Rudderless, the feature directorial debut of actor William H. Macy, follows Sam (Billy Crudup), a man whose life is torn apart by the sudden death of his son. He passes his days by drowning his pain in alcohol, until he discovers a box filled with his son’s demo tapes and lyrics, and he begins to reconnect with his son while exploring his unknown talent. When he learns and decides to play these songs in a local bar he catches the attention of a young musician named Quentin (Anton Yelchin), and the two decide to form a rock ‘n’ roll band called Rudderless.
At the film’s press day, actress/singer Selena Gomez (who has a small but pivotal and emotionally impactful role in the movie) spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about what attracted her to this project, how she could understand and sympathize with the scrutiny her character was under, working with a director with an acting background, and sharing scenes with Billy Crudup, who she had a crush on from Almost Famous. She also talked about how Hotel Transylvania 2 is developing, where she’d like to go next in her career, getting a better idea of who she is as an actress and singer, her desire to move into the next phase musically, why she loves performing at concerts for her fans, and what the first concert she went to meant to her. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
Collider: How did this come about for you?
SELENA GOMEZ: Bill [Macy] actually saw my performance in Spring Breakers, so they sent the script to my team. Within the first 20 pages, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it, just simply because I always want to push myself, even though I’m not in the entire thing. My friend Taylor says, “If you’re the smartest person in the entire room, you’re in the wrong room.” As an actress, I just want to be a sponge. I respect Felicity [Huffman] as a woman in the industry, and I think her and Bill are such great examples. And I had a huge crush on Billy [Crudup] because of Almost Famous. Honestly, it was really a dream come true. Shooting it was extremely emotional, and that element of it was interesting. I had felt what she was feeling because I’m her age. I know that dealing with your emotions right now is so awkward because you’re not quite sure. So, there’s all this stuff happening, and then you add a tragedy that I literally couldn’t imagine. It was pretty heavy, but I think she was an important part of telling that story.
Even though it’s a much more tragic and extreme situation, were you able to understand and sympathize with what this character must have been dealing with, under such scrutiny from the public and the media?
GOMEZ: Totally. I couldn’t imagine it being like that, though. I feel like, with those kinds of situations, everyone has to deal with it, in their own way. It is different when it’s my family, and people are discussing that. I can’t help but think it’s unfair because they’ve never been put in that position. I do what I do, so I know that it comes with it. For me, I just have to deal with it. I think even the people who read that stuff don’t believe it. They want to comment and say things, but I think they know. It’s pretty obvious.
Did you have any idea, when you did Spring Breakers, that it would lead to such different kind of work? Is that what you were hoping for with it?
GOMEZ: Yes. First, I just wanted to do something different, and my mom was a huge Harmony [Korine] fan. For me, it worked out perfectly. I flew to Nashville and auditioned for the movie, and I really, really fought for it. Harmony believed in me and pushed me. And then, all this other stuff came along with it. It was really good. That transition is very awkward. I’m still going through it. It’s not all good now. But, that was a huge part of why. I just had dinner with Harmony because he has a really special place in my heart for believing in me like that.
Where do you want to go next with your career?
GOMEZ: I had a whole transitional year. I moved out and bought my brand new house. It’s the first time I’ve ever lived on my own. It’s weird. It was a big year for me. So, the main goal is the feeling I had reading Spring Breakers and the feeling I had for Rudderless. I just don’t want to sit down and talk about things that I don’t care about. I want to just do movies that move me. Whether that’s a comedy or a drama, I don’t know. I’ve just been constantly reading scripts. After reading 20, I only liked two. That’s just where I am. I’m fortunate to be able to actually go in an audition for some of these movies, but it’s a whole other added pressure because I’m going out for these movies where they don’t really want someone like me. And then, I’m in the room and, on top of it, they already feel like they think they know me, so there’s this whole other thing that I’m battling. It’s good, though. It’s humbling me in a really wonderful way, and making me a better actress. I get so uncomfortable on auditions and I get nervous, so it’s been good. We’ll see. Whatever comes next, I’m waiting for it, and I can’t wait.
