In the unusual drama Sympathy for Delicious, actors Orlando Bloom and Juliette Lewis play charismatic frontman The Stain and bassist Ariel, part of a band on the verge of superstardom, whose manager Nina (Laura Linney) is trying to lead them down the path to fame and fortune. When they hold auditions for a DJ to add to their band, they meet Dean O’Dwyer (Christopher Thornton), aka Delicious D, who they discover possesses the otherworldly power to heal people and they decide to incorporate his gift into their live show, with disastrous consequences.
At the film’s press day, co-stars Orlando Bloom and Juliette Lewis talked about the appeal of doing such out-there roles, how they related to and identified with their rock star counterparts, working with Mark Ruffalo on his feature directorial debut, and being a part of such a passion project for screenwriter/star Christopher Thornton. Orlando also talked about his excitement to work with Peter Jackson again, reprising the character of Legolas for The Hobbit, and Juliette talked about her desire to get back out on the road again with her own band, The Licks. Check out what they had to say after the jump:
JULIETTE LEWIS: Yes, you understand all these prototypes within bands, like bassists being diplomatic in nature, the egocentric lead singer, and all of that. But, this band is very extreme and deals with fame, success and failure, and decadence. The band I have is all heart and hunger. It’s a little indie band, against all odds and making something work. It’s a bit different. But, I do understand fractured dynamics, and all that, when stuff starts to implode.
ORLANDO BLOOM: Every now and again, she has a Stain moment. That’s what she’s saying.
LEWIS: I’m sure! I know, on stage, I feel like Hercules, so I relate in that sense.
What about the experimental nature of the artistic vision they were trying to accomplish?
LEWIS: Oh, yeah, I understood that. But, I enjoyed being the bassist. This is a different personality for me. She’s someone who is a bit self-destructive, distant and checked-out from reality. That was the scariest part for me to play, to wander in that energy and that apathy. As a bassist, it’s about what your role is. In this particular band, she’s supportive of the vision of The Stain, so that was interesting.
BLOOM: Which is a very skewed look of the world.
BLOOM: I was coming from a place of desperation. I was desperate for an opportunity to break out of a preconceived idea of who I was, as an actor, based on finding myself in two of the biggest trilogies of movies (with The Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean), of all time. It was about making big movies and not having really had the opportunity to do some of the small, interesting, different movies, where you do get to break out. So, when I sat down with Mark Ruffalo, I was just like, “Dude, this is terrifying to me, in many ways, and also exactly what I really want.” Mark is a phenomenal actor, but he’s an even better director, if you can believe that. I hadn’t been directed by an actor before, but he had the sensitivity, the understanding and the guidance into some of the areas that you really don’t want to go to, because it’s a painfully uncomfortable thing to put yourself out there often. It was amazing to be helped through that process with somebody like Mark Ruffalo. He was going through all of his own stuff while directing and starring in the movie.
LEWIS: It’s a trip because we all had this personal backstory. My old band was imploding and disbanding, and there was this sense of betrayal. So, to be playing in a band that has a heightened sense of all that, I felt like I was in my own Charlie Kaufman movie – a band within a band within a band. That was really interesting for us all. And then, Mark had tragedy hit, right before he was about to have this happen, and we were dealing with themes of faith and belief. It was like the little engine that could, this project.
BLOOM: I was thinking of some of the great musicians in England who came from the North. There’s The Beatles and The Stones and stuff, but for me, my generation had Ian Brown from The Stone Roses and the Gallagher brothers from Oasis. They had that attitude of, “We are the best fucking band in the world! We don’t give a shit what anyone says, or whatever anyone else is doing. We are the band.” It was that front for that “I’m going to have it” energy that was something that I really thought would be great for this character. There were some particularly hard lines of dialogue to put across, so that really helped me. Also, there’s the band called The Brian Jonestown Massacre that was the band that Mark [Ruffalo] and Chris [Thornton] were thinking of, and the lead singer Anton [Newcombe]. He was somebody who I looked at a bit, but really I found myself falling into that North of England attitude, which is why the dialect is a broad Northern accent.
