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The name Kimberly Peirce is most closely identified with Boys Don't Cry, her award-winning independent debut that saw an Oscar win for star Hillary Swank. Just as much as Boys Don't Cry is a real life horror story, the Stephen King classic Carrie is grounded in issues of schoolyard bullying and overbearing parents. I sat down with Kim to discuss her take on the Carrie story, how she physically and emotionally transformed Chloe Moretz and Julianne Moore, the use of visual effects in storytelling, and her favorite Stephen King movie adaptation.
Read more: Talking with Kimberly Peirce of...
Against the backdrop of 1970s Texas Hill Country, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints tells a gothic American tale of three characters straddling various sides of the law -- outlaw Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck), his wife Ruth Guthrie (Rooney Mara), and local sheriff Patrick Wheeler (Ben Foster), who gets caught in their crosshairs.
Starting where other stories often end with the outlaw being captured, the lawman gets wounded and the wife finds out she’s pregnant, this noir-ish narrative puts in play a set of characters who follow a very deliberately downward spiral that concludes with a death and a redemption.
When Bob escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he’s never met, her settled life in this small Texas town becomes disrupted by his arrival and goals she’s not sure she shares with him anymore.
Supported by veteran actors Nate Parker and Keith Carradine (who played a similarly tragic outlaw in Robert Altman’s Thieves Like Us), this methodically paced drama neither involves larger than life characters or grapples with huge issues much more than to make the choice whether to live or to love where doing one almost certainly endangers the possibility of the other.
The second feature from writer-director David Lowery, this film was developed at the Sundance Institute's Writing and Producing Labs. It received the U.S. Dramatic Cinematography Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
Making the transition from her high-profile role as Lisbeth Salander in the big-budgeted Girl With The Dragon Tattoo to this low-keyed film Mara delivers a cool nuanced performance. Spurred on by her older sister Kate’s already busy acting career, Rooney has been building a resume that both includes Hollywood tentpole projects and intimate indies such as this feature.
Q: As your character develops from being a child to an adult, who takes on the responsibilities for her kid, your character serves as an archetype for that person who goes through this transition of growing up.
RM: I mean most of the film is played when she goes through that transition. But certainly it's something me and David talked a lot about; how Ruth was before [the situation in the film] and I think she used to be a very sort of fiery stubborn feisty character who was full of life and I think having a child definitely changed her.
When Ruth finds out she's going to have a baby I don't think she's particularly excited by it. She doesn't feel ready and it's not something she wants.
Bob is more excited about it than she is and then, when he gets taken away to prison she really doesn't want to have a baby it's like, “No I want Bob back, I want my life back, and I want my childhood back.”
She really [feels that way.] It’s not exactly in the movie, but at least for me, I think she really is fighting it the entire time until she sees the baby for the first time and then she's in.
Q: What made you want to play Ruth? you don't play her as an archetype but as a living character.
RM: The person that she is was so interesting and where she ends up with the relationship between her and Bob was also interesting. Also I really wanted to play a mom, but so many times I just read these scripts where it’s just like the mom, It's just the protective mom, and it’s so unrealistic to me. People are more complex than that and I found that the way she's a mom to be was really different from anything else that I'd read.
Q: In what way?
RM: Because it's not like she… Because she did fight it, it's not like she found out she was having a baby and was all of a sudden she was like, "Yes I am a mother now I am going to make smart responsible decisions.”
That’s not how life happens; you can be a parent and love your child more than anything and still make bad decisions and you think you're making the right decisions.
A lot of the mothers I have read about are just like that. Just like a very idealized version of like a protective mother and I found this to be more realistic you know her relationship with Silvia’s [xxxxx]. i just found their relationship and the way she's a mom with the decisions she has to make.
Q: She’s hugs her daughter all the time, singing to her, sleeping with her, she's very bonded with the little girl.
RM: Yes they're very bonded but at times it felt like a relationship you have with your little sister if you had a sister and had to raise her. It felt much more interesting and real to me than anything I'd read.
Q: Was it insightful to you in terms of what you might think you would behave or not behave if you were having a kid?
RM: No I didn't think of it in terms of that but certainly i thought of it in terms of -- Ruth has to make these decisions between her life that she had with Bob and the life and responsibilities she has now with her child but you know now.
Like I said before, she can have a kid and still think that going with Bob is the right thing to do for your child. I think you really can convince yourself of anything when you're in love with someone. I don't think parents always make the right decisions. Sometimes parents make selfish decisions but that doesn’t mean they love their children any less.
