Cyndi Lauper has always had a big voice. In the 1980s, she sang pure, emotionally important pop with staying power. She also spoke up, wore corsets with purpose and intention, and had girls singing: I wanna be the one to walk in the sun. Through the ‘90s, she wrote her opinions into her music and stood up for gay rights, becoming something of a fixture at Pride events. Today, she’s finished a blues album (due for release this summer), competed on the Celebrity apprentice (to raise money for her True Colors Fund for the “advancement of GLBT equality and support for the GLBT community”), and is lending her big voice to one small movie (becoming, in the process, a champion for “really independent” film).
Lauper has a supporting appearance in Here and There, a new film by Serbian writer/first-time director Darko Lungulov. The film stars Lauper’s husband, David Thornton, as Robert, an aging New Yorker and saxophone player who moves in a fog of depression, agrees to go to Serbia to marry someone else’s girlfriend for American papers (her) and some quick cash (him), and in the process, accidentally wakes himself up. Lauper plays Rose, a girlfriend who provides Robert with a place to crash in New York then kicks him out again—“I knew women like this,” says Lauper, “and I kinda wanted it to feel like you weren’t really watching a movie, you were just watching this couple with a woman who was very involved in herself. And she always made herself over and she was always concerned about the appearance of things.” Lauper recalls that during filming, she would constantly “draw and re-draw her lips” until the director asked what she was up to. But her character was the kind of woman, she told him, who would read in magazines about how to draw her lips, and struggle to get it right all the time (it must be said here that Cyndi Lauper told all this through perfectly drawn, bright red lips).
It’s evident, but unsurprising, that she put a great deal of thought into a minor character. She says that she signed up for the film in the first place because she heard her husband and Lungulov talking and reading around her kitchen table and found what they were saying to be interesting. And the small parts suit her: “All my best film experiences—I got what? Four film experiences? But my best ones were small parts with something that I thought was interesting.” Her husband sums it up differently: Cyndi joined the film and wrote a song for it because of “pure generosity of heart. She’s always looking for an abandoned animal [or abandoned independent film] to help---” but that’s where she cuts him off, saying something like the abandoned animals were before I met you.
But her concern for the future of “interesting,” small-scale film is genuine: “Can I say something? ,” she asks. “I believe, that the small films are the ones worth championing. The ones that I’ll want to watch, just as a film student myself. And the thing I love about them is that they’re about the big struggles in little peoples' lives. And when I see the other movies its big struggles in the big lives of movie stars—or it’s supposed to be a small person but hey! He’s built well! Take off your shirt!”
Without further introduction, here’s a little more from Cyndi Lauper’s big voice…
“The first day I worked with [my husband] I learned a million things. [But] I learn from everybody in every way that I can, even with people that I can’t… the only thing I like about them is their hair. But no, working with David… I used to have him come watch my videos. I did this video one time, and I was nervous, because I was directing it and I wanted it to be perfect. But I didn’t really have the money for them to build a dance floor, and I was dying because I had to go over to this wonderful DP Laszlo Kovacs and say listen, I don’t know about the dance floor. It would be really great, but can you do me a favor? Can you just… pan? Cause I didn’t have the money for that. So he did! But I was upset, and then I had to go perform. And I saw this shadow on the wall, and all of a sudden it was about the woman’s shadow, instead of the big dance floor. And I talked to David and David came up to me and he said Cynd, we have a pot of tea on the table. Why do people drink tea? He said: ‘It’s a comfort. They want warmth. Why don’t you go over and put your hands on the teapot and take warmth from that.” And all of a sudden, I connected to this person even deeper than I had imagined, because my husband came over and just suggested one little thing. That was a huge thing.”
On (Not) Fitting In:
“[The character David plays in Here and There is] a person who didn’t fit in. And [I wrote a song about him for the film] as somebody who didn’t fit in myself ever, even now. I say that because I saw myself on Celebrity Apprentice. I still don’t fit in. It’s still like high school, lemme tell you, high school never changes. People just get older, but they’re still the same!
The truth is they don’t understand. Sometimes when people are laughing at you, which they still do… I was thinking about that [when I wrote the song for Here and There]…what it feels like! And how people don’t understand how hard it is to land on you feet. I was inspired by people who are different. I mean it doesn’t change, it will never change: when you think different you’ll always be different. You are the outcast because of your perspective. And people who are different have a different perspective. And it’s supposed to be that way: either you are supposed to write it, or you’re supposed to sing it, or you’re supposed to act it. You’re supposed to do something with it, and that’s why it’s a gift. It’s a gift and it’s a curse. And I think that’s what Here and There was really about: about someone who was different, and about someone who loved him anyway.
On Hair, Tulips, and the Small Moments (Being the Ones That Really Matter):
“I liked Here and There because it was a story about forgotten people. I’m inspired by those kind of stories. That’s what I write about anyway. Big moments in little peoples' lives. That’s what I connect to, that’s what inspires me. Even my hair [Cyndi Lauper’s hair at time of interview is yellow, with delicate streaks of red]. My hair started as a little moment, in a little flower’s life. I was passing when the tulips were out in Central Park and I thought, for a little flower, that’s a big moment. I think I’m doing my hair that color. I had to talk it over with my family, but they were fine with it. And I have a wig that is a normal color so that everyone will be happy but today, I don’t have it because that was another little moment in a little person’s life. But that’s how I feel about things. I know about the [bad economic climate], blah blah blah blah blah. Theres always gonna be a climate. But if somebody says no, I say yes. If somebody says I’m not interested, I say brick wall--I’ll find a way around it.”
Here and There’s run in New York City has been extended, and you can see it now at Quad Cinema. The film also opened in Los Angeles this week, and will be opening in limited release across the country through this summer.