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For a few moments on a recent Sunday, the zombies invaded Manhattan. Or at least they ambled along from 23rd Street to the East Village. And I don't mean just addled club-goers getting home after the usual 4 a.m. closing: Trundling down a portion of Second Avenue came a line of bizarrely dressed and horribly made up folks -- okay, so maybe particularly weird or horrible for New York City -- until they hit the Village East Cinemas where legendary filmmaker George A. Romero waited to greet his fans and devotees before screening the latest in his Dead saga -- Survival of the Dead. That gave a few of us worshipful journos a chance to wedge in a few questions in between the groaned and grunted queries by audience members -- zombiefied or otherwise.
Ever since he made the black-and-white Night of the Living Dead in 1968, New York-born Romero's name is mentioned in the same breath when the word "zombie" is thrown about. When the now 70 year old went to Pittsburgh's Carnegie-Mellon University, he started shooting industrial films and commercials but soon went on to produce and direct what became one of the most revered American horror film, one inducted into the Library of Congress' National Film Registry in 1999. Made for just over $100,000, it returned its investment and was also hailed as a benchmark in indie cinema.
Romero's next films such as The Crazies (1973) and Martin (1977) weren't as acclaimed as Night of the Living Dead, but offered social commentary while still being horror-related. Like almost all of his films, they were shot in, or around Pittsburgh.In 1978, Romero returned to zombies with a film that topped his first. Dawn of the Dead (1978) told the tale of four people who escape a zombie outbreak and lock themselves inside a mall before the solitude makes them victims of themselves. Shot on a $1.5 million budget, the film earned over $40 million and. in 2003, it was named one of Entertainment Weekly's top cult films. It also marked Romero's first work with the acclaimed make-up and effects artist Tom Savini.
After that, Romero and Savini teamed up on films including Knightriders (1981), where Romero first worked with an up-and-coming Ed Harris. Then came his Hollywood-like film Creepshow (1982), which marked the first, but not the last, time Romero adapted a story by famed horror novelist Stephen King.
To be that one voice who exemplifies this genre is accomplishment enough, but this summer Romero does have a new zombie film available, and it takes off from where his last film, Diary of the Dead left off. Summer means horror films, and for reanimated-dead fans, that means at least one by Romero.
Q: This is the latest in the series. What do attribute the longevity of the series to? GR: If I could figure that out, I would know why I’m still here. I don’t know. Zombies have become idiomatic. Videogames [even] more than films have done that. For some unknown reason my stuff has a shelf life. I think that I’ve always tried to have a little theme underneath and maybe the stuff looks quaint. It’s like looking at an old movie like A Gentleman’s Agreement -- it’s like, wow, "They were actually talking about something," and it becomes a bit quaint. I don’t know. I should ask you; I’m not the guy to ask. I’m just happy that it's happened. Q: What was the inspiration that made you wake up and say, "Zombies?" GR: You mean way at the beginning? Q: Day one. GR: I’ve never thought of them as zombies; I never called them zombies. When I made Night of the Living Dead, I called them flesh-eaters. To me, zombies were those boys in the Caribbean doing Lugosi’s wet work for him [in White Zombie (1932)]. I never thought of them as zombies. It was only when people started to write about them and said these are zombies that I thought maybe they are. All I did was make them the neighbors; take the voodoo and mysterioso out of it and make them the neighbors and I don’t know what happened after that. The neighbors are scary enough when they’re not dead. Maybe that’s what made it click.Q: I heard that you were producing or developing videogames, and if you do that would be one of the most amazing things ever, like anyone else who’s played Left for Dead or Resident Evil. GR: In the past usually people come to us and say they just want to buy my name or the brand or whatever and "stay home. You don't know about videogames." It’s true; I don’t. I’m not a gamer. I just did a talk show as part of the tour for this film where we looked at Left for Dead 2 and zombies are like tarantulas; on the ceiling, up the walls, crazy, running. I understand that mentality that it has to be like Tetris; faster, faster, faster, faster. My zombies don’t do that. My zombies are still slugging along just like the rest of us are. So I’m not sure that I get the mentality. I was talking to a game company executive and asked is it possible to do a slower, more intellectual game? And he actually said "I'm not sure." But we’re talking to people about it – we’re still talking to people about it – and I would love to be involved with a game, I’d love to write the story of a game, but I won’t do it if it has to be… Q: Are you ever going to switch over from slow zombies to fast zombies? GR: Never. Q: What is it about slow zombies that you like over fast zombies? GR: Because that’s the way they would be; they’re dead. Like in the first film the sheriff says, "They’re dead; they’re all messed up." If they ran their ankles would snap so by me they move slow. Q: Would you outrun the zombies? GR: Yeah. The whole point is you can easily get away, just nobody addresses the problem and humans screw themselves up. With my movies that’s what it's about; it's about humanity making the wrong movies. Q: Would have any advice besides run to survive a zombie? GR: You’ve got to talk to Max Brooks [who has written a series of zombie books such as World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War]. Max believes this is really going to happen one day; I don't. With me it's pure allegory. Q: How would you fare in a zombie apocalypse? GR: What I need to tell you first of all, is that it's probably not going to happen. If you want to know what weapon to buy, call Max. He's the guy to tell you. I think Max halfway believes that it might happen. He's a buddy of mine and we hang out and we argue about this all the time. I don't know. Come on! Find a tank; a tank is the best thing. Get inside a tank, you'll have a big gun, and you’re safe in a big thing of metal. It's like give me a break over here. It's not going to happen. I promise you it won't happen. Or else, worse shit will happen before it does.Q: What allegory are you trying to tell with this film? GR: It's about the same theme that I’ve been beating on forever. It's war, it's like enmities that don't die, people, even faced with huge game-changing event still shooting at each other instead of addressing the problem.Q: Do you think that society’s listening to what you’re saying in your films? GR: No. Society doesn't listen to anything. Society has not listened to shit from the beginning of time. Q: To be that one voice, is that why you make these films? GR: It's fun to be silly and make fun of people because people are just not learning. We haven’t learned squat; we’re still fucking fighting abortion and homosexuality and everything. We’re still fucking fighting, it’s like ridiculous. Give me a break; I thought we were past that.
