She’s Hollywood’s brightest and most alluring new stars, now starring in the darkly funny film noir thriller Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, Bang. Michelle Monaghan is a true Hollywood beauty and a major talent, for audiences can also see her in North Country and in next year’s secretive Mission Impossible: 3. Garth Franklin reports.
Question: So we hear you’re making this small budget movie called Mission Impossible III…
Monaghan: It is. Oh, it’s such a small budget. (Laughter)
Question: Is there even room for catering in there?
Monaghan: No, no… exactly, exactly. I’m bringing my own peanut butter and jelly…
Question: It must be tough to have a career like that…
Monaghan: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Question: How is that going – they said you were very bad in that movie… we just talked to the writers.
Monaghan: Very… like my character?
Monaghan: My character?
Question: Yes, they said your character is very bad… (Laughter)
Monaghan: Shit, I hope they’re talking about my character. (Laughter)
Monaghan: Apparently I won’t be going back next week.
Question: Yeah, Michelle, you sucked in that movie.
Question: She really sucked and we’re going to tell everybody right now.
Monaghan: Jesus. They could at least let me know first. (Laughter)
Question: No, they said you were the bad girl.
Monaghan: Really? Oh… they might be pulling your leg.
Question: Have you had a lot of stunts(?)
Monaghan: I… I haven’t actually. : I’m learning snowboarding right now – : because I have a scene where I snowboard, which is really interesting because I didn’t know you could actually learn how to snowboard like on a machine. It’s this machine that’s on a slope and it moves…Does nobody know about this except for me?
Question: They have it at snowboard shops.
Monaghan: I’ve been doing it now for like three days and I keep thinking I would have fallen at least 200 times by now. And I’m saying, there’s no way I’m learning how to do this until I get out on the slopes. And I’m just doing it like two hours a day and I’m just beat by the end of the night and I don’t even have to like pick myself up and… I don’t know, it’s going to be disastrous so… you know, we’ll see.
Question: But that would be exciting getting that…
Monaghan: It is… it really was. It was just such an amazing thing, you know.
Question: Where are you filming?
Monaghan: We’re filming – they started out in Rome and then,… we’ve been shooting in L.A. and then we’re going to go to Shanghai in about, in a few weeks. So I’m really, really looking forward to that. That will be cool.
Question: Where’s the snowboard thing taking place?
Monaghan: We don’t know yet – somewhere… somewhere. (Laughter)
Monaghan: They haven’t figured when or where there’s going to be snow so… (Laughter)
Monaghan: I saw we just shoot it on the machine. (Laughter)
Question: Then you know you’ll be good.
Monaghan: Just blue screen it – you know what I mean. Just hold on to the ballet bars… Wooooo… (Laughter)
Question: So is the energy around you just massing since North Country and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and all the press that you’re getting for that…Are you just feeling something… it’s just vibing?
Monaghan: It really is. I mean it’s… it’s… it’s just such… it really is an exciting time right now. I mean I… I love both of these films. And to be honest it’s a real coincidence that they’re even coming out in the same weekend. You know, originally this was supposed to come out I think like a few months ago…You know, so… and we shot this a year-and-a-half ago, and North Country we, we completed in April. So I mean the turnaround on that was really quick. So, you know, all of a sudden, you know, they’re both coming out. And it is… but it’s just amazing actually. I’m kind of like walking on air right now.
Question: How did that happen? Did you just get ’em like boom, boom, boom?