Are you doing Hotel Transylvania 2?
GOMEZ: I’ve recorded a little bit of it. It’s not all done, so I have to do more recording with Andy [Samberg] soon, which I’m super excited about. But as of now, we’re just putting it down and seeing what happens. There’s a few things that they’re fixing, so we’ll see.
Do you love still keeping the younger audiences and fans, being involved with an animated film like that?
GOMEZ: One of the proudest moments of my career, for me, was at the Toronto Film Festival because during the day, I premiered Hotel Transylvania and I had all of these kids running around, and then at night we premiered Spring Breakers. And then, that next week, my TV show reunion (for Wizards of Waverly Place) air. And then, that next month, my single came out. For me, that was exactly what I want to be able to do. I want to do things that I love that reach different audiences. I started with kids, so I am obsessed with the little kid fans. I never want them to forget me.
Do you feel like you know who you are now, as an actress and as a singer, or do you feel like you’re still discovering that?
GOMEZ: Honestly, I feel like I have a better idea. Now that I know I want to do things that I care about, the rest will come. I tend to not speak up as much, so saying no is rather difficult for me. The biggest step of being an adult is saying, “This is what I do like. This is what I don’t like.” Being yourself means certain people aren’t going to like that. I’m still figuring it out and taking things day by day.
Did you think about what kind of girl your character in Rudderless was, before this event happened and changed her, and what kind of relationship she had with Josh?
GOMEZ: I feel like there’s a moment, in every young girl’s life, whether it happens with your family, or a tragedy or death in your family, or a relationship, where there’s a turning point where you go from extremely hopeful and cheery to wondering whether you are okay with where you are. That’s always awkward. Me and my girlfriends talk about it more than anything. Some days I wake up happy, but some days I don’t. What does that mean, and where does it come from? I knew that she seemed like the kind of girl who was really distraught by this. I feel like she had no idea what he was feeling inside. She knew how to communicate through music, so she was extremely insulted when Billy’s character did what he did. And then, she was not able to deal with her own stuff. It was really, honestly, extremely exhausting, at times. Certain stuff got cut out that was a little bit even more intense. She was very angry. It was liberating.
She obviously has pain and anger, with good reason, but there also has to be a strength there, for her to survive, at all. Have you thought about how she turned out, after this?
GOMEZ: There is a little bit of a time lapse, where she removes herself and she says she’s removed herself. That will just always be a part of someone. It’s almost like a first love. It will always be a part of you. Dealing with the loss of that will always carry on with her. In general, I think a lot of people can relate to that.
These types of events happen all too commonly, and everyone can relate to them, in some way, even if you aren’t personally connected. Do you remember the first time you heard about one of these events, and someone either committing violence or having it committed on them, and how it affected you?
GOMEZ: Immediately, in my circle, no. That’s a big part of why I can’t watch the news. It’s extremely unsettling. Certain people can be a little desensitized because of movies, and I’m totally a part of that world, so I understand. But when you’re actually seeing what’s happening, you can’t help but be a little affected. Felicity [Huffman] made a really good point when she said that it’s a community. We are all in this together. People assume it’s happening to someone else, so it’s really not going to get fixed, if it’s not everybody coming in and being there and supporting each other and figuring out where it’s stemming from. It’s not very good to see.
What did you learn from working with Bill Macy? As someone coming in to direct, who has acting experience, what was that like for you?
GOMEZ: It was my first time working with a director who was an actor, so it was immediately different. He respected where I was, emotionally. It was more him helping me go through it, as opposed to telling me what to feel like and how it should be. Billy and Bill worked so well together that it was extremely fluid and very comfortable for an uncomfortable character. That’s what I’m thankful for.
What was it like to actually share scene with Billy Crudup, having had a crush on him?
