Juliette Lewis on 'Whip It' Director Drew Barrymore: Exuberant Like Scorsese
By Tricia Romano Posted Oct 2nd 2009 04:26PM
PopEater sat down a few days before the release of Whip It! (opening nationwide today) to talk to Juliette Lewis about her return to acting, lacing up to skate ten hours a day and her dream musical (it's twisted and would likely involve Terry Gilliam). Now find out why she compares first time director Drew Barrymore to Martin Scorsese after the jump.
Juliette, Drew and Ellen Page Roll With It
PopEater: This is the first project for you in almost five years. What is it about this movie that made you come back?
Juliette Lewis: It's more about that I laid the groundwork for my band and music so that I could take a little bit of a break before I made my next record. And I wasn't touring. I don't do movies. I turn stuff down when I am on the road. I started my band five years ago, I was in search of an audience. But basically, all over the world. So I toured the world three more times over. I made an EP and two records. So then I was on a break. Drew came my way and offered me the part of Iron Maven. It's a really fun part and it's a good movie. I only wanna do movies now -- it's not my main line of work -- I only wanna do movies if someone is trying to do something within the medium that's fresh, or work with new filmmakers or interesting filmmakers. I also like doing characters I've never done before. I follow this up with three other movies too. They'll all sort of come out in a year. Watch More Whip It Clips >>>
What are the other three?
The other one is another actor-director. My favorite actor of the last ten years, Mark Ruffalo. Yeah, I love him. The movie is called 'Sympathy for Delicious.' It's really unique. It's a very challenging part. I think they are hoping it goes to Sundance; we'll see. And then, I just did a cameo in a Hilary Swank movie called 'Betty Ann Waters,' it's based on a true story. That's another super gritty character. It's just two scenes but it really packs a punch. And then, I followed that up with a big old fun comedy, playing Jennifer Aniston's best friend, with Jason Bateman, and it's called 'The Baster.' That'll be out next year and I'm really excited about that one.
You've worked with a lot of big directors. This is Drew's first time directing. What was she like as a director? What's her style?
My criteria is I want somebody who has a strong point of view, they know the story, they are prepared. Because it's really a tough gig directing your first movie. There's a lot of variables.
And she was in it.
That was really really tough. What's funny is we'd be filming for 13 hours and she'd be on skates the whole day. I've never seen a director on roller skates with rainbows tube socks. As a director, I think she was great. I think she really has a knack for it and I can't wait to see what she does past this. I think she is a natural. Because she loves cinema and she's very versed in it visually. And she has a good sense of taste, her own taste, and you know she had something to say. As a filmmaker, I think she's really strong. You want to support her.
When she was directing you, what's her way of giving you direction? Is she more hands on?
It's funny, half the time as a director you are just sort of lining up your shots, and she - I don't know how to say it. Different directors, their dispositions create the mood on the set. Hers was very cheerful but very dynamic. And when I say cheerful, I mean enthusiastic. Very strong willed. That's what I mean about commanding an army, 'cause she can. And she does it with exuberance. And Scorsese was exuberant and exciting and motivated. And then you had like Oliver Stone who, he likes to sort of ruffle feathers and fan the flames, and get creative juices flowing in another way. There are some who are encouraging and some that aren't very encouraging. I'm fine with that. This role, you know, I've done some really challenging things, but this was fun. What was challenging was all the skating and being prepared for that.
Were you good at this before?
No. I mean I could roll around on wheels. The hard part was throwing hits and knocking people down and staying up. I got good enough it could look like I was doing it good.
What did you think when you saw the Derbies for the first time?
Oh man, I loved it. Because it was just a really exciting culture and I loved the diversity in it. Women from all walks of life. There's no age barrier. Besides the 18 and up-but there's no ageism in the reverse, being older. There's no classism, there's no sexism - well, you have to be female. It's such a strong athleticism and entertainment with these alter-egos. Sort of like a merging of wrestling, rock and roll - it's a huge athletic sport. You really have to know what you are doing.
It hurts to watch you guys.