Monaghan: : well… I had three wishes…
Question: Right. (Laughter)
Monaghan: Um… no I… for Kiss Kiss it was, you know, like two years ago. I read the script. It came through my agent, of course. You know, it was one of those scripts that you just kind of flip through. It’s just… I couldn’t believe the dialogue, and these characters were so colourful. And you never read… especially roles in Hollywood for women, you don’t read roles like this very much. It’s either like a thriller or it’s a romantic comedy or it’s a drama. And here was a character that embodied all these different things. I mean she was funny. She was vulnerable. She got to do her own stunts and she was sassy. I mean she was all these different things and I thought, oh, my god, it doesn’t get much better than this – plus, whatever comes out of my mouth it’s like great dialogue… and I get to swear! (Laughter)
Monaghan: Which is very easy for me to do. So, you know, it was, um… it was so exciting. So I went in and I read with Shane. He read the role of Harry, and he had Joel come in and it was really positive from Joel, and then I didn’t hear anything for like two months. And I had literally forgot about… I think it was like… it was a different title at that point – or LAPI I think it was – and I’d forgot all about it and I got a call when I was working on the Bourne Supremacy in Berline and Joel Silver had called Frank Marshall, who is the producer, and said, listen, we really, really want Michelle to fly in to read with Robert, we’ll have her right back on the plane. And they called me and they said, you know, Kiss Kiss – I was like, I don’t even know what script you’re talking about… I’d forgot all about it! (Laughter)
Monaghan: But anyway, I got on the plane, flew out here – was literally in the Warner Bros. office for, you know, less than an hour and got back… had a great reading with Robert. And the minute I got off the plane, turned on the phone – as you do – and found out I got the job and then started three days later here in L.A.
Question: Did they fly you first class?
Monaghan: Of course. It’s not as bad as it sounds. I was sipping on Mimosas learning my lines… (Laughter)
Question: So each of the films is drama, comedy, a bit of action. Are you playing now the tough chick in Mission Impossible III – are we going to see you basically running the gamut in a span of two years?
Monaghan: You know, you’re… : you know not necessarily. I mean, um… gosh, I really hate to say too much about it because it just freaks me out because they made me sign my life away. But, Yeah, that sort of thing. But, I’ve got a few of those bits in there, ah, you know, where you see some action. But the great part of… the great thing about this script from Mission is that it explores Ethan Hunt’s home life. So you see a lot of drama in that. If you can imagine, you know, it’s J. J. Abrams, it’s Lost, it’s Alias… so of course you’re going to have all of those bits where it’s like shoot ’em up. So you’re going to have this action but you’re also going to have a lot of drama. He’s a wonderful writer so… you’re going to find that this one’s a lot more character driven than I think you’ve seen in the past.
Question: So are we going to find you popping up on Lost now?
Monaghan: No… I don’t… well, who knows. I wouldn’t be opposed to it but, no… not that I know of anyway.
Question: How’s the set with the paparazzi with Tom and Katie – we vaguely heard that they were dating or something. (Laughter)
Monaghan: You know what, to be honest I haven’t been there when there’s been any paparazzi. Everything that I’ve been working on has kind of been inside the… sound stages, so everything’s been inside that so I really haven’t encountered any, any paparazzi or anything like that. So
Question: Were you there when he announced that he was…
Monaghan: No… I’ve actually been on break. Actually I haven’t even, : seen him since, since it’s broke. So I’ll see him next week so that’ll be exciting. I’ll have to think of a clever present.
Question: So tell me your story – I mean how did you start and everything.
Monaghan: : well I grew up in a small town called Winthrop in Iowa and, ah… it’s about 700 people, it’s really tiny. And I finished high school and I went to, ah, Chicago to study journalism.
Question: Oh, where?
Monaghan: Ah, Columbia College. And it was about… I had about 18 credits left and I went, oh, my god, this isn’t what I want to do. (Laughter)
Monaghan: And I didn’t know what I wanted…
Question: You really are glad you did that.
Monaghan: No, I was really pissed off because I was about 100-grand into it, you know what I mean, and I was going, oh, no. : but I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I knew that I kind of thought that I wanted to do something creative, but I didn’t know on what scale or what level. So I knew I wanted to move to New York. I really had this overwhelming sense that something was going to happen to me there. I know it sounds cheesy but I was like, mom, dad, I’m dropping out of school, I’m moving to New York. And they were so supportive…
Question: You miss Chicago a lot?