Q: Bob takes the fall for Ruth. There’s punishment to be meted out and he takes it. But Patrick represents a kind of forgiveness, so he's the bridge to a different life for your character that takes you out of that eye-for-an-eye realm. Do you think your character understands what he’s offering? Did you personally see this as a two-parter, the old testament vs. the new forgiveness aspect of your life?
RM: I never thought of it in terms of the New and Old Testament [laughs]. But in terms of Patrick and Ruth…
Q: He represents a different way of looking at the law.
RM: It's very sweet that he offers her forgiveness and that's great and can certainly help her but at the end of the day it's more about forgiving herself because while she has guilt for shooting this man, most of her guilt lies with the fact that the person she loves has taken the blame for it and is now been spending his life in prison. It’s more about forgiving herself than getting forgiveness from someone else.
Q: Was there anything from your personal life -- either through reading or an incident that you plugged into -- to effect her act of self-forgiveness…
RM: With Ruth, No. Maybe I've taken too many psychology classes or have been in too many therapy sessions. I know self-forgiveness is very important isn't it, to growth?
Q: David Lowery spoke about seeing a movie like Thieves Like Us. Of course, Keith Carradine was the star in that film and then being in this film which, had a lot of this style. What films did you see that helped you get a sense of the period?
RM: There were films that David had me watch McCabe and Mrs. Miller and of course Badlands. But you know David’s script was really quite beautiful and poetic -- and there wasn't really much further you had to go on than that.
Q: What was it to David’s direction or his approach, what element did you find fascinating besides his script that was fascinating, compared to say a Steven Soderbergh, or David Fincher or even Spike Jonze.
RM: He wrote it -- it came from his mind, so right there, he has to be fascinating and smart to have written it. Then when I met him I could just tell that this isn't just a writer who wrote a beautiful script; he saw the movie and knew what he wanted it to feel like, sound like and look like. I could just tell he was special.
Everyone has to start somewhere. It didn't scare me that he didn't have this body of work like some of the other people i've worked with. That was one of the things that excited me about working with him.
Q: It was a new adventure in a way.
RM: I believed in him, and wanted to be a part of it.
Q: How dependent are you on the director when you're working? Some directors expect the actor once they’re cast to show up and have it, know what they're doing, and they let them do it, Woody Allen is like that.
RM: Steven [Soderbergh] is like that.
Q: How much do you expect from the director?
RM: The thing is, the director is everything. I always love the director. I put all of my trust and faith into them and it has to be someone that I will follow and give myself over to their process. So when I worked with Steven I showed up ready and knew what I was doing.
When I worked with someone like David Lowery it was much more collaborative, we could play with things. I give myself over to whatever their process is, so I don't have be like “Oh I need the director or I don't need…” I really just give myself over to what they like to do.
Q: You’re acting is always amazing but how difficult was it to play a role like Ruth, you are not facing the Bob, you’re almost thinking about him but not facing him, so how difficult or different to do that kind of role?
RM: It was great because the way they set it up was that Casey came to Shreveport and he shot his stuff for two and a half or three weeks. Then I came and we shot our stuff together and then he left and I shot my stuff without him.
In the film, Casey's character is waiting for me, he's waiting to see what I’m going to be like now that I’m a different person. He’s just waiting and there's all the anticipation.
So he had that feeling the whole time he was shooting and then we met and we shot our scenes together and then he left and my character spends most of the entire movie pining for and missing him. They set it up perfectly and the little screen time that we do have together does have to carry through the film. It’s really important that, that translated otherwise you wouldn’t want to watch the film. They did a good job at setting that up.
Q: David said he doesn't like guns and was going to have a very different ending with you and Ben Foster’s character. I asked him did he have a gun and he said no, you don't have a a gun, but did you find it interesting to work with guns or have you done much in some of the other films as well?
RM: I didn’t find it interesting to work with guns, I don't like guns, I don't want to be around a gun, there's nothing I like about guns, except that they look really cool in Western movies but other than that I have no interest in guns, I remember I had to shoot the gun -- I had never shot one before -- and I had to shoot it and I didn't like it, I don't like shooting...
Q: In the opening battle when you shoot the guy….
RM: Yeah that was fun I guess [laughs]…
Q: To watch you in this movie or Side Effects, is fun -- what do you look for in a part? Do you worry about being typecast as the quiet serious person, Is that's what you are? I don't know what you're doing with Spike Jonze in Her.
RM: I don't really feel as though I'm typecast. I think I'm lucky in that I get lots of different opportunities but yes if I were to be typecast as anything, I definitely do get a lot of quiet…
Q: Smart people?
