Catherine O’Hara’s performance on the dearly departed comedy was a career-topping triumph—and now feels like an allegory for our altered times. V.F. photographed her with a drone, and talked to her about her early friendship with Gilda Radner, flubbed auditions, and the curative power of gratitude.

SHEAR OPTIMISM ~ O’Hara made lemonade for the socially distant crew. ~ Jacket by BALENCIAGA; tights by WOLFORD; boots and gloves, her own. ~ PHOTOGRAPHS BY ART STREIBER.

Catherine O’Hara is too gracious, too self-effacing—in short, too Canadian—to brag about the effect she has on people, but you don’t have to look far to find someone who’s happy to do it for her. Martin Short, for instance, remembers being mid-conversation with Tom Ford and Anjelica Huston at a small dinner party in Los Angeles a few years back when his friend Catherine came through the door. “Anjelica went completely still,” he says. “She said, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, I’ve got to meet her, I’ve got to meet her.’ It was like Paul McCartney walking in in 1965.”

O’Hara’s devotees don’t just admire the arc of her career, they dote over all the tiny comedic choices—a character’s limp, say, or her drowsy scorn, or her melodramatic way of wilting to the floor—that have made the people the actor has played so specifically and generously alive. In Home Alone, her bright blue eyes flooded with horror on the plane just before she screamed one immortal word: “KEVIN!” In Beetlejuice, she bellowed “Day-O!” and then led her dinner guests in a supernaturally possessed dance number. In Christopher Guest’s comedies, she was the bent light bulb you could never look away from. Has anyone ever played drunk better than O’Hara did in Waiting for Guffman’s Chinese restaurant scene? Has anyone captured Hollywood egomaniacs in their full and obscene vulnerability more hilariously than she did in For Your Consideration, in which she played Marilyn Hack, an actor unhinged by her own Oscar buzz? “I didn’t get nominated,” screams Marilyn, while taking her trash to the curb one tragic morning. “Four out of five of those girls are going to lose. Big time. Way worse than me. I didn’t even get nominated, I’m not gonna lose. I’m not gonna lose!”