Minnie Driver’s memoir spills the beans on Matt Damon, Harvey Weinstein and Hollywood
“A tell-most,” is how Minnie Driver describes her moreish memoir. Refreshingly free of the self-mythologising therapy gush that makes most thespy autobiographies just a bore, it’s a collection of bittersweet essays, in which the 52-year-old star of 1990s classics Good Will Hunting and Grosse Point Blank repeatedly rolls her eyes at the “absurdity” of a life spent precariously balanced between pain and privilege.
Although her book is more focused on her family than her career, Driver’s crisp, un-self-pitying British wit slices through the sillinesss and sexism of her industry. She reduces her complicity in the dull churn of celebrity to “I wore the dresses. I held the bags.” And she rejoices in her victories against it, waiting until the cameras were dropped to flash her knickers at paparazzi who had been lying in gutters trying to “upskirt” her. In an early audition for a chocolate commercial she describes being asked to fake an orgasm over a particularly unpalatable product. She manages it once. But baulks when the male director asks her to do it again, “bigger” for the Dutch market. As she leaves, the man yells that all the other girls had “enjoyed” the experience. Driver’s comeback is delicious: “They faked it.”
I’ve always loved Driver for her refusal to play nice. Unrepentantly tall, frizzy haired, a bit weird and clever, she was “our girl on the inside” for my generation of bookish girls. But I’ll admit to some equivocation over her poshness. Did the inherited combination of wealth from her financier dad and beauty from her ex-couture model mum make it all a bit easy for her to cock a snook where the rest of us might have bitten our tongues?
Now she reveals that those advantages came with a price. Both Driver’s parents believed in tough love and, as a child, she responded with flailing anger and sadness. Her mother Gaynor wasn’t married to her father, Charles. He was married to another woman throughout his relationship with Gaynor, which ended when Minnie was seven. Hoping for a jolly new life with a country vet, Gaynor discharged her girls’ beloved nanny and whisked them off to a ramshackle Hampshire cottage called Mildmay (swiftly nicknamed Mildew).
Driver’s affable, blond-haired elder sister, Kate, was able to make nice with both her new stepdad and her father’s new girlfriend. But difficult, dark-mopped Minnie challenged the interlopers’ rights. When her stepfather slapped her on the face, she drew around the handprint in black marker pen. Looking back, she recalls it felt “like putting a trophy on a shelf, like tattooing on your body the name of someone you will come to not love”. The triumph was short lived. Driver’s mother packed her off to boarding school. When she made rude comments about her father’s girlfriend’s bikini, he banished her from his luxurious Barbados house, sending her home alone on the plane.