In “Nine Lives” (opening Friday), Cheryl Hines plays Madison Camden, the ex-wife of Kevin Spacey’s uptight, totally work-focused billionaire — who spends little time or energy paying attention to his family, including his adoring daughter and new wife, played by Jennifer Garner.
In the Barry Sonnenberg-directed film, Spacey’s character, Tom Brand is magically transported into the body of a cat by Christopher Walken’s character, the owner of a very odd pet store. Brand, who hates the furry felines, finally gives in to his daughter’s long-held desire to have a pet cat— so he visits the shop and soon “he” becomes the little girl’s very special birthday gift.
Calling from her home in California, Hines laughed as she revealed, “I do like cats, but I don’t have a cat myself because I don’t like kitty litter. That’s a tough one for me. … But, I love animals and do have several dogs.”
If the script called for Spacey to become a dog, Hines said “turning him into a Doberman Pinscher would sound about right,” referring to the Oscar-winning actor’s role as the diabolical and vicious President Francis Underwood on the hit Netflix series “House of Cards.”
While “Nine Lives” is total escapist fantasy/comedy, Hines noted there was an underlying aspect of the movie that appealed to her: The fact that her ex-wife character and Garner’s current wife character were on friendly terms.
“I liked that this film explores how relationships can be complicated. Even though [our characters] should be enemies on paper, we actually like each other in this film. I think that mirrors relationships in the real world today. I think a lot of people have relationships with their exes and exes’ spouses that are positive relationships, but we don’t see those too often in film and TV.”
Hines stressed that “this is really a fun movie to watch. You’re looking at the screen wondering, ‘What am I looking at?!’ Kevin Spacey is a cat. Christopher Walken can talk to the cat, but nobody else can. It’s a little trippy!”
Hines also noted “it’s nice to have a movie that the family can go see together, and just take some time out from the rest of the world for a minute. There are a lot of serious situations happening in the world today, and that certainly those issues should hold our attention. Yet at the same time, to keep our sanity, we need to find moments of levity, and I believe this film is one such moment.”
Hines said she did have one day on the set she would never forget.
“There’s a scene where Jennifer and I have to chase the cat around the dining room, while the cat is jumping from wall to wall. But of course when we were shooting it, there was no real cat. The cat was inserted later via [computer-generated effects]. All we had to work with was a tennis ball on a stick [representing the cat] It was a fun day with both of us chasing a tennis ball around the dining room, and acting like we were furious with the cat. It’s standout moment in my acting career, and probably for Jennifer as well,” laughed Hines.
The conversation then turned to the news that Larry David had finally given the okay for another season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” As a key cast member, Hines admitted, “I am thrilled of course, but just as surprised as anyone else. I just had dinner with Larry not too long ago, and he never mentioned it. But that’s the way it always is with him. I’ll be curious to see what happens. … I have no idea what Larry’s thinking for this new season, but that is part of the magic of it all.”
As we spoke just prior to the Democratic National Convention, Hines, who is married to Robert F. Kennedy Jr., said — somewhat sadly — that work prevented her from attending the DNC in Philadelphia.
“But hopefully, I’ll be at the inauguration in January, if it turns out the way I’m hoping.”