At a mere 17, Evan Rachel Wood has established herself as one of Hollywood’s most versatile and diverse young new stars, not to mention one of the busiest. In the acclaimed Sundance film Pretty Persuasion, Wood goes all out to play a sexually manipulative teen in all her twisted glory and this actress takes it all in her stride as she confessed to Garth Franklin in this exclusive interview.
Question: So first of all, what was it about this character that appealed to you the most?
Wood: I don’t know. I thought it was cool that at first glance you can go: oh, I know this character and I know this kind of bitchy high school girl and I’ve seen this a million times. But I think it’s never really been played like this and you’ve never really seen where the girl is coming from and seen her background or see why she’s doing what she’s doing, so you feel bad for her in the end. I found it a really kind of hard, challenging role.
Question: With Thirteen and this, why do you think people are interested in casting you as another viciously rebellious characters?
Wood: (laughter). I don’t know. I don’t think they’re viciously rebellious. I think they’re just, always kind of damaged and sad, but I don’t always play sad and damaged characters. But I guess that it’s occasionally hard to find a teenager who has kind of a real understanding of that and takes it seriously.
Question: Is there anything of you in this girl?
Wood: Absolutely not actually. This is the first role I’ve played where there’s not one trace of Evan in it.
Question: So what do you tap into to play her?
Wood: Wow. I thought of a lot of girls that I knew in high school, for one thing – and based it on some of those people. I don’t know. I kind of had to make it up as I was going along.
Question: There are some quite graphic moments in this movie. What kinds of discussions did you have about that and how concerned were you that this wasn’t going to go too far over the top?
Wood: I met with Marcos, had just completely so much faith in him and knew that he was going to make this movie right and it was going to be done tastefully and well. I mean, he just talked about how you weren’t going to see anything in the movie, everything was going to be implied and it’s all going to be done tastefully. So I mean right away I just had no fear about it, because I just knew I was in good hands with Marcos.
Question: Now you also have a rather interesting, scene with another woman in the movie.
Question: Did you two giggle a lot to keep things loose?
Wood: Absolutely. Yeah, we both have very crazy senses of humour so we were really laughing the entire time. And since Marcos had a rule that if you’re ever uncomfortable doing something the whole crew had to do it first. (Laughter). So when it came time to shoot the scene topless, we looked around the room and there’s our director and our cinematographer with no shirts on. (Laughter) It was quite a surreal moment.
Question: What do you think is the message of this film? What do you want to audiences to take away with them when they see it?
Wood: there’s a lot of messages. I mean I want people to see it as kind of how easy it was for these people in this movie to be manipulated the way they were by a 15-year-old schoolgirl teaching teens about sexuality and how to use it, because so many people just don’t even want to think about teens and sex. So, teenagers don’t know anything about it, nobody’s teaching them and nobody is telling them what to do and where to go so they’re just turning to all the wrong places and using it for all the wrong things. So I just want people to be a little bit more aware of that. Everything in this movie is all the stuff that people always kind of want to ignore and I think people should of course, be able to laugh your ass off at this movie but at the end of the day you look back and remember why you were laughing: you were laughing because it was
Question: How surprised are you by your own success, Evan?
Wood: It’s a little weird and still hasn’t really hit me. I just hope it keeps going well. I just feel like any second somebody’s just gonna go, whoa, no, never mind, and just take it away because it’s too good to be true. So I’m just trying to enjoy it.
Paul: Do you have all those insecurities of actresses that exist in Hollywood?
Wood: Of course, especially when people are constantly telling you, that you’re so great, you’re so wonderful, and then all of a sudden you feel like you always have to be great and wonderful because you don’t want to disappoint anybody, because now there are expectations. So that’s weird. But, I try not to think about it and just do it like I’ve always been doing it and not worry about it.
Question: You’ve got a couple of very interesting different things that you’re either working on or that you’ve finished so let’s look at first of all, Down in the Valley. It’s a San Fernando Valley set film, right?
Wood: It’s probably like a huge character in it. I guess it’s a very beautiful film and it’s all very symbolic and it’s just showing these beautiful shops, the valley and kind of how California used to be and how beautiful it used to be. Now there are power lines cutting through all these beautiful mountains and there’s smog. Edward Norton’s character, is very damaged and he’s kind of a Don Quixote now who has convinced himself that he’s a cowboy and wants to kind of save this girl from her life, and fight windmills. It’s pretty sad but I mean David Jacobson did an amazing job with it. It’s just a really beautiful film.
Question: What’s happening with the movie, do you have any idea? It opened at the L.A. Film Festival, yeah?
Wood: Yeah, yeah, yeah, it was. yeah – we’re just waiting for it to come out now.
Question: I’m really looking forward to Running with Scissors.
Wood: Me too!
Question: It’s got an amazing cast. Who are you in that?
Wood: Ah, I play Natalie Finch.
Question: And her relationship to these characters is…
Wood: I’m Brian Cox’s daughter and Gwyneth Paltrow’s sister.
Question: Are you a fan of Nip/Tuck?
Wood: Oh, yeah – very much. I’m in love with Ryan Murphy. He’s one of my all-time favourite people.
Question: Oh, really?
Question: Well, how do you think he has managed to make the transition to movie director?
Wood: Beautifully. I really don’t think there’s anybody else that could direct this movie and pull it off.
Question: Apparently the book is extraordinary. Does it stick very close to the original?
Wood: It, it does – yeah. I mean die-hard fans of the book are going to be disappointed because you can’t keep everything in. But no, it does stay very close to the book – almost word-for-word sometimes – and it’s great.
Question: And you’re also in The Mermaids Singing…
Wood: Yeah, but it’s probably not going to go…
Question: Oh, it’s not going to go. All these lovely people are in this movie…
Wood: Yeah, I know.
Question: And Robin Swicord directing it.
Wood: Yeah, I know, and she’s so great. But, yeah, no… we are still trying to get it made.
Question: And what about the Julie untitled Julie Taymor project?
Wood: (Laughter). I’m rehearsing for that now in New York – been rehearsing for a couple of months. A 60s musical with Beatles’ songs.
Question: Are you doing your own singing?
Question: Do you have a favourite Beatles song?
Wood: Right now it’s Happiness is a Warm Gun… …in the movie, it’s one of my favourite numbers in it so I can’t get it out of my head.
Question: So, how much practice have you had singing?
Wood: well I’ve been singing my whole life but I’ve never really done it professionally I’ve just done it for fun, and so this is the first time I’ve been really sitting down with vocal coaches and, working out every little detail of the song and, it’s been really hard but it’s been great.
Question: You’re not even 20 yet and I’m just wondering how much time you have for a life. I mean, do you ever have a… do you ever sit down and relax?
Wood: oh yeah – absolutely. I mean I’m usually only doing press when I’ve got to do it for a movie and when I’m filming I usually take time to still see all my friends and family and things. So, yeah, whenever I get a chance I’m always just hanging out and kicking back.
Question: How do you keep yourself grounded and focused on what is important?
Wood: I mean all my friends are really the friends I’ve had since, you know, I was 7 and 10, so I just keep the people around that I know are my real friends and, you know, people that remind me of when I was, you know, a geeky little 9-year-old. so, ah… that’s one way.
Question: Do you have any aspirations to go to college? Do you think you’ll take some time off?
Wood: I don’t know. Probably not. I’m probably going to go and take college courses somewhere but, I mean to actually go and like do the college thing I think I’d go crazy.
Question: Oh, really? Why?
Wood: I don’t know. I’ve been to my friends’ colleges and I don’t really fit in with anybody and, I think I’d have to be acting or I’d go crazy.