Gretchen Mol was born November 8, 1972, in Deep River, Connecticut, the daughter of a school principal and his artist wife. Deep River is a small community located on the Chester Bowles Highway (Rt. 9), nine miles northwest of Old Saybrook (home of the legendary Katharine Hepburn), within commuting distance of New York City. The young Gretchen was bit by the acting bug and participated in high school theatrics, then moved to the Big Apple as a teenager to study acting and musical theater at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and at the William Esper Studio.
Although only 5'6" tall--too short for a traditional modeling career--her unique beauty brought her modeling jobs as she pursued her dream of becoming a professional actress. She began appearing in magazines in 1994, meanwhile working at such time-honored Manhattan jobs as restaurant hat-check girl. It was while working that gig she was discovered by a talent agent. The agent landed her her first acting job, a TV commercial for Coca-Cola. She continued to hone her acting skills in summer stock, appearing in such productions as "Bus Stop", "No Exit" and "Godspell".
The 23-year-old Gretchen made her film debut in Spike Lee's Girl 6 (1996), a small role that came to her, as luck would have it, after she had gone for an audition for the soap opera Haine et passion (1952). Her career began to take off, and she appeared in small parts, mostly "girlfriend" roles, in such films as Les joueurs (1998) starring 'Matt Damon' (qav) and in Woody Allen's Celebrity (1998), opposite Kenneth Branagh and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Gretchen was touted as the "Next Big Thing" after appearing on the cover of the September 1998 issue of "Vanity Fair". Her most memorable role up to that time was as a mobster's moll in the minor cult classic Donnie Brasco (1997), which was mostly remembered for cinematic turns by Al Pacino, Johnny Depp and Anne Heche. Nonetheless, her beauty and presence led "Vanity Fair" to hype the beautiful blonde, heralding the arrival of a major new star. She seemed poised to move up to featured roles. but the announcement turned out to be premature. Brunette Angelina Jolie proved to be Hollywood's Next "It" girl.
During the seven years that followed the "Vanity Fair" cover story, Mol continued to appear in films and on the stage, including the part of Jennie in the London and New York productions of Neil LaBute's "The Shape of Things" in 2001 (she also appeared in the film version, Fausses apparences (2003)). The good reviews she got proved that she was not just another pretty face. In 2004 she displayed her singing and dancing chops by playing Roxie Hart in the Broadway production of "Chicago."
She worked steadily, appearing in another small role in Woody Allen's Accords & désaccords (1999), and eventually won the lead in David E. Kelley TV series Girls Club (2002). The series bombed, however, and was canceled after only two episodes. Nevertheless, the intervening period allowed her to develop as an actress. In 2004 the blonde beauty finally had the role that proved to be her acting breakthrough: brunette 1950s "stag queen" Bettie Page in The Notorious Bettie Page (2005). Many brunettes have gone blonde, but Mol--the blonde who went brunette--rocked the screen with her presence. Her embodiment of the legendary Page garnered excellent reviews and propelled the flick into art house hit status.
Mol married film director Tod Williams on June 1, 2004, and they became parents a little over three years later, when a son, Ptolemy John Williams, was born on October 10, 2007.
The Naked Truth About Gretchen Mol
Starring as the ultimate pinup in 'The Notorious Bettie Page,' Gretchen Mol sheds her clothes, her inhibitions, and her flash-in-the-pan image
April 5, 2006
April 5, 2006
In 1998, just as the moviegoing public was savoring its rst taste of Gretchen Mol in Donnie Brascoand Rounders, she was thrust upon the cover of Vanity Fair wearing a silk sheath—a stage-ve clinger—next to a cover line that read IS SHE HOLLYWOOD’S NEXT IT’ GIRL? It has taken the better part of a decade—and opting for what she calls “good, random projects that weren’t going to garner a lot of attention,“ including a stint starring in Chicago on Broadway—to live down that premature exuberance and show us what she’s got for real. On a chilly day in Manhattan over a bottle of Barbera, Mol talks about her role as the quintessential ’50s pinup in this month’s The Notorious Bettie Page—a part she inhabits with such cheeky authority it feels like a slice of history. Gretchen is back, and this time we’re ready for her.
What’s harder to do—sex or nudity?