Was the singing you had to do for this new to you?
BLOOM: Yeah. It was so much fun, I can’t even begin to tell you. Obviously, I’m not a singer. I don’t consider myself a singer. It was so great to just let it rip and have the freedom of just wailing and doing that. We really laid it all down when we were in Guadalajara, and I’d never really done that before, but there was that energy of being on stage, which there were bits of in the movie. There was so much freedom for me, playing this character, and the singing was definitely a part of it. I’m going to start a new career as a singer, I think. I’m going to go the way of Russell Crowe.
BLOOM: Of course. When we were in Guadalajara, I picked her brains. She went in to sing before me and it was just like, “Wow!” That was how to do it, and I was ripping her off.
LEWIS: No, it was really Cedric [Bixler-Zavala], the singer of The Mars Volta. He helped a little bit with the phrasing and stuff. But, Orlando’s instincts were amazing, and so was his pitch. He was really natural. He didn’t even have vocal lessons. It’s attitude singing and spewing poetry and being this messiah. Orlando is pretty great at it.
BLOOM: Well, Juliette steals every scene in the movie, in my opinion. She’s the best actress.
So, the notion still persists that actors want to be rock stars and rock stars want to be actors?
BLOOM: Yeah. I totally understand it! Justin Timberlake is doing it now with acting.
LEWIS: All the musicians that I know want to act.
BLOOM: It’s so weird. I don’t get it. Wanting to be a rock star, I get it. I’m like, “Oh, my god, dude! The freedom!” There’s a very different creative thing. My experience of singing, as an actor, was that there’s a different creative feeling of freedom. The acting thing is a bit more defined and cerebral. I can see why people would want to cross over. If you have so much freedom on stage then perhaps you want to be confined a bit, and vice versa.
LEWIS: You’ve gotta have thick skin. When I first came out, I knew people were coming in the room to watch me fail. That was my laugh because, to me, I have my own taste in music and my whole attitude was, “If you don’t like it, go watch some other band,” but I was going to find my believers. I was going to find the ones that did dig what I had to put out on stage. For me, it was all about being raw and exposed and flawed. I really cut my teeth on the live show. And then, when I earned my stripes a little bit from touring, I played at festivals, like Lollapalooza and Leeds in Redding. I opened for The Killers. I opened for Muse. I really earned it off of touring, and there have been some heady experiences. When I was in Finland, half of the audience was singing along, and it was the first time that I had people singing along to my songs. I nearly stopped and cried because it was so moving. It’s so in my nature to be fighting for it and to prove it to you. That’s in all mediums of art that I would ever choose. It’s my nature to take the road less traveled, to be challenged, to be fearful and to get out of my comfort zone. I try to have a benevolent force to the musical equation, creating a sense of unity and connection, but it gets real heady. There are goosebump-inducing moments. It’s amazing.
BLOOM: He was amazing to work with. He owned all of his process and experience of this movie. As one of the writers, he was completely encouraging and all-embracing of anything that we brought to the table, as actors. It was very much a wonderful experience to work with him, as a writer and as an actor. It was such a painfully personal story, in many ways. Not that his life mirrored that, because he had a very different story, but because he’d spent so many years of his life writing this story and creating this character and this world for us all to step into, for him, it was all unfolding in front of him. He was very magnanimous and had the wherewithal to be like, “Wow, I love what you’re doing with this. I had seen it completely different.”
LEWIS: He wasn’t precious, even though he wrote it. He was very much an actor’s writer. Also, there was this incredible sensitivity that I felt because the themes of wanting to be healed were true themes for him. He had gone to healing services, so that was true. I did have logistical things. I lunge at him and he’s very strong. People who are in wheelchairs are really strong. There were things that I was sensitive to and talked to him about. That was really interesting.
LEWIS: The big revelation for me was his cinematic eye, as a filmmaker. I went, “There’s a filmmaker!” I’ve worked with other actor-directors, and you can get into story and analyzing the characters and the scenes, and I knew he was going to be spectacular at that because of how natural he is, as an actor, but his visual eye was so exciting to me. He was inspired by some paintings. He showed me different things, visually, for the movie. I love the care he took, in that aspect. It’s a really different looking movie, and very real and seductive and dark. That’s what surprised me about him.
