Olivia Thirlby doesn’t want to talk about Ellen Page. “I love her, but I don’t have anything to say about her,” she tells us after begging us not to ask about her Juno co-star. Can’t say I blame her. Being part of one of the biggest movies in the Oscar race means you do a lot, a lot of interviews, but Thirlby is barely taking a break between the Oscar hype and promoting her new movie, Snow Angels. In it she plays a quirky teen--who is nothing at all like Juno, by the way—who strikes up a romance with the trombone player in the marching band (Michael Angarano). It’s a small part, but you’ll instantly recognize every girl from your high school class who was way, way too cool for school.
Thirlby sat down with us and Snow Angels director David Gordon Green to talk about her role in the film, and how she and Angarano created a teenage relationship that feels entirely real. She also dishes on some upcoming projects, as well as her favorite reality TV show. Yes, we at Cinema Blend strive to give you the best variety of random celebrity information.
What was your favorite part about playing this role, and why did you choose it?
Oh, I didn’t choose it. I was lucky enough to have to it given to me. My favorite part I think—when I think back to that time, it was just the whole experience. I have really great memories of the rehearsal process, which was a lot of fun. Michael and I would walk over to David’s apartment, and he would play Iron & Wine and we would sit around and sort of do the scenes and sort of not do the scenes. The whole experience was really a great time. The atmosphere was so relaxed that I would often at the end of the day wonder if I had actually done any work. Michael and I kind of agreed, if you had been filming us while we were just hanging out on set, it would have looked more or less the same. We weren’t having a romantic relationship, but it was seamless, the transition between actually filming the scene and not filming a scene.
The teenage relationship feels very realistic, both serious and silly. How did you capture that?
I agree with you, actually. That’s something I’m really proud of. I think it’s really genuine. It has a lot to do with the fact that David is not wedded to the script. There’s always room for adding, not lines necessarily, but when you watch the scenes, you notice there are a lot of little interjections that mimic real conversation. I think the reason why a lot of teen relationships don’t feel authentic is because they’re scripted by people who are completely unrelated to teen relationships, people who don’t remember their own or didn’t have their own.
Does this relationship resemble any that you’ve ever had?
Oh, absolutely! It’s exactly the same. It’s not different with young people. You meet somebody, you like them, you hang out with them and you form a relationship. It can be based in something real, even though it’s young and innocent. I think that’s why people I identify with it—they’re young kids, but they’re not limited in terms of their perception of reality or their intelligence or anything like that.
In your own words, why should people see this movie?
Mostly, the film is beautiful, and that’s the reason to go see it. I saw it last night for the fifth time. I was not planning on sitting through the movie. And it just started, and I didn’t want to go get up. I enjoyed the movie again so much. I’m so familiar with it—I know every cut that’s coming up, I know what’s about to happen. Every time I watch it, I love it more and more. It’s beautiful, beautiful.
Do you have any stories from behind the scenes with Michael?
He’s really a comedian. He’s really funny, and she’s an excellent mimic. He can do amazing imitations of pretty much everyone.
Who was your favorite imitation he did?
He can do anyone. He does an amazing David Gordon Green imitation. I think he has imitations for everyone he’s ever met probably. I recently saw him do Jackie Chan, and it was hilarious. It was spot-on too!
Can you talk about how your background in Shakespeare helps you with less classical roles?
It’s interesting, because I’m not really sure. I think that it must contribute somehow, but I don’t know. The truth is that stage and film acting don’t translate, and they’re completely different things. Altogether, just your entire approach to it is on the opposite end of the spectrum. If there’s anything that Shakespeare has taught me most, it’s to search the text for the answers. But the really awesome thing about working with this one [gestures to Green] is that there is no attachment to the text. He kind of expects you to bring something new. You have to turn on this other side of your brain that’s not about working through the grooves of Shakespeare and plotting out your every move and interpreting so much as it is interpreting a vibe, an atmosphere, a situation.
Can you talk about The Wackness?
Yeah. It’s coming out July 3, which is exciting. That was a really fun movie for me, because I’m a New Yorker and it’s a very much New York movie. It takes place all over the city, and filming it was a blast. I don’t really know what to say about it. It was a very good time, and a really fun experience. I love the film, and I think it’s great.
Well, I identify with it a lot. The girl—I saw so much of myself in her, and I just decided to make her me, basically. The set was pretty relaxed, because I was just being myself all the time, and didn’t have to really sink my teeth into some character that was really foreign to me. The people that I was working with, another really talented young director Jonathan Levine, and Sir Ben, you know, is Sir Ben. He’s absolutely a Sir—he’s a very regal fellow. Working with him was an amazing experience. Hoping while we were filming a scene that he would have something to say to me, some tip or pointer, was enough to look forward to every morning.
What do you watch for your inspiration?
I like to watch good stuff. Seeing any good performance is very inspiring for me. For this movie David told me to watch Five Easy Pieces.
Do you have any favorite TV shows?
I love Top Chef. That’s totally my favorite reality show. Are you a chef?
Yeah. Well, not a top chef.