Mandy Moore is now more than just a recording artist, her acting chops are in high gear these days with the romantic comedy Because I Said So, opening this week, and the recent Sundance favourite Dedication. Paul Fischer caught up with the luminous performer.
Question: Do you still live with your family and have you learned to cook from this film?
Moore: I still live with family, or my family lives with me. I have an older and a younger brother and they both live with me here in LA. And then as far as the cooking, no. Honestly, I don’t really make New Year’s resolutions but it was a goal that I set for myself, to take some cooking classes. I can’t make a grilled cheese. No skills in the kitchen, so this film didn’t rub off on me.
Question: What are your criteria for roles and is your music career on hold?
Moore: I actually just finished my record which was sort of a two year process in terms of writing and everything. And I think in that sense it’s just about prioritizing. The last couple years, I’ve really been sort of focused on acting and I feel really lucky because great projects sort of keep coming my way. I guess the criteria that I look for, it gets increasingly difficult because when you have the privilege of working with someone like Diane, it’s kind of like, ‘Well, where do you go from there.’ But it depends on the scripts and the character and just everybody involved, the other actors and directors. I don’t know. It’s sort of just like a gut feeling when you find something, you’re like, ‘Yes, I want to sink my teeth into that.’
Question: Did any of the meddlesome mom moments ring true? Did mom ever weigh in on the boyfriends?
Moore: No. I feel really lucky in a way. Lucky or unlucky. I know my mom cares but just not enough to really meddle too much.
Question: What about clothes?
Moore: No. I guess I have sort of an atypical relationship with my mom for someone my age, because I think I started so young with the music thing and I had my parents always on the road with me. So at a time when I think I should have been rebelling like in high school, they were actually my best friends. They were the people I was closest to because they were on the road with me and going through this crazy roller coaster experience with me. So my mom has never been a big meddler and isn’t like extremely opinionated or at least just doesn’t voice it to me. She’s sort of let me come into my own by myself and I think that’s just a testament to what my parents did in terms of raising us.
Question: If you were Milly, would you have gone crazy?
Moore: Yeah, yeah. It wasn’t really hard to find the annoying, grating fester from Diane’s character. It really did drive me batty.
Question: What was the repartee like with Diane? And how awkward was the underwear scene?
Moore: Meeting Diane, I was completely nervous. I remember walking in to Michael Lehmann’s office during preproduction and sort of shaking her hand for the first time and being completely in awe and nervous, like how am I going to pretend like she’s my mother? I love her so much, she’s on a pedestal anyway so I sort of tried to use that a little bit. But just like any other costar, you just sort of get to know each other and everybody sort of opens up. I think it was nice having Lauren and Piper there a lot because all girls, we just wanted to be gossipy and talk about shopping and clothes and boys and all that stuff. And the scene with us in our underwear was particularly difficult because we kept going back and forth between- – you know, Piper was fine. She was the one I think right off the bat that was like, ‘Yeah, all right, I’ll be in a thong, I don’t care.’ Lauren and I were petrified and kept going back and forth between like should we have body doubles, should we do it ourselves? I’m super self-conscious and what girl really feels comfortable about being on a gigantic movie screen with her butt there? Just everything is in full view. But in the end, we all decided just to dive right in and go for it. Why not? I’m embarrassed of it but yeah, it’s over.
Question: Any scenes where you couldn’t keep yourself from laughing?
Moore: At first, I don’t know about scenes where I couldn’t contain myself from laughing. There are always those moments where sometimes there’s something funny that’s said right before the camera rolls and you just can’t get it out of your head. You feel so unprofessional because you keep laughing and cracking up during a scene. I think the scene that I felt like kind of the most uncomfortable and awkward in front of everyone at first was describing the orgasm. That took a little getting used to just kind of jump into that. Once you’ve got a couple takes under your belt, it’s fine.
Question: Did you add anything to the orgasm, or was it all scripted?
Moore: It was kind of all written out but it was sort of written in a way where obviously she’s kind of finding her words and finding the right way to approach it with her mother, so I think I kind of infused a little bit of myself in there as well.
Question: Did you base this character on anyone, like Rachel Ray?
Moore: Rachel Ray the chef? Really? I like her. No, I didn’t really base it on anybody. Obviously, I think every character you bring as much of yourself to the role as you can, and I liked that about Milly. I found a lot of myself in her in terms of I really feel like she’s at this crossroads in her life of becoming a woman and someone that’s always been focused on her career and rightfully so and just hasn’t gotten the love department quite right yet. I sort of felt myself relating to her in that sense.
Question: A lot of singers don’t like singing in movies.
Moore: I know, I don’t.
Question: Did they add that to the script or were you hesitant about it?
Moore: I’m always a little bit hesitant because I think it’s important, for me at least, to keep them as separate as possible. But Diane was all for it and I was like, ‘Okay, if Diane wants to do it, I’ll do it.’ But I actually had a lot of fun. It was sort of a different experience because we all had to rehearse together and we went in the studio together to record it. I’ve never been so nervous to sing in front of people before. It was an interesting experience but it was so much fun to actually choose the numbers in the film. We had a great time, working out our harmonies and everything. Felt like we were in like a girl group.
Question: How was working on Entourage and did you watch the episodes with friends?
