Evan Rachel Wood Interview THE WRESTLER

     December 23, 2008

Written by Steve ‘Frosty’ Weintraub

Since the Venice Film Festival, I’ve been hearing the insane buzz regarding director Darren Aronofsky’s new movie “The Wrestler”. People have been raving about not only the film, but Mickey Rourke’s performance as Randy “The Ram” Robinson. And now that I’ve seen it, I understand why.

Simply put, “The Wrestler” is one of the best films I’ve seen this year and I cannot recommend it enough. Performances from the entire cast are amazing, and as you watch the movie, you feel like you’re watching a documentary rather than something scripted. Go see this movie.

Anyway, I recently was able to participate in roundtable interviews with the cast and the one below is with Rachel Evan Wood. In “The Wrestler”, Evan plays Mickey’s daughter and they don’t have a relationship. But due to something happening, they decide to try again.

During our conversation, Evan talked about making “The Wrestler”, her next projectwhich is playing Mary Jane Watson on Broadway in “Spider-Man the Musical”, and her next movie “Whatever Works” – which is the Woody Allen movie she did with Larry David. It’s a great interview and one worth reading.

As always, you can either read the transcript or listen to the audio by clicking here. Finally, here’s a link to some clips from “The Wrestler” and here’s Matt’s review.

Question: You’ve worked with some very distinguished directors, how was it working with Darren?

Evan Rachel Wood: Amazing. He was on my top 5 list of directors that I wanted to work with. So I would have been an extra if he had come to me and said “It’s not a huge part but all the scenes are really important for the story and for Mickey’s character so I need somebody to really bring it in and we don’t have a lot of money. It’s going to be handheld. Have you ever done that? Yeah. I think you can do it.” It was great. He was wonderful. He really worked very closely with me. He bases the characters off of who you are. He wants to get to know you and where you’re coming from and working on a back story so when the day comes, he knows how hard to push you and when to stop and let you breathe.

Q: Marisa just said that Mickey really didn’t want to rehearse and neither did she. I wondered if you discussed the back story of father and daughter. You have such a backstory and a history together before this movie starts.

Evan: Not with Mickey, no, I didn’t speak to him until we were in the middle of a scene and we were rolling. We didn’t even rehearse. I didn’t go in the hair and make-up trailer when he was there and didn’t see him out of character and didn’t talk to him between takes. We just split.

Q: That might work.

Evan: It did because the characters were supposed to be awkward and it helps me not to see him as Mickey Rourke and more in character so I wasn’t intimidated or anything.

Q: Did you film all that stuff in order?

Evan: Pretty much, yeah. The last scene that we filmed was the boardwalk which was nice because it came right after the big breakdown scene. So, to kind of have that afterwards and knowing what we just did made it ten times more heartbreaking, but basically in order, yeah. And I think all of our scenes were shot towards the end of filming too.

Q: So you said you didn’t want to be intimidated by Mickey. Were you a fan of his?

Evan: Yeah. My parents were film geeks so you had to go to your room and think about what you just did if you hadn’t seen “Angel Heart.” (laughter) Yeah, (laughs) I still have that reaction with some people. “Have you seen ‘Angel Heart’?” and I said “No.” And then I look around the room like, “Nobody say anything! Nobody say anything about the movie or the ending. Just shut up, everybody! I have to get this DVD for somebody.” Yeah, I was really excited. I thought he was a great actor and I was glad that he was getting this opportunity to come back considering that he is so close to the character. I don’t think anybody else could have brought what he did.

Q: Did you stick pretty close to the script in your scenes with him or were there moments where the two of you adlibbed?

Evan: No, we stuck pretty close. I know there were a couple things that we both threw in because we were relating to the scenes personally so much. Darren would even come up to me and say “I think this is too much. I kind of want to cut this.” And I’d be like, “You can’t cut that. I’ve said it in real life. You can’t cut that line. It’s going to take me exactly where I need to be.” So no, we wanted to keep as much of the original script as we could.

Q: Was the final exit scene between the two of you a tricky thing to do? Your character was so angry and wanted to get that message across. Did you have to shoot that in multiple takes?