Q: Even your character in Dragon Tattoo is in some ways quiet. And in other ways, not very contained. Could you ever play in, like in Her. I know it's sci-fi but I don't know what you can say about it.
RM: I haven't seen it so I don’t know what I do in it or what's in there, but that's not the point.
Every character I play has a lot of internal life because I have a lot of an internal life so that's not really something I can turn off. But I don't think the character in Her is what you're talking about. And certainly I can do other things than that.
Q: Can you be big and bawdy and funny if you wanted to?
RM: Yes I could I’m sure…
Q: Does anybody ever think of you that way? Not yet?
RM: I don't know but they will.
Q: You’re not doing a Jewish comedy right now though?
RM: Not yet. But I would love to.
Q: Could you do Broadway, maybe singing and dancing?
RM: No I couldn't do a musical.
Q: How did Dragon Tattoo change your life?
RM: Dragon Tattoo changed my life tremendously in that I work all the time now, or that I can work all the time now, and the opportunity that I have now is you know incredible but people hardly ever recognize me, maybe once a month, people just don't recognize me and they don't really care I guess. That’s great and fine.
Q: At your sister's House of Cards premiere over in Alice Tully Hall, you showed up and were literally chased into the backstage area by a pack of photographers who wouldn't let you alone. Do you get that all the time like if you went to the green market here would people follow you?
RM: Yeah that was weird.
Q: Will you do the sequel -- has anybody at Sony said anything about it?
RM: I would love to but I don’t know.
Q: The Girl Who Played With Fire is on the list. You've read all the books...
RM: Yes of course.
Q What are you doing next?
RM: I'm doing Stephen Daldry’s next movie, Trash.
Q: An Irish movie with a priest?
RM: It’s a Brazilian film.
Q: You’re going to Brazil... Where do you get to go -- Rio, Sao Paulo?
RM: I'm going to Brazil. Yes, in Rio. I get to combine my two favorite things...
Q: Is it a thriller?
RM: Yes it's quite thrilling.
Q: You’ll dig the music though; the music is incredible in Brazil.
RM: That will be soon I promise.
Q: You’re involved in supporting a particular cause in relation to Africa. oddly enough when they screened the movie it was paired with a movie about an African couple called Mother of George. How did you get connected to that - you should see that movie by the way - where did that passion come from?
RM: I graduated from high school early and traveled with this school called the traveling school and we went throughout South America for four months and so that's where my love of traveling came from. Then I was at NYU and taking this class called Writing About Africa and we were reading all this literature written by different African authors.
I was doing this research paper on child soldiers on Uganda and was learning all this stuff I didn't know about Africa and really missed traveling. I wanted to go somewhere I just couldn't find any volunteer opportunities in Uganda so I randomly chose Kenya and ended up there. It’s a very long story from there but that's how I ended up there when I was that age.
Q: Now you have this Foundation?
RM: I started a non profit called Faces of Kibera and we've since merged with this other group that we met in Kenya and her non profit was called Uweza and we were always helping each other and doing similar things so we decided to join forces.
Q: And are you a style icon?
RM: I don't feel like a style icon but I don't know. I mean I haven't really been around long enough to use words like icon.
Q: Are you fashion conscious and do you like it?
RM I have always had a very specific taste. I have a certain aesthetic and it's part of my job to get dressed for these things so I'm fashion conscious...
I can tell you that in my everyday life i do not put that much effort into what i wear, but I still really like the way certain clothes look. In my every day life I really don't put that much effort into what i wear.
Q: Did you see the punk couture show at the Met?
RM: Yeah it was fantastic.
Q: Nice fashion but not really punk, its not really very authentic. Some interesting clothes that you could be wearing in the spirit of Lisbeth Salander some things in the exhibition seem right out of that film [laughs].
Q: What’s the best advice your actress sister Kate told you about the industry or the roles you should you have. Anything you keep in mind?
RM: I don't have a great line to give you on that, and even if I did it would be very personal if she gave me advice.
Q: She didn't take you aside, put her arm around you and say, "Rooney now this is what you have to watch out for?"
RM: That would be a good little thing but it's my sister; we're each others' biggest supporters and I feel so lucky to have someone that's that close to me who’s in the same industry. I can't imagine not having her in the business with me.
Melbourne based actor Eric Bana has played his share of heroes and villains. Initially thanks to his rugged good looks and naturally buff physique he’s been cast as a heroic good guy in The Hulk or Munich even as a romantic lead Henry in the scifi thriller The Time Traveler’s Wife.
But his sort of cool and detached demeanor led him to more morally ambiguous even dastardly parts such as the assassin father Erik Heller in Hannah and the renegade Romulan Nero in JJ Abrams’s rebooted Star Trek.