Q: You seem married to the horror genre. What is it about it that works for you? GR: I love it, man. I grew up on EC Comics -- like Vault of Horror or Crypt of Terror -- and have a chance not only to work in the genre but be able to express my opinion. I’ve got a better gig than Michael Moore I think. I don’t have to be real, I don’t have to lie. Q: What is your favorite horror movie? GR: When you’re a kid, it's like the stuff that impresses you the most or that scares you the most. I was 12 years old and I saw The Thing and it just scared the shit out of me. So that remains my favorite horror movie. Q: Would you ever consider wrapping up the whole zombie thing, like reversing the curse? GR: No. It's too much fun. I won't do it and the zombies won't take over because my stories are about the humans. I like being where we are with it; just leave it alone and let it be. Q: How important is the comedy aspect of your zombies? GR: Oh man, like I said, I grew up on EC Comics; they were all bad jokes and puns. It was a giggle while you barf. So to me it’s almost essential. These last two films that I did I had creative control and I was able to just do what I wanted to do with them, so humor was an important part of both. This one is really, there are some real loony tune moments in this one. It has to be part of it. Q: What’s your favorite zombie kill? GR: I don't know; It's not a kill. Tom Savini did this thing with the guy with a real actor with his head down in a table and the guy's body was a real actor's body from here down, just some tendrils connecting him to her like a pulsing brain. It’s not a kill but it’s I thought a wonderful makeup and a really cool thing. I don't know, kill, I don't know. There's one in this movie with a fire extinguisher that I really love. Q: For someone who hasn’t seen your movies would you prefer them to start with Night of the Living Dead or Diary of the Dead? GR: I'd prefer them to start with Knightriders and Martin because those are films that were really from the heart. I like to think that these films are thoughtful but they’re not me.
To some extent they’re commercial films but I’m trying to do something with them, but they’re not me. Knightriders is the most me. Martin is my favorite film of mine, so anybody that wants to see something that I did I would prefer they watch those first and then watch these. Q: Which zombie one should start off with though? GR: Day of the Dead.
Q: Have you ever thought about redoing the original Day of the Dead script the way you wanted to do it? GR: No. It's over. I’ve been able to use some of it; I used a little bit of it in Land of the Dead and a little bit of it in this film, actually. But no; that's over. He’s talking about a script that I did for the original Day of the Dead and the company that was financing the movie didn’t want to finance it because it was too much money. Actually it was a decision that we made -- my partner at the time and I -- because we wanted to release it without rating it. The [distributor] said "Okay, do it without rating it," but we said, "Forget it, they won’t [really] do that." So I decided to cut it down and do it without rating it. And the old script, I know people have it, it’s on the internet, I know people are digging it up, but I’ve used ideas from it so I don’t think I’ll ever go back to it.Q: Why do you think zombies are kind of having a renaissance right now? GR: Beats the shit out of me. I don't know, what is it? It's videogames. It's not movies, it's videogames. I think so. There's never been a huge movies hit; it's all videogames, it's videogames. That's what I think. Q: Do you think about going back to making more psychological movies, more like Martin, in between the zombie movies? GR: Yes, all the time. But I’m at an age right now where, Peter and I, we spent six years in Hollywood in development hell making lots of money and not making movies. It's like I’m at a point where I don’t want to go and pitch something for two years and have it not happen. I can't afford that time. And yeah we have ideas, we have plans, we have things we’d like to do, but as I say, I'm at the point where I need to take the thing that I like the most that’s easiest to do and get it done. And I don’' know how long I’m going to be standing. Listen, I'm never going to quit; I'll be like John Huston, man, I'll be with the breather and the wheelchair still trying to make a film. I can't answer you what's going to be next. There are things I'd love to do. Who knows?Q: What stories do you want to tell that aren’t zombie related? GR: I might be past that; I told them already. I have a couple of things, my partner and I, we have a couple of scripts that we're working on. I don't know; it's a long story and I'm too tired to tell it right now. I'd like to do a couple more of these and what I’d like to do is have a little set of these that all the characters would come out of Diary and have a little set and hang it up and go off and do something else. Q: Would you use the internet as a medium to tell them in short story form? GR: Maybe. I don’t know. I’m very puzzled right now; I don’t know what to do. You finish a movie and then all of a sudden you’re still doing it and I’m still traveling with it. I’m just waiting to get off. I’m waiting for some time off and then maybe I can decide what to do. Q: What about returning to comic books? GR: I’d love to. I’m talking to some guys now. I’d love to do it. Q: Would they be zombie related or something else? GR: I'd love to do something else but usually that's what they want from me is zombies. Q: What’s next? GR: I’m hoping a couple of drinks at a bar someplace. I don't know, man. If you're talking about movies, I don't know. We don't know; my partner, Peter [Grunwald] and I, we have a couple of projects that are non-zombie but we don’t know. If it happens that this film does well and we’re asked to do another; my idea is to do two more. I wanted to do three; right from the puff I wanted to do three films with characters from Diary of the Dead, take them on their own adventures and be able to cross-collateralize characters, story points, stuff like that. I would love it and it would be like a vacation. If this film does well enough and somebody says hey let’s do more I would jump at it. Sort of like I’d have a job for the first time in my life; I know what I’m doing for the next three years. I’d love to do it but we don’t know what’s going to happen with this. So far this film has performed pretty well with audiences and people seem to be digging it, so maybe it will happen. Otherwise, we have a couple of things that we’re ready to do and really like. I would love it if I could do a couple more of these because it’s where I’ve lived. I love playing around with new zombies. By the way, thank you. I can’t believe you guys go to this amount of trouble and energy and glue that goop on your face. Anyway, it’s much appreciated by me and thank you; thanks for doing it.Q: What do you think of the remakes that have been made of your various films? Are you happy with them? GR: Not particularly. No. Q: What do you think that they misunderstood or didn't get? GR: I don’t know. The remake of Dawn was more like a videogame than a movie. The first 20 minutes were really hot and then it lost its reason for being. The Crazies was the same thing. Crazies was a film of a certain time; we were pissed off about Nam. The new film might as well be 28 Days Later. Both directors did good jobs with Dawn and with Crazies, they’re just not films I would have made.Q: What are your favorite horror movies? GR: When you're a kid it's like the stuff that impresses you the most or the stuff that scares you the most. I was 12 years old and I saw The Thing and it just scared the shit out of me. So that remains my favorite horror movie. Q: Any directors working now that you’re excited about? GR: Well, Guillermo del Toro's my man right now. He’s a great guy. Such a sincere guy; he makes a commercial thing and then goes off and does what we wants to do. He's great. And John Carpenter's doing a new movies, I have big hopes for Carpenter. I hope he's back in the ring. That's it pretty much.Q: A lot of people consider you the grandfather of independent film in many ways. What do you think about that? GR: Come on. Q: Come on, you did one of the first real indie films. GR: There are a lot of guys that have just figured out a way to do it without selling out or whatever. John Waters, man. He gets my vote. Q: When you go, what do you want on your headstone? When you rise, what do you expect to see? GR: I don't know man. If I manage to get back when that happens I'll just look for a camera.
For more by Brad Balfour: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brad-balfour
With A Behanding in Spokane on Broadway through this weekend (ending June 6) and recent feature films including The Exploding Girl, actress Zoe Kazan is one of today's busiest go-to talents. Though born in Los Angeles -- daughter of screenwriter Nicholas Kazan and actress/producer/writer/director Robin Swicord, and the granddaughter of film and theatre director Elia Kazan -- the Angelina-turned-New Yorker has really established a presence on her own.
While the pixie-faced Kazan doesn't look much older than a pre-teen, the 26 year old has played a remarkable range of characters from the epileptic college student Ivy in the New York-centric indie The Exploding Girl to the befuddled pot-dealing Marilyn in A Behanding in Spokane. And since the latter's star Christopher Walken got the Tony nomination for best actor in a Drama, the play's been heating up the hot list.