Monaghan: I do. You know I love Chicago. It’s amazing… yeah, it’s a great city. But, : you know, I moved to New York and when I was in college I had been modelling at the time – that’s how I was putting myself through school – and I slowly but surely… you know, I continued modelling for lack of anything else to do when I was in New York, and then started doing commercials, you know, like Secret deodorant, you know… I got that old Tampax commercial in there to make my dad proud. (Laughter)
Monaghan: And then, you know… and then started doing like the kind of right of passage, : Law and Orders, The Hack – all of those things – and, and then started, you know, it really kind of started to work. And Unfaithful – directed by Adrian Lyne – with, : you know, Richard Gere, was kind of my first role. And it was after that experience… it was so…
Question: What were you there?
Monaghan: I played his secretary.
Monaghan: I always joke… it’s completely forgettable but that experience for me was totally unforgettable. (Laughter)
Question: I remember you.
Monaghan: It was an amazing… how could you forget!
Question: What about North Country, how did that happen?
Monaghan: : North Country – once again I, : auditioned for it – the script came by me… I loved the script, you know. This was also something that was… it appealed to me because I’m from the Midwest and, : and so… what really surprised me was that this was a really significant case and event that took place that nobody was aware of, that nobody knew about, and really it changed the workplace for like… forever. My father grew up in a factory – or not grew up in a factory, sorry, worked in a factory for 37 years, um – he was in child labour – (Laughter)
Question: What are they mining now? What’s the big metal there?
Monaghan: : well there’s no mining in Iowa but it was northern Minnesota that that took place. Yeah, it’s corn in Iowa – corn and beans, so it was a really, really important – and second of all, it was… it appealed to me because it was such a boy’s club. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang I was kind of the only girl, which I loved, but then all of a sudden I go to this film that was just about women being surrounded by women and… you know, Niki… Niki Caro is just an unbelievable…
Question: And three best actresses…
Monaghan: Oh, right… like… it doesn’t get better than that. There’s… seriously there’s not. And it was just so incredible. I’ve never kind of spent a lot of time with women that you barely know and what we’re talking about just opened up a dialogue that was really, really beautiful. And it was such a personal experience for me I really am… I’m really, really proud of the film and I’m so excited that we… we’ve made a film that really entertains people but it’s also informing people as well, which I think is so, so very, very important because it still goes on… it’s still going on today. And, um… you know, the other night they were with us – the women – at this premier and they… really they opened their lives to us and they really shared with us some really personal things. So to be able to have that night with them where we really celebrated was just an awesome, awesome experience.
Question: You worked with women who’ve won all those Oscars- I mean do you… do you take a lot from them?
Monaghan: Oh, my god, absolutely. I mean this is… this is what’s so important. I mean, not only do I love… Somebody’s just… has gone ‘click’.
I’m having so much fun but I’m not a trained actor so I’m truly like every experience is like Acting 101, it’s Acting 202 or Acting 303. Like I’m seriously learning as I’m going along and…The pressure’s on, right. : but that’s, that’s the thing that so… it’s just amazing because the level of people that I am getting the chance to work with, and directors as well, I mean it’s… it blows my mind, truly. It’s just… it’s incredible.
Question: How did you meet Val – because he can be a strange guy sometimes. What are your memories…
Monaghan: This is funny because I did my read through like two days after I did the Bourne Supremacy. And we started to do the read through – as you do – and I literally was just like thrown into it – I was jetlagged – and I gave the worst read through known to man…like so bad. It was so bad. And I… you could hear the breaths and everything like that. And then Val came up to me a couple of weeks later, he came and pulled me over to the side and he said, you know what, and I was like, what – he was like you sucked so bad at that read through…He was like you sucked so bad I couldn’t even believe I signed up to do a movie… and I was like, AHHHHH…You know you can imagine, like, oh, my god. And then he goes, and now I’m just telling you that because I think you’re one of the most extraordinary actresses I’ve worked with… (Laughter)
Monaghan: But you know… it’s like… it was one of those things where you’re just going… so that was like my first experience meeting him, knowing how badly I sucked. He didn’t… nobody even had to tell me I was going… and I had to start work the next day and I was like they’re seriously going to fire me if I don’t like pull it out of my… you know. (Laughter)
Monaghan: And thankfully I did… you know, there’s nothing better than, you know, having the chips down and kind of… you know, you’ve got nowhere else to go but up, and I kind of love being in that sort of…
Question: Are you married?
