Last week I sat in on roundtables for Interview, the new Steve Buscemi-directed remake of a 2003 film by the same name. The film stars Buscemi and Sienna Miller and focuses on a night shared by a political journalist assigned to do a celeb profile and the celeb he's profiling, a television and movie actress known simply as Katya. The two start the night by hating each other -- he's offended that she shows up late to meet and she's offended that he's never seen her slasher film -- and they go from there. The roundtables were pretty short and sweet: one standout moment was when someone showed Sienna a copy of the new Factory Girl DVD that advertises itself as "Sexy" in big bold letters. "I'm not surprised," she said. "I wouldn't expect anything less. And I say that with absolute love." Another was when someone asked Buscemi to defend rumors that a movie he's soon to be appearing in, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, is anti-gay. Here's a sampling of the questions asked by everyone who was there.
What was the process of getting this role like?
It was really uncool. I got a call from my agent saying that Steve Buscemi had got in touch and was doing a film, directing and acting in it, and it was sort of a two-hander and 'would I be interested in reading the script?' And I said 'I'll do it, without seeing the script.' I figured if it was good enough for Steve Buscemi it was good enough for me. So I actually agreed to it, and they were like 'Surely you should read the script or talk to Steve' and I was like 'No, I'm doing it.' Then I spoke to Steve and he was like 'Please read the script' and I was like 'No, done. I'll come and make the tea on your set, let alone come and act.' So it was sort of a no-brainer, and then thankfully read the script and loved it and loved the character and loved the dynamic between the two people. So it was a really interesting project, and I really love the film as a film. It's the first one I've done that I've actually watch and think 'God, that's actually a cool movie. It's very European, yeah.'
Your character is sort of playing a character herself in the film.
Yeah, and it got really confusing. It's hard to talk about it without giving the entire thing away, but at the moment when that decision has to be made, to 'act', you know, I didn't know how to really portray that. I thought there has to be a flicker of some ... 'oh my God' ... and then a decision to sort of really go for it. But it was a hard thing to get in a look. But yeah, she's definitely playing a role. She plays several roles that night, like victim and helpless girl and evil woman and seductress.
Did you want anything changed about your character when you signed on?
No, just more -- always more -- just take it further. I mean, the physicality of it ... I sort of run around quite a lot. I'm quite bouncy, so the throwing myself around on the floor, that came quite naturally to me. In terms of when I ran and jumped into the sofa, that's the kind of behavior that goes on in my house. I would definitely leap onto sofas ... and the clumsiness. I remember when I take a sip of wine and it splashes in my face, that actually happens. It does tend to happen quite often, and also with Steve, I get a lighter and put it by his glasses and light it. So I did that, just on a whim, in the middle of a take, and the flame nearly melted the glasses onto his face. Which wouldn't have been very funny.
Have you ever had an interview go completely wrong?
I have people who deliberately don't take me seriously in any way, and believe what they read in tabloid things. I don't read them so I don't know, but I imagine it's quite horrendous. And therefore come in and there's no respect or dignity. They just want to know 'is this true, is this true, where'd you get that top', you know ... stuff that I really don't think about, and the amount of people I've supposedly slept with, regardless of the fact that I've been in relationships since I was 19, back to back, is extraordinary. And people believe that, and that's the perception the tabloids want to create about me, which couldn't be further away from who am I.. So you know, you sense that. It's just an energy sense, I think, more than anything, that people aren't kind. And then you read the article and go 'I knew you were a bastard.'
What about the other way -- an interview that went really great?
No, yeah, absolutely. Well, I trust everyone -- even journ ... [stops ... laughter]....even journalists! But I do! And if I'm going to be interviewed, I want to sit down and have a real conversation and otherwise, what's the point? I'm not going to go in and pretend to be like 'Oh yes' and drink water and ... I'm a real person and they're a real person, and I'd like to have a connection and hopefully an honest article will come out of an honest connection ... most of them I end up being really friendly to, and then half of them screw me over and half of them don't. So it's luck of the draw. But I don't want to go in and be the actress, because it's boring for you, it's boring for me, I am who I am, I'm not afraid to be who I am, I work very hard, and what I do with my spare time is up to me. I'm not going to change because of what I do. I'd be miserable if I wasn't being myself.
Are you interested in doing a comedy at some point?
I'd love to do a comedy, I really would. I really would love to do a comedy, but it's hard to find a comedy where the girls are the funny ones. I think they tend to be sort of a leg-up for the guys, so I want to find a comedy where I can be a really, silly, klutzy girl, which is sort of what I am in real life. You know, that would be good, but just sort of the right things. And I'm quite fussy about what I'm interested in and what I do, and I haven't found the right one, but I'm definitely looking.
