Dana Delany Plays The 'Stiff'

'China Beach' Star Flushes The Heiress Rumor, Then Analyzes Her Girlfriend Roles In 2 Summer Movies.

By Los Angeles Daily News / June 21, 1992
First, let's clear up this flush-valve thing.

Dana Delany said she has been saddled with a bad reputation. It has been widely reported - most recently in Spy magazine - that Delany is sitting on a pile of old money, riches reaped from the family business . . . selling flush valves used in toilets.

''It was a modest business,'' Delany said. ''But people have taken this and given me this title of the 'Flush-Valve Heiress.' It's such a joke. I've been supporting myself since I was 22, and I hate the idea that I'm just this dilettante who acts because it's fun.''

For whatever reason she acts, she has been doing a lot of it lately.

The former star of the TV series China Beach, for which she won an Emmy, has two films this summer and has just begun work on a futuristic TV miniseries, Wild Palms.

First up for Delany is the Frank Oz-directed House-sitter, a comedy starring Goldie Hawn as Gwen, a somewhat unbalanced young woman who settles herself into the home of a complete stranger, a frustrated architect named Newton (Steve Martin).

Later this summer, Delany will appear alongside Willem Dafoe and Susan Sarandon in Light Sleeper, a drama about a drug dealer from the master of Sturm und Drang, Paul Schrader.

Delany shot the films back to back, which she said made for an interesting juxtaposition.

''It was a switch for me,'' she said. ''China Beach was heavy drama, Light Sleeper was heavy drama, and then this comedy. I had to adjust to a whole different world.

''But I'm playing the straight man in Housesitter. I'd like to do a comedy where I get to be a little silly.''

In Housesitter, Delany plays Becky, Newton's ex-girlfriend. Gwen moves into Newton's country home while he's in the city and announces she is married to him.

She also fabricates many other far-fetched yarns, many flattering to Newton, which lead Becky to reconsider their romance.

Delany said it was difficult to create a character who was sympathetic yet wouldn't have audiences rooting for her and Martin's romance.

''This was a concern of Frank Oz,'' she said. ''He was very careful about having me being likable in the beginning, so you would understand why (Martin's character) would ask me to marry him. And yet, at the end, he doesn't want the audience to want me to marry him, so you kind of have to not like me and also not feel too bad for me, that I can take care of myself.

''So that was kind of a fine line to play. I couldn't be too funny, I couldn't be too nice, I had to be kind of a stiff so that you really don't want him to be with her - you think he'd really have so much more fun with Goldie.

''Colleen Dewhurst once said, 'The trick to acting is knowing what to leave in the dressing room.' And I never quite understood that, because I felt you should bring everything of yourself to a role. It's very true, though - I had to leave a lot of myself behind.''

In Light Sleeper, Delany portrays the ex-girlfriend of a drug dealer (Dafoe). When they reunite, they enter into a relationship they realize is dangerous to both of them.

Schrader told Delany her role was based on an amalgam of old girlfriends.

''I think my part represents past regrets - perhaps wondering if you made a mistake and how we tend to get nostalgic.''

And what about the fact that her character meets a rather violent exit?

''Well, that's one way to get rid of old memories, isn't it?''
Delany said.
Credit to Los Angeles Daily News.