Moore: I did. I did watch with friends. It was very strange. They just approached me to do a couple episodes of the show right after the first season had finished airing. I loved the show. I was a huge fan of it. I had no idea, because it was really like the second season where it completely opened up and people became obsessed with the show. I just thought it would be fun to go on and play a weird version of myself I guess. I had a great time doing it. They’re all such wonderful people and it was kind of nice being the only girl with all the guys. I liked that. But I’m a huge fan of the show. I really had a lot of fun doing it.
Question: How was Sundance and talk about that Dedication?
Moore: Yeah, I had my one and only Sundance experience before with a movie called Saved that I did and we just had such a blast there. So I have fond memories of Sundance and this movie’s called Dedication. It’s with Billy Crudup and Tom Wilkinson and Diane Weist. I play a children’s book illustrator to Billy Crudup’s children’s book author and we’re sort of this team, this duo. And it’s just like this slice of life movie. I don’t know. It’s really kind of weird to explain but I’m proud of the movie and it’s a pretty different role for me and I’m excited to see it. I had the most fun making a movie with Dedication, just because you knew that it was a passion project for everyone involved. We had X amount of days to shoot New York in the cold. No trailers. Just sort of kind of doing it guerilla style in a way. We had two takes, each different angle. It’s like you really had to sort of be on your game and everyone was there for the right reasons. I loved it.
Question: With each movie, you prove something new. Do comedy, play a bitch…
Moore: Most importantly.
Question: What’s left?
Moore: I definitely am looking to do some more dramatic roles and I don’t know. Like I was explaining before, it’s sort of a gut feeling when you read a script, you’re like, ‘That, I really feel will challenge me and that I want to sink my teeth into.’ I’d love to do a period piece. I don’t know. I’m just getting started. I feel like there’s a whole wealth of options out there to try my hand at.
Question: Some updates from old interviews, do you still have your dogs and have you made any steps towards more travel or study, like journalism?
Moore: My parents now have adopted the three dogs. They sort of fell in love with them and my parents live in Florida, so they have the dogs now. And in terms of the studying and journalism, no I haven’t really made any move forward in that department either. God, I feel like a failure. A list of things I want to accomplish before I’m 30 and I’m like falling behind.
Question: Do you miss the dogs?
Moore: I do but I see [them.] I visit my parents quite a bit so I get to see them a lot.
Question: What’s going on with Mblem, your T-shirt line?
Moore: It’s plugging along. It’s doing very well. I’m still having fun designing pieces. Yes, spring is just about to come out, and just about to ship and I don’t know.
Question: Did you wear any in the movie?
Moore: I did. I did wear a couple pieces in the movie and also Piper and Lauren I think wore some as well.
Question: What kind of music is on the new album?
Moore: [Gasps]. Sorry, I’m just so excited about it. I co-wrote the whole record with everyone from- – like a lot of artists, singer/songwriters that I love, the Weepies, Laurie McKenna, Ricky Yamagata, Chantelle Crevialsic [sp on all these names???] people that I just have so much admiration and respect for. It’s a really sort of organic record. I would say it’s sort of folky pop. I don’t know. I just- – I’ve been so immersed in it. I went away to Woodstock, New York for two months this fall and just completely threw myself headfirst into it and had probably the most creatively fulfilling experience I’ve ever had doing anything. It’s been a passion project of mine. I’ve been writing for two years and I think it’s a completely different side of me musically than people maybe are expecting or have come to know from my past efforts.
Question: When is it out?
Moore: Sometime in April or May.
Question: Why Woodstock?
Moore: I love fall on the east coast and I wanted to be out of LA and not necessarily be in the city. A friend of mine had recorded at the studio and said it was the most inspiring place and it was. It was this 45 foot ceiling, this old monastery that they had converted into a studio with floor to ceiling windows that just overlooked the Catskills. So every day I was watching the leaves change a little bit more and singing this music that is so personal and so vulnerable. It was just the coolest experience.
Question: In the movie, you’re dating two boys.
Moore: I know, lucky girl.
Question: Who’s the better kisser?
Moore: That’s not fair. Then they find out. You guys are like, ‘Oh, Gabriel, she said…’ They were both equally fantastic. That’s always such a nice perk of a movie.
Question: Both different?
Moore: Yeah, as they should be. Wonderful and unique in their own way. Isn’t that a politically correct answer.
Question: Talk about your writing process?
Moore: Oh sure. It just sort of depends. I carry around like a little journal with me, a little moleskin notebook and a pen and just write all the time. Not necessarily like actually sitting down and writing lyrics, just freeform writing, whatever’s going on in my mind. I write a lot on airplanes actually because it’s completely isolating. There’s no one to talk to, there’s nothing to do. And then I think a lot of it sort of comes out sitting down with the people that I’m cowriting- with and talking to them about what I’m going through and what I want to say. It just sort of happens. Every song came about in a completely different yet organic way.
Question: Does this album define who you are now?
Moore: I think so, yeah. It’s my words. And I’m not quite sure how to navigate talking about it because it is so vulnerable. It’s what I’ve gone through in the past two years of my life, ups and downs and love and heartbreak and all that stuff, and figuring out who I am amongst everything. So yeah, I think it’s really telling of who I am and the path that I’m headed on hopefully.