The Untold Truth Of Parker Posey

To say that Parker Posey is a versatile actor would be an understatement. Her fans may know her from her starring roles in '90s indie flicks, or her appearances in Christopher Guest films, or mainstream genre movies like "Blade Trinity" or beloved classics like "You've Got Mail." Posey, who was born in Baltimore, Maryland and raised in Louisiana and Mississippi, has a career that has spanned decades, with 107 acting credits under her belt, including stellar performances in recent hits such as HBO's "The Staircase" and Netflix's "Lost in Space." 

Posey has also penned a memoir in which she details a fascinating upbringing, which no doubt led to her unique insights on art, as well as her enviable career. The Southern girl, who has so far only played one Southern character, has an It factor that is both undeniable and hard to pin down. This is the untold truth of Parker Posey.

She wanted to be a ballerina

Growing up, Parker Posey loved to dance, and she was good at it too. From age 9, Posey was a serious ballet dancer and attended a summer program at the prestigious North Carolina School of the Arts when she was 12. She told The New Yorker, "I was comfortable onstage, except for tap, where I made sure I was always on the end, close to the wings, so I could tap myself offstage."

She hoped to secure a spot at the school after the summer program ended, but she didn't pass the audition. Posey recalled, "My dad knew I'd be heartbroken, and he called the dean of the school, and he's, like, 'My daughter's going to be really sad. So what do I tell her?' [The dean] said, 'Tell her she's an actress. She almost got in on her personality alone.'" So, in that roundabout way, a star was born. Posey has been able to show off her dance chops and her flexibility in some of her film roles, such as "Party Girl," "Waiting For Guffman," and "Mascots."

The actor has a twin

Parker Posey has a twin brother, Christopher, and the two were very close growing up. Posey told Index Magazine, "Growing up with someone beside you your whole life, my attention was on him, my whole life. And his on me, to some extent." While the twins had a tight relationship during their childhood, Posey said it was not difficult for them to part ways when it came time to leave for their respective colleges. She attended SUNY Purchase in New York, while Chris went to Georgetown in Washington D.C. "By that time we were chasing each other around with aerosol spray cans and cigarette lighters. Ready to kill each other."

The twins continued down very different paths, with Chris pursuing law and passing the bar exam in 1996. Posey spoke about her brother to Interview magazine, saying, "He seems very conservative on the outside, but there's a creative thing going on inside of him. I'm creative on the outside, but inside I'm very organized."

How Parker Posey got her name

Plenty of actors use stage names, but Parker Posey didn't need to. Parker Posey is such a unique and lyrical name that it sounds made up, but it is, in fact, the actor's given name. On November 8, 1968, Chris and Lynda Posey welcomed their twins into the world. The babies were born three months premature, and while the boy, Christopher, was doing well, the girl was not likely to make it.

Posey told Interview, "The doctor came in and said, 'You know, your boy is fine, but your girl we really don't know about. We need a name for her death certificate if she dies.' And my mother said, 'Parker.' She wanted a strong name for her little girl and for when I'd be a woman, because she had been named Lynda and she didn't really like it."

Of course, Parker Posey ended up thriving after entering the world in such a traumatic way. Posey also talks about her name in her 2018 memoir, "You're on an Airplane," explaining, "... My mom said Parker for my first name and Christian for my middle name, because they wanted the help of Jesus and of the Trinity ... Posey was from my father, obviously. My mother says she thought the name Posey was silly, and it really is."

Her family inspired her to become a performer

Parker Posey comes from a long line of interesting and eccentric characters. In her memoir, Posey talks about watching TV with her grandmother, Nonnie: "... She was happy and humming, swinging her crossed leg or shimmying her shoulders to the music. She'd throw her head back and laugh, watching Gwen Verdon, or Liza Minelli, and she adored Bob Fosse." Posey also talks about her father, a Vietnam vet and a car salesman, who was known for his sense of humor. "... My brother and I had a routine where we'd chase him out the door, saying, 'Daddy, where are you going?' And he'd say, 'CRAZY! Wanna go?' ... He liked to ask, 'What if you never got any taller, what if you stayed the same size?' His face held a ponderous and sincere question — deadpan."

Fans of Posey's work might be able to detect traces of this combination of deadpan and over-the-top humor in her performances. Posey also credits her father with exposing her to good movies at a young age, telling The New Yorker, "My parents had an argument because 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' was on HBO in the nineteen-seventies, and my dad was, like, 'This is a really important movie. I want the kids to watch it.' We were, like, nine years old. But he loved it."

She started out on a soap opera

Although Parker Posey is often thought of as the queen of indie films, her big break came when she landed a job on a popular soap opera. Posey scored a role on "As the World Turns" right out of college, playing Tess Shelby on the show from 1991 until 1992. She spoke to Index Magazine about her soap opera stint, saying, "It's the hardest work I've ever done in my life. It's melodrama. It's a different style of acting that ... normal people don't act that way. I like soap opera acting. If it's done really well, there's nothing better. It's old school. It's like what those melodramas in the '30s and '40s were like."