Monaghan: I am. I’m a newlywed.
Question: What does your husband do?
Monaghan: Ah, he’s a graphic designer.
Question: High school sweetheart or anything?
Monaghan: No. : you know, we met about, you know, about four or five years ago in New York – um… kind of just as I started acting actually.
Question: Given how specific the dialogue is in this movie, and given that Shane was writing and directing, was there any wriggle room for improv?
Monaghan: There, there was. That’s the… that’s… I mean, there’s something to be said to have the writer and the director in the same room. I mean if you have a question – for me that was essential, you know. I’m not really trained so it’s like how does that really work, do you… do you necessarily know the intent, you think you know the intent but you don’t want to step on anybody’s work… I mean it’s just really… it’s a fine line for me, I’m kind of learning as I go along. So to have Shane like, you know, so what’s the… okay, that’s it, that’s it… can we play with it… and it was wonderful. I mean I didn’t really have the need to change his words or the dialogue much because they’re so wonderful, but he really trusted us and he allowed us to really have fun with it and kind of push it to extremes, and if it became too much then he’d just like tell us, you know, to pull it back. But that… that was, um… it was an incredible atmosphere to work in like that. And that’s exactly how Robert and Val are as well, I mean they just go for it, you know. And the very first day Robert knocked on my door and he said just go for it, just do whatever… do whatever you want to do, we’re going to have so much fun making this film. And I was like, okay, okay… just go for it, that sounds so easy – okay, hey, you know. (Laughter)
Monaghan: And he really taught by example. I have to admit, you know, um… you’ve got no other recourse than to go for it because when you see what he does… he can do it without even trying to do it almost.
Question: Were you like the little sister on set with him and Val?
Monaghan: Yeah, totally, totally – which was great because I have two older brothers so I, I felt… you know… when they were teasing me I felt comfortable, you know.
Question: Were you able to relate to his character a lot?
Monaghan: Absolutely. I mean… the thing is she’s certainly… she cynical and she’s a little bit desperate but what I love about her so much is that I think she embodies what a lot of women are – I think she’s sassy and she’s a fighter and she’s vulnerable and she’s sad and she’s funny and she’s… she’s strong. And, : so… you know, she takes it to extremes certainly at a level that I don’t but, um… absolutely. I love… I love how, : hopeful she is. I think I… you know, I… certainly I mean I’ve had a lot of luck in the last few years but, : people realise for every job that I’ve gotten I’ve had like 50 that I haven’t, you know. I’ve been on a lot of auditions and I… I love the idea that she’s 35 and she’s… you know, she still thinks she’s going to be famous. And I think no matter what – how much rejection that I have had I’ve still always been like all right, well that’s all right, you just keep foraging ahead. And so I really appreciated that about her.
Question: Do you have anything lined up after Mission?
Monaghan: I don’t.
Question: Or anything you’re eyeing or looking at?
Monaghan: There is… there are a few things. I’m just starting to look now so…
Question: Anything you can talk about…
Question: That’s caught your eye…
Monaghan: Mm, not really.
Question: Are people recognising you? What’s the first few times that’s happened where… when you’re about and about or…
Monaghan: Not really. I mean what I did… I did Boston Public… I did like a seven episode arc on that, and I remember like a few people here and there like on the street would, : would recognise me or something.
Question: So what’s next… I mean what ultimately do you want to do? I mean where do you see yourself in 10 years, or do you take it day by day?
Monaghan: Well certainly I take it… I mean I feel like I’m so at the beginning right now that everything appeals to me. I don’t want to like say, you know… I’d love to do a romantic comedy. My ultimate dream, I’m dying to do theatre. You know, that’s really, really what I’d like to do.
Question: Have you done it?
Monaghan: I did a couple of plays in high school – if that counts.