The indie drama Crazy Eyes, from co-writer/director Adam Sherman, follows Zach (Lukas Haas), one of those glamorous L.A. types with too much money and too much time on his hands. With a steady stream of beautiful woman, in and out of his posh home in the hills, he forgoes spending time with his five-year-old son to keep the party going. But then, he meets a girl he calls “Crazy Eyes” (Madeline Zima) and, when she refuses his advances, he decides that he wants her above all others.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Madeline Zima (Californication) talked about auditioning for this role, why she wanted to play this character, the challenges in playing someone so messed up, and collaborating with her director (Adam Sherman) and co-star (Lukas Haas). She also talked about how happy she is to continue to do acting roles, that she’s currently auditioning to find her next job, having to constantly prove herself, and how great it is to have sisters that are also actresses because they understand what this business can be like. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
MADELINE ZIMA: No, I auditioned just like everybody else. I don’t even know what I did or which scenes they chose, but I ended up getting the role somehow, and then the craziness really started. The actual playing of the character was difficult, but I had so much fun with it that it never really felt like too much of a challenge.
When you read the script, what was your first impression of this story and this character? Was she someone that you could identify with, in some way?
ZIMA: I totally understood her. I have friends that have been in these low places and this type of downward spiral. I had a good idea of the type of personality that would be good for the character, and I thought it would be really fun to play a real messed up person, and have permission to be really messed up and really sloppy and crazy and angry, and to release some of that.
What were the biggest challenges in playing a girl like this? Is it difficult to convincingly pretend to be drunk?
ZIMA: I didn’t have any problem with that. I know a lot of people say that that’s challenging, but you just go for it and then hope someone tells you, “Maybe a little less drunk,” or “Maybe more slurred.” But, the biggest challenge was probably the physical activity. Things like throwing myself around a lot, falling down, over and over again, running into walls, fake vomiting are physically exhausting and they involve a lot of energy. So, I had to make sure that I had done yoga every day, and that I was really awake and aware and energetically viable.
Do you see this type of story as a cautionary tale, or do you not put any kind of judgement on the story when you’re playing a character?
ZIMA: Definitely, when I’m playing a character, I try not to. But, as an audience member, I don’t know what you can really take away from it that’s a cautionary tale because what can you really avoid about that? There’s nothing you could really avoid about giving yourself to somebody who ultimately rejects you. That’s just life. It’s a good idea to not get involved with somebody that you don’t trust. That’s for sure. It’s a good idea to prioritize your life and not making drinking the top priority. I think there are aspects of it that definitely illuminate bad decisions and how they’ll negatively affect you. But, I don’t think it’s like, “Okay, Sally, now this is why you don’t drink and drive,” ‘cause these people are so far beyond that. This is their life, and it’s based on real experiences. This is just a part of life that’s very dark, but I think it’s very funny, as well. There’s so much humor in it. I laughed throughout the whole movie, but maybe I’m just a weirdo.
ZIMA: It was complete collaboration, in the best sense of the word, when you feel totally supported creatively and you feel like you can do whatever you want and people will be there for you, to let you know if it’s right or wrong. It was just a great supportive environment to be creative in and to explore different aspects of a really messed up character. A lot of directors are not as collaborative as Adam is. He was very, very loose about the whole thing. That leaves room for more surprises and more real organic moments to happen.
You’ve played really interesting, layered, complex, off-beat and messed up characters throughout your career. Is that intentional, at all, or do you just feel lucky that you haven’t fallen into the trap of playing “the girlfriend”?
ZIMA: No, I’d be happy to play anyone’s girlfriend. I’m happy to be working, ever. It’s not an intentional thing to play these messed up, crazy characters, but I’m happy to do it ‘cause someone’s got to. And I’m happy that I can make them more than one-dimensional. I think that’s why I’ve gotten to play them. The way I look at anything is that I wouldn’t play the normal girl. I don’t think that that’s interesting or realistic, as far as how human beings really are. We’re not just somebody’s girlfriend who smiles all the time and bakes cookies and always has lingerie ready and their hair done. That’s not real. The roles that I play are about bringing as much reality into it as possible. When that happens, it’s really wonderful ‘cause people say they like it or they relate to it or they think it’s good. I would be happy to play any roles. It just so happens that these are the ones that I auditioned for and they liked me for, or they thought I could do the job better than anyone else. I’m happy that I’ve continued to work.
ZIMA: I’m just auditioning. I’ve only gotten directly offered two or three movies, ever. I don’t have the luxury of being able to say no a lot, and I don’t really have the luxury of just getting to pick and choose certain things. If I did, I probably would choose even more different roles than I’ve played. But, for right now, I have to just go in and audition, like everyone else, and fight my way to the top.
Do you have a dream role that you’d love to do, or a genre that you’d love to work in?
ZIMA: It’s not really based on genre because all the genres are so blended nowadays. There are lots of comedies out there that are more realistic than dramas, and some dramas out there that are so broad and wacky that they don’t even pass for a broad, wacky comedy. That doesn’t really matter that much. But, I would love to play a role that is a lead role that people appreciate and a lot of people get to see. I just don’t want to have to fight for every role anymore. My only intention is to just have a little bit more success so that my career is easier and I don’t have to work so hard just to get a job. People always assume that things are just handed to me, but I’ve had to prove myself, every inch of the way. It would be nice to not have to prove myself, and for people to know that I’m good and can play a role. Whatever role that is that lets people know that I can play the next role is what I want to do.
ZIMA: Yeah. It’s the only bad part about being an actor, as I see it. But, it can be fun, too. The stakes are so high because auditions are make or break. You get the job or you don’t. The stakes are about as high as they get, for yourself and your own self-esteem. But, when you do well at an audition, it is the highest high you can achieve because you just beat yourself. You became whatever it was, for a minute. It’s a great feeling, when that happens.
You’ve been in this business for awhile now, but it is still hard not to let those lost roles break your heart?
ZIMA: They always do. That’s why now, I don’t really get that invested. It’s like relationships. The first cut is the deepest, but then, after that, you know whether it’s safe or not to really invest in something. Certain roles, I just won’t invest in. I’ll go in and audition, but I might not spend five hours trying to figure out what the character is really about or go so deep into it. I might just learn the lines and go in and try my best because I know it’s not safe for me to love the character or to fall in love with the idea of the role. I will get my heart broken, and I have to protect myself. I have to save the parts of my soul that are left for the good roles and the true love.
ZIMA: Yeah. That happened to me recently. I did a pilot for ABC (Gilded Lilys for show creator Shonda Rhimes), that was like an American Downton Abbey, but it did not get picked up. I would have been more invested, had I been the lead in the series, but I wasn’t. I was a supporting character. I had a really good part and I loved the project. It was really beautiful. But, I wasn’t that invested in it. I was like, “If it goes, great! If it doesn’t, I don’t have to move to Boston, and I’m pretty happy about that.” I like living in California. I think it’s the best state, although we’re supposedly the most hated state of all.
Does it help to have family that knows what you’re going through, since your sisters are also actresses?
ZIMA: Yeah, absolutely! My sisters are my best friends and my most staunch supporters. They’re always there to help me through every audition, through interviews and through everything. Hopefully, I find some guy that I love as much as them, some day. They are the best things in my life, and I would be completely lost without them.