I’d say sex. As brave as I had to be to do the nudity in The Notorious Bettie Page, I kind of believed in Bettie’s philosophy of being like, you know, big deal. It’s good that I had the wig on.
**Bettie was an iconic siren—America’s rst pinup bondage queen, posing in shots with a bullwhip and wearing six-inch heels. Yet she maintained a guilelessness, as if she were unaware of her erotic impact. Was she really that innocent? **
Well, that’s the question. You look at those photographs and there’s an openness—her kind of saying, “Come on in. There is no judgment here.“ It always seemed like she was just having a good time. And I really think she thought, It’s not hurting anybody. She had some magical quality that was about giving permission.
**Do you remember the rst time you were naked in front of a boy? **
I have to say it was pretty late. I was so shy about things, even if I was already sleeping with someone. I wasn’t comfortable with my body for a while. I mean…how can I answer this question without answering it? The night of my honeymoon.
**When you were coming up in the business, did you ever nd yourself in compromising positions with sleazy, predatory characters? **
I feel like it’s constant when you’re 20, 21, 22, when you’re this young actress, or coat-check girl, or a hostess in a restaurant, or whatever you’re doing. When you look back on it you think, How did I nd myself in that situation? And then, hopefully, you have the tools to kind of stamp out the re. I remember ending up with my boss in the wine cellar with the door locked. And it’s like, Wait a second [laughs]—how did I get here?
**What did those years teach you? **
I learned that you need to meet men head-on. You know? I learned that you have to kind of know who you are, and if you don’t, it could be a slippery slope.
**Have you ever dumped anybody for being too square? **
No, I would have never done that. I got broken up with a lot.
**Really? You were more often the dumpee than the dumper? **
Mm-hm. I denitely went through the jerky-guy period. My requirements were so minimal.
**What were your requirements? **
I don’t even know if I can say cute… Well, I never really liked people my age.
**So you dated older guys? **
Yeah. I would say slightly older jerks. Any 40-year-old dating a 20-year-old, there’s something off. I’m sorry. I mean, there’s no equilibrium there. You’re kind of wondering, Why can’t he handle an older woman? It’s like, What’s his problem?
**You were famously anointed with a Vanity Fair cover when you were only 25. **
Yeah. I was so excited about everything. It was a fun time, and then it suddenly became… You know when you’re put on a pedestal, it’s like you’re not going to measure up. So then you sadly start to slip into the “not worthy“ thing.
**It seemed to me you remained a bit skeptical when everyone was rushing to label you the Next Big Thing. Even you didn’t fully buy it. **
Yeah, I didn’t. That was denitely a younger, more naive person saying, “Yeah, I’ll be on this cover!“ I’ve thought about it a lot, the trajectory of my career. It’s so strange to me that a lot of people have to kind of live down a role, or live down throwing a phone or whatever. And it’s so strange that this [the magazine cover] is the thing that precedes me. I denitely didn’t like being associated with something that had very little to do with me. It was a timing thing—I just showed up for the shoot.
**What were your worst days as an actress? **
When I was really struggling, those were actually glory days because ignorance is bliss and I felt like I had nothing to lose. It was all in front of me, and my attitude was, “Why not me?“ But once I got a taste of the publicity, it kind of threw me for a loop. I lost my footing. The thing got out of my hands and snowballed into this thing that I felt didn’t reect me or the way I expected things to go down. I think when I realized that, that was kind of a harsh day. But it was also a great day, because then you buckle down and ask yourself, What are you doing here in the rst place—why did you get into this? And are you going to lie down, or are you going to stand up and ght and get creative and gure out what you’re going to do next? It’s using your resources and saying no to things. The one power that an actress has is saying no. It’s that thing of just staying home and being okay with it.
**Did you get to keep the bullwhip or the thigh-high boots from Bettie Page? **
You know what, I did. I got my whole wardrobe. [laughs mischievously] Uh-huh. But it’s all in bos.
**Sure it is. **
No, it is! Because everything had to be so tted—all the boots and everything were made to t my body—it’s just fun for me to have.
**Are you ever going to wear that stuff? And please don’t say on Halloween. **
Noooooo. That would be wrong somehow. I love having them, but you can’t even walk in those boots, they’re so high.
**You don’t have to walk to use the bullwhip. **
This is true.