6:00am PT by Chris Gardner
Billie Lourd on Sitting Down for First Interview Since Family Tragedy: "I Was Dreading It"
Billie Lourd was the first to leave her own party Sunday night, but for good reason.
With a 6 a.m. call time ticking toward her, Lourd did something that could come as a surprise considering that she hails from a demo dubbed "Young Hollywood," its members famous more for irresponsibility than manners. This 25-year-old ingenue, however, got out of her seat inside a private dining room at Hotel Bel-Air just after 9 p.m., thanked each of the 20 guests in attendance for celebrating her Town & Country cover, and rushed home in favor of a decent night's sleep before shooting American Horror Story: Cult.
There was also this: Lourd joked about the intensity of Monday morning's scene, a revelation that had everyone in the room gasping or laughing, maybe both. No spoilers here, however. (You're welcome, Ryan Murphy.)
To be fair, though, Lourd is less like her late-night-loving peers and more like a seen-it-all Hollywood veteran thanks to her real pedigree. Lourd's father, CAA power agent Bryan Lourd, would surely want her to be on time for work, while her mother, the late icon Carrie Fisher, would applaud the ease with which Lourd's provocative aside could captivate the room and leave them wanting more just as she bid adieu.
"She's not curated. She's not studied. She's very authentic," Sarah Paulson told The Hollywood Reporter moments later when the room was empty save for her close friend, actor Pedro Pascal, and T&C Editor-in-Chief Stellene Volandes. (Other guests included celebrity florist Eric Buterbaugh, Irena Medavoy, Lesley M.M. Blume, Lourd's rep and longtime family friend Simon Halls, and power couples like Eric and Lisa Eisner, movie producer John Goldwyn and his hotelier partner Jeff Klein, interior designer Michael S. Smith and former ambassador James Costos.) "It's a testament to both of her parents — to the beautiful alchemy of the DNA that produced a person of real unique integrity."
That person was on full display in the pages of T&C, Lourd's first major magazine cover and her first sit-down interview since the tragic passing of both her mother and grandmother, Debbie Reynolds, in December. Paulson handled the interview with care, and Lourd made sure to mention that fact when, before her fond and final farewell, she stood and addressed the room — voluntarily.
"I was really nervous about doing my first press thing after my mom died, and honestly, I could not have asked for a better photo shoot and interview team," gushed Lourd, who was photographed by someone who understands legacy, Victor Demarchelier, the youngest son of iconic lensman Patrick. "It turned out better than I could've ever imagined. It was so comfortable and so me, and I really want to thank you for that so much. I've been dreading it."
Paulson was preparing for it. (Volandes, too, who admitted that she had been trying to land Lourd for a cover for the better part of two years. "I don't remember the last time we had such an overwhelmingly positive, strong reaction to someone on the cover," she said. Mission accomplished.)
"I didn't want to make her feel exposed in any other way than she wanted to be," said Emmy winner Paulson, in a black lace Elie Saab, who first met then-10-year-old Lourd in 2002. "What was evident in the article is the very disparate ways in which she was raised...in a way that was exposed and also private. I didn't want to get in front of that or dictate what that was going to be. I wanted to follow her lead."
Lourd led in a conversation Paulson describes as "very easy." They met up at Bryan Lourd's house and sat barefoot on the sofa. "We talked for two hours. We kept asking ourselves, 'Should we run the tape back and delete that part of the conversation?' But we talked like people and we've known each other long enough that it was able to happen in a way that felt organic. She felt safe and I felt a natural protective feeling at the same time.... Billie, as you can see tonight, is humorous and emotionally available; she's such a beautiful amalgamation of both her mother and her father, and yet completely individual."
"Someone had taken a picture of Billie and I hugging at a particular moment at a memorial service for her mother, and this person posted it and wrote that I had no business being there. They made some comment about me being a self- serving person, and then they tweeted it at me to let me know. And I thought, they don't have any idea that I've known Billie since she was really young. Her mother had been an enormous influence on my life and a stabilizing influence on my life."
The lessons she learned run deep, she added.
When they first met (after leaving a party, Paulson found herself driving on Coldwater Canyon next to Fisher's car when Fisher stuck her head out and invited her to a party, one that happened to be "Gore Vidal's make-out party" — more on that later), Paulson was struggling to find her footing in Hollywood. "I wasn't feeling seen as an actress at all, and the great thing about Carrie is that she just didn't care. She said, 'I see you as a person, and that other stuff has no value. What matters is that you will come over here and I will make you dinner and we can talk about real things that matter.' It would inform the way I would approach my work and my life as a person. You have to be a person before you're an actor."
She added: "You can't do anything in your work if you've got nothing behind it, no life lived or thoughts had or principles held. She was sort of inviting me to experience life as a human being and not experience my personal value as being dictated by employment."
Speaking of life experience, the one juicy anecdote that many of those at Sunday's dinner party, including Volandes and her T&C colleagues, wanted to know more about was the "Gore Vidal make-out party."
"Our lips are sealed!" exclaimed Paulson and Lourd, almost in unison when queried by Volandes with the attention of the entire table.
Aside from beauty sleep and a happy AHS boss, one of the major benefits of leaving early: one never risks saying too much.
Scroll down for more images from the T&C party.