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It seems almost impossible that anyone could steal a scene or two from Meryl Streep, but former Mean Girl Amanda Seyfried managed to do just that in her breakout role as Streep's daughter in Mamma Mia! Although she's been on the HBO show Big Love since 2006 and was on Veronica Mars from 2004 until 2006, it wasn't until she belted out ABBA classics like "Honey Honey" and "Lay All Your Love on Me" with the glittering Mediterranean Sea in the background that she landed on the list of Hollywood's hottest up-and-comers. Since then, she's battled the high school best friend from hell in Jennifer's Body and swooned with Channing Tatum in Dear John.
In Atom Egoyan's Chloe, however, Seyfried is no longer the awkward best friend or beach-kissed blonde; she's a high-priced prostitute who's hired by Catherine, a gynecologist played by Julianne Moore who wants to find out if her husband is cheating on her. Rather than hire a private dick, Catherine hires Chloe to see if her husband (Liam Neeson) will fall for the fresh young bait. But once Catherine sets this transaction in motion, she finds herself in a complicated relationship with Chloe that goes far beyond cold hard cash.
Seyfried sat with Cinematical to discuss her complicated young character, working with Atom Egoyan, and, of course, Catherine Hardwicke's The Girl with the Red Riding Hood. At the time of this interview, it was not publicly confirmed that Seyfried would star in Red Riding Hood. (Seyfried had told Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet at the Oscars that she was going to be in the movie, but the publicity machine quickly had the blunt and beautiful young actress backpedaling.) Since then, she has confirmed publicly at ShoWest that she'll be starring in the Hardwicke vehicle. Seyfried will also be in a Glenn Close movie called Albert Nobbs, which you can read about here.
Cinematical: There's no real back story for Chloe in the movie. She appears to us out of nowhere. Did you create a history for her?
Amanda Seyfried: There was a little bit of history written. I mean, by history I mean, like, five words that kind of meant a lot. She was telling Catherine that she was, her mother kicked her out at fourteen and said to never come back to her and her brother again, and gave her four hundred bucks. Based on that, I took that she didn't have a father, which could explain why she's doing what she's doing a little bit, and she's been on her own ever since. Never really been loved, hasn't had a proper healthy relationship with anybody, and that's why I think that obviously when she meets Catherine, everything kind of - she becomes obsessed with her, because Catherine even gives an ounce of love to her, an ounce of appreciation, and she takes it as if it's like a gold mine, that she's found her soul mate.
Cinematical: Did you research Chloe at all by talking to women who work as prostitutes?
Amanda Seyfried: Atom actually talked to a bunch... He was very open and talked about what he was doing and the information he needed and how they felt about their job. I think they enjoyed it, pretty much, just being able to justify what they do, just as Chloe does with Catherine... I leaned on Atom the whole time, because he had a clear, clear vision of what Chloe was, and he was so much more connected to Chloe before I even met him on this movie that I just really sat back and listened. And I'm talking about days and days worth of information, and every meal we had together, every minute we were alone together, he was discussing Chloe and her motives and why she was responding this way and what everything meant. I absorbed it to a point where I connected to her and I was able to portray her... The preparation's really important; before you go on set, you need to know who this person is. You really do or you can't get it all out there, and in this movie, it's really important, like, every subtlety, all the specifics are so important because that's what kind of propels the whole story.
Cinematical: It feels like Chloe's coming from an honest and pure place even though what she does isn't necessarily...
Amanda Seyfried: It's a fantasy. She leads fantasies. She doesn't know – she's so young, she doesn't know how to control everything. I mean, she can control these men and use her body to make money to get by but, you know, you see her crying in the bathroom at the beginning of the movie. It's obvious that this girl is lost. She's a little girl. Part of her has just never grown up and never matured to a point where she can control her feelings, but she's definitely able to separate them a little bit, enough to get by and that's why with Catherine it's so delicate because she feels like she can be herself, she can be that person, that open, vulnerable, broken girl in front of Catherine, and it wouldn't ruin her. It would actually open up something brand new.
Cinematical: Which aspect of the project hooked you? Was it Atom, was it the script, was it the cast?
Amanda Seyfried: It was the character. Those don't come along very often, and I felt like it was just a completely different level of acting. It was actually playing a character as opposed to a version of myself. It was by far, I mean, it was a huge leap out of the norm for me, and I think hopefully it will just show people that there's range and that was my initial reaction to it. Then, of course, everybody's telling me that I had to work with Atom, and then I started kind of researching him a little bit and I realized that he's a very specific director and he's really special. There really is nobody like him. He understands the very small moments in everything, and he's so observant and his appreciation for relationships and human beings and how they communicate is so deep, and it's just like he'll stop at nothing to get it and show it to people. That's what his films are about. It's amazing. It seems like such a boring idea to just watch human beings communicate with each other, but it's funny how we actually do, when we look at it from the outside. It's just so funny. It's a good study.
Cinematical: I really appreciate the kind of edgy things that you've taken on. I was a huge fan of Jennifer's Body, as were all of my girlfriends, and I'm really interested in what attracts you to these sort of roles. Obviously, we've got Red Riding Hood coming up. Can you tell me anything about that?
Amanda Seyfried: No, nothing's signed. We're still waiting. It's a game right now. It's a waiting game. I don't have to deal with it. I do know that I'm doing this great movie beforehand called Albert Nobbs, and Glenn Close co-wrote it, and she cast me in it to play her love interest, and she plays a man in the late 1800s outside of Dublin, and it's f*cking amazing. It's a really amazing script. It's crazy. It's a version of myself but with an accent so it's going to be really challenging in a very technical way, but I'm so excited to talk about that. That's confirmed! But everybody cares about Red Riding Hood, which isn't confirmed.
Cinematical: What else can you tell me about Red Riding Hood?
Amanda Seyfried: Catherine has a very vivid, clear idea, a beautiful idea of what she wants us to be. Very gothic, very dark. And unlike Twlight. It's older. Leonardo DiCaprio's producing it with his [partner] Jennifer [Davisson Killoran] and... I'm the lead character. It's a big studio movie, which is sometimes hard, but, you know, we need the backing for something like that. It's set in like, God knows when, back, back in time, I don't even know when. 1500s, 1400s? And it's stunning. The script is really good. It's really good. It's gonna change a little bit I'm sure, and nobody's cast yet, but it's just a really great idea, and I believe it was Leonardo's idea... And I think Catherine's really innovative and fresh, passionate, and I think that's what we need. I mean, listen, not every movie is going to be a hit, but if someone has passion for something and the story's good... I liked the darker side of things. It's a period piece, as well. That's another really appealing part of it.
Cinematical: And Catherine says it's going to be really sexy, which is interesting since some interpretations of the story are that it's about a girl's sexual awakening if you look at some of the fairy tales, or even if you look at movies like Ginger Snaps or The Company of Wolves, which is based on an Angela Carter short story.
Amanda Seyfried: The funny thing about this is she doesn't start out a virgin. So that's what I like about it. It's more realistic. I liked that aspect of it.
Cinematical: And you've also got Letters to Juliet coming up as well, with Gael García Bernal and Vanessa Redgrave.
Amanda Seyfried: It's fresh. It's a nice romantic comedy. You gotta switch it up. I can't always go for the intense things... but Letters to Juliet was really fun.