This may be one of the best interviews I’ve ever done. Steve is the interviewing master and has done way more than me, but I’m really proud of this one because it eventually turned into a conversation. It helps that Kat Dennings is a ridiculously cool chick. I spoke to her because she co-stars in the new movie Defender, which hit theaters in limited release a few days ago.
Usually, the interview is the standard Q&A and later I judge how badly I did (my apologies to Diablo Cody/Ellen Page and to Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg/Nick Frost). But Dennings has certified geek credentials and while I had to bring up Thor because she’s in it, she knew her comics and grew up with them. It’s clear that it’s not just being in a big blockbuster movie, but being in the Marvel Universe. All she could tell me was that her character is not from the comics and they haven’t shot her scenes yet.
We also talked about comics in general, her upcoming movie Daydream Nation with Josh Lucas, her involvement in social media and how she’s switched from keeping a blog (that she started back in 2002) to Twitter (I recommended that she follow Roger Ebert), among other topics. Hit the jump to read our conversation and hopefully you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed having it.
KAT DENNINGS: Please excuse my voice. I’ve got some allergies so I sound a little hoarse.
Oh, don’t worry about it. So I was wondering, was Defendor a project you went after or was it a project that came after you?
DENNINGS: Ah, you know what, it felt a little bit of both. I got the script and went bananas for it. It was just really original and dark and messed up, really messed up and it was beautiful at that same time. And the role, for me, was….and a really long time before anybody else was attached…it was just the story. And my role is, on the page, she’s a crack addicted-hooker; just as a little kid smoking crack and selling herself. So it’s a really daunting thing to take on and I was just sort of thinking, “I don’t know if I can pull this off. I’ve never felt any of the things that she’s feeling. I’ve never done any of the things she’s doing, you know? So in that sense I kind of went after it immediately and I knew they were interested but I think [writer/director] Peter Stebbings, a pretty normal person looking person, and he was kind of like, “Can you do this?” and I was like, “I don’t know, man.” And he had me come in and I auditioned with other girls and I guess he showed the tapes to Woody or whatever and it came together. It’s amazing. I’m pretty happy because I got it.
Speaking of Woody, he’s known for improvising a lot and I was wondering what was it like working with him knowing he has that style?
DENNINGS: He didn’t improvise a lot.
DENNINGS: He might be like me and that certain thing that I like to improvise a lot and other times I stick to straight to the page. It really depends. Like maybe once in a while like he and I would change a line but pretty much we pretty much set it totally to the script. There might have been one or two words that were changed, but barely.
Matt: Okay, okay.
Do you prefer actors who improvise a lot and that sort of style on-set?
DENNINGS: No, I mean I think in comedy it’s sort of like there’s a bigger opportunity for improv, depending on what you’re doing, but like Judd Apatow is improv, you know? And it obviously works, for me anyway. But with drama, it depends. It depends. I mean it depends on how you’re both feeling and kind of improves the scene. If it improves the scene, great, if not, just forget about it.
Right. I was actually doing some research for the interview last night and I noticed you’ve kept up a personal blog since 2002.
DENNINGS: Yeah. Right? Isn’t that crazy? Oh my God…8 years.
Yeah. And I was wondering as you become more successful over the years, has it been difficult to keep up with blogging? Do you wish you could post more? Or do you find that Twitter is sort of a better way?
DENNINGS: No. it’s sort of almost like a…I don’t know…you know I have had this blog forever and I used to write in it like twice a week or once a week or whatever, and now, you’re right, it is really hard and the thing is kind of like rushed half-assed posts, but I kind of don’t want to. And I mean like if I post I want it to be really well thought out and that’s sort of why…it’s the blog is kind of winding down. I mean, I’ll leave it up for the archives but for the most part, yeah, I mean I doubt I’ll be doing that because I have a Twitter now, which is so…you know, whatever what you’re doing but it easier because it’s a couple of sentences and you’re done. And it’s your problem if you make it fun to read.
