She’s been out of the spotlight for a while, focusing on her family roles instead of acting ones. But she never quit, and now she’s back —with a new film, a renewed sense of self and a brand new eating habit.
Fears about Gwyneth Paltrow’s imminent death-bymacrobiotic diet can be safely laid aside. When I meet her for lunch at TriBeCa’s Landmarc Restaurant – just blocks from her new apartment – the actress sits down and orders a tuna-fish sandwich and a large plate of fries. These are followed by an array of toy-sized desserts – an eclair, a bowl of ice cream, a mousse, a crumble – all sent courtesy of the chef when he hears about his celebrity guest.
“It’s a different stomach now, a different compartment,” says Paltrow, patting her midriff, “but there’s always room for dessert.” Her figure is as waif-like as ever, despite having had her daughter, Apple Blythe Alison Martin (a hefty 91b 11oz at birth), now 15 months old and walking and talking. Maybe it’s the joys of motherhood, or maybe it’s the backlighting effect of the sunlight pouring through the window right now, but Paltrow, wearing a white halterneck top, jeans and flip-flops, looks as glowing as a unlit leaf. It’s hard to square the image of Paltrow you find in the press – the neurotic ce princess, torturing herself with fiendish new Age fads and strange yoga rituals – with the smart, easy-going 33-year-old with a quick laugh in front of me.
“I just got it,” she says of motherhood, cking into her fries. “In an instant, I got it. It was like, ‘Oh, this is the real thing. This is hat real life is.’ It changed everything for me.” Her only sadness is that her father Bruce, who died of throat cancer in 2002, never got to see his grand-daughter. “It’s funny but Apple does these little things that my father used to do: the way she sits in her high chair, and puts her hands back like this, is so him. Or she looks at the sky and drums her fingers on the table, and you think: that is my father. And she is a quarter of him. It fills your heart so much.”
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Paltrow on cinema screens. After roles in Sylvia (2003), and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004), she went very quiet, pulling out of roles in I Heart Huckabees, and Happy Endings. The golden girl who stood at the peak of her profession in 1998 with a Best Actress Oscar in her hand for Shakespeare in Love when she was just 26 seemed on a downward curve. “I ended up working too much and burning out,” she explains. “I very much felt like burying my head in the sand. I felt this shift where people kind of root for you and then everyone is sick of you and hates you and is resentful and jealous, and like, who does she think she is? I was really young and had achieved a lot. People like to see you get to a certain point and then they like to pull you back down and put you in your place. The world was like, `OK, we want you to go away now for a bit. I felt that, anyway. Like I’d better go hide my head.”
With a new multi-year contract with Estee Lauder and a new movie out this month, Paltrow is, though, bracing herself for a tentative return to the limelight. The movie is Proof, an adaptation of David Auburn’s play about a dying mathematician (played by Anthony Hopkins) and his devoted daughter. She first took on the role when the play was performed at the Donmar Warehouse in 2003, and was the driving force behind getting the film made personally asking Harvey Weinstein for Miramax to finance it and reunite her with Shakespeare in Love director John Madden. It’s not too hard to see why the role of Catherine – a young woman cauterised with grief for her father, gradually learning to reconnect with the outside world – means so much to her.
“A lot had changed between the stage production and the film production for me,” says Paltrow. “When I did this play at the Donmar, my father was alive, I was single. When I did the film, I was pregnant, married, and mourning my father. I had the first anniversary of his death during the second week of shooting, and I was completely ripped to shreds. I was so raw… The dearest relationship to me ever in my life was my relationship with my father. It was the relationship in my life that was the most grounding, the most persistent. He defined so much for me, and gave me so much insight into who I was as a person.” When Paltrow was 10, he took her to Paris, telling her, “I want you to see Paris for the first time with a man who would love you forever; no matter what.”