by Hillary Weston, published on February 21, 2014|
For over a decade now, weve watched Evan Rachel Wood prove herself to be one of the finest actresses in Hollywood. Known for taking on more psychologically penetrating and dark roles, with her early films such as Thirteen and Down in the Valley to more recent forays into drama with Mildred Pierce and The Ides of March, what has always set Wood apart is her fearlessness in taking on a challenge and her desire to never fall into the same role twice.
Earlier this year, we saw her as an emotionally damaged Romanian musician opposite Shia Labeouf in Charlie Countryman, but with an affinity for comedy, Wood has taken on a handful of lighter roles that shed light on her ability to transform with each film. She made us laugh in Woody Allens Whatever Works, sang to us in Across the Universe, and now gives us another trip into cinemas softer fare with Andrew Flemings Barefoot.
The film follows Jay (Scott Speedman), an indolent and indulgent black sheep of his family, who meets a young woman in a psychiatric hospital and brings her home for his brothers wedding. Wood plays the mentally unsound patient, Daisya child-like woman who has been kept in isolation by her unstable mother for her entire life. But after the death of her mother, Daisy is committed to the hospital, where Jay works as a janitor. Also starring J.K. Simmons, Treat Williams, and Kate Burton the film takes a playful look at an unlikely romance between two damaged people.
Last week, I spoke with Wood about her desire for comedy in her life, the excitement of becoming another person, and taking something away with each role.
How did you come across this film and decide it was something you wanted to take on?
Ive done a lot of really heavy dramas, and I think after a while you need a break from thatyour psyche needs a break. And also, I wanted to show a different side of me, and I really wanted to do something accessible and sweet and romantic, but still off beat. So I thought this would fit that mold perfectly.
Was there something specific you thought you could bring to Daisy?
Its a romantic comedy but theres still drama in it. Her background is filled with a lot of pain and torment. She spent most of her life inside and the only real relationship shes had with anybody is with her mother, who was mentally unstable and has a lot of issues. I think shes probably spent a lot of time in front of the television, so a lot of her personality comes from thereshes kind of like a very over-the-top cartoon character. But underneath all that, you see these moments where shes really vulnerable and broken. So I thought I could probably straddle that line of funny and sweet, but also theres no filter with her. Shes very sweet and very innocent and easily hurt.
How did you prepare to play? Were there any other characters you looked to and did you build your own idea of her tormented backstory?
It was a really hard character to figure out, because you dont really have anything to draw from with a role like this. Ive never experienced anything like this girl has, so I had to figure out what she would be like in these set of circumstances she was given. But I do remember that I didnt really converse with anyone on setand I hope that no one on this movie thought I was a jerk. In between takes I would just go to a corner and stay there, and I wasnt really talking to anybody because I didnt want to get out of that frame of mind. Shes still very childlike and very innocent and I didnt want for them to yell Cut! and then to go smoke cigarettes with everyone and joke around. That would completely distract meso I had to really stay in it the whole time.
Even this year, with having just seen Charlie Countryman, its clear that youve always been interested in portraying many different kinds of women and taking on varied projects. How do you go about choosing a roledo you always look for something new and something that will be a challenge?
I do! I do look for things that are going to challenge me and be different from one another. Thats exactly what I look for. I look for different colors, I like to transform in everything that I do. When I was doing Barefoot, which is obviously a very sweet, very funny movie, on my lunch break, I was going and practicing my Romanian because Charlie Countryman filmed right after Barefoot.
Thats quite an interesting transition.
Yeah, it was really interesting. Literally, I wrapped on Barefoot, took the wig off, dyed my hair orange/red and hopped on a plane to Romanian and was this other person. But I think one of the things I love about my job, its hard to get bored because the second you get comfortable with one thing, youre onto the next and I like that.
Is there a certain genre of film you prefer working in, or is it simply more about the script?
I really enjoy both. I think I enjoy the final result of a very dramatic filmtheyre not always the most fun to shoot because obviously you have to go to really intense places. But the end result is always so amazing and when it comes together the way you want it to. And then other people are affected by the performance that you gave on such a deep levelits really, really rewarding. But I also want to make people laugh! I think because I do a lot of dark films, I never watch dark movies at home, Im always looking for comediessomething to break it up. I appreciate it so much when someone can make me laugh. I just really think thats the best medicine, so I wanted to give back in that way.
Having worked with so many great filmmakers and actors, do you find you take away something from each on-set experience? And are there any favorite moments of your career that really stand out from the others?
Definitely. I feel like I take something away from everything, because you have to walk a mile in someone elses shoes every time you take a role. So you are forced to examine yourself on another level and see the world through somebody elses eyes and you always leave with a different perspective. I think my favorite, and I always say this, was Across the Universe, and working with Julie Taymor. I thought that was just the most inspiring, amazing experience for everyone involved. No one on that film was jaded, no one had an ego, everyone was just so excited to be doing what we were doing and loving every minute of it. But it was also a huge challenge. We were singing Beatles songs, and thats incredibly stressfulsinging those songs live! We were actually the first musical to do that, despite claims from other musicals. So probably that, and Julie became like another adopted mother for me.
What are you working on next?
Its called Into the Forest with Ellen Page. Its based on a book, and this would definitely be getting back into the drama area. Its set in the not so distant future and its about two girls trying to survive on their own in the woods kind of after collapse of society. Theres no gas, theres no water, theres no electricity, people are getting sick, its kind of basically where were headed if we keep doing what were doing. Its not that far-fetched. But its a survival story and it should also be really empowering for women, its a very strong womens story as well. Im really excited about it.