Interview: Actors Julianne Moore & Amanda Seyfried, Director Atom Egoyan and Writer Erin Cressida Wilson (CHLOE)
Last week I had the chance to sit down with Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfried, director Atom Egoyan and writer Erin Cressida Wilson from the new film CHLOE, which opens this Friday March 26th. It was a small roundtable with about four other journalists. I hope you enjoy it because I definitely enjoyed the chance to speak with all these guys!
Julianne Moore joined us all first to talk about her role as a woman suspicious that her husband might be cheating on her...
What made you go with this role? This director? This film?
Julianne Moore: Atom is someone whose work I've admired for years. We both really started in independent film in the early nineties and I've admired his work for years. I remember meeting him at the Toronto Film Festival years ago and when this finally came across my desk I was delighted to get to work with him"
What are your thoughts on how Atom and Erin adapted the material from the original foreign film?
JM: Well, it's a very difficult story and in the wrong hands it could be really horrible and abhorrent. I mean, that's really what I thought. I knew that because of Atom and Erin it wasn't going to be. Atom is interested in exploring the nuances of human behavior and the thing that I said to him too was that we played it so true. I wanted every step that Catherine takes to seem like the logical one because what she does is seemingly illogical and somewhat theatrical in a sense. As long as we keep it so that everything she's done leads to its inevitable conclusion. Working with Atom, he's always interested in that so it was really reassuring.
I thought the film was grounded in the real fear of somebody who is growing older and suddenly doesn't feel as attractive and you don't really see that too often on the big screen, so I asked Julianne if that was something that attracted her to the part of Catherine.
JM: You don't see any depictions of marriage and middle-age marriage on the screen anywhere. So many movies are about wanting to get married...and oh, I'll meet a guy and then we'll get married and they do and they get married and that's the end! Yay! Most of us know that marriage is anything but that and that's just the beginning of something and it ends up taking up a major piece of real estate in your life. Marriage is a big, big deal and sometimes it's wonderful or has its ups and downs. Whatever it is, it's compelling and this was a story about people who had been married for twenty years and you never get to see that. And also feeling that you're in the middle of your life and you're disenfranchised with someone who's supposed to be your life partner and the relationship has become adversarial and you don't know how that happened and yeah, feeling like you're not what your husband wants anymore. So, yeah, aging, mortality...all of those things.
[We then wound up talking about the rather provocative relationship that develops between Chloe and Julianne's character, Catherine.]
The two of them are both exceedingly intimate, but how they are drawn to that intimacy are two separate things. Catherine believes she has this conduit to her husband and a way back to him and Chloe is getting someone to listen and to really see her. So it's real what's happening, it's just not the same thing that's happening.
You've been in some very revealing roles both physically and psychologically but it was Amanda's first time doing more provocative scenes. How did you two help each other get through some of the the tougher scenes?
We spent a lot of time together in a lot of scenes before we had to do any of the sexual scenes so by then we knew each other pretty well. It was choreographed. Atom was really careful about it and we felt sure of what we were doing. The most important thing with those things is just to know exactly what you're doing.
[When Amanda Seyfried joined us, I asked her if she thought this was a breakout role for her even though she is already a highly visible actress having just worked with Meryl Streep in MAMMA MIA.]
Amanda Seyfried: Absolutely. That's how I took it. You don't get the opportunities when you're my age...well now maybe so...but a couple years ago it didn't seem so possible to get roles like this. It was my first chance to play a real character that has no relation to who I am. If you can't connect to the character you're going to play it's a big feat and a big challenge and I needed that because I wasn't being challenged at all. I was playing versions of myself, I mean MAMMA MIA was not a challenge. It was one of the best experiences of my life, I got to work with great actors but it wasn't what I was hungry for. So this script came along and I thought oh weird...naked...love scenes...who's going to play these roles. And then I auditioned and I met Atom and Ivan. And Atom liked me and he chose me. So I signed on and a year later, Liam and Julie signed on and that propelled us into pre-production. It was so fast when it all started happening. I wasn't ready and I was scared because it was Julianne Moore and I didn't want to screw it up.
Do you feel like there was an element of risk in taking this role?
AS: The risk really for me had to do with the nudity aspect. I'm an American actress in mainstream movies and I would like to always be able to work in mainstream movies as well as smaller movies. For some reason, nudity is perceived differently here for some reason and I didn't want to lose any of the audience I was building. I was just scared. There was even a friend of mine that didn't audition for it because of the nudity.
I'm sure you were assured that it would be tastefully done though.
AS: Absolutely. Nudity doesn't scare me at all. The only thing that scares me is how it's going to be perceived.
