Carolyn Farina doesn't know what it was that writer-director Whit Stillman saw in her when he was looking for actors for his "Metropolitan."
"He was looking for someone like Audrey Hepburn. Whatever it was, I'm glad he saw it," said Farina, who, at 26, is older than Audrey, the girl she plays in the film. You wouldn't, however, know that. In the lobby of the St. Mark Hotel in New York, Farina seemed no more than 18, the age of the girl she plays.
At this stage in her career, she is completely unaffected and in person, is even prettier than she is on screen. She is delighted to have done the film and is delighted to have people interview her. "It's like, oh, gee, somebody really cares," she said.
In "Metropolitan," she is one of a group of nine young people who are deeply into the New York social season, the deb dances, the parties, the gatherings. All live on the upper East Side and look slightly askance at the people who live on the West Side.
"It's completely unlike my background," said Farina. "I was raised in Queens, in the kind of neighborhood John Travolta knew in 'Saturday Night Fever'."
She shares an apartment in Brooklyn with her 30-year old brother, an electrical engineer. "He's the bright one," she said.
She hasn't seen her father for 12 years and hadn't seen him much before that. "My parents were divorced very early," she said. "I don't have any contact with him. He has another family so we were pushed to the side."
She doesn't sound at all bitter. "Oh, I knew I was different when I was young," she said, "but it's not something I think about all the time. I don't dwell on it. My mother was very supportive."
The missing-father profile fits so many actresses, Bette Davis among them. In most cases, the long-absent father, aware of the fame his daughter has achieved, reappears, usually in the dressing room of his child.
"I don't think that will happen to me," said Farina. "I don't think he'd have the nerve."
She doesn't know exactly when it was that she decided to become an actress. "I really don't know where it all began," she said. "I like to say I didn't pick it, that it was something that picked me, but I have always known that I wanted to be part of that world. When I was in grade school I was very shy so my mother put me in acting class, and I used to see three or four movies every week."
Would she like to be a big star?
"Oh, sure. Who wouldn't want to be successful at something she likes to do?," she said.
She went to high school, but not college. She did, however, study acting at several places. One was the prestigious Lee Strasberg Institute.
Since high school, she has worked at a variety of jobs. She has been a waitress, a secretary, a receptionist and at present, is a sales clerk at Macy's. "I've got to pay the rent," she said.
She won the role of Audrey, the deb, by auditioning for it. "I read about it in an actor's paper, 'Backstage,' and reported for the auditions," she said. "I got the role on Friday and was filming on Monday. I didn't have time to research the character. Whenever I had any questions, I went to Whit, and he was very helpful. It was his world.
"Two of the girls in the film are from that background, but most of us are not," said Farina, who reminds us that Stillman, who had never done a film before, prefaces his movie with the information that all this happened "not so long ago."
"I don't think he wanted the audience to think that his film is an accurate picture of life as it is lived today, among these people," she said.
Told that the movie plays like Philip Barry ("The Philadelphia Story") as seen through the eyes of Woody Allen, Farina said that she had heard that. She said she had seen the film version of Barry's "Holiday" but had not seen his "Philadelphia Story."
Though "Metropolitan," so far, has only played New York and Los Angeles, Farina's life has already changed. "I have an agent now," she said.
She has also done another film. She has a very small role in "Little Noises," a movie starring Crispin Glover and Tatum O'Neal.
"People always laugh when I say that," she said. "It must be something about Glover. I have only one small scene with him. I play his cousin."
"Metropolitan" is neither a send-up nor a put-down of the characters in the film.
"Whit has affection for them," said Farina. 'Much of the film is based on his own experiences."
"Metropolitan" opens at the Rotunda on Friday.