Having a playwright like Irishman Martin McDonagh enough of your fan to cast you in a four-hander along with Walken, Anthony Mackie and Sam Rockwell, is props enough but this "it girl" also finds time to write her own scripts, something she's getting known for as much as for her acting.
Though Kazan allegedly didn't know that her grandfather Elia was famous until she was 13, the genetic link is obvious. And with a movie by director Kelly Reichardt, Meek's Cutoff, coming out this year as well as the Josh Radnor-directed Happythankyoumoreplease -- a Sundance Audience Award winner -- also coming out in August, 2010, Kazan's star is ever on the rise. So it was particularly gratifying that she took time in both a roundtable and one-on-one interview to discuss both her film and theater career.
Q: You have a particular affection for playwright Martin McDonagh. ZK: I did one of Martin's plays in college, The Cripple of Inishmaan, and had seen The Beauty Queen of Leenane when it was on Broadway when I was kid and I had read for it before, so I was already a big fan of his. Then I saw a play of his in 2005 and it just blew me away. Truly, I think [doing A Behanding] the most exciting theater experience I've had, and I wonder if anything will ever top it for me. It's the most extraordinary play and that was the most extraordinary production. So when I head that he had written a new play I jumped at the chance. The fact that we've become friends out of this process is just an added bonus. Q: It's a pretty dark black comedy. ZK: Yeah. My dad has similar sensitivities to Martin's. My dad has a very dark sense of humor and definitely that was reflected in the bedtime stories that I heard as a child and the movies that were shown to me. I have a gothic, and by that I mean Victorian gothic, sensibility myself. So many great stories, so many primal stories have both of those elements -- the humor and the terror. If you look at something like Grimm's fairy tales, or even looking at stories in the Bible like Job, or Jonah and the Whale, or Noah's Ark. Most of the storytelling that gets absolutely at the root of our civilization has both of those elements.
Q: Having done more than one McDonagh play do you find that it's good, that you have a good idea of him and his work? ZK: I was young when I did Cripple; I was in college, I was like 19 or 20 years old, and I don't want to belittle myself, I'm sure I was fine in the part, but it's just completely, completely different than anything that I'm doing now in terms of my command of language and my command of my body. I'm just a different actor than I was. Q: Did it give you a leg up on understanding him, or do you have to approach it differently with each play? ZK: It's different every play. He's writing different worlds. It would be one thing if it was all the same world, but the plays have so little in common.
Q: When you're working with a brand new play that doesn't have a history like Chekov, you're really defining the characters and defining them each night; it's not like something you can fall back on archetypes and things like that. ZK: Absolutely. In some ways it's both more and less creative than interpreting a part that's been played before. When I was playing Masha in The Seagull, everyone knows my first lines in the play; they could practically say it along with me probably. Everybody knows who she is and if I deviate from the way that people normally play it Masha's not going to get lost in the mix. It's like you have a coloring book that's already half colored in, so if you color in the rest it's fine. Whereas, if I play Marilyn against what Martin's written on the page no one's going to get to see the play. It's just a very different responsibility as an actor. It is amazing to be in a play with so few people; when we did our first run-through and I saw everybody afterward and it was just the three of them and me.
I thought, "Holy shit. That's not a lot of people to be pushing this boat forward." Especially being the only girl in the cast, I feel really lucky; they're such great guys and they all take really good care of me and I'm learning a lot. Q: The only bad thing is you can't step outside yourself and watch yourself in the play. ZK: It's true, but you can't really do that in any show because you can't watch yourself. You can watch the rest of the play and see how it's going but at a certain point you don't want to do that anymore because it takes you out of your concentration on your character. Like when I was doing The Seagull, there were large portions of the play when I'd be offstage, and I had to stop watching because when I went onstage I wasn't thinking about Masha, I was thinking about the play as a play, not as the real world I was living in. So I'd go upstairs and I'd put on my music and I'd knit. Q: Once you've done a play once, it's not like each night after it's totally new. Doing a character in a movie is experiencing the experience as it happens. If you don't want to know anything about your character other than your experience of living it as it's happening you can do that. Does the theatrical familiarity make it easier or harder to come at it with the freshness of the experience as it unfolds? ZK: Like you have to have perspective on it?
Q: On the one hand it's a good that you know the play so well that you go in and do it, but how do you make it fresh every time? Whereas a movie, if you want to you don't have to read the book, you don't have to read anything but your parts, and you can come into the whole movie like it's all new to you as things are happening to you. ZK: I always read the whole script of whatever I'm doing, even if I have just a little scene, just to get the sense of where I belong and what the tone of the piece is like. So there's not a huge difference for me in what I know and what I don't know. It is different though because you're doing the same thing every night, night after night, eight shows a week, weeks on end, for months at a time. That does get, I don't want to use the word monotonous, but it can become practiced or it can become my rote if you're not careful. You know how sometimes when you're tired and you drive home and when you get home you don't remember how you got there because you've done it so many times you can almost do it in your sleep? Doing plays sometimes gets like that where you through a scene and all of a sudden you're like, "Did I say that line or did I not say that line? Did that part of the play already go by?" It can become disorienting in that way. And I think one thing that helps that is you usually get bored with yourself, right? You are aware of what you're doing every night. But Sam and Chris and Anthony, my costars, are always infinitely interesting. They're always doing something different even if they're not aware that they're doing something different. Whenever I get bored I just plug into the people around me I guess.
Q: You're a writer as well. Does it helps you to work both in film and in theater? Or do you lean towards theater in your writing? ZK: I grew up mostly being exposed to and loving movies. My love of theater is something that came a little bit later in my life. I love plays and I feel absolutely passionately about the theater, but in terms of where my imagination goes, I think more cinematically than I do theatrically, and writing a play is a very difficult thing. It's not difficult for everyone, but for me the thing is getting people on and off stage and writing in a theatrical way, in a way that's specific for the theater and couldn't interchangeably be a short story or a movie. I get a great deal of pleasure out of it but it doesn't come as naturally to me as writing for the screen does. Q: You'd think it would come naturally just because of genetics. ZK: Right. Well, that's the other thing. I've been reading my parents' scripts since I was a little, little girl, like since I could read, since I was five. They gave me their scripts at that age to give them notes on it, so they were exposing me at a very early age to scripts. I've been reading scripts and learning about script structure since I was a little girl, so it's not in my blood but it's definitely upbringing. Q: Did your grandfather have any influence; did you know him much? ZK: He passed in 2008, so I was 24 then, so yeah, of course he was a big part of my life growing up. As for artistic influence on me, I think every actor working in a naturalistic way now is indebted to my grandfather. So I a professional sense of course he has had an impact on me, or his work has had an impact on me. But on a personal level, I didn't ask him for any advice or anything like that.
