Opening this Friday is the new drama “Sleepwalking.” The film actually premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and it stars Charlize Theron, Nick Stahl, AnnaSophia Robb, Woody Harrelson and Dennis Hopper.
The film is about the deep familial bond that develops between a 30-year-old man and his young niece after the girl's mother suddenly leaves town. Forced out of her home after her boyfriend is arrested, Joleen Reedy (Charlize Theron) needs a place to stay with her 11-year-old daughter, Tara (AnnaSophia Robb). She turns for help to her younger brother, James (Nick Stahl) - a simple and overly trusting man who doesn't hesitate to welcome them into his modest rental apartment. Almost as soon as she moves in, however, Joleen hits the road with another man. Utterly ill-equipped to be the sole guardian of an adolescent girl, James does his best to make his distraught niece happy. But before long, things spin out of control: he loses his road crew job and Tara is put into foster care. Additionally, old wounds from his emotionally abusive and sometimes violent father (Dennis Hopper) begin to reopen as James is forced to re-examine his life. That's when James makes a fateful decision that will bring his life full circle and force him to face his demons. He takes off with Tara and the pair assumes new identities as father and daughter. What starts out as a ploy to evade authorities takes on a deeper significance as James strives to become the dad Tara never had, and for the first time finds a true purpose in life.
As you can tell, the movie deals with serious subject matter and it’s a film that let’s all the actors involved demonstrate their abilities.
Anyway, the other day I managed to sit down with Charlize Theron and AnnaSophia Robb for a small roundtable interview. During the twenty or so minutes we talked about the challenges of independent cinema, making this movie, and what they have coming up. It’s a solid interview and as you read it you’ll be able to tell that Charlize is much more than a pretty face and a gifted actor, she’s also a very smart producer.
As usual, you can either the transcript below or download the audio as an MP3 by clicking here. And if you’d like to watch some movie clips from “Sleepwalking,” just click here. Again, “Sleepwalking” opens this Friday in limited release.
Question: I like your top Charlize.
Charlize Theron: Thank you.
Q: What is that?
AnnaSophia Robb: Like Mark and…
Charlize Theron: Mike and Seth. It’s just from my closet. I don’t know who it is.
Q: Well, how did you like your wardrobe in the film?
Charlize Theron: I loved it. I loved it, yeah. It felt very comfortable and felt very real and yeah, there’s no denying putting that on and really feeling like you’re Joleen.
Q: Do you know anyone that’s like Joleen?
Charlize Theron: I don’t personally, no, but you know I observe a lot of people. I observe those kinds of people I don’t know them personally but I’ve watched them.
Q: So what did you pull from to play that role?
Charlize Theron: You know, it’s an understanding of the world. It’s kind of like going in there and doing the research and really I think more than anything understanding what that kind of damage does to somebody and how they retaliate and I mean, I’d done a lot of that kind of research when I played Eileen and also Josie Ames from “North Country” I mean there’s definitely a correlation between those women. It’s interesting when you really kind of study how people kind of deal with a traumentulous past. I mean some kind of turmoil within the family or some kind of an abuse. I think people…I think it’s fascinating to kind of study how different people respond to it, so it really kind of came from that you know, just kind of reading a lot of…I’ve always been fascinating by it, so I’ve read a lot of books on it actually. And I guess just…it’s not hard for me to understand it. It’s kind of effortless for me to understand it. More challenging to actually go execute it but I understand it very much.
Q: Did you see this as an opportunity to transform it yourself again? I have to swear I was looking like is she really Charlize? Is she?
Charlize Theron: No, I’m an actor and I go and do what that job tells me to do, you know? I go and service the story. It’s not about transformation. It’s about finding a story that you emotionally tap into and then servicing that story as the best as you possibly can.
Q: I feel like I’ve said a bad word when I said that.
Charlize Theron: It’s just you know it’s like after “Monster” any time I have brown hair it’s a transformation like the rope just gets tighter and tighter and tighter so it does get a little bit grueling after a while because that’s not the idea. I think we’ve just lost touch with what actors are supposed to do and I think that’s what’s frustrating because our job is to go and tell stories and that sometimes means we have to transform to be authentic and somehow that’s just kind of…when you do that now you’re just a freak and it didn’t use to be the case.
Q: Would you mind…you as a producer of this and you being on the receiving end of it, can you say why casting Dennis Hopper and was he ever nice to you off-screen?
AnnaSophia Robb: Oh yeah. He was oh…Dennis is the best I mean, he’s just completely different from in the moment, in the scene and then once we cut. He always made sure I was okay, you know, he’d always say that was a good take. When he hits me and I fall down, he’d pick me right back up. Very supportive. Taught me lots of little tricks of the trade. I just loved working with him. I learned a lot and it was an honor.
Q: And he’s obviously so perfect in this role, but….
Charlize Theron: You know I can’t lie. When I read it, his face came to mind and I tend to do that quite a bit when I read material. I kind of, you know the imagination goes a little crazy and I start seeing people’s faces and his was definitely…I mean just from the first page--that first dinner scene because it needed somebody with great charisma and yet at the same time this kind of undertone of just complete fear, and he does that so well. So he was always my first choice and Nick was also always my first choice. That came from a long time of actually just wanting to work with him as an actor and when I read it I just thought that that was a really great dynamic for the two of us to work together on that. And he came on board really early on, I mean, I had this project around probably for 4 years and he came on board like a year and a half before we even had the financing sorted out and really remained incredibly passionate about it and once we had the financing sorted out I sent it to Dennis and he got back to me within 24 hours and he said I’m in. I was like ahhhh. Anna was…before we sent it to Dennis I was still kind of on the wall about whether I wanted to kind of see the project through because so much of this emotional story relied on finding the right young actress, so my head was kind of like I love this but until we can find the right person to do it I wasn’t going to kind of just do a mediocre job on that because the story just couldn’t work without somebody who could really…and ironically enough she was working on “The Reaping” with Stephen Hopkins who I did the “Life and Death of Peter Sellers” with. We remained really good friends, and he was at my house on weekend and I was telling him about this and he said, “I’m working with this girl right now. She doesn’t have one line of dialogue. She tells everything with her eyes and she’s amazing and you should meet her.” It was a week later Anna came in and we met and I said sign me on, I’m doing this. I have to do this with her.
Q: AnnaSophia, how did it feel jumping in the pool with your clothes on and roller skates?
AnnaSophia Robb: Well, it wasn’t the first time I jumped in a pool with my clothes on, but the first time with roller skates. It was…you know underwater Charlize and Bill, they were telling me--ethereal and like dancing and looking up and she’s….once she dives in it’s like she’s in this protective little bubble and just looking up and seeing the world from a different angle. From that point you know she’s going to make different choices in her life than her mother did.
Q: What was the other time you’d done that?
AnnaSophia Robb: Oh, after I came back…
Charlize Theron: Last night.
AnnaSophia Robb: Last night…no. At Universal Studios, I played in the fountain with my friends and then I went back and we were soaked anyways so I just jumped in.
Q: I’d like to talk about that pool sequence because it was very interesting and I wondered as a character what you felt when you were leaving the skates behind?
AnnaSophia Robb: Oh, I think she’s leaving behind…she’s accepted growing up. That’s how I saw it. It’s like she’s going to look at life from a new angle, more accepting I guess, taking more responsibility. That’s how I saw it.
Charlize Theron: Yeah, leaving those childhood thoughts behind.
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