We sat down with Carla Gugino to talk about her new movie, Every Day, a story about a family’s struggle to survive life’s curve-balls that ultimately bring out the best and worst in us and make us closer.
Ned (Liev Schreiber) is a television writer on a seedy drama whose life is turned upside down when his wife’s (Helen Hunt) estranged father (Brian Dennehy) moves in with their family. Carla plays his sexy, free-spirited co-worker who lives in the moment and doesn’t think too much about the consequences. She’s a playful character who introduces some unexpected excitement into Ned’s life while nearly upending it in the process.
Carla talked to us about what attracted her to the project, what she liked best about her character, and also talked about her upcoming films like Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, I Melt with You, Mr. Popper’s Penguins. In addition, she shared her thoughts on next season’s Entourage and the Sundance Film Festival. Hit the jump for what she had to say.
CARLA GUGINO: It was a very typical way in which I got involved in the sense that the script was sent to me. I got a beautiful note from the director which is not typical, which is always very appreciated, and I just opened up the script and started reading it and really loved the story and really loved what it had to say in regards to just the struggles of being an adult and a human being and also loved that this character was such a fun part of the story and such a playful element of it. That, to me, was just very appealing to play.
What was it about your character that really resonated with you and did you draw inspiration from anyone that you know?
GUGINO: I think that the free-spirited nature of the character really resonated with me – both because I have an aspect of that and also because I think I’m always trying to live in the moment and not think too much about consequences. But, I do think about consequences much more than Robin does. So I think it was also fun to live vicariously through her. There wasn’t a particular person in this case. I think I was just really influenced by that kind of freedom of the late 60s, early 70s, as a mentality. There’s always an underbelly to that. There’s always another side to that which is usually there to kind of protect oneself from dealing with pain or attachment or all the other things that are very human elements. But, yeah, there wasn’t a particular person.
How was it working with Richard Levine and what was the directing process like?
GUGINO: It was great. He knew the script so well because obviously he had written it and he had such a sense of the way in which he wanted to tell the story. I felt like I was in very good hands considering that it was his first time that he was directing a film. And I find with most great directors, either with lots of experience or not much experience, when they are collaborative with their actors, while simultaneously having a very strong sense of the story they want to tell, it’s a sign that they’re probably going to be a very good director. Because generally it’s the not great ones that are insecure that are very defensive and try to hold onto things. So, in this way, he definitely had a strong sense of what he wanted but he was very open to our input and it felt very much like a true collaborative process.
GUGINO: We did. We spoke on the phone a couple of times before because we were both in different places and then we just rehearsed maybe for a day or so with Richard, Liev and I. It was a pretty useful process in that way. We both just were in sync on what was important for this character to convey and also what their relationship was and also to make sure since there’s not a lot of screen time with them that we were able to make it feel very real and tangible and that it would be something that would be genuinely alluring to his character. Oh wow, what if I could shed all of my responsibilities and live in this fantasy world to some extent? And the fact that she is certainly encouraging of that.
Is it easier to do a film like this where you’re playing a supporting role as a sexy co-worker than when you’re the star?
GUGINO: I really love them both. There is definitely a wonderful and different kind of responsibility and a real playfulness that can come with being able to be a character that just pops in and shakes things up and leaves. And so that was one of the things that really appealed to me about this as well. Obviously, Helen and Brian, and that side of the story is so much heavier and there is something so beautiful and complex and wonderful about getting to play that. I’ve certainly played a lot of those kind of parts that carry the weight or the moral compass of a piece. So it was really fun for me to come in and not being holding the moral compass at all and just get to play a naughty character.
GUGINO: I think it’s a deliberate choice more for myself than from a career standpoint. But it’s something that I’ve been very aware of from very early on, which is I’m not really interested in playing myself or being a brand or personality in that way. Definitely what excites me and is the reason that I’ve been acting so long and hope to act for the rest of my life is that I love playing different characters and mixing it up. Initially, I think for a while people were confused by the variety of characters and I think now, over time, it’s being regarded more as a body of work which I’m really appreciative of. Again, I think the scariest thing to me is to think that somebody would only associate me with one character and that that’s all that I would get to play. That sounds like actor hell for me. (laughs) So I think it’s intentional too that I have really just wanted to mix it up for myself and for people to see that I can do a multitude of things.
Have you seen a rough cut of Sucker Punch and what are your thoughts on it?
GUGINO: I have not, but I’ve seen big chunks of the movie and I think it’s going to be pretty amazing and visually astounding. There are some incredible characters in this movie and I don’t think it’ll be like any movie anybody has seen. I’m really excited about it.
What was Zack Snyder like to work with again?
GUGINO: Great. I mean, he was so great to work with the first time around and you know the second time around you just have such a shorthand. There’s this innate trust that we both have with each other that I think just makes it [so much easier]. You get to jump off the cliff creatively that much quicker. We got to bring this character to life. The script was like a blueprint for who this character, Madame Gorski, is. And then, we were able to find a multitude of levels beyond that. She was so much fun to play. Also, he and Debbie Snyder have a really great instinct for casting really good people, not only good actors but really good people. So, for both Watchmen and Sucker Punch, the cast have become like my family.
GUGINO: Mr. Popper’s Penguins is based on a children’s book. It’s an updated version of it. It’s with Jim Carrey and Angela Lansbury. Basically, it’s a movie about a family. Jim Carrey plays a man who has become an incredibly ambitious businessman and weaves these grand tales because his father was an adventurer, but his father left him as a young kid to go on these adventures. He was married but now is separated from my character and we have two children together. Ultimately, upon his father’s passing, he is given a bunch of penguins and they really end up warming his heart and bringing the family back together. I think it will be a really fun, funny, beautiful movie.
Did you go after the project or did it come after you?
GUGINO: It came after me which was so lovely. They asked me to do this part and I’d had a year where I’d done quite a bit of dark material and the idea of going and doing something — I mean, you can’t not be happy around penguins. You’re unfortunately happy and cold but the happiness makes up for the coldness.
GUGINO: I Melt with You is a very dark little movie. It’s really interesting and hypnotic and gorgeous. I just saw a cut of it. It takes place in Big Sur in a very small town on the cliffs. I play a local Big Sur cop who comes upon these four guys who have come up there for a weekend away with the boys, but things start to get much darker than you’d expect and my character ends up embroiled a little bit deeper than she anticipated.
Will you be back for Entourage?
GUGINO: (laughs) I don’t know. Amanda does have a way of rearing her head. We shall see.
Are you looking forward to Sundance?
GUGINO: I am looking forward to Sundance if I can go. I hope I can get myself up there. But yes, I’m very excited for them.