Q: Is it easier to go from a play to a play, or from a play to a movie then to a play? For some people it's easier to break it up. Once your chops are down and you're going play to play, is it easier to get into that mindset? What works for you? ZK: I did three plays back to back in the 2007, 2008 season, and that was a mistake, I shouldn't have done it. I was so tired by the end of it. By the third play, which was Come Back, Little Sheba, I had very little appetite left for it. It was the only job that I've ever done that felt like a job, and it's not the fault of the play, I love that play, and I had a great cast around me and a really good director, and I'm still proud of my work in that show, but I wasn't curious anymore, I was just tired. I'll never do that again; I might do two plays in a season, but not back to back and definitely not as much. I think it's easier to go from a play to a move to a play because it's a different way of working and you can kind of get your appetite up. Q: You grew up in Venice, California; I find Venice an interesting bohemian enclave. Do you feel that was helpful? If you had been more in the high-speed LA, Beverly Hills world it would have changed you? ZK: I do. I think my parents did a very smart thing. Especially the neighborhood I grew up in, in the 1980s, early ‘90s, when I was a really young kid, it was such a sheltered way to live. It was not a very affluent community then, and there were a lot of artists. I was not raised in any way like an LA child. When I got older and went to high school I was exposed to more of that but my parents were very careful about the way they raised us and were really determined that we were going to be like those kind of kids.
Q: It feels like you've done a million movies before you did this. ZK: I did a lot of movies that didn't come out for a while, so I don't know because I can't remember at what point that was.
Q: So do you like working on big mainstream films or the indie ones?
ZK: Everybody needs those mainstream ones. I love going to the movies and watching a big cushy movie. I really like getting the big cushy paycheck too, but that's not an issue. Everybody has to do some for the money, but I definitely prefer a smaller scale. Especially coming from a theater background, and because my parents are in the industry, the values I grew up with were values of collaboration and doing something all together.
On the big budget movies you're always squirreled away in a massive trailer and alone, then you're brought to set and have to look perfect and all of that. That's not really what I got in it for.
I love not having a trailer, just being thrown into bathrooms to change and being with your costars all the time and not having a thousand people fussing over you. It seems much more conducive to the work to me.
Q: Of the recent characters that you've played, which ones do you think are closer to you?
ZK: Well, it's funny because, with It's Complicated, Nancy [Meyers] is a screenwriter and a director, my mother's a screenwriter and a director. Her husband's a screenwriter and a director, my dad's a screenwriter and a director, she has two daughters who went to private schools in LA who are friends with people I know; I went to private schools in LA.
There's a lot of overlap between us, and then in some ways there's none. Nancy lives in this perfect world where everything's from Shabby Chic and looks really beautiful and I grew up in this kind of grungy Venice world with my parents and there was never a lot of money thrown around. In some ways our values are really similar and I totally got who that character was, and in some ways I'm like, "Why remodel that kitchen?"
So when Nancy met me she was like, "You're my girl; you're exactly who I wrote on the page," and I was thinking that's not who I am at all. So it's all about perception.
I feel like probably of all the characters I've played, I don't really feel like I've played someone close to myself on film. I did this play, Things We Want, at the New Group and I feel like that character is probably the closest I've ever played to myself. Even though she's a concert pianist so we have nothing in common that way, she's an artist and her psychology was closer to mine.
But definitely between The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, this one, or Happythankyoumoreplease that was at Sundance, all girls who are very different from me.
Q: What drew you to the role of Ivy? ZK: I auditioned for Brad [Bradley Rust Gray, director] almost four years ago for another movie he was making, and he didn't end up getting to make that movie right away. I didn't get cast in it, but he remembered me and I remembered him.
About a year and half after that he called and said, "I want to make a movie with you," and I remembered him because I loved his movies so much in the first place.
I said, "Okay. What's it about?" and he was like, "I don't know. I haven't written it, I have no idea what it's going to be about. I have an idea but I can't tell you about it. Do you want to do it?"
I was like, "Yeah, I do." So we started meeting and have these epic walks around Manhattan. We'd walk for hours. I was doing Come Back, Little Sheba at the time and I actually got bronchitis from walking around with him and had to miss a show. So I blame him for that completely. Like in the middle of January and February these massive eight-hour walks and we would talk about love and life and how we grew up and just kind of getting to know each other, almost like a blind date.
Then I went away to shoot Me and Orson Welles, and when I got back he had a script and he said, "Read it, and if you want to do it, let's do it."
I loved it. Ivy is so unlike me in so many ways, so I was really surprised that he had written this character because Brad's worked mostly non-actors before and written characters very close to the people themselves so they could play them. I was really excited that he had written something so different from myself for me. But it's funny; it was hard for me to talk about Ivy while we were shooting it. We had a lot of shorthand, like he'd come over and be like, "No, no, no, no, no. The way you're breathing isn't right."
We both had a picture of her in our heads and knew what we were aiming for, but we didn't have a lot of coherence talking about her, and it's only been afterward when I look at the movie that I realize what her qualities are. When we were playing it was all much more unconscious.
Q: Did you relate to your character's sense of detachment given that you went to college and had the whole college experience? ZK: A detachment from home? Q: Or a detachment from what's going on. Being home on break is a weird situation. ZK: It is a weird situation. Brad and I talked about that. There's this movie, Café Lumière, that we looked at a lot. There's a moment where she comes home in that movie and she falls asleep on the couch, or lies down on the floor, and we thought about that, about what it's like when you come home and it's sort of your home but it's not your home anymore. She's definitely in that liminal space between childhood and adulthood where she doesn't quite belong there anymore but it's still the only home she has.
Brad and I talked about that and about wanting to capture that feeling. But I'm an actress and I think that there is some truth to the stereotype that comes along with that. I'm very emotional and I have very easy access to my emotions, and I hesitate to say it because I'm sure my family is going to laugh at me, but I think I burden other people with my emotions sometimes, like "Take care of me."
Ivy is not at all like that, she's incredibly self-contained, and some of that feeling of detachment that you get in the movie comes from that. She does not want to be a burden to anyone and she doesn't want her illness to be a burden to anyone. So when the breakup happens she keeps that to herself, she doesn't even tell her friends, and I think there's a kind of strength in that, and I think there's deep loneliness in that. I also think it would be much better for her if she had more access to self-expression.
Q: Did you study about epilepsy? ZK: Yeah, I did. I don't have a chronic illness but I know people who do and I didn't want to dishonor anybody by doing it wrong. Not just the epileptic seizure itself, but also the psychology behind having something that you have to take care of and that way of taking care of yourself. So I actually read a lot of parenting books for parents who have children who have epilepsy because I wanted to think about the way that she had been raised, especially because her mother's a single parent and I feel like Ivy's taken on a lot of the burden of parenting herself because of that. And also we watched videos of seizures online; not on YouTube, although a little bit of that, but a lot of those are hoaxes.