Well, do you think this is going to be perceived as the film you get naked in? Do you feel like that's exploitive?
AS:I mean, there's always a part of it that feels wrong but because it's done the best it can be done and because people under 17 cannot see it...I just don't like to think about that actually. I like to think about the hardcore Egoyan fans that will be going to see it and I just hope they like it as much as the last one. I don't know if people are that aware of this movie and that saddens me. What if the audience isn't really aware. I guess I'm just feeling insecure because it's something I really love. I mean, I can't really watch it.
Have you watched it yet?
AS: Yeah. I can't separate myself from it. I can't tell you how I feel about it it's really weird. It's the first time that's ever happened to me. I walked out of the Toronto Film Festival and I was like....I don't know. I don't know. And that was mostly tied to the fact that I was mostly watching myself the whole time and not watching Chloe.
Do you think that maybe ties into what you said earlier that this was the first time you were playing a character that wasn't a version of you? Do you think that's part of why its hard to gauge how you feel?
AS: Absolutely. I didn't find it hard to watch other movies of mine. That's why I think its probably because I channeled something else for this. Every step was hard and that is what acting is all about. It's not just being good at playing yourself and I can confidently say that I'm good at playing myself. I usually think how would I react to this in the moment ant that's how I make it realistic but I can't do that. I have to think how would Chloe react and that was the first time I had to do that. Just completely throw out my own feelings. It was crazy. It was so hard.
How did you do that? Did you invent a story for Chloe?
AS: Umm no... I'm always me. As soon as the camera stops rolling Chloe's gone. I jump into it and so does Julianne. When I'm working with her for the most part she's just like me. We can be having a conversation about anything...whatever conversation and then just go straight into character. It was great to know somebody so experienced that does the same thing. She knows who character and can just snap in and out of it.
How much back story was there with Chloe if any?
AS: There was some that me and Atom knew that had been cut out of the movie like she was kicked out of her house at 14, had a brother and that her mother said to come back and she never really knew her father. She's been on her own and hasn't been in school she's been trying to survive. She finds this power in her sexuality and that's how she makes it. Stuff that over time has damaged her. Everything has gotten twisted and she may be somewhat delusional.
[It was obvious that the role of Chloe really shook her up so I asked her if she was more reluctant now to take more challenging roles in the future...]
AS: Whoa. Yeah...but that's how you win Oscars! Intense roles are more fun but if you go out and do three intense roles in a row go out and make a romantic comedy.
What do you have coming out next?
AS: A romantic comedy! It comes out in May. It's called LETTERS TO JULIET. I have to go back to work.
It's nice to have a job lined up though.
AS: I know but it is a tough industry. I feel like my mouth is going to get be into trouble. I have this need to be so honest. So brutally honest to people I don't know.
It's just like the film you want to tell a stranger everything.
AS: The strangers are always journalists though! I feel like I get closer to the people I'm talking to though. If you're not honest than what's the point in sharing?
SECRETARY and CHLOE scribe Erin Cressida Wilson and director Atom Egoyan then joined us for a quick wrap-up...
What do you think was Chloe's motivation for inserting herself into Catherine's life?
Atom Egoyan: The ability to tell her story to someone that would listen. She gets to tell her life to someone who is so attentive for her own reasons and that becomes intoxicating to her. She falls for Catherine in a profound way because she has someone to listen to her.
Is it harder to write a screenplay about a strong woman or strong women in today's industry?
Erin Cressida Wilson: I'm an artist and not a critic so I speak from my own experience which is that I've been terribly lucky to do it repeatedly with SECRETARY, FUR, and CHLOE. Creating protagonist in SECRETARY, there was a real danger in having people say this girl is not a feminist, this girl is bad and somehow it worked in the end. This is what I write and this is my psyche and I have no problem with it. Julianne is obviously a genius with doing it. I have to say that twenty years in the New York theater that was not an easy thing to do to write women who are that complex. It's not what they seem to wanna produce but I've had more luck with the film world.
Atom, what do you think about the difficulty of finding strong roles for females to portray?
AE: There are certain ways that people want to see things and it's always difficult to break new ground. What attracted me to the script was that by the end of the movie, Catherine is either someone who has understood that she has profoundly changed this human being or someone who could be incredibly calculated...and either interpretation really works and that's really because of what Catherine brings to the role. I mean I don't know any other actress who could have a first scene where she says an orgasm is a series of muscular contractions and there's nothing mysterious about it. That's our intro! But we still buy her and that's a rare person who can pull that off.
Thanks to all involved and look for CHLOE in theaters this Friday.
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