All right, no. I’m on Twitter and I feel it’s entertaining as long as you’re not “I’m eating a sandwich now …”
DENNINGS: Right, exactly. And you can do that with irony but it’s, yeah, it’s a funny challenge for a writer and yeah, I enjoy it. I like it. I like it a lot actually. There’s some amazing people on there.
There are, yeah. Roger Ebert is like the most interesting guy. It’s weird that he…I wouldn’t have thought of him you know from “At the Movies” but he’s amazing on Twitter.
DENNINGS: Really? I don’t have his thing…you know who’s on there is Nick Frost and…
…and Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright.
DENNINGS: Yeah, Simon Pegg and my friend Edgar.
DENNINGS: …they’re all on there and they are hilarious.
Yeah, they are fantastic. I think it’s when they started slash-fic-ing Hot Fuzz.
DENNINGS: Oh my God, that was outrageous.
That was the best.
DENNINGS: That was so stupid. I just love when they talk to each other. Brings me great nerd joy.
Indeed. So I was wondering, did you ever think you were going to be involved in Marvel’s….one of Marvel’s biggest super hero movies with Thor?
DENNINGS: No. I mean I had hoped. I mean it’s the kind of thing as a little kid that you want to do, you know? I mean my brother had all those comic books and he had action figures and I grew up with that stuff. So yeah, it’s almost like wanting to be a Princess. It’s like you want to be a superhero, too. It’s incredible. It’s such a dream. I really can’t believe I’m in this movie. I’m so excited. I’ve been thinking about it. It’s almost like when little kids know they’re going to Disneyland and they get really excited and start counting the days. That’s how I am.
So, I mean I know filming has started but have you shot your scenes yet or is that still coming up?
DENNINGS: No. All my stuff is towards the end, yeah, towards the end of the shoot.
DENNINGS: Yeah no, I just can’t wait. Everytime…I remember when I had fittings like before I left I had a bunch of fittings and a bunch of hair and makeup tests and I was so excited. I would wake up like an hour or two early. Because I mean it’s Kenneth Brannagh man. I mean he is one of the greats. One of the legends.
Absolutely. You can only really think of him with something….Thor is so different and getting the guy who directed Hamlet.
DENNINGS: Yeah. I mean, it’s such an incredible idea. I mean he is the…first of all besides being obviously one of the greatest living actors, he’s the nicest man. The nicest, most wonderful man. I’m just so excited. I’m like everybody.
So I take it, are you a comic book geek?
DENNINGS: Yeah, totally. Totally, yes, yes, yes.
Have you sort of…is your character in the comics?
DENNINGS: No. She’s not. She’s a new invention. Yeah.
Okay. I believe I read, and correct me if I’m wrong, that your character is a friend of Natalie Portman’s character?
DENNINGS: Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know how much I can say.
Okay. Are you actually a god in the film?
DENNINGS: I can’t tell you…
Can’t tell me? Can’t tell me anything? Okay.
DENNINGS: No, I can’t tell you.
That’s fine. Are you prepared to go to Comic-Con with this movie?
DENNINGS: Oh God. If they need me to go, I’ll go. I don’t know if I’m going to have to go but if they…believe me I will do anything. I will follow Thor anywhere.
DENNINGS: I hear Comic-Con is crazy.
It’s absolutely insane. I went last year and the “Iron Man” panel alone was just insane.
DENNINGS: Oh God.
Just one of the craziest moments ever.
DENNINGS: I can only imagine.
Yeah. So, is Thor going to be, do you know if it’s going to be a long shoot? I mean when are you planning to shoot and are you doing any movies in between?
DENNINGS: I just did…they started shooting in January, I believe. And I did a film…I just got back from doing another one. So yeah, I did one in between, but I am….yeah Thor is a very long shoot, but again, it has to be a long shoot. It’s an epic.
Right. Have you seen sort of any of the costumes or anything because a lot of people are wondering, you know, this one is so different from “Iron Man” or even “Captain America” because it’s taking place between two different worlds? It’s sort of like a weird mix of “Lord of the Rings” and “Spiderman” almost. At least that’s what it seems like from the plot synopsis.
