Bridget Moynahan dances on bars, dallies in espionage, fixes robots and steals men away from Sarah Jessica Parker — or so her film and TV roles would have you believe. The star of Coyote Ugly, The Recruit, I, Robot and the actress who played Mr. Big’s second wife Natasha in Sex and the City is actually a very down to earth and level-headed woman. Raised by Irish-American parents in Massachusetts, she wanted to be a dentist when she was a little girl, never thinking one day she’d saunter down the red carpet in designer gowns. But Moynahan is more the type of person who would be happy taking care of patients and is definitely not the type of demanding star who fusses over wardrobe and hairstyles. This is perhaps why, despite her drop-dead gorgeous face, she is often cast as strong, professional women in films. Casting directors have definitely realized something about her — she is not one for frivolity and froth.
Moynahan is aware that it’s no coincidence that she gets heavy parts. “I tend to gravitate towards material where the women are strong. It’s got a bit more depth to it, there’s a bit more intelligence to the character. I think in a lot of the romantic comedies the women are portrayed as being kind of ditzy, and I just can’t relate to it. So I think it is harder for me to pursue those parts,” she says.
She is determined to keep challenging herself with progressively more difficult roles and believes her most recent part was the most difficult of her career. She has just arrived back from South Africa after shooting The Lord of War, in which she plays Nicolas Cage’s wife. In the film, Cage is wrapped up in the international weapons trade. “I think parts of The Lord of War were very challenging because of the situation my character places herself in and the decisions she has to make. She finds out about her husband [being an arms trader] and working with an actor like Nic Cage really forces you to be on your game,” she says.
Looking at the progress of her film roles over the past five years, she is satisfied with the direction of her career. “I keep working with better actors and directors who are more accomplished [than I am]. And each movie I seem to be doing that. You can just learn so much from them every day on the set,” she says, noting that Hollywood has been good to her.
Sitting in a Manhattan photo studio on a cloudy October day, Moynahan is still ruminating about her time in South Africa and the issues that her new movie has raised about the weapons industry. “Recently, I’ve been annoyed by [this current U.S. administration]. The assault weapons issue, for instance. Is there any reason why we need assault weapons? No. That sort of thing makes no sense to me,” she says. She is referring to the lapsed ban on assault weapons that President Bush neglected to renew. She admits that although she doesn’t think either campaign was well run, she is planning to vote for the Democratic ticket.
Having shot The Lord of War in Capetown, she is also concerned about the issues facing the African continent. She is perturbed by the silly celebrity culture that our mass media prefers to report about. “I think that a lot of our American culture right now is a big distraction. You can’t really turn on the news without getting more coverage of what’s going on with Paris Hilton than what’s going on in Darfur. When did that scale tip? And how come nobody’s concerned?”
When she was growing up, there was a large emphasis on news and current events in her family. “My brother and I were just laughing the other day about how we didn’t watch TV in the house. We never watched sports; we never watched movies really. We watched a lot of news and news shows like 60 Minutes.” And being an Irish family, she says that the Moynahans certainly have the gift of the gab. “In Ireland you go out with your friends and you talk and you talk and you really beat it out, which is not something that’s common in American culture. But definitely in my family we do. When a subject comes up, we are talking about it for hours.”
Her parents are both Irish-American, and the Moriartys on her mother Mary’s side are from Donegal and Clare. She traveled over with her family to a Moriarty reunion five years ago and got a great sense of Ireland. She met all her cousins and visited the family farm. “It was so much fun to meet a bunch of cousins that basically were little versions of me. We all kind of looked the same but maybe some of them were shorter,” she says. (Moynahan is a statuesque 5’10”.) She also laughs, remembering when she met a great-great Aunt Bridget over in Ireland who, upon their introduction, said, “Well, it’s about time someone named a girl after me! Welcome home.”
And it certainly sounds like Moynahan felt at home in Ireland, although she’s an East Coast girl at heart. “I like rain, I like cloudy days like this one today, so that doesn’t bother me at all. I always found that driving around Ireland, you could be in the middle of a rain shower and up the road would be pure sunshine and rainbows. It’s beautiful.”
She regrets that she wasn’t able to get over to Dublin for the premiere of The Recruit, her film where she plays the love interest of Irish actor Colin Farrell. She was filming another movie at the time and couldn’t make it to the screening. “It would’ve been really nice to be able to share that with all the family there that I had met,” she says.