But the genre did cramp Posey's style a bit. She recalled, "I would try to make it funny. Some directors let you, and some won't. Oh please, I'm having a flashback. Really want me to take it seriously? It was so cheesy."

Posey mentions in her memoir how her role as Tess Shelby delighted her other grandmother, Granny, and her aunt Toni-Anne. "They'd eat on TV trays in the bedroom and watch 'the stories.' When I was on 'As the World Turns', it made them very proud."

Parker Posey wrote a book

In 2018 Parker Posey published her memoir, "You're on an Airplane." After writing it, she said in an interview with Interview, "I just wanted to share and talk and write. It felt really good to kind of find my voice and say stuff, and to be funny, hopefully. I don't think my agent really gets it." The book is filled with stories from Posey's childhood, Hollywood stories, recipes, and collaged photos of Posey and her beloved dog, Gracie.

One chapter focuses on Posey's experience working on Woody Allen's 2015 film, "Irrational Man." Posey speaks about wanting to impress the divisive director, her struggles with a broken wrist while filming, and other anecdotes, but doesn't mention the sexual abuse allegations Allen has faced.

An interview with The Guardian got a bit tense when she was asked to comment on the controversy surrounding Allen. "I've written something that isn't mean and I try my best to protect myself and now I don't feel protected because you asked this question and it feels like a manipulation," Posey said. She added, "I wrote a book because I had to do something else. I didn't think I would work again."

The chill vibes on the Dazed and Confused set

In 1993 Parker Posey joined the ensemble cast of the now-iconic film "Dazed and Confused." The movie, which features a group of teenagers on their last day of school in 1976, was directed by Richard Linklater, and starred big names such as Ben Affleck and Matthew McConaughey.

Posey played Darla, the head of the popular girls in charge of hazing the incoming freshmen. In a 2018 interview, Posey told The Wrap about the fun she had making the film and the overall good vibes on set. "So much of the group is a collaboration between all these different kinds of people. The balance of such a huge cast, that's amazing," Posey said. "There are so many similar people, they don't feel like characters. It's like, I know that person, I knew that person in high school."

She also describes how Linklater gave the cast mixtapes of '70s jams that he hoped to include on the film's soundtrack to help the actors capture the mood of the decade. "You could dance like no one was watching. There was a freedom there. It was such a different time," Posey said.

Her forays into the mainstream

In the '90s, Parker Posey mostly starred in independent films such as "Party Girl," "Clockwatchers," and "The House of Yes." Although she was a darling of the indie circuit, Posey did take on a few roles in more mainstream hits. In 1998, she played Tom Hanks' self-absorbed girlfriend, Patricia, in Nora Ephron's beloved "You've Got Mail," and in 2001 she played Fiona in "Josie and the Pussycats." Posey also appeared in franchise films such as "Blade: Trinity," "Superman Returns," and "Scream 3," but these movies represent what she sees as a not-so-great shift in the entertainment industry. She told Indiewire, "Now producers want movies to appeal to children and adults all at the same time. You have to hit all these markets in your film if it's going to get produced, so this sort of sameness has started to saturate stories."

But the shift hasn't been all bad. Posey has also been featured in popular TV series "Lost in Space" and "Tales of the Walking Dead," projects she was delighted to take on. A fan of the original "Lost in Space" as a child, Posey told The New York Times, "I was so happy to find a place within the show at this time. I was absolutely, wholeheartedly relieved." Regarding her episode of "Tales of the Walking Dead," Posey told ET, "I'm like, 'If we can get people screaming in their homes and just, like, laughing, we've done our job.' Because there's been a lot of trauma and grief."

Parker Posey was a 'party girl' in the '90s

Parker Posey played a party girl in 1995's "Party Girl," and described herself as such in an interview with Conan O'Brien while promoting the film. "I think a lot of actors ... I don't know, sit at home and like, rehearse lines to themselves in front of the mirror. I just don't do that, I like to go out, I party."

In a 2022 interview with Bustle, Posey recalled New York nightlife in 1998, saying, "I think there was still dancing back then in New York — Giuliani hadn't shut it all down. I would go to a night called Beaver on Thursday nights at Don Hill's. They had this DJ named Frankie, and he would play '70s and '80s and '60s dance music. I danced with Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz and people who were just funny dancers. You could get picked up and twirled around!"

She and Jimmy Fallon shared some of those memories when Posey visited "The Tonight Show" in 2018. She read aloud from her book a passage about Fallon, saying, "He's probably the best dancer that has ever lived."

The actor missed out on some major roles

Parker Posey has had an impressive career, but even the most prolific actors experience professional disappointments. That's what happened to Posey after auditioning for the 1994 cult classic film "Reality Bites," directed by Ben Stiller. Posey was up for the role of Vickie, which ultimately went to actors and comedian Janeane Garofalo. Posey told Bustle, "... I got it, but then I didn't get it and I didn't know what happened. But Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo had worked together, but I had auditioned for it and all that. That crushed me — just being told the lip service, not knowing that lip service is part of the game."

