some sort of self-help to be in a relationship with you!'"
Lucy "has a good heart," and takes people under her wing while Godzilla is terrorizing Manhattan. But she's also a pushy New York type. The role wasn't unfamiliar to the Brooklyn native: one gets the impression from talking to her that in a stamina competition with Godzilla, Field might win. The actress has barely had a free moment since what looked like career disaster struck her sixteen months ago during the filming of Broadway Brawler - a Bruce Willis vehicle which shut down during principal photography after the actor refused to work with the director. Field found herself unemployed from her first big action-adventure role...and, luckily, free to audition for Godzilla.
Field had been an admirer of writer/producers Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich's Stargate, as well as a lifelong Godzilla fan. Her feeling when she learned there would be a new film was, "I don't care if I have one line, I have to be in Godzilla!" The script and characters were secret, but Field had a friend who worked in a casting office who told the actress that there was a perfect part for her. She knew the odds were against her - not only because the producers were seeing a short list of movie stars, but because she was stuck in Delaware working on Broadway Brawler.
"They called and said, 'We pumped them about you - we can get you in on one day only, you've got to come that day,' but the A.D. couldn't let me go from the movie," she recalls. "So I thought it wasn't meant to be. Then the movie shut down in the middle of production, and I literally made it back in time for my Godzilla audition. It was a similar part [from Broadway Brawler], and they had done my hair in this trashy dye job - which was absolutely perfect. I was really, really lucky - it was like fate."
Field had not seen the movie as of the beginning of May, and fears "having a nervous breakdown" if her first viewing is at Madison Square Garden. "I've seen parts of the monster and I've seen pictures, but I haven't seen Godzilla in all its glory. From what I saw of it, it's much scarier than I expected!" she admits, saying that she got her background from Monster Week showings of old Godzilla films after school. "I kept saying it's kind of campy, but it's not like Mars Attacks - the reactions were very real. A lot of action movies don't really do humor, and that's such a human element, so when we first encounter Godzilla it is pretty funny! I really like kitschy stuff, and this was a really cool script - a really good way to adapt Godzilla."
Maria Pitillo, whom Field describes as "a beautiful woman and really, really funny," has a larger role as reporter Audrey Timmonds, but Field adds that she "had really fun stuff to do" and was impressed with the non-stereotypical female characters. "I didn't feel like I was on this macho, intimidating set. We're not just like the babe on the arm. They don't cast models or musclebound guys, they cast all these great actors - you don't have to cast Matthew [Broderick] or Maria or Hank or Jean Reno or Michael Lerner in a movie like this, you can cast Joe Blow, but it makes it so much better. You'd think it was obvious, but it doesn't seem obvious to everyone."
"The cast is so incredible - it's an action movie, but you care about the characters," she adds. "They're really funny and rich, so I think it makes the scary moments and the action moments that much more intense. Obviously Godzilla is this cult thing, but the characters are really spicy and fun." Did the cast have a good time? "Oh, yes. Everybody was really into it, which a lot of times you don't have - a lot of times people are pissed off and frustrated. I had it so easy on this movie - a few days in the rain, that was it. They did my stuff really quickly. Hank and Maria and Jean and Matthew were in a cab for like three months in a studio."
Field describes the set as one of the most comfortable she's ever worked on, crediting the director with setting the tone. "They were exceptional people to work with - I have never been on a set like that, you could ask anybody on the crew, they really have a good time - they really like what they're doing, and they work hard." Director Emmerich "was really specific, but you always felt really supported," she said, adding that writer Devlin was on the set most of the time and was very open to suggestions.
"It's a rare thing, because you can imagine the pressure they're under, but we did a lot of improv. I think that's why people responded to Independence Day - there was fun happening onscreen, they let that happen with the actors, they cast people who were definitely overqualified. They were great about it." Field also appreciated the opportunity to work in such an environment with Azaria, with whom she had acted three years ago in what she describes as "an awful pilot" for television. "We played brother and sister, but then they kept changing it and I was his brother's girlfriend. It was so great to work on this with him!"
The role in Godzilla was surprisingly easy for Field because the designers had done such a good job making the situation seem real - covering several city blocks with rain, hiring thousands of stunt cars and extras to create the feeling of panic. "I was really glad I did the volcano movie, Dante's Peak, before this, where I had a lot of staring at a piece of shrubbery screaming, 'Oh my God!'" she laughs, recalling her first major studio production which starred Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton. "After that I was like, 'I'm an old hand at this,' but what was so remarkable was that the location stuff was so massive, I believed that Godzilla was there! It was so spectacular, you completely believed it."