Now the 45 year-old actor is playing a character that lands right in the middle -- a morally ambiguous yet familiar place for most of us -- in the British legal thriller Closed Circuit. Barrister Martin Rose wants to be a properly steadfast defense lawyer and hero yet find himself trapped between the ideal and the politically expedient.
Read more: Australian Actor Eric Bana...
Ashton Kutcher was still channeling Steve Jobs at the Teen Choice Awards last Sunday where he received the Ultimate Choice award. In his acceptance speech the “Jobs” star extolled values he credited to the Apple co-founder. (Josh Gads, who plays a sympathetic and sensitive Steve Wozniak in the biopic, presented Kutcher with the award.)
Kutcher gave teenagers three tips. First he spoke about the value of hard work. He said he was never too good for any of his jobs, including his first, hanging shingles with his dad. His second bit of advice – which naturally got the most applause - was about being sexy. “The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart,” Kutcher said. I’m not sure the screaming audience members listened to the rest of the sentence, where Kutcher said, “Be smart. Be thoughtful. Be generous. Everything else is crap.”
Finally, Kutcher said, “Steve Jobs said that when you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is … everything around us we call life was made up by people who were no smarter than you. And you can build your own things. Build a life.”
At the press conference for “Jobs” recently in Manhattan, Kutcher, along with director Joshua Michael Stern, talked about the challenge of portraying the Apple co-founder realistically and honestly onscreen. (Aaron Sorkin, who optioned rights to the Jobs’ story inspired by the Walter Isaacson biography, is working on his own movie version.)
The box office for “Jobs” has been lackluster so far – a little over $9 million on a $12 million budget – which doesn’t diminish how hard Kutcher worked to personify and recreate the digital age hero. He ate like Jobs, which landed him in the emergency room. He walked like Jobs. Most importantly, he tried to channel his creative process.
Below are edited highlights from the press conference:
Q: Was there anything you were surprised to learn about Jobs?
Stern: I was surprised about that the man who gives all these keynote speeches we've all associated with being such a beautiful eloquent speaker, that when I interviewed people who were on the very first early Mac team, they talked about how difficult it was for him to explain things… Because he tried to tell them things that hadn't existed yet and that's there was no point of reference so he had an image and a picture, but he was trying to find the words to articulate something that wasn't there ... I was fascinated that the young Steve struggled with explaining.
Kutcher: The thing that I probably least expected to find was his perspective on education. I found this speech that he gave when he was about 25 or something and he was speaking to a bunch of high school kids that were about to graduate, and he encouraged them - apparently there'd been a couple of other speakers right before him, and all these kids were preparing to go to these great schools - and Steve got up in front of them and said, you know, a lot of the really successful people that I know in the world, they didn't go to school, and they didn't get a degree. They had a broad set of life experiences that enabled them to bring something valuable that people with a standardized education couldn't bring and to encourage these kids to maybe go to Paris and try to write poetry for a while or fall in love with two people at one time or try LSD like Walt Disney did when he came up with the idea for "Fantasia," and that maybe this standard education wasn't the greatest means to creative solutions but rather a diverse set of experiences in life could be the greatest education that you could have. And I found it to be very surprising that that would be his opinion, and I think it was an opinion that he carried and reiterated throughout his life, and I think it's a valuable one.
Q: Jobs comes across as a visionary but not much fun to work with. Did you ever meet him?
Kutcher: I never met him. I have a lot of colleagues and close friends who did. I have a lot of friends that considered themselves friends with him and admired him. I too admired the work that he did.
One of the first things you learn as an actor is to never judge your character. We as human beings are flawed and most of the time the decisions and choices that we make at the point in time when we're making that decision we feel like we're making the right decision or the right choice and we feel like we're behaving in the right way, in a justified way, and so there were some things that Steve Jobs' approach seemed very blunt and unkind, however, it was that same blunt discernment that allowed him to create the amazing products he created. It was that same demand for perfection and demand for people to elevate their game to the best of their ability that allowed these teams to actually create these products that we all take for granted.
Q: What are some of the ideas you want people to leave this movie with?
Stern: Everybody has a dream. Everybody has an idea… this is the time and the period where more than ever I think people need to reach in and self motivate and create companies… It's going to be the new norm in the next 50-60 years and so for me I think there's never a better time or has been a better time for a story about a man who created the world's biggest company in a garage 30 years ago… which where is where we all start. ... Blue-collar parents, he worked in a garage … and that's a lot of what Ashton's is doing with his other world, an entrepreneurial world where people are trying to do that.
