Minnie Driver shares the messiness of her life in 'Managing Expectations' memoir Decades after breaking into Hollywood, Driver is ready for the world to see a little bit more of her. In her memoir she shares stories about her life from childhood to her unexpected path into acting.

Minnie Driver on the paradox of fame and her 'complicated' notion of marriage

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1096450590/1096720029" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


For actor Minnie Driver, becoming famous was a surreal experience. Or, to put it in her words...

MINNIE DRIVER: (Reading) Becoming famous was like everyone else had taken hallucinogenic drugs, and I was the giant talking mushroom in their trip. It was hardly noticeable at first. People would smile in my direction sometimes, but it could have been at something happening behind me. Then, the next thing I knew, a guy was lying in the gutter as I get out of my car, trying to take a picture of my vagina.

CHANG: For Driver, fame always presented a bit of what she calls a psychological paradox - you want to be seen, but not that much. Well now, 2 1/2 decades after breaking into Hollywood, Minnie Driver is ready for you to see a little bit more of her. She's written a memoir called "Managing Expectations," essays about relationships and the messiness of life, from her childhood in England and Barbados to her unexpected path into acting to becoming a single mom to her son, Henry.

The book begins with Driver's complicated relationship with her mother, who, after living for 16 years as her father's mistress, left Driver's father, married another man and tried to make this new family work.

DRIVER: It's so interesting picking over the bones of convention and what that means. I mean, in 1976, my mother, who wanted to maintain custody of us - that was the first year a woman could sign for a mortgage without a male cosigner.

CHANG: So remarkable.

DRIVER: A judge told her...

CHANG: Yeah.

DRIVER: A male judge said, in order to maintain custody of your kids, you've got to be married, you have to own your own house and you have to have them in school, which he knew was impossible. Except, you know, my mother - my mother made it possible.

CHANG: Driver says watching her mom try to build a new life around the institution of marriage shaped her own attitude towards marriage.

DRIVER: I strangely, for someone who was the product of people who weren't married, I really always wanted to be married. But I think I thought it meant that you were accepted or acceptable. And it's taken a long time to unpick that and to realize that what I really want is to be with this man that I love now forever. I want a party. I want my friends to come together, for us to dance and for us to tell stories. And I want that. I want the ritual.

CHANG: So many of these stories are about how what we want in relationships evolves as we evolve.

I was so struck when I was reading the bit about the Minnie Driver from 2 1/2 decades ago describe her relationship with Matt Damon. This is right after you filmed "Good Will Hunting." And, you know, I related to that impatience you felt for love and work and happiness to all come together in some shimmering trifecta. But I also understand, years later, you know, how very hard that is to find and maintain.

DRIVER: I just - I wonder if it's even possible, you know. It's like, to - for anything to be 100% all of the time - your work, your love life - yet we have this expectation of ourselves as people to do that. So invariably, when I, you know, fell in love with my boyfriend now, Henry is happy and healthy - I'm looking around going, oh, my God, something's going to collapse.

CHANG: (Laughter) I have those same feelings, yes - about my own life, yes.

DRIVER: But I mean, there's always something that's falling apart, and there is always something that is going fine. And I believe that is - that is just life.

CHANG: This book also is very much about your relationship to acting and how doing this thing that you love has sometimes resulted in inattention to your inner self, as you wrote, because, you know, you're paid to constantly inhabit other people. So when it comes to just being Minnie, the normal person, when do you feel most in touch with her, that inner self?

DRIVER: Well, it took a while to actually feel that that person had currency that was apparently as valuable as being a famous movie star because I definitely drank the Kool-Aid and felt like fame and success were going to act as some sort of emotional grout in between all the fragmented parts of my life. But when I did - not figure it out, but realize that life just simply had to be more - once I actually paid attention to creating my own roots, that's when my life changed so much, and I could actually love acting as part of this brilliant - as this brilliant - I'm going to use some dreadful word like tapestry, but like...

CHANG: (Laughter).

DRIVER: ...But like some tapestry. You know, it's full of - it's - that it has its wonderful place in amongst all this other stuff, all this other context of being a human being. And that's when I really, I think, started enjoying it and loving it.

CHANG: Well, I'm so happy to hear you in that happier place. If I may return to your mother - I understand that she died while you were writing this book. And when I got to the essay about your mom dying, it just had such a different feel, a different rhythm from the whole rest of the book. And I was wondering, what was it like for you to be in the middle of writing about long-ago memories and then suddenly to be writing about something you were very much still struggling through?

DRIVER: To begin with, I was like, well, this book is done. Like, I can't finish this book because the whole - I will never be happy again, was my feeling. And yet the funny thing is, I just carried on writing. All I could really do is write about her dying, which I knew wasn't fit for public consumption, but there was this idea when - I know this is - stay with me on this analogy - but I'm a surfer. And when you get caught in what's called inside and you have wave after wave pounding on you and you can barely catch your breath and you're held under for a while, all you can do is relax and just know that it is going to pass, and if you can just stay in it and just be as present as you possibly can, you will come out the other side. And I suddenly realized that that's what this writing around grief was. And if I just kept writing, I would eventually hit sort of the edge of the universe of that particular expression of grief, which is exactly what I did.

And then I really didn't know what to do because I was like, well, I'm still not going to be able to go back and write the rest of the book. And my boyfriend, so sweetly and brilliantly, said, why don't you just write something that makes you happy or makes you laugh? So I wrote the story of he and I meeting.

CHANG: Oh, I love that story - (laughter) when he thought he was a CIA agent or something.

DRIVER: Yeah. I had no intention of that being in the book, but what was so brilliant was that writing that story allowed me to go back and be able to fillet the ideas that I could bear speaking about my mother into an essay, which - it is raw, and it is different to the other book. But you know what? She was raw and different. And it's righteous in that - in as much as it's - I think it's as different as she was.

CHANG: Minnie Driver's new book is called "Managing Expectations: A Memoir In Essays." Thank you so much for being with us. I so enjoyed reading this book.

DRIVER: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Thanks, Ailsa.


Copyright © 2022 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.