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Edie Falco ponders celebrity in return trip to Sundance Film Festival

By David Germain

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Jan. 28 2010 12:05 p.m. MST

PARK CITY — Edie Falco plays an average woman star-struck over her movie star neighbor in her new film "3 Backyards," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

Yet "The Sopranos" and "Nurse Jackie" star finds it puzzling when others are starstruck by her own celebrity status.

"I'm really so normal. I'm really like as regular a person as you're going to come across, and I've been a regular person far longer than I've been anything else," Falco said in an interview at Sundance alongside best friend Eric Mendelsohn, writer-director of "3 Backyards." "So this latest bizarre label that's been put on me is more of just, like, work. More part of the work."

The film marks a Sundance reunion for Falco and Mendelsohn, who have been pals since college and collaborated on the 1999 festival entry "Judy Berlin," which featured Falco in the title role.

Mendelsohn, who teaches film at Columbia University, won Sundance's directing prize for "Judy Berlin," but after a decade of struggling and failing to raise money for other films, he and his collaborators went back to the do-it-yourself approach on "3 Backyards."

"We did it the same way we did it with 'Judy Berlin,' " Mendelsohn said. "Everything is borrowed, everything is stolen, everything is scraped up for nothing."

Like "Judy Berlin," "3 Backyards" is competing for prizes in the festival's U.S. drama category. Among the 15 films it's up against is "Welcome to the Rileys," starring James Gandolfini, who played Falco's mobster husband in "The Sopranos."

"3 Backyards" follows three quiet dramas that unfold over a single day among people in a Long Island town.

Falco's character, a housewife and amateur painter, is overjoyed when her famous neighbor (Embeth Davidtz) asks for a ride to the ferry. The drive turns bitter as Davidtz's movie star fails to open up and show the sort of intimacy or kinship for which Falco's character had hoped.

Her own stardom gave Falco an interesting perspective on the relationship between the two women.

"You can act the part of the celebrity when you've got people with cameras around, but the fact is, I'm really just a regular gal, so it's not a world in any respect that I'm really all that familiar with. I have in the last bunch of years seen people come up to me, and it's an interesting psychological study, what it is people think they will get out of an interaction with me that makes them behave so strangely. Makes them behave not like themselves," Falco said.

"I know what that interaction is like — famous person, non-famous person — and I've been on both sides of it, and it's sort of fascinating, sweet, naive and nauseating. It's all those things, depending on where you are in that equation."

In "The Sopranos" years, Falco said she was able to go about her regular life in Manhattan fairly anonymously, because in street clothes, she did not bear too close a resemblance to the character she played. That's not the case with her current show, "Nurse Jackie."

"We are sort of similar looking, and I'm getting a lot more attention than I had anticipated," Falco said. "I am not going to complain about anything. Everybody dreams of being in the situation that I'm in, but it doesn't suit my lifestyle. I'm quiet, and I kind of keep to myself, and I've always been that way.

"And so it does make it a little bit difficult. But you know? I can also call up any restaurant in the city and get a reservation. I have the best doctors. I am very happy where I am."

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