Gretchen Mol (born November 8, 1972)
is an American actress.
Mol was born in Deep River, Connecticut, where her mother, Janet, is an
artist and teacher and her father is a school teacher at RHAM. She went to
high school with Broadway actor Peter Lockyer. They performed in school
musicals and plays together. Her brother, Jim Mol, is a director and
editor in the film industry. Mol attended The American Musical and
Dramatic Academy and graduated from the William Esper Studio. After summer
stock in Vermont, she took a job for a while as an usher at Angelika Film
Center. She was living in a Hell's Kitchen walk-up when she was noticed by
a talent agent who spotted her working as a hat check girl at Michael's
Restaurant in New York. Mol's first acting job was in a Coca-Cola
Interviewed by the Associated Press in Baltimore in December 2006, Mol
commented about how she maintained her confidence as an actress: "It is an
ongoing struggle. Confidence is something that sometimes you have and
sometimes you don't. And the older you get, hopefully, the more you have
some tools to at least fake it". She married film director Kip Williams on
June 1, 2004. Their first child, Ptolemy John Williams, was born September
10, 2007. While raising Ptolemy, Mol has only taken jobs close to her home
in New York City. "I told my agent I didn't want to work in L.A., even if
it was the greatest job in the world. I didn't want to compromise." She is
also the national spokesperson for the PMD Foundation, which funds
research and awareness of Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease, a neurological
disorder afflicting children worldwide.
Mol's acting career had its beginnings in summer stock in Vermont where
she played a variety of roles including Godspell and 110 In The Shade. She
played Jenny in Neil LaBute's The Shape of Things on stage in both London
and New York in 2001, in a role she reprised in the film version, released
in 2003. The New York Times critic Ben Brantley, in his review of the play
(which he disliked), wrote, " gives by far the most persuasive performance
as the unworldly Jenny, and you wind up feeling for her
disproportionately, only because she seems to be entirely there, in the
present tense". In 2004, Mol spent a year singing and dancing as Roxie in
the Broadway production of Chicago.
In 1994, Mol was spotted by photographer Davis Powell. He photographed her
in New York's Central Park and replaced her unrepresentative portfolio
with professional-looking black & white images which landed her on the
cover of W magazine within weeks and foreshadowed her "It Girl" and
"Bettie Page" looks. Shortly afterwards, she ended her brief modeling
career and entered acting full time.
In 1998, she appeared in several notable films including Rounders,
starring Matt Damon and Woody Allen's Celebrity opposite Leonardo
DiCaprio. It was in 1998 that she also came to prominence and notoriety
when she was featured on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine. Her appearance
was both a triumph and a failure — it brought her great attention, but her
movies bombed. Dubbed the "It Girl of the Nineties" by the magazine, her
career did not live up to the hype. Her early success was not sustained
and she faced several lean years before a notable comeback with The
Notorious Bettie Page in 2006.
While major roles have been sporadic, Mol has been in more than thirty
feature films. And though the films have often been small, she has worked
for a number of important directors. Her first role came in Spike Lee's
1996 film, Girl 6. She said "I was auditioning for Guiding Light and I was
happy I got a Spike Lee movie, which was a tiny part, but all of a sudden
I had Spike Lee on my resume. I didn't audition for day player anymore".
New York filmmaker Abel Ferrara took notice and cast her in two movies,
The Funeral (1996) and New Rose Hotel (1998). She had a small role in
Donnie Brasco (1998). By now, she was being typecast as "the girlfriend,"
which she attempted to change opposite Jude Law in Music From Another Room
(1998), a romantic comedy, but the film went virtually unnoticed by
critics and audiences.
For her second film with Woody Allen, 1999's Sweet and Lowdown, she played
a minor role which the Greenwich Village Gazette called "notable". She
played the victim of a con in the 2003 film, Heavy Put-Away based on the
Terry Southern story. In 2006, she shared the lead in a romantic comedy,
Puccini for Beginners, in which her character has a lesbian affair.
Mol worked with Mary Harron for two years as the director struggled to
finance The Notorious Bettie Page: "I kind of felt like I lived with it
for a while; certainly not as long as Mary Harron did but I got a good
chance to really feel like I knew something about Bettie so by the time
the role was mine and I was on set I was pretty confident. I felt like I
really worked for it".
The year 2007 was one of her busiest, with four films in production or in
release, including a remake of 3:10 to Yuma starring Russell Crowe, and An
American Affair in which her character, Catherine Caswell, has an affair
with John F. Kennedy. When released in February 2009, the film was harshly
criticized by New York Times critic Stephen Holden, though he said that
Mol's part was "quite well acted".
In April 2008, she began filming Tenure in Philadelphia, working opposite
Luke Wilson, and Andrew Daly.
"I wish I could say I have
this kind of big plan, but now, so much of it is what comes along
the pike, and then, you just say, there's something about that role
that just tickles me or sort of feels right."
"I never really have had, at its core, an issue with nudity in films
except that I know when I think it's exploitative and when I think
[Of her watching Bettie Page pornographic film loops to understand
her character in "The Notorioous Bettie Page] "I love the loops! I
couldn't take my eyes off of them. It was five minutes dedicated to
the art of the shoe, and putting the shoe on -- but first the
stocking. It was so geisha. There was something so presentational.
Bettie was just lost in her own world, dancing around with this
fringe bikini on, with this weird lamp on the side table."