Profile Phoenix rising (Vogue october 2003)
Summer time, and the living is busy.... Already an actress and musician, Summer Phoenix is now also the owner of a vintage clothes boutique in New York. Alice Fisher meets the youngest of the famous clan
Summer Phoenix is curled up like a cat. Yawning and blinking on a comfy white sof in Nothing Hill flat after an arduous day of filming post-production, she looks like she'd rather have a nap than a chat. But she's going to have to get used to a hectic schedule: the youngest member of the Phoenix family is a very busy 25-year-old. She is in the UK to put the finishing touches to Suzie Gold, a British comedy based in Hampstead that aims to be the Jewish equivalent of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. If it's even half as succesful as the latter, it'll establish Summer as an A-list actress. Then, she has to dash back to New York to play piano with her sister Rain's band, Paper Cranes, which has a residency in Lower East Side bar The Mercury Lounge ("Her music is totally original," says Summer. "it's the album I've searching for-you can do yoga to it and dance to it."). And she'll be running Some Odd Rubies, the vintage clothes shop she's just opened on Ludlow Street with her childhood friends Odessa Whitmore and Ruby Canner. The very sympathetic, very Summer concept behind the shop is that it's like browsing through your best friend's closet, because your friends always have better clothes than you. "I get pampered doing photo shoots and made to look beautiful," she says, "and I want everyone to be able to feel like that-to walk in off the street and be paid attention to" And, of course, there's her new movie, The Gilded Mirror, which started filming this autumn. But all these projects are taking their toll. "I work in the shop from 7am to 9pm, then I have to practice piano until 1am. It's nice because I don't work, I get bored.-but this is, like, it never rains but it pours...." Summer rolls her eyes and takes a restorative sip from her mug of rooibos tea; Despite her gruelling workload, at the moment her mind is focused on Suzie Gold, which opens later this year. Although it may seem strange that an American actress took the role of a Hampstead girl, Suzie Gold's director, richard Cantor, says that he and producer Rebecca Green just fell in love with Summer the first time they met her. "She didn't arrange to meet us in a swanky New York hotel, but in a coffee shop. We went there en route to the airport, so we were hauling all our stuff out of the car and she came to help with our bags. She's enchanting and very funny." This is Summer's first foray into comedy. Until now, she's been best known for indy films such as the provocative The Believer, in which she played a neo-nazi, and Esther Kahn, Arnaud Desplechin's film about a doomed nineteenth-century Jewish actress-as well as her two-months stint in London in Kenneth Lonergan's play This Is Our Youth-and she relishes the change to challenge people's perceptions. "When I did This Is Our Youth with Matt Damon and Casey (Affleck, Ben's younger brother and her boyfriend of three years), it gave me a taste of what it's like to laugh at work," she says. "I was being typecast as a deep, dark, dramatic actress and no-one wants to be pigeonholed. The comedy process helps you laugh at yourself, which is important." As well as Suzie Gold offering a little self-help, Summer thinks it is a film her grandparents would have been proud of, "They would have loved me for this-they were jewish and that was something that was never really honoured. My parents are very christian (they were missionaries for the Children of God cult, and Summer spent much of her childhood travelling with them through Central and South America). So I'm making my dead grandparents happy for a little while. May they rest in peace." Collectively, the Phoenix Family has achieved much that should make them proud. Though River's acting career was cut short by his tragic death in 1993, there's Joaquin-the oscar nominated star of Gladiator and To Die For-and actor/musician sisters Rain and Liberty. But, despite their impressive credentials, the Phoenixes are very down to earth. Summer is at ease describing their sibling spats and alliances: " I was in love with Joaquin when I was a kid. He wanted to be a rebel, but I would stand up for him the whole time. He'd want to get into trouble, and I'd be swearing he wasn't to blame." And when asked about the celebrity circuit, she looks genuinely puzzled. "Casey and I could be a celebrity couple, but we don't go to all those parties and events. They're work-work you don't get paid for. I know you gain exposure from them, but I'm not sure I want that, I don't think I'm ambitious enough. Those parties aren't fun, there's never good music, no-one cuts loose and dances-it's much better to sit home with your boyfriend by the fire." Especially, it seems if your boyfriend is Casey Affleck-who pops in during the interview for lunch. They make an exceedingly sweet couple as they share a salad (she's vegan, he's vegetarian) and read the Sunday papers together, discussing the merits of photographer Gregory Crewdson (featured in one of the colour supplements), the songs of Coldplay (playing on the stereo) and the last exhebition they went to (David LaChapelle in Los Angeles). They are the sort of couple who get away with using baby voices when talking together-because they so obviously adore each other. "Casey is the best thing he's my buddy, he's cool, he's awesome," says Summer, hugging herself, unable to suppres a smile "I want to start a family. Rain has three kids and I definitely want cousins for them. I think Casey would make such a great dad." All this talk is too much for her and she pulls out her mobile to tell Casey, who's gone to visit friends in the neighbourhood, that she's on her way over to meet him. He is working in England on his new film (The World Of Tomorrow with Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow), while she's off to New York tomorrow; She wants to spend as much timewith him as she can. "i want to have kids really soon," she admids, "but I don't want to quit any of my other jobs, I just want to include more things." Quite how she'll fit anything else into her schedule is a mystery. But if anyone can find time for more, you get the feeling it's Summer Phoenix.