Evan: Yeah. That was all night. That was a really hard night to have to keep doing that over and over and over. And the waves she goes through, you know. First, she’s trying to keep the anger under control, then she just completely explodes, then she’s got to bring it back and then make the decision to just tell him she never wants to see him again, and that was kind of in one take. First, I was too emotional and Darren kept telling me to fight it and bring it back and not let him see how upset you are, because I was just bawling. Halfway through the night we got all of my coverage done and it was time to turn it on Mickey. And right before I cut my thumb open on one of the things I was throwing at him. It was like a soda can and I squeezed it and it just went [makes crushing noise]. So I’m in the middle of my scene and I’m wondering why is my hand wet? It must be soda. And I look down and it was covered in blood and Darren’s going “Use it! Look at your hand! It’s bleeding!” And I was like, “Huh?!” So I got really light headed because I was already exhausted and then seeing that. I was like “Oh, I’m going to have to get stitches.” So he laid me down in a room and an ambulance came and the guys were like, “Yeah, we could take you in and give you a couple stitches or you could superglue it.” (laughs) And we didn’t have a lot of time or money and couldn’t really come back to shoot the scene, and Mickey Rourke is looking at me with his cigarette dangling out of his mouth like “What are you going to do?” (laughs) “I want to superglue it!” Grrrrrr! I’m putting it under hot water and bandaged it to keep going. (laughs) Poor Darren. He’s making the make-up people take pictures of the blood to make sure the blood in the movie is authentic and they’re laughing at it. (laughs) It was worth it.

Q: I was going to switch subjects a little bit. I’m a big Woody Allen fan and I know that you shot in New York City with Larry David, with Woody Allen. I have to know what was that experience like and can you talk about working for Woody?

Evan: It was very stressful. I had never done a comedy before and especially that kind of character. She’s very over the top. Broad. I say broad because that’s the only note I got from Woody about it. [imitating Woody] “Very broad, very broad. Very big. Just act the shit out of it. Just broad.” “Okay, broad, yeah, okay, got it. What?!” So I was really scared but it worked, like working with Larry, because when I read the script, the character is Woody Allen. So I’m going, “Who’s going to play this?” They said, “Larry David” and I said, “Yeah, he’s probably the only other person that could do that.” He had never done a film where he had to memorize lines and I’d never done a comedy. So he would look at me and say, “I’m freaking out. I don’t know any of my lines. We did 5 takes. Is that bad?” And I’d go, “It’s not TV.” And my biggest problem, I’d be like, “Am I funny?” And if I was making Larry laugh, then it was good, but he’s also a lot better at holding the laughter than I am. And it’s bad when you’re on a Woody set because he likes doing everything in one take and no looping and no cutaways and all his stuff is just dialogue. That’s like 10 pages, so you could be on the 7th page and I look at Larry and just go [breaks out laughing] and it’s ruined! You know, nobody else is laughing. It’s not funny at the time. Everybody’s just “Oh God!” And we have to go all the way back. I’ve only heard good things about it and on the final day, that’s when Woody Allen talked to me (laughs) and told me that he would work with me anytime and that I was great. So I got the feedback.

Q: When we did the junket for Vicky Christina Barcelona, all the actors told us their auditions for him lasted for 2 seconds. Can you talk about how you got cast? Did you go in to audition?

Evan: I didn’t. No. I don’t know what film he saw me in but I just got a phone call saying “Woody Allen wants you to do his next movie.” And I said, “Okay. Send me the script.” And they said, “Okay, we’re going to send the script over and you have to read it and give it right back because he’s really secretive and you only get sent these scenes that you’re in.” And I got sent the whole script. (laughs) So, that was cool. But yeah, I was scared.

Q: What was it like filming on the streets of New York with Woody Allen?

Evan: It was awesome because he hadn’t been back to New York in so long and the script is total old school Woody Allen. It was just weird, you know, and he just owns that city. We could film wherever we wanted to. So I felt like I was with the king of New York.

Q: Did it compare to any of his 70s movies? Is there one in particular that you compare it to?

Evan: It kind of reminds me of “Mighty Aphrodite” a little bit because it’s an older man and a very young, ditzy, naïve kind of girl so it reminds me of their dynamic a lot. It’s like an Ebenezer Scrooge character that hates everything and like a little Southern girl that is so dumb that she just sees the good in everything. It was just really sweet and somehow they end up together.

Q: That’s so different for you because in so many of your roles you’re always wise beyond your years.

Evan: It was really weird. It was really weird, but it was fun. It was fun to change it up.

Q: Do you think that will open you up to other kinds of films?

