TEETH – Jess Weixler Interview

     January 13, 2008




Almost a year ago the movie “Teeth” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Before the fest began, it was one of those films that a lot of people were talking about due to the subject matter – it was the movie about a girl with vagina dentata.


It you aren’t familiar with the myth of vagina dentata…let me put it in very simple terms. “Teeth” is about a girl with teeth in her vagina, and the teeth are very sharp, powerful, and can easily destroy what enters…. if you get my drift.



Let’s just say that if you’re a guy and you watch this movie…at certain points you will be crossing your legs and feeling some pain.



Anyway, after a long wait the film is finally getting released this Friday. So to help promoteit, I recently participated in a very small roundtable interview with Jess Weixler – the star of the film.



During our conversation we talked about all the usual stuff and we also found out what she’s doing next. Here’s that section:



Question: Do you have anything coming up?



Jess: I’ll see what happens with Peter and Vandy. I’ve shot some other ones. I have something that I’m going to shoot in April – I have two things that might happen, but one the date isn’t set yet so I don’t know, but one is supposed to go in April. There’s a cult comic book artist, Jeffrey Brown, and my roommate owns a comic book store so I’m into the whole thing, and he wrote a book called Clumsy and he wrote this screenplay called Save the Date, and there’s a band called Of Montreal which is also like an indie cult kind of a band, and they’re scoring it and the lead singer’s going to be in it, and it’s a cool indie group of people, I’m looking forward to what happens. Joe Swanberg is going to direct it.



Q: Is it based on one of his cult comics?



Jess: It just has a sensibility which is, they’re comic books but it’s mostly like people who are very sweet but sort of clumsy. Like they have a hard time getting their feelings across, and they are very sensitive and easily hurt; that sort of a bunch. And I guess my story is based between me and my sister, I’m a little bit of a Bridezilla trying to get my wedding going and she’s pregnant, and I think that my wedding is more important than her pregnancy. The story is basic, but the dialogue is sort of brilliant, so we’ll see what happens.



Q: Is this a project based on the writers’ strike getting resolved?



Jess: I think since we shoot in April I don’t think it will be longer than three weeks or a month to shoot it – we’d be finished by May, I think it would be fine.




Anyway, posted below is the entire interview. As always, you can listen to it as an MP3 by clicking here.Finally, I also interviewed Jess and her co-star John Hensley on camera, so if you’re a video type of person….just click here for that. And if you missed the movie clips you can watch them here.






Question: Did you know anything about this project when you were handed the script?



Jess Weixler: I knew nothing before they handed me the script, and I got a few pages in and I was like, ‘What? No.’ And I’d never done a lot of sex scenes before, so I wasn’t fully prepared for doing that either. So I went in and I read for the best friend, and then Mitchell was like, ‘You know, we’d actually be interested in you for Dawn.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ Then he started talking to me and I realized he’s incredibly smart and so sweet and so gentle, that he was trying to make a dark comedy, he wasn’t trying to make a bad, like B horror movie, he was trying to make a dark comedy, and how cool is it to have the opportunity to play a part that’s never been played before. And I started to see her as like a superhero, somebody with an anatomical uniqueness that has to learn to use her power for good.



Q: So as sex scenes go, how is this for an initiation?



Jess: Well for me it was actually great, because of the people I was working with. Everybody was very protective over me and wanted to make sure I felt safe and comfortable; Mitchell spearheaded that, making sure I was comfortable, and then all of the guys were just total darlings, aside from their screen images which are despicable. But we knew we were making a fantasy world, the guys were bad in this movie and this movie is a fantasy world.



Q: What was it like shooting the first sex scene you had to do?



Jess: You know the first one was hard. It was the rape scene in the beginning and it was hard for a mixture of elemental reasons, because it was freezing in the water that we were in, and we were in a cave that was very – it was a cave so it was dirty, and it took all day to shoot it because it’s a pretty long scene. So it was a hard day for those reasons and having to feel like you have to protect yourself from being assaulted it does take a lot of adrenaline to get through a day like that. But we were all very good to each other to stay in the right place to be able to do it.



Q: So you’re saying that filmmaking isn’t as glamorous as it may seem.



Jess: I guess so, it has its days. Like this day is glamorous.



Q: You have an interesting story about winning the award (for Teeth) at Sundance. Didn’t you have to fly back?



Jess: People I think have actually been confused that I was flying out of there and had just gotten back from Sundance, but I had left Sundance a few days before and was flying to go shoot another movie in San Diego. And it was when I flew from New York to San Diego and the plane landed, a stewardess had heard from the desk that I won and came on the plane and was like, ‘We have to get you on another flight to Utah immediately, you just won an award.’ I was like, ‘What’ (gives a little shriek) around a bunch of strangers, and it was totally fantastic to get to share that with strangers.