I know. I just wanted to get my form really good. Getting fast. I had a lot of pressure 'cause I am supposed to be the best one, you know, so I relied a little bit on movie magic. 'Cause we all had different schedules. I was just coming off tour and Ellen had been training for like three months. I had a month and a half. Ellen was the fastest, but in the world of movie magic, she slowed down for me, and made me look the fastest, 'cause she's gracious that way.
There's a scene where your character says, "I'm 36, it took me till I was 30 to figure out something I was good at." What did you think when you first read that scene?
I loved it. I really loved that scene, because that's the heart and soul, that's the crux of their dynamic. And I love that relationship between youth and experience, and it's what sold me on the project. It's kind of light fare, and fun, and you know, I'm a baddie, but you want it to be rooted in something honest and deep. So that's what sold me on it. I related to it. It was parallel to me becoming a songwriter and leading my own band at 30. It is this key age. It was the deciding point, the make or break point for me to finally live out that dream. It's now or never, if you are not going to do it now, there's no point, or you're gonna be 50 and looking back and regret it. There is this turning point - I've seen it in guys too, sort of questioning, 'Oh, I'm not where I wanna be, or all these things. So, I think artistically I want to develop that side, that aspect of myself. In doing that, I had to leave film for a little while. But thankfully, I have enough artists - it's other artists who give me my job. You know what I mean, or give me a career. 'Cause the men in suits, as I like to call them, the money people, they deal in prototypes, familiarity, things you can package, and I've never been of that ilk. So it's really filmmakers and great producers who give me my next job. Anyway, that was a long answer to that! And I related to it in a difference sense, with me and Ellen, and where we are at in different stages of our career, and that we may or might have followed a similar trajectory as young artists, 'cause Ellen is so wonderfully intelligent and she's a super unique talent, there's nobody like her. We had a real natural respect and affection for one another and that was nice that we had that, because I had to be so mean to her.
Afterwards were you like, 'Sorry!'
Yes! It was very difficult to be that cold, that dominating.
You were very good at it, I was scared of you.
Thank you! Good. Drew was encouraging that. I swear to you, I was sort like thought, 'Really? Who does this?' But, we know high school. There are girls. You know people do that, who get off on making other people feel ill at ease. I'm the opposite.
Now that you've been mostly performing in a band, how does that inform your acting? If it does.
It does. Both of them affects each other. Because I have a different sense of confidence and experience. I've traveled the world. I've made albums myself. And I had this deep connection to audiences in my live shows. I've designed a set to where I want people to erupt here, I want them to feel uncomfortable here, I want us all to be celebrating here. My live show is very theatrical, so to have that experience as a performer and then to make movies, I just feel like my wealth of experience has grown. And then, also reversely, as a songwriter, my relationship to drama and characters and understanding, having empathy towards different points of view and people from different walks of life. I've always lived in my imagination. They've really served each other. The music, I've always used music to prepare for parts. If they are emotional. Like I did a play a few years ago where I had to start the play in hysterics. You just open like that. It's not even like a paragraph where you are reading and it's moving you. So, I was listening to Pink Floyd, I had all my songs that I could connect with the music and get into a zone.
Was it fun to be part of a very female, big cast?
A female-dominated world? It was incredible because the spirit of everyone involved, from Zoe Bell, Alia, who plays Ellen Page's friend, Eve and Drew, Kristin Wiig. Everyone was so down to earth, and we all wanted to support each other. We wanted to do a good job, and really represent. You haven't seen a derby movie in who knows how long, even though that's a small part of the film, you still want to represent all the characters and diversity. It was really a special unique experience. I am really honored that came my way. I believe in the universe and what you give, you put out, and you get it back and all that good stuff.
Is there a musical you'd like to see happen?
It's in my imagination right now, it lives there. I really love Fellini, I love Terry Gilliam, I really love All That Jazz, Rocky Horror Picture Show, it'd be a little bit twisted, a little bit surreal. I picture someday doing a Terry Gilliam-esque surrealistic musical. I don't know about what, that's my vision, ultimately of my live show being in a couple of years. It'll be the ultimate of rock'n'roll theater.
Would you ever remake Rocky Horror?
Oooh. God ... You know, I don't know, I would want to make some new something. I'm just not into remakes. Why mess with that?
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