There are videos on medical sites about epilepsy; diagnostic videos basically. We looked at those and we looked at the brain scans of what happens to the brain during the epileptic seizure, and I practiced it at home. I was really anxious about doing the whole thing because it's so out of your control when you do it and it seemed like such a big part of the movie that I was going to have to tackle. I was really freaked out about it and finally I thought, "This is silly. I've just got to do one, and if I do one then I've done one and I don't have to worry about it anymore."
I was lying in bed and my boyfriend was in the other room brushing his teeth and I was like, "Baby, can you come in here?" So he comes in the room with a mouthful of toothpaste and I was like, "Watch this. Tell me if it looks real."
Q: You mention that gap between childhood and adulthood and since this was a two character story and that's interesting. I don't know if this was a conscious effort by the director or not. ZK: I think it was. Q: One reason it works is because Ivy is so complex. She's not a child but not quite an adult; she has that wide-eyed, childhood, idealistic expression that you do so well. Mark Rendell plays his character the same way, but is a male version, also between childhood and adulthood, idealistic with everything still new, yet he seems to have a much easier time. ZK: Well he's a boy. Q: Was that in the script or in the characterizations that you were drawing on? ZK: It has something to do with the script. It has more to do with their characters than anything. First of all, Ivy's more grown up than Al is; she's just had to take care of herself at a younger age. Epilepsy, like diabetes, is something that you have to take care of; you have to mind what you eat, you have to mind how much sleep you get, what kind of stress you're under.
And to be a young person and to be minding those kinds of things, most teenagers aren't capable of that, let alone someone who has a mother who's not 100% present. So I think that there's a way that she guards herself, takes care of herself, that's much more akin to an adult than anything that Al's had to go through. She does his laundry for him; she takes care of him in an unconscious way, not in a manipulative way.
She's not trying to prove anything by taking care of him; she just takes care of him. And I think that he brings to her, like what the trade off is, is that he brings a lot of childish joy, and I think it's one of the reasons that they make a really great pair, really great friends. The other half of it is that Mark is like Al.
For one thing, Mark's a lot younger than I am. I'm 26, and when we shot the movie I was 24, and Mark was 18. So that's a big age different; we would never have been in high school together. I think when you watch the movie you don't see it because I look young and Mark has an ageless kind of look to him. We could be almost any age within a certain range. Q: That's a testament to your acting too, because it's not easy to pull that off. ZK: Yeah, totally. It's funny because Brad said something, and I don't want to age myself too much, but Brad said something to me recently and he was like, "We wouldn't have been able to make the movie now because I've grown up two years since we made the movie. I'm not in a very different place in my life, but I feel older in a way." And when I talk to Mark now, he's older too. When we met he'd never had a girlfriend, he was living with his parents still, and there's something very endearing about that to me, and I think that informs what you see on screen a little bit too. Brad has a real sense of decorum as a filmmaker. He thinks about the characters as being people, and I think that one thing he was very concerned about was giving Ivy her privacy. So the breakup scene, the scene where she cries, the seizure, those are all things that he shot from further away and with objects between them. And he did that very purposefully. Of course, as an actor, I'm like, "Put the camera on my face when I'm crying, dude. Don't back-light me and make sure nobody can see my face, you asshole."
But he knew what he was doing and I think that there is more emotional impact because you're given a little bit of distance. Sometimes when you're forced to look at something in close-up all the time it kind of becomes about the acting and not about the character, and I really respect what he did with that. It's just a very different style of telling stories. If you look at "It's Complicated," you couldn't have two more different movies.
On It's Complicated, every scene we shot with a wide-shot, a two-shot, close-up, close-up, medium-shot, medium-shot, over the shoulder; I mean she got coverage on every kind of coverage you could possibly want.
So the way that movie cuts together, it cuts together in a much more conventional way. You get into the scene on the wide-shot and then you go in, and you go in, and you go in. We didn't have the money to do that, so part of what is happening is that there are solutions having to do with economy. We just didn't have the time; we shot this in 17 days, so if he could get it in one shot that was a wide-shot he would get it in the wide-shot. But because of that he had to make specific decisions before he edited about what he wanted it to look like.
In some ways it made my job much easier because I only had to do it a couple of times. Especially with the seizure; only having to do that a couple of times was a godsend because it's really exhausting. And other times I was begging him for another take. Q: When you're in between being a kid -- dependent on your family -- and being an adult, on your own, there's a bohemian ideal where you don't have to be doing things for a job. Do you think the film is communicating to the audience about that period of life? ZK: Ivy has to work; she helps out at her mom's studio during her break. She's not going to have a lot time where she just gets to sit at home and figure her life out; she doesn't come from that socioeconomic background. But I do think that when you're in college, especially when you're on break and you don't have any homework, it is a feeling of being a kid again. Like summer break or spring break, suddenly you're not a grownup living at school, having your own life.
I remember this so clearly, being at school and taking care of myself; I feed myself all my own meals, put myself to bed whatever time I want. Then I come home and my parents are like, "Where are you going? What time are you going to be home?" and being 19 years old and being like, "I don't have a curfew at school." And I do think there's some of that liminal space. Q: Does being a New Yorker now… ZK: I've been here five years. Q: For living in such a crowded city, feelings of loneliness can pervade because everybody's doing their own thing. Did that informed the role for you. ZK: In New York, there's a sense of being alone in a crowd of people all the time. I grew up in Los Angeles and I think LA is a much lonelier city than New York is. You're alone in your car or your house, people don't really go out in the same way that they go out in New York, so if you don't know anybody in LA I think you're much lonelier.
In New York it's much easier to be alone than it is in Los Angeles because you can always go to a bar or a coffee shop or go to Film Forum and there are people around you and you feel like you're in a community. But I think that when you have that much availability to people and there's still no connection, that's the kind of space that Ivy's in. Her mother isn't really taking care of her and her boyfriend isn't really available to her. She's self-sufficient, but I think she's lonely, and I can definitely understand that. There are times when being on the subway, like when you're depressed, it's physically painful because there's no privacy, there's no space. Like after her breakup when she's taking the subway home, there's no space for her to be alone and cry, and I think that there is a kind of prison of public-ness that is happening in the movie. Even when Greg calls her when she's at that party, or having the seizure at that party, the door is open, there are people walking by. There's a sense of there's no place for her to be alone. Q: What did you hope this film conveys to an audience? ZK: I hope people can see past Ivy and Al's youth to the [see the] universality of the story. It's about loneliness and learning how to connect with other people. It's about the thing of not being willing to know your own heart or not knowing your own heart. I do think it's specifically about young people and about a very young stage of life; I hope that it has more to offer than that.
Q: Was it weird working with your boyfriend Paul Dano in the upcoming Reichardt film, Meek's Cutoff?
ZK: It was really normal actually. There was another actor that was supposed to play the part Paul played and the actor had a visa issued but couldn't come at the very last minute. Like literally two days before we were going to shoot Paul came in to do it and I think he was more nervous about it than I was.
We met doing a play together, so we had worked together before, so I knew how he was as an actor. But it was actually an incredible thing because it was a very grueling shoot.