Evan: I hope so. Definitely. I think it’s a side of me that nobody’s ever seen and I knew that I could do comedy, so to get that chance in a Woody Allen movie, you couldn’t ask for a better situation.

Q: Is your hair for a new role or is that just for you?

Evan: No, I did it just for me and then I realized I’m doing Spider-Man on Broadway starting in June after I colored my hair. I mean, duh! Mary Jane. I sent a photo to the director.

Q: How do you feel about that project?

Evan: I’m really excited. You know, it’s Julie Taymor who did the Lion King on Broadway and she’s kind of doing the same thing. I remember hearing the Lion King is going to be on Broadway and I’m going “Hmmmmm.” And then Julie Taymor just takes it to this whole other level. That’s what she’s doing with Spider-Man. Bono and The Edge are doing the music for it. I did the workshop and the little run through of it and it’s awesome. It’s really spectacular and they’re using new technology and wirework and Spider-Man never sings in tights, only as Peter Parker. A man does not sing in Spandex. (laughs) So that was a big deal.

Q: You’ve been saying that you haven’t done a comedy before but with something like Pretty Persuasion which is like a dark comedy, you still make people laugh in a different way. Do you think it requires a different skill set in performance?

Evan: Yeah, definitely. It’s funny because it’s so deadpan. So you still are trying to make it as real as possible and that’s what’s so ridiculous about it, but no, I’ve never had to be really over the top. I was giving Larry all the punch lines, you know. He would set it up, then I would come in and say something and my character would say something stupid. And that’s like what’s funny about it. So I had to really deliver in a different way and a different kind of timing. So much of comedy is about timing. Missing a beat is like missing a line so it’s double. Those guys are just geniuses. Michael McKean is in it, Ed Begley, Jr., Patricia Clarkson. They’re all just pros at comedy. They’re like mathematicians to me. I mean, so much of it is mathematical and counting. It’s insane how their minds work. It was really cool to watch.

Q: Have you gotten any of the music yet for Spider-Man?

Evan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I had to do a read through of it for Marvel in person, kind of an audition. So yeah, I’ve heard all the music and it’s so good. It makes me cry.

Q: Did you work with Bono and The Edge on the songs themselves?

Evan: Yeah. They were coming, going “We wrote this song. Sing it.” Jim Sturgess who played Jude in Across the Universe did the workshop with me. We’re still trying to convince him to play Spider-Man, but I got to read it with him and he’s such a huge, huge U2 fan. There was one time he was learning the song and Bono and The Edge were playing the other parts so they were basically being his back-up singers and I just remember taking him to the side and going “Bono and The Edge were just your back-up singers. Can you just enjoy this moment right now for me, please? It’s 4th of July. We’re never going to forget this.” You know, it was awesome. It was amazing.

Q: I have another Spider-Man question. I wanted to know when you signed on for that, how long of a commitment did you have to give?

Evan: It’s going to be a year total. But I’ve always wanted to do it and I’m never going to get another opportunity like that – originating a role on Broadway with Julie again and with so many people that worked on Across the Universe and that was just the most fun. I mean, Across the Universe was 8 months so it’s not that much longer. I can’t wait.

Q: Did they see you in Across the Universe? Is that how they knew that they really wanted you for the role?

Evan: Yeah. She asked me right away if I wanted to do it and I can never say no to Julie.

Q: There’s talk of an Across the Universe follow-up called Ruby Tuesday.

Evan: Ruby Tuesday?

Q: Yeah, the Stones version. The two producers we interviewed a couple months ago that did Across the Universe said the follow-up was going to be Ruby Tuesday. It was going to use Stones music.

Evan: Really? That’s the first I’ve heard of that. I’m not sure. Oh god! (laughs) It was stressful enough singing the Beatles, like don’t put the Rolling Stones on me now. Please!

Q: How do you feel about taking the time out from your film career to do this big project?

Evan: You know I’ve been asked to do Broadway in the past and I haven’t because I’ve been too afraid to leave, but I think it’s just too special to pass up. And after going through so much with film, I just kind of need a break and to do something that is going to be really fulfilling for me every night and I think it’s just going to be a great experience. And I don’t think it’s really going to take me out of the game. I think it’s going to be big. Everybody will go see it so I’m not too worried about it.

Q: How long is the rehearsal process?

