My Girl’ star Anna Chlumsky is all grown up and acting her age.
NEW YORK – Anna Chlumsky experienced a pleasant shock at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. A woman spotted her in a shop and said, “‘In the Loop’ – you were great.”
Yes, the woman said “In the Loop”: the sharp-tongued political satire that had just debuted at the festival, and not “My Girl,” the kiddie weepie that made the Chlumsky a star when she was 11 years old.
“I was just like, ‘Oh, my God, I’m so happy,’” Chlumsky recalls over coffee and pastry at her favorite little French cafe in the Chelsea neighborhood.
Although “My Girl” came out in 1991, the year after “Home Alone” turned co-star Macaulay Culkin into a kid icon, Chlumsky says strangers still ask almost daily whether she’s that girl – never mind that she has since abandoned acting, graduated from the University of Chicago and briefly pursued careers in food writing and book publishing before attempting a comeback.
And never mind that – brace yourselves – the cherub-faced, puffy-lipped kid in “My Girl” will turn 30 this year.
To those fans, “I look just the same,” she says with a laugh.
Well, she’s still on the petite side, with those dramatic blue eyes and pouty mouth, but as she walks into the cafe in her black T-shirt and jeans, she projects the casual elegance of a woman who has grown to feel at home in New York City. Her supporting role as a diplomat’s brainy aide in “In the Loop,” released last year to critical acclaim, was a high point in the relatively new, not-quite-above-the-radar adult phase of her acting career, which also has included some TV series appearances and off-Broadway roles.
She says she has no regrets about “My Girl” and all of the fame it brought her at such a young age, but now she feels like she’s really acting, as opposed to when she was “in that kid mode of ‘say the lines right, and you’ll do fine.’”
“What’s interesting about Anna is she did the child acting and then very consciously decided to go into the outside world and get a dose of reality and go to college and get a 9 to 5 job, and then she’s able to bring that experience back into her acting,” “In the Loop” director Armando Iannucci says on the phone from London.
Chlumsky grew up in the western Chicago suburb of Broadview with her mother Nancy (her parents split when she was 2) and was modeling in Marshall Field’s ads when she was 10 months old. Following the bit part of School Child in John Hughes’ “Uncle Buck” (1989), she landed the lead role of Vada Sultenfuss, the death-obsessed girl growing up in her widower father’s (Dan Aykroyd) mortuary in Howard Zieff’s “My Girl.” The movie, which drew controversy for killing off Culkin’s character, was a hit, and Chlumsky got the fresh-faced accolades.
But even then she had other goals than being a movie star. “During ‘My Girl’ I wanted to be a horse dentist,” she says. “I wanted to be a paleontologist for a while.”
“She would say, ‘I’m not a star. I don’t want to be a star,’” says her father, Frank Chlumsky, a chef instructor at Kendall College.
“Anna always wanted to be a normal kid. All the while that was going on, she was missing her friends at school.”
She starred in the sequel “My Girl 2″ and was Sissy Spacek’s daughter in “Trading Mom” (both 1994), and she co-starred with Christina Ricci in “Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain” the following year. Little did she know that she wouldn’t appear in another widely released theatrical film until “In the Loop.”
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