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‘Elaine’ Takes on a Dramatic Role

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is known for playing delightfully self-centered characters on hit television shows like "Seinfeld" and HBO's "Veep." But in the new film "Enough Said," opening Sept. 18, she stars as Eva, an earnest massage therapist struggling with empty-nest syndrome when her daughter leaves for college.  

Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener ("Please Give," "Friends With Money"), the comedy-drama follows Eva as she develops a romance with a sweet guy named Albert (James Gandolfini) only to discover that her new massage client, Marianne (Catherine Keener), a poet with impeccable taste in home décor, happens to be Albert's ex-wife. Despite Eva's awareness that she's sinking into an untenable situation, she is so seduced by Marianne that she tries to covertly nurture both relationships—to disastrous, and often comic, effects. 

Right before she began shooting Season Three of "Veep," Ms. Louis-Dreyfus, 52, talked about the film, working with Mr. Gandolfini in one of his final roles, and dining with the real vice president. Edited from an interview.

Your character in this movie is more compassionate than many you've played. Was that refreshing? 
Absolutely. It was such a different kind of role, and one I could sink my teeth in very deeply and chomp away. It's about Nicole Holofcener's writing. It was written in a real, raw way which was what was so attractive to me about the material to begin with. It was a real thrill for me to have the opportunity to do something dramatic. I hope people respond to it, fingers crossed. 

Did Nicole Holofcener write the part for you? 
No, she didn't. She just wrote the script. I don't think she had ever written a movie in which one person was the center of the story. So that was a challenge, or a new thing for her to do. It wasn't until it was written and she was casting it that I read it and I fell in love with it. Then I met with Nicole and we immediately hit it off...

...When Eva says that Catherine Keener's character is like a "human TripAdvisor" I got a flash of Elaine Benes. Did you come up with that line? 
I will tell you Nicole Holofcener wrote that. It was on the page from day one. There was a lot of improvising, which was great fun to do. It certainly helped loosen things up and made them seem much more real, but there's also a very strong beautiful script in place too.