Another part of the game is choosing wisely what roles to go after and which ones to turn down. In an interview with CNN, Posey explained that she passed on the role of Lisa in "Girl, Interrupted." The part ended up going to Angelina Jolie, whose performance in the film earned her the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in 1999. But Posey doesn't seem to regret her choice. She simply wasn't passionate about it, explaining, "There was something about it. They probably wanted me to audition and I didn't feel like doing it, or maybe they wanted me to jump through hoops and I didn't feel like doing it. Honestly, I just didn't care about it enough to be grounded in it."

Her work in Christopher Guest's movies

For many, Parker Posey is perhaps best known for her characters in the iconic films of Christopher Guest. Posey has appeared in many of Guest's films, including "Waiting for Guffman," "Best in Show," "A Mighty Wind," "For Your Consideration," and "Mascots." Much of the dialogue in Guest's films is improvised, something that Posey initially found strange — but she was up to the task. In an excerpt from her memoir, Posey wrote, "... the actors are given an approximately 30-page outline, describing what happens in each of the scenes — different 'beats' to hit. I was young, like 25, when we shot 'Guffman,' and excited to work. 'This Is Spinal Tap' didn't impress me since I didn't like heavy-metal music, so I wasn't intimidated by Chris or the process."

For her role as Meg, an uptight yuppie in "Best in Show," Posey fully committed to the part. Guest suggested that Posey and Michael Hitchcock, who played her equally uptight husband, get braces for the film. "Hitchcock and I were like, 'Mmmhmmm, yeah, okay.' So Michael got a retainer with the braces attached, which gave him a lisp, which suited his character, and I got real braces since I didn't want a lisp" (via Vulture). Posey's character even rubbed off on her a bit, as she recalls a lunch she had with Guest. "... he said, 'That's a nice sweater,' and I was in a bad mood and said quickly, 'It's Banana Republic' ... I caught myself being in character. Funny stuff happens around Chris."

Posey's role as Freda Black in The Staircase

In 2022, Parker Posey starred in HBO Max's "The Staircase," a true crime miniseries based on the docuseries of the same name that examines the life and trial of Michael Peterson, a novelist accused of murdering his wife. Freda Black was a prosecuting attorney whose impassioned closing statements led to Peterson being convicted of murder. The real Freda Black was a character herself, always dressed to the nines, albeit conservatively, with her signature blue eyeshadow. Posey told The New Yorker, "I got to talk to one of her friends, who told me that was all very deliberate. Freda did not dress like that outside of the courtroom."

Although Parker Posey was born and raised in the south, this was her first role where she got to speak in a southern accent. "I'm so happy that I got to play a real Southern woman. I can't believe it took this long," she told The New Yorker. As for Black's eccentricities, Posey was determined to humanize the performance. In an interview with Variety, she said of the role, "I didn't want her to be just such a caricature or every time she comes on, like, oh, what kind of funny, campy things she can say. What I like about Freda is that she's adored at the DA's office. They think she's pretty wild, but they respect her and they respect what she does." Posey's dedication to finding empathy for Black shone through in her performance, with many feeling as though she deserved an Emmy for the portrayal.

Parker Posey's net worth

There have been moments in Parker Posey's career when she simply didn't know what she would do next. It's not that there were too many options to choose from; in fact, the opposite was true. "I've never really got any of the jobs that I had to really jump through hoops for," she told Independent in 2020. "That's been disappointing. It's just a numbers thing now, too. What's that expression? 'You're only as great as the last film you did.' It's still kind of true. And none of my independent movies made money, so it became like, 'Why hire her?'

Of course, her independent projects made her a little bit of money. And with a career spanning nearly three decades with so many acclaimed film and TV performances, as well as the success of her book, Posey has managed to do quite well. Well enough to secure a $1.5 million apartment in Manhattan in 2019, per Architectural Digest. Before that, the star lived in a Greenwich Village co-op, bought in 2008. She'd also lived in an East Village apartment prior to that, listing it for $1.17 million back in 2007. According to Celebrity Net Worth, the "Queen of the Indies" is worth $5 million.

Her offbeat ideas for future projects

Parker Posey is not merely an actor, but a creative force. In addition to her dancing and writing talents, Posey is also a ceramicist. When asked about her hobby by The New Yorker, Posey gushed, "... the wonder of it! You're just, like, Oh, my God, this clay on this wheel spinning around forms this thing!" In the interview, Posey shared some of her ideas for projects she'd like to create. For example, a show about dogs playing poker. "It's the apocalypse and the only survivors are dogs. There's a TV broadcasting images of the end of the world in the bar where the dogs play poker, and the commercial breaks are long-form interviews of great thinkers and artists giving advice on how to save the planet." She also spoke about how she and longtime pal Justin Theroux wanted to recreate the popular '80s series "Hart to Hart," using the exact same scripts as the original.

As for her advice to young creatives, Posey told Interview, "My advice to young creative people is not to take rejection personally because evolution can happen through art, and there are new modes of creativity to be found and nurtured." She added, "As a young person I was bored with the status quo because I wanted to create, then I got disheartened when it commodified. I liked the homemade Cabbage Patch doll more than the commercially made ones." It seems fitting that the indie queen herself would prefer an indie doll.