We were in the middle of nowhere, like in the desert of Oregon six hours from civilization.
We had no cell service, very little internet, and we were in these incredible salt flats with all this alkaline dust. It was like two hours from our motel to the set everyday over literally no road, just over dirt, with dehydration and sunstroke, then hypothermia. We had such grueling conditions, so to have someone there with me who I loved, who at the end of the day would just be content to help me get some food and help me get to sleep was great.
When I was a kid, I discovered horror films and loved them all -- whether they were good or bad, black and white or garishly colored, muddily shot or poorly conceived. No idea was so terrible that I couldn't watch it. Seeing the many ways someone can rethink the familiar tropes whets the interest of the true horror fan.
In 1989, several unwitting Utah actors starred in the almost-undisputed worst movie in genre history: Troll 2. Directed by Claudio Fragasso under the pseudonym Drake Floyd, 1990 horror film, Troll 2 was known as Goblin during production but, upon its U.S. release, the title was changed in an attempt to cash in on an established horror flick. Despite the title, no actual trolls appear in this one.
The plot revolves around the Waits family, who are taking a trip to visit a small town called "Nilbog" (goblin spelled backwards), but are plunged into a nightmare as they are relentlessly pursued by vegetarian goblins, who turn people into plants in order to eat them.
Most of the cast, such as Michael Stephenson, George Hardy, Margo Prey, Connie Young (credited under McFarland) and Jason F. Wright, subsequently sought anonymity upon its release -- until now.
Two decades later, the film's child star, Stephenson, makes a documentary about the film's improbable revival as a so-bad-it's-great cult fave. The result, Best Worst Movie, unravels the heartfelt tale of the Alabama dentist-turned-underground movie icon Hardy and this Italian filmmaker Fragasso, who has yet to come to terms with his legendarily inept, internationally revered cinematic failure.
Best Worst Movie begs the viewer to wax philosophical on what it means to make a bad horror film -- or a good bad one -- that was created without guile or irony, yet that finds a new audience once the irony-tinted glasses come on.
For a long time, these guys were lost in the swamp of movie hell. But thanks to the down-and-dirty genre of horror, an arty indie film like Best Worst Movie gets made, gets its boost and now gets to connect with a substantial public. Q: You realize, this movie is a permutation on a permutation on a permutation…MS: Yes, I do.Q: The original movie, which was not meant to be about trolls but goblins, is made by an Italian director who can’t speak English and...MS: Actors who couldn’t act, all [shot] in small-town Utah, around a plot that involves vegetarian goblins attempting to turn my family into plants so they can eat us.Q: That has to be one of the most outlandish horror film premises. Then, of course, the lead actor is a dentist in real life.GH: I was a practicing dentist before I was an actor. It takes on this whole weird life of its own for this film. I was actually thinking about going to that event [a screening of the original movie] when it was in New York. I’m a horror fan from word go. So it’s like, how do you put it all together? Do you sit there and marvel?MS: As clichéd as it all sounds, it’s just meant to be. It’s weird because when I look back four years ago and until I had the idea for the documentary, up until that point, I wanted nothing to do with Troll 2. I was too cool. I was embarrassed by the film. And it never went away. I actually continued to pursue areas in my life within the industry like everybody else does; I was writing scripts, auditioning; I was sending out head shots, resumes and all that sort of stuff. Then, all of a sudden, fans started contacting me on MySpace with these messages out of the blue. This was before the resurgence, and I remember just waking up one morning -- I’ll never forget this -- and staring at the ceiling having this crazy kind of warm feeling, just smiling ear to ear and thinking, "Wait a minute, I’m the child star of the worst movie ever made; there’s a story here." All of a sudden it was like, this is perfect for a first film, something that’s so personal and accessible to me. It became this compulsion, and I kept thinking, “What does Claudio think about this film being loved because it’s awful?" It also felt like there was this critical mass, like it was building, and I kept thinking about this guy doing dentistry while we were filming the movie.Q: Oh, you had appointments in the middle of the movie?GH: Oh yeah.Q: You didn’t take off a week or anything?GH: No, no, no -- I was practicing and I had to go back and forth.Q: And after the film, did you stay in touch with anyone from it?GH: No one.Q: So you get this phone call -- can you recreate that moment that's in the film?MS: It really started with the fans. There was a fan in Utah -- this wasn’t in the film -- who had organized this small cast members' screening in Utah, and George went to that. I didn’t actually end up going to that screening. Then a couple of weeks later, we were on the phone for the first time since working together 20 years ago. For me, it was one of these moments that I’ll cherish because from the very first word I could feel the love for life that this guy has, and we were sharing experiences. He had notes on MySpace; I had notes on MySpace; we started talking to other cast members. And then, the next thing I know, there was a New York City screening and that was the very first screening I filmed. And that was the very first screening I went to. I actually remember going to it and being terrified. I didn’t know what to expect. I really thought, "Are people going to laugh at us? Are they going to throw tomatoes at us? Are they going to boo and say, "You guys suck"? I really thought the worst, and the only reason I went was that I had a camera in hand and was making this film. I thought, "This may never happen again; here’s the first time that cast members and fans are going to be in New York."Q: Do you have big posters or anything on the walls in your office now?GH: No.Q: Obviously you aren't apologetic about it, but aren’t you exploiting it? GH: I’ve thought about that and thought I should be documenting this whole thing that’s happening to us now, because I do have in my garage that the theater department at Auburn University did a Troll 2 party.MS: He’s had people drive for hours to go to his dentistry practice.GH: Just because they’re Troll 2 fans.MS: You can buy Troll 2 in his office.Q: You should be selling this movie in your office.GH: Well I will once it comes out. But I thought, I haven’t even gotten the movie poster yet, Michael, I need to get the Best Worst Movie poster that’s just come out. Have you seen it? It’s beautiful. You’ve got to see the poster. Q: The other irony of it is of course the trolls, or the goblins, whatever you want to call them, have the worst teeth possible. Has anybody ever pointed this out to you?GH: Oh yeah, all the time.Q: Have you had this fantasy moment where you improve their teeth?GH: Hopefully when the DVD comes out we’ll have some incredible outtakes. The bottom line is I think we’ve even got that documented.MS: There’s a scene that will be a DVD extra, I’m sure, but the witch from Troll 2 ended up having a last-minute dentistry need while we were in Utah for that last event, and she called George and asked to get his advice, and he basically said, “I’ll take care of you right now. Let’s go down to the office.” He called the dentistry office. He ended up doing dentistry on the witch’s tooth in the same office that he practiced in 20 years ago. It was really surreal. And I travel with this guy everywhere and his first impression is, “Man, that guy has got good teeth.”Q: I need work.GH: Come to Alabama.MS: This is so telling of who he is. At the horror convention, when nobody cares about Troll 2 and there’s that down-note in the movie, and George is in his darkest hour, the worst thing he can say about somebody is they don’t floss their teeth or that they have gingivitis. Q: Then you bring in the Italian director, and he really doesn’t quite see it for what it is. Is it just language issues?MS: Have you ever thought that maybe we just don’t get Troll 2? It’s funny because I’ll tell you, this whole experience has messed me up so bad that I can’t say that Troll 2 is a bad film. Think of how many films you watch and you’re bored to tears, even films that have far greater resources and are forgettable the instant they’re made. You have a film like Troll 2 or even Plan 9 from Outer Space or some of these bad movies that were made with such sincerity and are so genuine. I mean 20 years later they’re still making impressions on people; you can’t pay for that. Even though it fails fundamentally – acting, writing, directing – I mean horribly, abysmally, just awful in every possible way -- it was a cinematic car crash -- but the level of heart that it has!