AK: I wanted to make this film to inspire young people to create the world that they live in. And I think that was an ethos of Steve Jobs. Kids are graduating college and there's no work force and there are no jobs that they feel are equivalent to their level of education, and I'm personally kind of tired of people looking at the world and saying, 'the world is not providing for me.' Maybe you need to provide for the world and maybe it just takes that little bit of confidence to say, you know this guy who came from very meager beginnings and didn't have a college education was able to build the most powerful company in the world, and I think that that is inspiring and necessary right now and I think that people can learn a lot from that.
And I also think that another ethos of Steve Jobs that I think, even people that are running companies today could learn a lot from, you know Steve even when Apple became this gigantic, incredible company that was driving massive value to shareholders, he was never beholden to the shareholders; he was beholden to the consumers. And he was beholden to the innovation in an effort to make their lives better and by proxy he made the shareholders a lot of money, but he was never going, we need to make this company more profitable.’ He was saying ‘we need to make something that's even more brilliant and more beautiful and more wonderful for people's lives… Steve made life beautiful. He didn't just create a business and a product that was a utility that worked. He made something artistic. And he made something beautiful and he appreciated art and creativity, and I watch schools today and education programs dumping art programs for these business programs, an I remember that the most powerful company in the world was run by an artist and that was Steve Jobs.
Q: On a lighter note, how did you manage to embody Jobs’ walk? Did you walk around without shoes for a while?
AK: I wanted to honor this guy and because I knew people that knew him I had pretty good insight into who and how he was and because he's so well documented I kind of couldn't afford to not resemble him. I started by learning everything I could about him by reading books and watching videos and listening to people tell tales and stories, and the script that was an extraordinary resource. And then I started consuming the things that he consumed. I started studying the entrepreneurs that he admired and listening to the music he listened to and eating the food he ate and walking the way he walked.
I went for hikes with his employees. He'd go for a walk when he wanted to have meeting with someone and so I just started doing that, started walking without shoes on, wearing Birkenstocks and going to one-hour walks every day, trying to walk like he walked. First it was five minutes, then it was 10 minutes. You know you practice something you get better at it.
Listen doing that kind of thing and making those kinds of changes to your body is a shock. You know when you're not used to eating a certain way and you all of a sudden change your diet it changes your body and your body reacts to that. At first it rejects it. Your body rejects walking the way Steve Jobs walked because you're physiologically built to walk the way you walk and every human being on this planet has a unique gait that we could actually measure and quantify and use it as a security code if you wanted to. And your body actually has to rebuild to walk that way and it was uncomfortable but I think it served a purpose.
Stern: But I have to say that it's funny because Ashton, way after the fact, realized I took my first meeting with Ashton, I already felt that he was channeling Steve. He had done so much research, his mannerisms, he was already playing with physicality … and on our second or third meeting, he’d say, “Let’s take a walk.” And we did, and I was wearing dress shoes I think at the time. And I had no onset that's what Steve used to do ... We'd take these long walks and we'd talk about the character.
It wasn't too much later that I realized that he was just living the character. He lost 15 to18 pounds for the beginning of this film and if you see, where Steve is at the beginning of the film, how emaciated he is, and then Ashton sort of gained weight because we were able to shoot chronologically. It was a tremendous amount of commitment. And he went on a fruitarian diet. He ended up having to go to the emergency room right before we started shooting just because you know to sort of immerse yourself in Steve Jobs is a intense thing and to live in that skin so I would call him every once in a while and just say are you sure you're okay, you know, in there (laughter) and that's kind of what the process what but it took a lot of commitment.
Q: How did you end up in the emergency room?
AK: I went on this fruitarian diet and I read a book by this guy Arnold Ehret, which was a book that Steve read called "The Mucusless Diet Healing System" and it was kind of his dietary bible, if you will, and it talked about the value of grape sugar and that that was the only pure sugar that you could have in your body and I think that the guy that wrote that book was pretty misinformed. My insulin levels got pretty messed up and my pancreas kind of went into some crazy, I don't know, the levels were really off and it was really painful. I didn't know what was wrong. And we figured out that my insulin levels were really off. (Ehret, born in 1866, died at age 56 after he fell, possibly as a result of hunger, and cracked his head.)
Q: You mentioned Walt Disney, who else would you like to portray on screen and why?
AK: I haven’t really thought about it. This character was a great opportunity for me. It was kind of a perfect convergence of my personal interests and my craft and also a really complicated person to play. He was an anti-hero. He’s a flawed hero and it’s fun to play flawed heroes because they feel more real and they’re relatable and it makes you feel better about your flaws.
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