Monday, June 19, 2000

Under those clothes, she's Bif Naked

Cori Howard
National Post

Under the dripping cedars at Buntzen Lake, about 40 minutes outside Vancouver, rock star Bif Naked is waiting for her cue to walk in the cabin door.

This is Naked's first starring role. She's acted before; she's a graduate of the University of Winnipeg's theatre program and she's appeared as a guest on the TV series Once a Thief and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But this is her first role in a film and her first lead as an actor. The film, Lunch with Charles, is a low-budget ($1.9-million) romantic comedy that is Canada's first official treaty co-production with Hong Kong.

Naked plays an earthy, spiritual hippie who's into crystals and tarot cards, nothing at all like the real, tattoo-covered and pierced Naked. But Naked says she likes her character, even though it has meant she has to look less "coiffed" than she normally does. For the role, Naked had to take out her lip ring, the first time she's done so in six years. Her clothes, a big baggy sweatshirt and a short Indian skirt over long johns, cover her tattoos. She looks downright bohemian.

They're shooting interiors today to escape the torrential rain. Naked walks in the front door of the rundown cabin with an armful of wood for the fire. After she sits down at the kitchen table with Nick Lea, they have a stilted and tense conversation about another man. Then, with a demure pout on her face, Naked storms off.

"They're at the beginning of the end of their relationship," says Naked. "Oy, if I had a nickel for every time I was at the beginning of the end of a relationship."

But that wasn't the only reason Naked was drawn to the script, by first time director/producer Michael Parker. (Parker and his Hong Kong-born wife, Shan Tam, have extensive connections to the Asian film community; Tam was a line producer for Jackie Chan's Rumble in the Bronx.) In the film, Naked gets to be a celtic singer, a far cry from her rock roots, and jam with musicians from Spirit of the West and the Paperboys, who have written songs for the film.

She also gets to jump into the freezing lake naked (her tattoos barely visible in a long-distance shot), and shoot her first sex scene. "I'm a bit nervous about that," she says.

She won't say if her sex scene is with Lea, the Vancouver-born actor who plays Naked's travel-writer boyfriend. Or if it's with Hong Kong star Sean Lau. It would ruin the plot, she says, which revolves around two couples in crisis who cross paths and help each other deal with their struggles between love and career.

Lea, who plays Krycheck on The X-Files and who was named the next big film action hero in a recent issue of USA Today, plays Naked's live-in boyfriend who has given up his career to help her run a wilderness bed and breakfast.

Lea, now based in Los Angeles, has played Naked's boyfriend before, in an episode of Once a Thief. But in that show, it was Naked who was rejected. Now, the roles are reversed and Naked is sitting across from Lea at the kitchen table, gently letting him know she plans to meet up with an old flame.

Lea recently wrapped a $96-million film in L.A., Vertical Heights with Chris O'Donnell and Bill Paxton, before returning to his "sentimental home" for this shoot. He was drawn to this film because it was an opportunity to work in Canada, and on a project "with heart and brains." He says he's trying to make choices that aren't based on money to avoid a mediocre career. "Eventually, I hope to make my own films and I hope to do it here."