Did you have an opportunity to improv while filming Interview?
Yeah, little things happened. I remember for the Google page, where there are photos of me -- I don't Google, so I sort of had to approve this page -- and I was like, 'No, you can't have that one, I look like a slut!' and then I get the new pages, and it says 'Don't have that one, I look like a slut.' So I had to be very careful about what I say to Steve! The odd little comment would go in. Also, in terms of physical action, we just sort of did whatever we wanted, and we could talk over each other, and we did improvise bits, but the script was pretty tight and pretty brilliant.
How did you get involved in this project?
I was approached as a director, first. But they did ask me if I was interested in acting in it, as well, but my first choice was to direct it ... It's not necessarily easier to have another actor -- in some ways, it would have been harder to schedule three people -- me and two other actors. You know, in some ways you're sort of cutting out the middle man. I'm the guy who's doing it. Especially doing Trees Lounge, that whole film was so personal it would have been hard to give up to another actor, only because I knew that character so well, but I also felt with this character that it was a character I could really play. That I was right for, and I didn't feel that in the two previous films, that there was a role I could have.
How easy was it to relate to your character?
Just the fact that he's a guy with a wife and a kid, already that's something I can relate to. And a guy who is serious about his work and what that must mean to him, to have to compromise on his work, a guy like that. And so I really sort of sympathized and had empathy for him, and I could also appreciate his sense of humor and knowing his weaknesses and all of that. That's just fun as an actor, to have a character that has that many problems.
Have you ever had an interview that got really intimate?
Yeah, but nothing like what happens in the film. You know, sometimes its weird when you're doing these one-on-one interviews and you feel like there is a level of intimacy that is sort of reached, but then afterwards you go 'what was that about? I don't know that person.' So yeah, my defenses are definitely up whenever ... I think it's just natural. I think it's sort of an unnatural phenomenon to be interview ... some people are good at drawing that out and making somebody feel comfortable enough to want to tell them that. Like, 'Oh, I can trust them.' Then you walk away going 'That's something I told them, but I don't necessarily want it to get out here.' Then you feel 'Oh, I guess I was manipulated.' ... Anybody who reads an interview is looking for something, you know, funny stories that happened at work. So yeah, and it is a fine line of how revealing you want to be and what does feel like crossing the line, or that you feel uncomfortable sharing with the public, and by nature I think I am a pretty private person, and that's what's hard ... even doing interviews for films that I really love doing, in some ways it diminishes the experience that I had, to have to talk about it so much, with strangers ... so yeah, it's tricky. It's something I still haven't quite figured out.
It's interesting that you talked earlier about your character being serious about his work, because he shows up so unprepared at the opening of the film.
Well, yeah, but he was serious about the world that he came from, which was political, a war correspondent, so he feels like it's a compromise to have to do this other type of work. And I feel like that could be a mistake on his part, that he goes into this interview with this attitude towards her that's really more about him than it is about her. He brings his own baggage to the interview, and he's seemingly unprepared, but you know what, I'll bet he had plenty of time to read that brief while he was waiting for her, and as it was revealed, he did see at least one of her movies, and I'll bet he knew more about her than he let on. I think whether it was part of his plan to sort of push her buttons in that way, or if he was doing that because he waited there for so long, that he was going to be a little bit passive aggressive or confrontational, these are questions that, when I watch the movie, it changes for even me.
Based on trailers, some have claimed that I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, a film you're in, is not gay friendly.
First of all, I don't think you can tell what any movie is like by the trailer, and the premise is two very straight guys, who are homophobic, pretending to be gay. One is more homophobic than the other, I think. And it's what they learn about people's attitudes about gay people and gay marriage. That's what I found really interesting about the film, that this is being explored in this broad, comedic, hopefully very commercial film, and what I experienced on set, it champions gay rights and gay marriage. So you know, I haven't seen the film yet, but I think Adam has touched on this before in his movies and I know him personally and he's not homophobic. I don't think that is any kind of message he wants to portray.
I haven't seen the trailers, and I'm sorry if that's what's seemingly coming through, because I don't believe the film is that way, and I would not have been involved in it if I felt like that's what it was doing. I feel like it's bringing this to the forefront, this whole issue of gay marriage, which I think is a non-issue. I think it's ridiculous that it's even a debate. Don't ask don't tell ... I think it's criminal. In the Republican debate, these politicians who were talking about how important the war on terror is, and not one of them said they would repeal don't ask don't tell. They would rather see good soldiers being released from the military because they are gay. It's so hypocritical and dangerous -- we need every soldier. Who cares if they are gay or straight. We just want them to good soldiers.