Q: Going back to your comment of comparing Dawn to a superhero, her super power kind of requires an elaborate set up and is very specific, so how would she work as a crime fighter?



Jess: Good point. I don’t know, because I don’t think that she seeks out victims, I would say I don’t know if she would swoop in upon somebody else being assaulted, and be like, ‘No, have sex with me!’ And then take away their weapon. But in the sense that like her brother, she sees that he’s abusing people sexually, that she’s like, ‘Well, it’s time to take this away from this guy.’ And she goes to him, and that’s sort of a superhero shot.



Q: Have you seen the film with an audience?



Jess: Yeah, I’ve seen it with a few.



Q: Is it interesting to see the reactions, especially as the film gets going?



Jess: It is, and it hasn’t been cookie-cutter at all. Like different audiences have reacted completely differently. I would say though I think that this is a crowd movie, I think it’s a movie best experienced with a group of people because the audience sort of gets on a roll with each other to figure out what’s funny and what’s not funny, because so much of it is just uncomfortable that people have to release at some point, and it’s like when and how, and I think it makes it more fun to share it with people.



Q: Has this played to any religious groups?



Jess: I don’t think it has, I don’t think that it has. We did show it in Sundance, which is in Utah, and one of the showings was out in one of the (Mormon) areas but the crowd that I think it drew were kids that wanted to see it, so they were one of our most excited bunches, they were just screaming the whole time, like they totally got it.



Q: Would you consider it a horror movie?



Jess: I would consider it a dark comedy. I think it’s being marketed right now in the trailers a little bit like a horror movie, which isn’t exactly right. It has horror elements, but it’s not like a movie that feeds off of gore, even though it also has some gore, I think it’s mostly a dark comedy.



Q: Have you had feedback from people that have talked to you about it after they’ve seen it – have you had a different reaction from men and women?



Jess: It has been all over the place. I’ve had a lot of guys come up to me afterwards and be like, ‘I’m terrified of you.’ And I’m like, ‘Cool, thanks.’ But I’ve also had a lot of guys be like, ‘Oh it was great, that was so cool.’ They got it, they got that it was funny, they didn’t think that it was a statement saying that all men deserved to be castrated or anything like that, I don’t think that’s what the movie’s saying. It depends if somebody is along for the ride or not. If they can get into it, some people like to be scared, they like to get a little scared sometimes.



Q: You trained at Julliard?



Jess: Yeah,



Q: Anything at Julliard prepared you for this kind of role?



Jess: The classics, poetry. Actually, it’s kind of Greek. It’s a heightened reality, it’s not a realistic movie, and I would say doing the Greeks maybe helped me prepare for it, having that sort of level of drama involved.



Q: You have another film in Sundance this year



Jess: No, I don’t.



Q: Aren’t you in Goodbye Baby?



Jess: Oh that’s Slamdance – that’s a friend of mine. I did a movie called The Big Bad Swim and the writer did this afterwards, and I was shooting something else when he made Goodbye Baby and I was going to play a part and I then ended up playing a friend, it’s really a cameo in Slamdance



continued on page 2 ——->


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Q: Let’s talk about Peter and Vandy?



Jess: I’m probably most excited to see how Peter and Vandy turns out, how that gets edited together, because it felt very special making it, and it’s a love story and it’s totally real, it’s not fantasy at all, and it was great getting to shoot what is almost a two person movie, there are some other people like Jesse Martin and Tracie Thoms, who are the friends in it. I think it could be very beautiful, I’m excited to see how Peter and Vandy turns out. It’s about love and it’s about how people unintentionally hurt each other.



Q: You did the film with Jason Ritter. What was it like working with him?



Jess: He’s brilliant. I had no idea he was as good as he was, just because it’s not like I’d followed up on him enough, I hadn’t watched enough of what he’d done. I was shocked at how good he was. We could really like throw down with each other, we could really fight and we could really care. He’s a phenomenal actor.



Q: How much rehearsal did you do for this?



Jess: I love rehearsal, and I was fortunate enough to have a month – that I got cast a month before we started shooting. I don’t know how people – like they throw it out to a million stars, and then somebody else gets it like a week before, I think that’s like a ticket to hell, because you don’t shoot in sequence so how do you start in the middle if you don’t know anything about this person’s journey? And I had a month to prepare, and I have a coach and I took it to him and worked on it several times a week just to get familiar with who this girl could be. Nobody knows what somebody with vagina dentata is like, and so I got to come up with it, and it was nice that I had time to do that.



Q: What about rehearsing with the other actors?