Q: What happened with the one actress that you had to go and track down? What has happened since?MS: Margo. Nothing really. She’s a shut-in. It’s complicated with her. I should say that when I started making this film and as it continued to progress, Troll 2 kept resonating with me, both on this triumphant and tragic level. As we started seeing some of the other side and who these people were and actually seeing the human element connected with the worst movie ever made, it had its ups and downs.Q: I'm still not sure if it was the worst movie ever made or not.MS: No. And I would say it’s not. For me I found Margo very likable. Her experience with Troll 2 wasn’t that much further from Claudio’s, and there was a sense of tragedy to it. But when we showed up it was like the bright spot in her year; she was so happy to talk about Troll 2. A shut-in, she takes care of her mom, she’s very… She doesn’t want pity. And even though her experience of Troll 2 is far different than what most people would say is normal, it’s still her experience with the film.Q: What was Claudio doing between the time when you got back in touch and when he made the film in '89? What's he doing since?MS: He saw the documentary and wrote in an email, “It’s beautiful. I love it.” I talked to him just a couple of days ago; I still talk to him. He’s written Troll 2 Part 2. It’s crazy because he continues to get movies made time and time again. If you think how difficult that is, just think how difficult it would have been for him to make Troll 2, work with actors who couldn’t act in small-town Utah; he got it made and still it’s having an impression on people. So he continues to make films.Q: Darren-- who played Arnold -- is closest to the acting world, how’s he doing?MS: He’s good. He’s living in Utah.GH: And works for the Salt Lake City Tribune.
MS: Still going on auditions, a beautiful family; he’s happy. He’s actually been one of the guys from the beginning that has been really along for the ride and having a lot of fun with it.Q: How many of the people involved were Mormons?MS: I’m Mormon. There were a few of us. As far as in Troll 2, I want to say the majority. I am a practicing Mormon, that’s my belief, yeah. Generally speaking, there are a lot of misconceptions with every religion until you actually understand it. We don’t have 10 wives and all that other nonsense. Though Troll 2 has no direct connection to Mormonism, most of the people that were in the film were Mormons, and with Troll 2 being a horror film there's still a very family-friendly innocence to it.Q: It's in this area of, If it wasn’t made to be art, can it be art in some way? Or if it's art that’s made to be bad art; does that make it good art?MS: When you make art you’re never thinking about the end result. It becomes something different than what you started out to make. I know this sounds pretentious, but how many people look at art and one person says “That’s amazing. I see so much in it,” and another person says “That’s crap. I could do that.”It’s wild; I’ve seen Troll 2 in so many environments where people create friendships that will last a lifetime from the singular experience of watching Troll 2 together. And even though it was not meant to be what it is, it doesn’t take away from what it’s become.Q: Have you been to horror or science fiction conventions as opposed to these slightly tongue-in-cheek fan events? The fan world that appreciates your film about a bad horror movie is one thing, but of course, we’re in a universe where we give support to people making horror films even if they’re bad. Independent filmmaking comes out of horror films. MS: In the film there’s the horror convention that we go to and even amongst the horror fans…Q: Where theoretically they embrace horror film, good, bad or ugly...MS: They were more interested in Nightmare on Elm Street 5. It takes a very certain type of person to like Troll 2. Even in the UK, that audience wasn’t the Troll 2 audience.
The Troll 2 audience that might have been the original audience, they like any bad horror film. Then there’s the Troll 2 audience which approaches it with that degree of irony that you use maybe when seeing say, The Rocky Horror Show, which actually was a good film.MS: You have the Troll 2 audience that will go to their graves saying it is not a bad movie. That’s the thing; bad is completely relative. What do we go to movies for? To have an experience. So whatever experience that person has with that film is personal, it’s theirs. Who’s to say my experience with the movie should be the same as somebody else’s? And something I’ve really learned about guilty pleasures; guilty pleasures I don’t know if I believe in. You either enjoy it or you don’t, and, if you enjoy it, why are you too scared to admit you enjoy it?Q: I’m not sure how much I liked Troll 2 itself, but I love the documentary.GH: It’s just all about laughter, that’s what it is. It’s about relationships and laughter, and that’s the way I’ve looked at this whole thing.Q: How do you view all of this? You’ve just been living your normal life, but you’re really enjoying it.GH: Oh I’m enjoying it. What I’m enjoying is the sense of humor; that’s what I’ve enjoyed more than anything else -- and many of the fans and just being around this whole resurgence of Troll 2 and making the documentary, there’s just so much laughter. I just find that’s what I love about it. In this time of recession and all this bipartisan, Republican, Democrat, Independent, Tea Party deal or whatever, with the terrorism and real estate prices dropping, with empty buildings here in New York City, people are laughing when they come to see Best Worst Movie. There are 150 belly-ache laughs in Best Worst Movie and the same thing in Troll 2. I mean my gosh, what’s wrong with laughing and having fun? So I’ve embraced that part about it. I’m here with you, you’re fun to talk to, you’ve got this great personality, and you love it!
Thirty-seven-year-old Emma Caulfield seems like such a SoCal blond. Hailing from San Diego, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, and got her start in television playing Susan Keats, a love interest on the series Beverly Hills, 90210. That led her to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and her key role as the demoness Anya. (Vengeance demon? No, "Justice demon," she clarified.) And she's admittedly something of a fan geek, a real devotee of sci-fi movies and TV series.So taking on the lead role of Oona in the near-future-set TiMER, not only made sense to her, it was a role that stirred her fan juices as well. Based on the premise that a device can be made to biologically find the unique link between soul mates, it's meant to take the guesswork out of romance and dating.But the device is not without its critics. There are still people in the world who haven't had one attached or fight the urge to accept what is seen as the inevitable. Oona's sister Steph (Michelle Borth) figures that until her true love is found, why not play around? Others like Mikey (John Patrick Amedori), wear a fake so as not to be hassled.With the film now available theatrically as well as through video-on-demand, it's ironic, given the subject matter, that Caufield is also in the gossip press for her separation from husband Cornelius Grobbelaar.But she has other interests besides the film's release to take her mind off such things: She has also released her webcomic, Contropussy -- created with collaborators Camilla Rantsen, Christian Meesey and Thomas Mauer -- as the first issue of a print comic book. In this exclusive interview, the lovely Caulfield discusses the implications of the movie, the device and whether she'd wear one herself.Q: As a science fiction fan, I wondered about the possibilities of having a TiMER -- beyond thinking about the concept as a metaphor. Did you see it as a metaphor or get into the science fiction of it?EC: I'm a huge science fiction fan, so that was part of the appeal for me in the script. Now that I've thought about it, I just accepted it, actually. That's the best answer I can give you.
