Your Friend Amy

By Jeffrey Lantos

After Amy Brenneman made television history by revealing her assets on NYPD Blue, she was swamped with film offers and invited to pose for Playboy, which she nixed. (Too cheesy, plus I think Id laugh). She ended up falling for Robert De Niro in Heat and then got down and soggy with Sly in Daylight. Since then shes gone in search of more poetic material, which led her to Neil LaBute, the Brigham Young University theatre major-turned English professor-turned-writer/director who shocked Sundance last year with his study in misogyny, In the Company of Men. In LaButes new film, Your Friends and Neighbors, another discomfiting dissection of male-female dynamics, Brenneman stars with Jason Patric (perfect for the role of a beautiful man with a beautiful bod), Nastassja Kinski (something lost-lamb about her), Ben Stiller and Aaron Eckhart. How did the film turn out? We,, the first cut was slapped with an NC-17 rating.

For nudity?, I assume. No, theres no nudity, says the ebullient 33-year-old Harvard grad. And the language is no worse than ther R-rated films. I think its because the writing is so frank, so balls-out. It really upsets people. It seems LaBute, a kind of Mormon Mamet, has a particularly strong point of view, in that the much vaunted principle of candor is presented as not only not therapeutic in relationships, but cause for relationships to implode. Explains Brenneman: The moment my husband [Eckhart] and I speak honestly about one thing, our marriage is over. Dealing with this sort of material took its toll on Brenneman: The filming freaked me out. Im very much a tomboy, but I became this retiring, delicate flower. When it was over I smoked a cigarette, drove home, woke up my husband [Brad Silberling, director of City of Angels and two of Brennemans NYPD Blue episodes] and cried.

As for life after Your Friends and Neighbors, Brenneman seems to have changed her tune as a result of working with LaBute. A few years ago she was hell-bent on trying to nab roles in big fat movies. Now, she lets her agents try to rustle up roles du jour while she investigates juicy, Parker Posey-type parts in movies that youd expect to play at film festivals. On her menu are the indies Lesser Prophets with Jimmy Smits and Nevada with Gabrielle Anwar. I cant get every movie part I want, admits Brenneman, who, in fact, lost the female lead in the touted Robin Williams film What Dreams May Come to Annabella Sciorra, but I like my reputation. People know Im good.