Jess: We didn’t really have any rehearsal. Maybe we had like a few hours one day. We would map out the sex scenes so that we knew what we were doing, so that when we started shooting we weren’t worried about the physical logistics.



Q: In the scene in the doctor’s office you get to go from an atmosphere of sinister unease to physical comedy, what was it like filming that scene because the expression on your face is priceless.



Jess: That scene was a blast. Josh Pais, I don’t know if you all know this beautiful fact about him, he was the only person – he was in the Ninja Turtles movie, and he was the only person to be inside of the costume and the voice, he was Raphael. If that tells you anything about how physically capable he is to set up the combat of the scene – we were able to map it out very clearly. Like first this is going to happen, and I had a harness on my body so that he could have something to hold on to, to throw my body around, and so we went through everything that was going to happen beforehand. He is also a teacher, so he was very instructional, he was able to take the reins so to speak and help us mark through it. So when we shot it we maybe did two takes, I think we ended up using the first one. It’s like, ‘Alright, you ready for this? High five, get your adrenaline going. Let’s go.’



Q: What was it like filming in Austin?



Jess: I would love to go back to Austin, and what’s great about it film-wise is the crew is very experienced. They totally know what they’re doing; they’re used to working with Rodriguez and Tarantino and whoever else goes there. So we had a team of professional, chilled out – they just knew what they were doing, and it’s a fun town to be in, it’s a music town and Mexican food, it was a great place to be in and I’d love to go back, I have a friend shooting a film there soon and I’m going to go and visit her just so I can hang out in Austin some more.



Q: Do you have anything coming up?



Jess: I’ll see what happens with Peter and Vandy. I’ve shot some other ones. I have something that I’m going to shoot in April – I have two things that might happen, but one the date isn’t set yet so I don’t know, but one is supposed to go in April. There’s a cult comic book artist, Jeffrey Brown, and my roommate owns a comic book store so I’m into the whole thing, and he wrote a book called Clumsy and he wrote this screenplay called Save the Date, and there’s a band called Of Montreal which is also like an indie cult kind of a band, and they’re scoring it and the lead singer’s going to be in it, and it’s a cool indie group of people, I’m looking forward to what happens. Joe Swanberg is going to direct it.



Q: Is it based on one of his cult comics?



Jess: It just has a sensibility which is, they’re comic books but it’s mostly like people who are very sweet but sort of clumsy. Like they have a hard time getting their feelings across, and they are very sensitive and easily hurt; that sort of a bunch. And I guess my story is based between me and my sister, I’m a little bit of a Bridezilla trying to get my wedding going and she’s pregnant, and I think that my wedding is more important than her pregnancy. The story is basic, but the dialogue is sort of brilliant, so we’ll see what happens.



Q: Is this a project based on the writers’ strike getting resolved?



Jess: I think since we shoot in April I don’t think it will be longer than three weeks or a month to shoot it – we’d be finished by May, I think it would be fine.



Q: You’re talking about the actors’ strike, but the writers’ strike.



Jess: Oh the writers’ strike, oh it was already written, so it’s done, it’s okay to go ahead and shoot when it’s already finished.



Q: How has the writers strike affected you?



Jess: I don’t know, I’ve worked the past four months because everything was written before we shot and I think that’s true of a lot of indies, because they work so hard to try to get it made that it has been written for a long time. But me personally, I don’t live here in L.A. and so I’m not usually diving into pilot season so it hasn’t had as great affect on me as a lot of other actors. I’m sure it’s going to affect us all because writers are important and they’ve got to be able to keep making work for us to do.



Q: If this film develops a following, and Mitchell get inspired to do a sequel and turn Dawn into a superhero, would you step back in?



Jess: I would. I think I would, I would have to read the script and know that there was something more to give, like one of the guys hunts her down for revenge, or something like that.



Q: Would you envision her in a certain costume?



Jess: Who knows, probably some strapping V somewhere.



Q: VD?



Jess: Yes, many people have also asked what’s the release thing, like a ripcord, I don’t know. I think she’s always incognito maybe. It would be great if she got a costume.



Q: With your friend owning a comic book store, has that improved your comic book knowledge because you knew of the Ninja Turtles



Jess: I knew from Josh Pais, he told me he was a Ninja Turtle, but I knew the Ninja Turtles from my own childhood. Nobody had to tell me about them. I’m starting to learn about comic books, I’m really interested that they are going to make a Why the Last Man movie. It’s a great book



Q: You mentioned you don’t do pilots – you’re not interested in TV?



Jess: It’s not that I don’t want to do it, I just haven’t been involved with it so far in my career, and I’ve been working through a lot of the pilot seasons. I think there is good TV, I just have had more of a tendency towards film so far.



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