Claire Danes: 'Hours' Not For Books

Claire Danes, 23, began acting professionally when she was just 12. In 1998, she took a career break to become a college student. But when she was asked to join Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore in "The Hours," Danes tells Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith, it was an opportunity she couldn't pass up.

"It was kind of a no-brainer, thinking about doing it. I mean, it was just so exciting to participate in a project that is smart and artful and, you know, terrific as it was," Danes says.

In this movie, she plays Meryl Streep's daughter. The experience, Danes says, was "surreal -- a dream come true. I had been in college for a few years and actually hadn't been doing much acting at all. And then I found myself on a set, like, with Meryl Streep. So I was intimidated initially. But she's just such a lovely...warm, accessible person that you know she made it as comfortable for me as possible. I needed the help."

As Danes watched her, she says, she impressed by Streep's experimental approach to her work. "She was very brave. I was surprised to discover how hesitant she was to judge her own work, you know? She would do a lot of different takes, and they'd be varied. And some were better than others. I mean, they're all amazing because, you know, it's Meryl Streep. I'm much more cautious. I'm much more concerned with being excellent all the time. And she had a kind of looseness about her attitude towards her work that I was really impressed by."

So how does Danes go to college and have a career at the same time?

"It's challenging. I was very optimistic when I first started school. I thought, you know, 'No problem. I'll go study during the school year and then I'll have a movie every summer and you know, like clockwork.' And that was so not the reality. I'm vacillating between the two," she says.

"Go to school and concentrate solely on that and then make the transition, you know, books and work for awhile. But it's not easy. It'll take me awhile to finally accomplish everything I want to accomplish," she continues with a big laugh.

But her recent career momentum has been keeping Danes away from the Ivy halls. Last fall, she costarred as a pseudo-intellectual teen-ager who comes between two brothers in the critically acclaimed "Igby Goes Down."

"She's really pretentious and self-involved, and believes she's much more mature and experienced than she really is and it was great. I could just indulge in all of her neuroses and stuff," Danes explains.

And up next will be the big budget action sequel "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," once again starring Arnold Schwarzengger.

She may never go back to school.

"But I may. I may," she says. "We'll see. I get antsy. So, like, I get bored with both. I've been acting professionally since I was 12, and I had sacrificed a lot. My development was a little bit rocky. So I didn't get out of conventional high school. So it was just important for me to go to Yale for the social experience as it was the academic. And yeah, I benefited measurably from that."

Including she says from all the clichés about college like beers on Friday nights.

"And you know, I made all my best friends there. I'm really happy I went. It was very fulfilling," she adds.

"The Hours," which has received 7 Golden Globe nominations, is currently playing in New York and Los Angeles and opens nationwide on Jan. 17.

Claire Danes' Filmography:

  • 2004 - "Flora Plum"
  • 2003 - "Shopgirl"; "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines"
  • 2002 - "It's All About Love"; "The Hours"; "Igby Goes Down"
  • 1999 - "AFI's 100 Years...100 Stars"; "Brokedown Palace";
    The Mod Squad"
  • 1998 - "Hercules" TV series; "Les Misérables"; "Polish Wedding"
  • 1997 - "The Rainmaker"; "U Turn"; "Mononoke Hime"
  • 1996 - "Romeo + Juliet"; :To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday"; "I Love You, I Love You Not"
  • 1995 - "Lifestories: Families In Crisis" TV series; "The Pesky Suitor," "Home for the Holidays"; "How to Make an American Quilt"
  • 1994 - "Little Women," "My So-Called Life" TV series, "More Than Friends: The Coming Out of Heidi Leiter" (TV)
  • 1990 - "Dreams of Love"