DENNINGS: I don’t know, you know? I’ve seen some amazing, amazing things. And listen believe me, I’ve been where you are and wanting to know stuff because, you know, it’s Thor. It’s part of all of our childhood. But the thing is, I signed maybe 25 confidentiality agreements about this kind of thing.
Right, right. Okay.
DENNINGS: So I understand and I feel your pain, but I can’t tell you anything.
No, no I don’t want to press you on that. I definitely know they’re trying to keep it under wraps and I think you kind of have to.
DENNINGS: Listen to me, listen to me. It’s going to be worth every moment of waiting. I promise.
Matt: Okay. When they moved it back from this year to 2011, a part of me died inside.
DENNINGS: I know. Believe me like I’ve got so many frantic like fan-boy questions and I’ve been like “I understand. I’m so sorry. I wish I could say more, but I can’t.” But I assure you, like it far surpassed any of my wildest fantasies about what this movie could be. I mean it far surpassed it. It’s just going to be glorious.
Matt: Excellent. So, the film you’ve done in between, is that Richard Linklater’s Liars (A-E)?
DENNINGS: No. It was….that one’s on hold. But I have this movie called Daydream Nation, which is another small budget movie. Another Canadian filmmaker. Amazing script, amazing Josh Lucas is in it with me. He’s incredible. Andie McDowell is in it. Obviously also incredible. And Reese Thompson-amazing. Everyone was great. Really good movie. Really, really different role for me. But that’s another…
Can you talk about your role in that film a little bit?
DENNINGS: Yeah. I play this girl called Caroline Wexler and she moves kind of from a bigger city to a very little tiny hick town sort of in the middle of nowhere. And she finds herself falling, I guess, for 2 men. One who is a man, Josh plays her teacher, and one who’s a boy who’s her age or a little younger. And it just starts off with a chain of events and it’s a very beautiful kind of languid movie. Like it’s a little bit….the filmmakers said like it referenced Badlands. I don’t think it’s anything like Badlands but it sort of has that dreamy quality to it, but it’s very, very, very suspenseful. Like it’s really, really cool.
So it’s not like Badlands but it’s definitely sort of a suspenseful small movie?
DENNINGS: It’s suspenseful. I mean it hasn’t been cut together but from what I gleam of it and from what I felt when I was doing it, is it’s sort of like a mystery 30’s love story but it’s very dark and kind of you know, it’s her teacher and she’s lying and there’s a lot of….there’s murder and there’s….just…
All that good stuff that we all go through in high school.
DENNINGS: Yeah, all that stuff I love about movies. I’m really excited. I’m pretty proud of this movie, so we’ll see.
Cool. I just wanted to roll back to Defendor because one of the things I noticed about it and how it deconstructs the superhero and Watchmen, did that 20 years ago in comics but now we have comic-book movies, and you get the Watchmen movie and Defendor and Kick-Ass coming up and I was just wondering sort of what are your thoughts on that?
DENNINGS: Oh well yeah, it seems like it’s sort of like the time, you know? But that said, I grew up with my brother’s comic books and his super hero…is action figure collection and all that stuff. It’s almost like fairy tales are always around in one way or the other. They are kind of fairy tales when you think about it. So yeah, the thing about this one is that it’s not glossy. I mean he doesn’t have a cape. He doesn’t have any powers, you know? Or does he? He’s like a hero. He’s a true hero is the point of the story and yeah, he fights crime with marbles and bees and lime juice. But he’s as much of a hero, if not more, than any other super hero. So and yeah it’s a dark film. It’s very sad. It’s very beautiful and very funny. You know, so it’s not your typical comic book film. I mean it’s really, I’d say more sort of a real character…Woody is outrageous. I mean he’s good at everything but he’s really incredible in this movie. I really want people to see it. I mean, if you’re a movie buff, if you love movies I know it’s hard to find this one. I know it’s going to be in like 2 theatres or something but I mean it’s really worth it. It’s worth it.