Field is still working with many of the crew who worked on Godzilla, in the small independent film Pharaoh's Heart. "One of the Winters brothers was one of the producers on Godzilla and the others were the A.D.s - they're a big fixture in the Roland Emmerich/Dean Devlin world - and they were working on this film with a friend," she explains. "They work with the same people over and over, they have a really amazing crew that they've worked with for eight years, like since Universal Soldier." Field describes this project, an adaptation of the D.H. Lawrence story "The Rocking Horse Winner," as "a beautiful little art film" which is mostly a labor of love for the people involved in the small-budget production.
Between the two films, the actress filmed a pilot for an NBC sitcom called Blind Men. "It's about venetian blind salesmen, sort of like Tin Men or Glengarry Glen Ross, I play the devoted wife of a blind salesman." What attracted Field to the potential series? "Cash money!" she laughs. "Actually, it was a really funny script, and it's a really good cast. Wallace Shawn is in it, he's absolutely great, everybody is always imitating him from The Princess Bride. Everyone said, 'It's gonna go, it's gonna go,' so I guess we find out in a few weeks if it gets picked up."
Television, says the actress, "is going to be something to get used to; I haven't gotten into a real groove for it." A co-founder of the Gallery Rep Theatre Company who trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, Field has done a great deal of stage work and aspires to produce and direct her own material. "I think it's important for women to try to do that and now lots of women are, I see right now there are a lot of opportunities for women writers and directors," she points out, lamenting that there aren't more women in the industry like Prime Suspect's Helen Mirren, with whom Field describes herself as "obsessed."
"I think the business is more sexist than society - sometimes I think that whatever's happening in our culture, the business is like a microcosm, it's so much worse because it's so competitive here," she states. "It was nice to work on a set like Godzilla where you really didn't feel that, but that's why I really want to produce my own stuff."
How is she preparing for that? "I take classes at AFI. I'm a big taker of classes. I always make sure I become friends with the camera department and try to learn as much as I can. Women to succeed in this business have to work ten times as hard as men - for me, being an actor is my foot in the door. And I always liked to play imaginary games and make up stories. The great thing is that if you're in Godzilla, a lot of people see it! When I'm on a set I realize how privileged I am, to get to do the thing I really want to do."
As for whom she'd like to learn from, "There's a lot of big male directors," she laughs. "If Woody Allen called, of course I would do the film - it would be amazing to work with somebody like him or Scorsese. There are projects which she wouldn't take part in on principle, but Field finds that she's not as idealistic as she was when she was working in New York. "If something is really misogynist or really disgusting, I do pass on it, but there's a lot of stuff that I used to pass on that gets rewritten later. It is definitely worse with action movies, but a big, dumb movie like Starship Troopers is fine if that's what you're making. I know some men who will say, 'That's sexist!' and I'll say, 'Excuse me, but I think I know what's sexist!' I'm much more offended by somebody who's claiming to be an artist, and using that as a way to show violent sex and a lot of tits, than I am by something like Showgirls which is honest about what it is."
Field admits that she now takes for granted things which angered her when she was younger. "You have to do things you don't agree with, or you can not do it but then you're not going to change anything. It's interesting how the business somewhere was art, but in capitalism it's so competitive, and there are so few jobs, and all these people instead of being united are competing against each other." She turns philosophic. "Sometimes I get discouraged, because everything is so corporate now. You're working for Sony if you're working on Godzilla, right? But I worked on a lot of really small things in New York, and sometimes they were smaller forms of exploitation by people who wanted to be at Sony, whereas Sony treated us quite well."
Field pauses, then groans, "Gosh, as I'm talking I'm like, 'I'm a sellout, aren't I!' But the goal is to sell out. I'd love to be a big movie star - actors who say they wouldn't are lying, it's not something that happens by accident. I'd love to have a huge studio film career, and then be able to be a director. Thirty years from now I would love to have my own company. Sometimes I'm conflicted about it, I haven't done a play in a long time, but I'm pretty over being poor and wanting to do stage work, it's so hard to live on it - you can't pay your rent and you have to have another job even if you're working all the time."
One of Field's favorite recent projects is Freak Talks About Sex an independent film making the rounds of distributors which is getting excellent word of mouth. "It's about these townies in Syracuse, New York who are sort of trying to get out of there." The cast includes Steve Zahn, "who's like a genius," and Josh Hamilton, who plays Field's character's on-again, off-again love interest. "I want to be more involved and he doesn't want to be. We did some nice work in that movie, it was fun."
A genre fan as well as a Godzilla aficionado, Field has a long list of television shows she thinks it would be fun to make a guest appearance on, including the oft-cited X-Files. "I love Star Trek, I don't watch them that much because I don't watch that much TV, but I would love to be on one of them." She's considering several film projects after she completes the current one. And, of course, Godzilla could propel her someplace big.
Or the monster could squash her. But it seems unlikely that anything can keep her down for long.