You were a part of the hugely successful franchises for The Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean, and now those franchises are continuing on. What’s it going to be like to see those movies, as an audience member?
BLOOM: Great! I’ve had such a great run with them.
BLOOM: Yeah, it’s looking like that. I’m really excited about going to see Pete [Jackson] again. It’s still a little up in the air, but the idea of working with Pete is fantastic. I can’t actually really talk too much about it, at this point. I just was given the script to piece through, so it’s quite exciting.
The whole script?
Will you have to do anything to physically prepare for that role again?
BLOOM: Are you telling me that I’ve put on weight, in the last 10 years?
LEWIS: She’s like, “Do you have to shed the 30 pounds that it looks like you’ve gained?”
BLOOM: I just have to grow my hair really long and blonde again.
Isn’t he a younger version?
Where are you at now, with your professional goals?
BLOOM: Well, this was the beginning of something completely different for me. I produced a little movie called The Good Doctor, which we’re taking to Tribeca. That’s a really twisted, dark turn for me. It was a really interesting thing to try. It shows the darker side and the shadow self, as it were. And, when The Three Musketeers came along, the Duke of Buckingham was a fantastic role because it’s a completely different thing for me, as opposed to being a Musketeer. I got to be the giant petulant child, in many ways, that the Duke of Buckingham turns out to be, and channel a little bit of The Stain, in a funny kind of way. So, I’m really embracing the other side and shifting the perception. I actually had no idea how hard it would be to shift the perception, and that’s really what it’s been about.
BLOOM: No. Mark Ruffalo is just an amazing guy and an amazing director. It doesn’t really work like that. Not really. They’re more inclined to say, “You should do this,” than “Don’t do that.” What I’m finding myself saying now is, “No, I want to do this.” But, when you’re 21 and you find yourself in one of the biggest trilogies of all time, and then you’re 24 and you’re in the next biggest trilogy of all time, you have no sense of which way is up and you’re just like, “Yes, yes, yes,” instead of going, “What does this actually mean to me? What do I want to be doing? How do I want to be perceived? What do I want from my career?” All of that stuff comes in when you have the time to settle and think about it, which is what I’m doing now.
BLOOM: She can do anything!
LEWIS: I’m just starting to find balance now. When I did start my band, seven years ago, I very specifically wanted to give everything to it, as any young musician would. It was all about touring and finding my audience. And then, I did that for several years and didn’t make any movies. I turned stuff down. I dedicated my life to the road and to my records. And then, lo and behold, I had a healthy little nugget of a gorgeous audience, all over the world. People have a misconception of, “Oh, you come from film, they’ll pay to watch you juggle.” That’s not true. You might be interesting for five minutes, but if you don’t have a show and you don’t have something to carry forward, people walk away. In such an insecure time, with CDs disappearing, I still have the security of my live act. Once I had that, I came back with Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut, Whip It. From there, I’ve done smaller parts in Due Date, The Switch, Conviction and then in this. I’m just following projects that have good people in them. I love diversity, whether it’s comedy or drama. I’m doing a movie now called Hick, with Blake Lively and Chloe Moretz, and then I’ll just see where it takes me. I’m going to make my next record in a month. I’m aching to get out on the road, so we’ll see. But, I’m finding balance. It’s all a scheduling thing.
Did it take you time to figure out what your show was going to be?
LEWIS: For my rock band, I was influenced by things like The Rocky Horror Picture Show. For me, it’s live rock ‘n’ roll theater. I started in 100-capacity clubs. I did it the way any young band would do it. I’ve since made friends with all these touring bands ‘cause we were on the same touring circuit when I finally got to play festivals. I didn’t think my success from film was going to translate at all, musically. In fact, it worked against me. I just started from the ground up. I like it rough like that. I didn’t have some fragile little ego.
BLOOM: Don’t take that [out of context]!
Sympathy for Delicious opens in limited release this weekend