`Paradise’ Found: We Track Ashley Judd Down in the ‘Burbs

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
July 16, 1995

Ashley Judd is talking to her mother, Naomi (yes, that Naomi), on the phone when a reporter arrives for an interview at her Schiller Park hotel suite.

Suffering from a sinus infection that she hasn’t been able to shake for the past week, Judd apologizes for her appearance.

Wearing a loose, gauzy, flower-print dress, the actress has her blond hair pulled back in a messy ponytail, wears no makeup and sniffles occasionally.

Somehow, she still manages to look stunning.

Judd and co-star Luke Perry are in the northwest suburb on their last few days of filming “Normal Life,” a feature film based on the notorious lives of Jill and Jeff Erickson of Hanover Park. The crime spree of the husband-and-wife bank robbery team ended when police killed Jill in a 1991 shoot-out. In July, 1992, Jeff wrenched away a gun from a deputy U.S. marshal and fatally shot two men before killing himself.

The actress clearly has done her homework. Jill Erickson had a fascination with the cosmos. A coffee table is stacked high with books on the universe that Judd checked out from the Park Ridge library. Other reading material includes a poetry book by Sylvia Plath, a copy of the Chicago Reader and another script she’s considering.

She’s been busy.

Prior to “Normal Life,” Judd finished shooting “Heat” with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Val Kilmer in Las Vegas.  She also shot the romantic fable “The Passion of Darkly Noon” with Brendan Fraser in Germany. Both films are slated for a winter release. “Normal Life” is expected to be in theaters next spring.

Meanwhile, Judd can be seen as Stockard Channing’s crack-addicted daughter in “Smoke” (continuing at local theaters).

Offering her interviewer, a glass of Perrier, Judd, 27, settles into a comfortable sofa and swigs from a liter bottle of Evian.

Q. You play a druggie in “Smoke,” which is kind of ironic because word is that you’re a total goody-two-shoes.

Judd:  I am a total goody-two-shoes, although if you opened up my refrigerator, you’d find some contraband cigars. (Sniffles.) I sometimes wonder, when I get sick, “How could I get sick?” I try not to eat dairy; I use soy milk in my cereal in the morning. I don’t smoke, I don’t really drink and I have never done drugs.

Q. Never?
Judd: I smoked pot a couple of times in high school and didn’t like it at all.

Q. Did you say soy milk?
Judd: Yes. I love to be strong, and I love to exercise for what it does for my mind and spirit, as well as the physical aspect. I do about 1-1/2 hours each morning on the StairMaster, and then I do some yoga. I’m actually 8 pounds over my working weight, but I’m thin on top. Wardrobe – I call them the enemy department on this movie – is not making me look good in this film, which is appropriate because this is not a glamorization of these people. But as an actress, I do retain small vanities and would rather look nice. (Laughs.)

Q. Of course everyone knows your sister Wynonna and mom are the Judds. Was there a point when you were going to join their group?
Judd:  No. I can’t sing. We sing to (her nephew) Elijah all the time, but it’s mostly for amusement because I have trouble holding a note. I always float up to my sister’s harmony. I try really hard to concentrate, but I just can’t help but gravitate to her pitch.

Q. Most actors who leave TV series are never heard from again. Since leaving “Sisters” (in which she played Swoosie Kurtz’s daughter Reed), you went on to star on Broadway in William Inge’s “Picnic.” But you’re best known for starring in the 1993 film “Ruby in Paradise.” Did you know then that “Ruby” would be your breakthrough role?
Judd:  I  knew that it was a significant career breakthrough. I knew that it was a wonderful validation for me personally.  It was an affirmation that I wasn’t deluding myself with my outrageous aspirations to become an actress. And I also knew I had embodied the qualities that I value in acting.

Q. What was it like working with Pacino and DeNiro?
Judd:  They’re equally powerful but so different from one another. It’s very obvious that Mr. Pacino comes from a strong theater background. He’s very expressive and spontaneous. He is charismatic as can be. Mr. De Niro was a lot more intense and internal and focused and contained. His concentration was awesome. What is so extraordinary about them is they are just themselves.

Q. What kind of experience was “Heat” for you?
Judd: Making “Heat” was awesome. I had just come back from Italy and I had a whole week’s worth of auditions, and all I wanted to do was go back to Italy and work as a maid. (Laughs.) I had such a good time there. So I came back home and bombed my first two days’ worth of appointments. I had a screen test for “Congo,” and it was awful! I was just not any good. Then I was flown to London to test for “Sabrina,” and I did not do a good job. So by the time my “Heat” audition came, I was just – – – – – – off, which was good because my character is a tough chick in the movie. It was like, “Get it together, child. Come on, already.” So I shed my visions of Italy and got my head together and managed to focus in time for my audition. I loved working with (director) Michael Mann. I’ve been blessed with directors with whom I’ve worked. I’m a devoted slave to all of them.

Q. How bored are you squirreled away here for four weeks?
Judd: Honestly, I haven’t had time to be bored. We work six-day weeks, a minimum of 12 hours a day, sometimes 16 hours.  There’s a forest preserve around here that I go to, and a TCBY on Harlem that I’ve made frequent visits to. Luke and I wanted to go parasailing, but the insurance people weren’t big on that idea.

Q. Do people recognize you all the time now?
Judd:  No. I fortunately inherited my mother’s discretion. She is able to move undetected.

Comments (1)

  1. Jae-Ha Kim says:

    After our interview, I received a handwritten note from Ashley thanking me for the interview. It was completely unexpected and very much appreciated. She really had very nice manners.

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