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Actress Mena Suvari chatted with TIME reporter Stephen Short from L.A. Feb. 12, just before American Beauty netted eight Oscar nominations.

Lorey Sebastian/©1999 Dreamworks LLC
Mena Suvari (right) with Thora Birch and Wes Bentley.

TIME: You must be sick of people congratulating you on this movie?
No, thank you, it still feels great. Not so much recently because I've been working in Toronto for the last two months on Amy Heckerling's film Loser, but it's great to get back to L.A.

TIME: So how was Toronto?
Oh God, it was 20 below.

TIME: Hardly L.A. So how did American Beauty compare with American Pie?
Well, for a start, there was more rehearsal. Kevin and I rehearsed for two weeks so we formed a good relationship with each other. It was a high honor working with him. I've never done any theater before, never had a two-week rehearsal, or had everything in a movie staged out, all positions mapped out. In page after page of the script every shot was drawn out. In Pie, it was a little more spontaneous and not much rehearsal.

'A Private, Interior Film'
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'Pure Emotional Terrain'
American Beauty's Kevin Spacey weighs in on the differences between film and theater

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Therapy through taboo in American Beauty

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Director Danny Boyle on filming The Beach with sun, sand and a superstar

The Kids Are All Right
Zhang Yimou says working with young amateur actors suits him perfectly (1/10/2000)
Talking Thai
Hong Kong superstar Chow Yun-fat, fresh from filming Anna and the King, says working in front of the camera keeps him alive (12/27/99)

Back to China
In the martial-arts drama Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ang Lee and a cast of big stars struggle with moviemaking on the mainland (11/29/99)

Showbiz Asia: the latest on Asian music, films and books

TIME: What was your reaction to watching this movie?
I've seen it about eight times. Each time I see it, it's different. I keep seeing new things. I was crying watching it.

TIME: At your own scenes?
Well, just all of it.

TIME: Did you have much input with any of the scenes you did with Kevin?
No. That was all worked out between Kevin and Sam.

TIME: Kevin Spacey told me that young stars these days have quick, intense careers and then disappear and aren't heard from again. Could he have been describing you?
I guess people have begun to notice me a lot more the last two years. Since this movie came out it's put so much emphasis on the cast. That does put a lot of pressure on you. When I was making American Beauty it was the first time I've worried that I wouldn't work again. And the pressure makes me think I'm getting really old, really quickly. Most of all, I don't want to mess up.

TIME: Far from it judging by reaction to this film.
Yeah, so now I want to try and become more responsible, get more involved and most of all, be more organized.

TIME: Is that your biggest weakness, organizing yourself?
Every time.

TIME: Are you an Internet junkie?
No, I'm a computer illiterate. I don't even have one in my house.

TIME: Congratulations. That's one of the more refreshing things you've said.
Yeah, I just don't really do that type of stuff.

TIME: Have you seen The Beach yet?
No, but I'd really love to.

TIME: Would you ever do that backpacker experience through Asia?
I've never done it and I'm not sure I will. I've just got back from some holiday in Germany and am planning to go to Italy. Most of all, I just like being home with friends in L.A., going down the King's Road and stuff like that.

TIME: Watch movies?
Yeah, we saw Cider House Rules the other day. That was so beautiful. Oh yeah...we finally saw Austin Powers too.

TIME: Shagadelic isn't it?
Yeah, I think everybody must have seen that movie.

TIME: Were you backpacking?
No, not exactly. It was all a little more comfortable than that.

TIME: Well listen, good luck with Loser.
And you, and I hope you get to sleep in one of these days.

TIME: Thanks, but it's unlikely.

(American Beauty opens in Hong Kong March 2.)

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