Catherine Keener's latest movie, the low-budget indie "Maladies," is offbeat, even if she doesn't see it as such. Directed by New York-based visual artist Carter, "Maladies" is the story of a former soap-opera actor (James Franco) whose state of madness deepens while living with his eccentric sister (Fallon Goodson) and their longtime, cross-dressing friend (Keener). It's set in 1960s New York, even though the characters are at one point seen watching 1970s news footage of Jim Jones' Peoples Temple.
"Honestly, when I had questions about the time, I think there were things that [Carter] just didn't sweat," Keener said when HuffPost Entertainment inquired about about the time lapses. "I don't think it was as ponderous. [...] He’s an artist, another kind of artist, and so you can't really apply the same parameters to him as I would to somebody who’s just -- I mean, not just -- a filmmaker. It’s a different canvas."
Keener has a penchant for oddball scripts. From "Being John Malkovich" to "Synecdoche, New York" (both of which were written by Charlie Kaufman, who is also behind an FX pilot that could become a series co-starring Keener, Sally Hawkins, John Hawkes and Michael Cera), she is nothing if not a choosey actress. Unless the part chooses her, as in the case of "Thelma & Louise."
The actress read at an audition opposite a friend who was seeking a role in the 1991 drama. It was done purely as a favor. "And then [director Ridley Scott] stopped [my friend] and gave me a part in it," she said. "It was fun. I had one scene, and it was Harvey Keitel's wife in bed with him."
Before the release of "Thelma & Louise," Keener shot "Johnny Suede," her first role that didn't find her playing a character credited as something like Cocktail Waitress (1986's "About Last Night...") or Steve's Secretary (1991's "Switch"). "Suede" co-starred Brad Pitt, whom she hadn't met on the set of "Thelma & Louise."
"He hadn't yet blown up," Keener recalled of Pitt. "So we became friends when we shot 'Johnny Suede.' I loved doing 'Thelma & Louise.' It came out of nowhere."
Don't go on a mad YouTube hunt for Keener's scene, though. It was deleted from the final cut and, to the actress' knowledge, has not resurfaced among any special features.
"I've never seen it," she said. "I have no idea, but I should find out. I love that movie so much, and it was so great to be included in it."
She's come a long way (including two Oscar nominations) since almost being featured in the Ridley Scott classic, and her road has only become more eclectic.
"It just seems possible to me because movies are like that anyway -- the stories are outrageous or they're totally made up, even if they're supposed to be true," Keener said of the zaniness seen in "Maladies" and her other, more whimsical films. "So I just go into whatever that reality is that somebody feels."
"Maladies" is currently in limited release and available via on-demand services.