Farrell and Moynahan really hit it off filming The Recruit and he confessed to having a crush on her during the shoot. When I mention this to her, she laughs and says, “Well, I was involved with someone else at the time.” Farrell nicknamed her `Bridle’ on the set, the Irish version of Bridget. A loyal friend, she comes to his defense at press reports of his party-boy image. “I don’t pay attention to the press and what people say in it, because most of it’ scrap, and a lot of it is just not nice! He is honest in how he lives his life. You have to give him credit for that. He’s having a good time and why not? You’re young and successful and traveling the world, and you have an incredible family that’s around you. So he’s just enjoying it.”
One of her other co-stars, John Cusack, is another actor she raves about. They starred in Serendipity together where she played his fiancé before he left her for Kate Beckinsale’s character. “John Cusack’s lovely. I had a crush on him since I was a little girl. I wanted to grow up and marry an Irish boy! And John Cusack was that image growing up,” she says. She also appreciates the help Cusack gave her on the set showing her the ropes, as Serendipity was one of her early movies.
Sadly for men everywhere, Moynahan has been snatched up by one of the biggest sports heroes today. Over a year ago, a friend set her up on a date with New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady and they have been together ever since. One of many things they have in common is their Irish heritage. “One of his aunts expressed how happy she was that I was Irish,” she laughs. She also notes that Tom has been over to Ireland to golf, but they haven’t gone on a trip yet together. “Maybe in the off-season,” she says.
In the past few years Brady has become a huge sports star, taking his team to victory in two recent Super Bowls and is currently having another outstanding football season. Sports writers gush about Brady’s talents and twice he was named Most Valuable Player of the Super Bowl.
If anyone can keep up with an athlete of that stature, it’s Moynahan. She was a self-confessed tomboy growing up who loved playing sports. She played basketball, soccer and lacrosse in high school, and is still very athletic today. We talk about how the previous week, Brady’s helmet got knocked off his head during a game. She says she wasn’t too worried when she was watching the game. “You can tell when he is fine. I’m not a coddler, so you better get right back up unless it’s serious!” she says.
She is trying to learn as much as she can about football, having not grown up with it in her household. She said that because she was out playing sports growing up rather than watching them on TV, she has had a lot to master about the game. Her younger and older brothers didn’t indoctrinate her into football, either. “Honestly, Tom walked into the one family that didn’t know anything about football or anything about him. So that’s been taking up a lot of time, learning that whole profootball culture.”
Brady certainly likes to give her a hard time, and delights in ordering her movies on pay-per-view. “Tom always tortures me, because whenever they’re on he’ll order them. And if I start hearing my voice I’ll start covering my ears and his ears.” She says that she doesn’t like to watch her movies after she’s seen them at the premiere, because she doesn’t like heating the sound of her voice.
Her family, however, are proud of her and enjoy watching her films. She credits her parents with allowing her to make the decision to get into the media at a young age. When she finished high school at 17 years old, she decided to move to New York City to pursue a modeling career. “I definitely had a big conversation with them about it because it was something that I figured was not going to present itself at another time,” she says. She had a very successful modeling career and flew around the world for photo shoots. It was when she was filming commercials that she got a taste for performing and was soon taking acting classes and going for auditions.
“No one in my family was involved in acting. And God bless my parents. When I modeled I talked them into letting me go to New York City and do that. Then I talked them into letting me do it for a second year after the first. They kept saying, and they will deny it today, but they kept saying `Now, when are you going to go back to school?’ And now they say, `Thank God we pushed you into this acting thing.’ But that’s because they’re so proud,” she says, laughing.
She wants to someday earn her college degree and would like to study liberal arts. Her father Brad, now retired, was a scientist and worked at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. For now, she has to keep focused on her movie career. On any given day she reads about two or three scripts, and really enjoys leisure reading also. She cites Philip Roth as a favorite writer, and has been recently re-reading the classics, including John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.
Moynahan is truly a story junky, and she bemoans the demise of the storytelling era. One of her aunts was a great storyteller, and she exclaims, “Storytelling is a lost art, and it’s a gift to be able to do that.” She mentions that in New York City, there is a theatre group called The Moth that puts on storytelling nights. “You get a subject and you have a certain number of minutes to tell the story. It’s not rehearsed and there are no notes allowed.” But don’t expect to drop in and see her on stage acting the raconteur. “Oh, I have a fear of microphones, I start shaking!” she says.
Instead, movies are the vehicle for Moynahan to tell stories, as the Irish did for centuries before celluloid. And she doesn’t rule out doing comedy, which would be a departure from her usual dramatic fare. “Well, I would like to do something more light-hearted,” she says. The next time you see her, Bridget Moynahan might make you laugh. ♦