By Emily Feimster
Many actors spend their lives clawing through Hollywood in hopes of making it big, but Vera Farmiga, who's worked steadily with some of the world's most famous actors, makes it clear she's just as happy living a quiet life on a farm in upstate New York. In fact, the New Jersey native never even envisioned herself as an actress. "It wasn't a big dream of mine. I wanted to be an ophthalmologist. I wanted my own office and to do eye surgery. Why I didn't choose that, I don't know," she says with a laugh.
The actress, who many remember from "The Manchurian Candidate," recalls how her career began. "What happened is that I ended up getting benched in soccer in high school so I tried out for the school play and I got the lead role. Then I just stuck with it," explains Farmiga. She went on to study theater at Syracuse University before doing off-Broadway theater in New York. "Then I got my first television series almost a decade ago with Heath Ledger. We shot seven months in Australia," she notes of the short-lived series "Roar." But, hey, seven months in Australia with Heath Ledger? Not a bad way to start out!
Farmiga has more recently gone on to obtain a large amount of critical acclaim for her work in the independent movie "Down to the Bone," and now she's starring alongside Paul Walker in New Line's big-budgeted thriller "Running Scared." "It was extremely intense and wonderfully odd," she says of the movie in which Walker plays a mob flunkie in charge of disposing of "hot" guns. "I read the script and thought it was pretty psychotic and unique. It read to me like a modern-day fairytale and it was even more surprising when we got on set."
Playing Walker's wife in the movie, Farmiga explains of her character, "Teresa's really gutsy. She's not just a housewife and a mother. She keeps everyone in line. If it weren't for her, everyone would probably be dead in the movie." She continues, "The pivotal scene that made me want to take this movie was when she's got to save him [Walker's character] from this freakish couple she encounters. She looks evil dead in the eye and has to make a decision so she makes an extreme choice to extinguish it." Ah, just enough information to keep us guessing!
As if that's not cool enough, Farmiga's next two flicks, "Breaking and Entering" and "The Departed," have her working with two of Hollywood's most renowned directors, Anthony Minghella and Martin Scorsese. So what was it like to work with such heavyweights? "The thing that they both share in common is this curiosity about people. It's the thing you remember most about their movies, which is character. I love the way they love their actors who are portraying these people," she adds. "They're also both very generous emotionally with their own wisdom."
Though Farmiga is pleased to be getting a number of more high-profile roles, she still has a deep appreciation for the smaller movies. "However difficult a role is emotionally, it's well worth it when you finally get to do a project that has something to say and that has nothing to do with box office success," she notes. "The business aspect of this profession is extremely difficult for me to accept. So many choices are made because of dollar signs. That's the most frustrating thing about it. In the end, this profession is business. It has very little to do with art."
Despite the ups and downs of Tinseltown, Farmiga says she's quite satisfied about the way her career has unfolded. "I consider myself very blessed so I don't want to change anything," she claims. In fact, the newfound recognition has been quite baffling to the actress. "What started all this attention was 'Down to the Bone,' but I've been working steadily for a long time now. Nothing's really changed except for maybe the actual films are getting noticed."
Farmiga certainly has no desire to start living the high life now. "I never really saw fame and fortune as part of the equation and it's certainly not the reason why I do what I do. As for what she hopes to accomplish throughout her career? "I want to keep working with interesting people and still be able to live a nice, simple, quiet life in upstate New York with my goats the way I do," she responds. "There really are no great ambitions. I'm quite pleased with the way things are going."