I don't think I thought of it as a metaphor for anything else; I was just like, "Oh, that's the world that this script exists in."
Q: I'm trying to decide: would I use a "TiMER?" Probably not; I'm too much of a rebel -- if everybody else is running around doing it then I wouldn't. What would you do?EC: Exactly. I wouldn't. Where's the fun in that? That's what I fall back to. If you have the answers to things like that, then where's the adventure? It would be like knowing when you're going to die.
Q: I agree. The premise is that we are chemically matched and a device could track it is a little far-fetched but still I ran scenarios on how it would or wouldn't work. How far could it go? Wouldn't it be illegal? So did you play with the ideas beyond the movie's own setting?EC: I would love to say that we did it just to prove that we're really deep thinkers or something, but to be honest, no. We discussed amongst ourselves whether we would want access to that knowledge, and I think we all pretty much agreed, no.Like I said, "There's no adventure in knowing the outcome of who you're supposed to be with."If everybody did follow this device, and it was supposed to work, then I guess there would be no divorce, no children coming from broken homes and a lot fewer people in therapy. So ultimately society would be functioning at a much higher level. There would be advances. Right?Q: As the movie suggests, if you're not worrying about whether or not you're going to fall in love with a person since your true love is inevitable, go ahead and screw around. Would that be possible, would people really do that?EC: Yeah, they have an excuse to mess around with however many people they want because they already know it's going to end, so just go out and have a good time.
Q: Those were interesting implications; but it's a whole other movie.
EC: That's actually a good point. To be honest, as society exists now, people have all kinds of justifications and excuses for doing what they do with other people and in my mind, this would just be another one. It's a philosophical question that, to be honest, I hadn't really given a whole lot of thought to. I hadn't really thought past the point of I wouldn't want to know that.
If society had the ability to do what they do in the film, ultimately, it would be a sadder existence. Though people would be happier, I think, to deny those kinds of experiences, to deny heartbreak, to deny all the wrong choices, ultimately would leave you less wise. We're far more defined by our mistakes than the things that we succeed at.
Q: Obviously you're willing to take the risk of not having one, but has your love life been more successful than your characters?EC: I think talking about one's love life is always... It's a Pandora's box, best kept in journals.
Q: Were you worried about people asking you about it after seeing a movie like this? Did you get jokes from people?EC: I try to circumvent those questions and just steer it away; just deflect it.
Q: I debated, "Do I need this device?"
EC: It inevitably forces one to look at their own life, and that's either a good thing or a bad thing depending on what the person has going on or what they've experienced. The search for love and heartbreak is a fairly university condition and everybody will take away from it something different.
Q: The director, Jac Schaeffer, had a pretty sure-handed control of things. How did you meet, or did you know each other?
EC: I had never met her before. I went in, auditioned, and she hired me. Much like everybody else in the film, I felt I had known her for a really long time. We all clicked immediately. We had this second-hand way of communicating with each other from the get-go, which does not happen.
I don't think it's ever happened for me [before].It was a unique experience from start to finish and I can't say enough good things about her. It was her first film and you would never have known. She mastered it like a great captain of any ship, made us all feel incredibly comfortable and confident in her hands, which is huge.
Q: I wasn't sure if that was you wearing a wig or what because I thought you and Michelle [Borth] really looked alike, like sisters. Do you have a genetic link? Did you think you looked like sisters?EC: No, but I'm flattered if you think I look like her because I think she's flippin' gorgeous. So if I'm remotely similar to her that's really good news for me.
Q: A lot of times I don't think they cast people as effectively to be siblings. What did you do to make you feel like siblings?EC: Honestly nothing. We just really got along. That's what I mean; from the minute we all were put in the room together we clicked with a natural chemistry. It was just effortless, my relationship with Michelle. It just was instantaneous, like, "Oh you, I know you."
[We had] a relatability that was unplanned and not forced and sold the relationship of siblings effortlessly. We actually don't we look anything alike so just our connection on camera must have made it very believable.
Q: Did the two of you complain about your past relationships? Was there commiserating in any way? Did you find yourselves bonding on that front?EC: We did. We all met at Jac's house before filming and talked a lot about the script and about love [in terms of] this concept in general. Like what is love, what are soul mates? Just the broader concepts and then it quickly got personal.Like all the stuff that people go through, you find that everybody has had pain, has had happiness, and everybody is just searching for that perfect complement to their life. That's why the story is so relatable to so many people who have seen it, because it's universal for men and women.
Though I think men will be like, "There is this romantic comedy aspect, how am I going to relate to that -- this is a chick flick."Conversely, women don't necessarily like sci-fi. I, of course, love it, I watch any kind of science fiction, but they might feel like, "Oh it's science fiction and I'm not going to like it."
Somehow it's the perfect marriage, which is poetic given what the film is about. It actually does unite both sexes and they both can get something out of the film. It is not geared towards men, it's not geared towards women, it really is geared towards people, and everybody can walk away from seeing the film asking some questions about their life. It does everything; it's bitter-sweet, sad, and funny. It's all of it.
Q: What did it feel like being the lead, the one who's got to carry the movie? You've done a number of shows where you've been a crucial member of the team, like in Buffy the Vampire Slayer but the whole thing is on your shoulders here. Were you glad to have that opportunity?EC: I've done it before and there is a little bit of pressure. You have to dig deep and get out of your ego and insecurities, and just do your job. Luckily I was supported by amazing people who made my job much easier.
The fact that people are lovely the film just makes me happy, like good I did my job. Really, at the end of the day, that's all I really want to do, is just sell what I'm doing.
Q: You're the older woman with a younger man here; have you ever found yourself in that circumstance and what do you think of that kind of relationship?EC: I have been in that circumstance. I think actually I once had the exact age difference in the film. Is that the reason it ended? No. It makes things more difficult, you know what I mean?There's only a certain amount of relatability that can occur with a certain age difference.
Although there are plenty of people out there who make it work, quite famous people actually, who have huge age differences and whatever it is connects them transcends age. It's just not my experience.
Q: After playing a dentist in this movie, did it make you worry about your teeth? Did you think about having your teeth checked? Did you call your dentist to do research?EC: In all seriousness, it actually did. I avoid dentists but I just went to the dentist and I think it had been four years.
Q: And you've got good teeth.
EC: I'm lucky; I'm genetically blessed with good teeth. Still, they said I have a cavity, and that's what I get for not going to the dentist for four years. Which is sad because the longer you wait then of course, the worse your experience will be each time you go to the dentist and yet I just continue to avoid it. It will probably be another four years before I go again.
For more by Brad Balfour: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brad-balfour
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