GOMEZ: It was so funny. This character, for him, was obviously very, very emotional, so I just respected him and his space. I got over it, after I spent some time with him, but I was very nervous. Honestly, he’s very nice, extremely professional and very sweet.
Have you thought about where you want to go next, with your music career? Do you want to branch out there, as well?
GOMEZ: Yes, that’s coming up. There are a few surprises within that world. Music is extremely therapeutic for me. This year I got to go in and be a part of my music, even if it didn’t go anywhere. Music has been in my life this whole year, and there is some stuff coming that I’m excited to share with people, but I’ve kept it very, very under wraps. That next phase needs to be growth. I apply that in everything I do. My clothing line just ended with K-Mart. I started the line at 16, and that was for 16-year-olds, and now I’m 22. There’s a lot of transition for me. I’m just trying to figure out what’s best for me.
Plus, as you get older, you have things that you actually want to be able to say through your music.
GOMEZ: One of my favorite songs I’ve ever done is “Who Says,” and I was 17 when I recorded that song. It was just so exactly what I felt, during that time. That’s when I knew how powerful music is. When I perform that song, moms and teens and young girls know exactly what it’s saying. So yeah, the older you get, the more you have to talk about, and music is a really good outlet. I’ve chilled on it a little bit, and I can’t wait to see what I’m going to step into, now that I have this collection of things.
The music in this film is so important to the characters, and they feel so deeply connected to it. Do you have music that you feel that way about, in your own life?
GOMEZ: Honestly, I feel like Adele does it really well. I think it’s because her lyrics are extremely elegantly put, and you just want to cry. From the way she performs it to her emotion behind it to her production, it’s just stunning. I always get excited about that. That’s the world that you want to live in. She seems like she’s very in touch with her emotions.
The older you get, does it get harder to be out on the road for any length of time?
GOMEZ: That can sometimes totally change everything. Your time is off, and your whole body may be off. But while I’m young, I enjoy it. I like to run around. I’m enjoying traveling. I absorb as much as I can, and I get to go to beautiful places that I don’t know if I would ever visit. Right now, I enjoy it and want to keep doing it. Maybe when I’m older, that will change, but I’m enjoying it right now. My body can take it. It’s so rewarding to perform on stage. It really is. You get taken over. It’s an adrenalin rush. I can’t wait to get back on the road, for that particular reason.
Does it ever get overwhelming on stage, performing in front of so many people?
GOMEZ: Just Google “Selena Gomez crying on stage,” and there are probably 15 videos of that. You are opening yourself up and talking to these people. Sometimes for me, it’s kids. When you lock eyes with someone and they’re just so enamored by you – and I almost feel like I’m gonna cry now – that is amazing, and that’s so powerful. I’ll do four shows in a row, but then the fourth night, I’ll catch someone completely, and we’re just connected. That’s the craziest feeling. I’m very lucky because of the kids. That’s their first concert. When they’re 25 and someone says, “Who was your first concert?,” they’re gonna say me. I don’t take that lightly. I think that’s an extreme honor. It’s really beautiful.
Who was your first concert?
GOMEZ: Britney Spears was my first concert. My mom worked three jobs and saved up. It was my biggest dream. I sat all the way up at the top, in the nosebleeds, but it was one of the best nights of my life. When I was younger, it was everything to me. I had bought the CD, and it was really fun. I’m sure my nana still has my glow stick in the freezer. There’s a video that I did, that I’m sure is online, as well, for my actual concert experience that revved up my audience while I was backstage changing. I explain that, at my first concert, I was at Britney and I was all the way at the very top. I said, “Now I get to be on the other side, and I get to be here, in front of all of you.” I let that be known because it’s genuine. It’s surreal sometimes to sit back and look at what my life is. There’s a lot of good in it.
It’s a big responsibility, and you seem to be handling it gracefully.
GOMEZ: I appreciate that. Thank you. I have my moments, but I’m lucky and I just have to focus on all of the good things that are happening.
Rudderless is now available in theaters and on VOD.