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Monday, August 3, 2015

Take Note: Minnie Driver Can Really Sing

Posted By on Mon, Aug 3, 2015 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge Minnie Driver sings her heart out in San Francisco. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FEINSTEIN’S AT THE NIKKO
  • Photo courtesy of Feinstein’s at the Nikko
  • Minnie Driver sings her heart out in San Francisco.

Minnie Driver can really sing.

In fact, the British actress, best known for her Academy Award-nominated performance in 1997's Good Will Hunting, proved her vocal prowess even before landing her first on-camera role. With the Milo Roth Band, she was signed to the U.K.'s Island Records in the early ‘90s. Hear for yourself when Driver plays Feinstein’s at the Nikko, Sept. 11-13.

It's fair to say that Driver’s promising crooning career was briefly derailed by an equally propitious acting career. Costarring in 1995's Circle of Friends, 1996's Sleepers and 1997's Grosse Pointe Blank, Driver really blew up, alongside It-Boys Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, with Good Will Hunting. Her on-camera chemistry with Damon translated into an off-screen relationship — that is, until the Hollywood heartthrob left her for Winona Ryder. Adding insult to injury, Damon didn't even tell her directly; he announced the split on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Maybe because she was playing the part of the scorned woman in real life, the one-time ingénue just wasn't as desirable to moviegoers anymore. After starring in box office bomb The Governess (1998), she retreated behind the scenes in 1999, voicing three animated characters: Lady Eboshi in Princess Mononoke, Jane Porter in Tarzan and Brooke Shields in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, before reemerging onscreen in Return to Me, Beautiful and Slow Burn, opposite then-boyfriend Josh Brolin.

Over the next decade, Driver appeared in 20 lackluster movies, most notably Hope Springs, Ella Enchanted, Phantom of the Opera (in which she sings the Oscar-nominated song “Learn to be Lonely”) and most recently Beyond the Lights. While the actress’s movie career was free falling, she found a second home on TV.

On a 2003 episode of British sitcom Absolutely Fabulous, the actress poked fun at herself as a desperate has-been, known only for Circle of Friends and Good "Head" Hunting. She eventually secured her own shows: FX’s The Riches (2007-2008), for which she earned Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, and NBC's About a Boy (2014), playing a divorced vegan hippie mother at odds with her spoiled, self-indulgent neighbor. The show was canceled after two seasons.

Between acting roles, Driver also returned to her early love of singing and songwriting, releasing three albums: 2004's Everything I've Got in My Pocket, 2007's Seastories and 2014's Ask Me to Dance and opening for the Finn Brothers tour in 2010. She may have flubbed the National Anthem lyrics at a recent Dodger's game, but she certainly hit all the notes. An exciting new stage in Driver’s career may just be beginning.

Minnie Driver, Sept. 11-13, at Feinstein’s at the Nikko, 222 Mason, 415-394-1111.
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Joshua Rotter


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