Evan: Let’s see. 3 months. We start in June and we go into October so about 3 months.

Q: What theater are you going to be in?

Evan: I’ve been told it’s the theater that Young Frankenstein is in right now.

Q: Are you going on the road or will you be taking it on the road?

Evan: I don’t know. I’m not sure. Right now it’s just New York.

Q: Are the songs the type that in the tradition of a musical you have to listen to them in the context of the story or is it more like stand alone?

Evan: No, I think you can hear them just on their own. And that’s one of the cool things about it being Bono and The Edge is that they actually sound like hit songs. So, no, I think the soundtrack will be good too because they’re like pop songs.

Q: About the soundtrack, was there one song when you first heard it that you thought this is really, really going to be a hit?

Evan: Yeah. I mean, there are a couple, but I love my solo. It’s just a beautiful song. It reminds me of… I kept going it’s the On My Own moments from Les Mis or something. It’s that kind of feeling. When I heard it – you know, I’m obsessed with David Bowie and my favorite David Bowie song is Ashes to Ashes – and I heard the song and there’s this twangy instrument in it and they looked at me and they said “Yeah, we wanted this song to sound like Ashes to Ashes” and I just went “Whoa!”

Q: Have they announced the story? Does it follow the comic book and/or films’ storyline? I don’t know much about it so…

Evan: Yeah, it’ll pull some things from the films but it’s based more on the comic book and the origin of Spider-Man even before there was a Spider-Man. So it’s going to be a little different. There’s going to be old villains and new villains.

Q: This sounds very interesting with the wirework and villains.

Evan: Yeah! Wait until you see the villains. I wish I could tell you who the villain is. (laughs) I really wish.

Q: Are they villains we’ve never seen in the comics or the movies?

Evan: Uh, yeah. There’s one that’s more of a Greek mythology kind of thing.

Q: What’s the name?

Evan: I can’t say the name but it’s going to be awesome.

Q: We’ve really seen you blossom and transform since you first came to recognition. Has it been hard growing up in front of the public?

Evan: Yeah. And it gets harder and harder because I try to stay away from having my personal life in the press because it’s just too hard and unfortunately I’m kind of a weird girl so it draws attention sometimes. It is hard having to deal with those judgments. No matter how much you want to say it doesn’t bother me or whatever, it’s never fun. And it does interfere with your life a lot so I think that’s another reason why I’m kind of glad to be stepping out for a bit and going on to theater and stuff. I just need a break for a bit.

Q: It sounds like an interesting adjective. You said “Weird girl.” Why do you say that?

A: I don’t know. (laughs) I don’t know. I mean, that’s just what I’m told. (laughs) I don’t think I’m weird. I’m normal to me and I hang out with people like me, but apparently by other people’s standards…

Q: I’d like to jump back into the Woody Allen thing if you don’t mind. I wanted to know if you got to geek out with him at all about any of his other movies and do you have any favorites?

A: I love “Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex but Were Afraid to Ask.” And I’m in love with Gene Wilder and that scene with the sheep, I just died. (laughs) I loved that movie. No, I wish I could. Maybe I’ll work up the courage to. But he’s just so quiet and shy, you know. He worked with my godfather before I was born and I barely got that out. So who knows?

Q: Who was your godfather?

Evan: Jack Grossberg.

Q: So having done episodic television, studio films, independent features and now stage plays, what’s been the most grueling schedule for you?

Evan: Woody Allen was pretty grueling, I gotta say. Comedy, just because I wasn’t used to it, that was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Q: What was your favorite Darren Aronofsky movie before you did this one?

Evan: “Requiem for a Dream.” And the first time I saw that, I was in the middle of filming “Thirteen” and I’d just never seen a movie like that and it made me up my game definitely.

Q: How close is Larry David in person to the Curb Your Enthusiasm character?

Evan: He is that character. That is him. It’s so funny. I was so excited one time we went out for lunch and something happened with the waiter and he wrote it down and said, “This would be good for the show.” And it’s like that thing you have where you’re hanging out with your favorite comedian. You’re like maybe they’ll write about this. He actually did. I don’t know if it’s actually going to end up on the show or not but it’s really funny.

Q: I live in Santa Monica and I’ve seen him before and I saw him in an argument with his kid and I was just walking by on the Promenade and it seemed like watching a live moment from the show. It was amazing.

Evan: (laughs) That’s really funny.

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