Since breaking out with her performance in the hard-to-watch drama Thirteen, Evan Rachel Wood has established herself as one of the best young actresses working right now. She’s dabbled a bit in everything, from drama like The Wrestler to comedy like Whatever Works and even musicals like Across the Universe. Now she’s doing a bit of politicking with George Clooney and Ryan Gosling in The Ides Of March.
Speaking with the actresses about the role as part of a roundtable interview the weekend before last, Wood talked about the background of her character (who serves as an intern for the presidential campaign at the center of the film), how inspiring it was to work with an actor-director like George Clooney, and her desire to do a silly pot comedy. Check out the interview below.
How much back story did you create for this character? You’re obviously the daughter of the Chair of the DNC. Was she sleeping around before with people of power? Do you think that was her thing?
I think, you know, her father’s a politician. I’m sure she’s been raised in this world with a very male dominated arena so I think she’s not fazed by it. She’s not intimidated at all. I think that’s what’s cool is she’s throwing all these guys off their game. I’m sure this isn’t anything new. But I don’t think she’s in it to gain anything. I think she’s really just having fun. She’s pretty innocent about it and she’s very honest about it.
Maybe getting back at daddy a little bit?
I’m sure. She’s got a lot. She was raised Catholic with a politician father. I’m sure she’s got a lot of stuff to work out.
Can you talk a little bit about the directing process and working with George Clooney?
He’s wonderful. We had some rehearsal time blocked out beforehand. We used that to – it was mainly him, Ryan and I – just getting to know each other and hanging out more than going over the script. We were very comfortable. And then, on the day, George really let us play and improvise and it made it easier that he’s an actor, I think, because he knows what to say to get what he wants out of you. He just took care of his cast and crew. I’m sure everyone had a great time so he got great work. It was kind of nice.
Is it easier working with a director who’s done some acting than someone who hasn’t?
Yeah, it is because sometimes it’s really hard to communicate the same way and to speak the same language, so you have to run around trying to figure out what the other person is trying to say. It’s hard with artists. They have such crazy minds and a very certain way of seeing things and then communicating it is something totally different. So it really helps.
You described your character as a little naïve at times. Do you feel like there’s any active manipulation on her part? Do you ever feel like she’s being an idealist or an opportunist?
I don’t think so. I think she’s savvy to the way that world works. I think that’s why, if she was an opportunist, then she would have used her situation to her advantage completely. But, she’s terrified because she knows what that means for everyone involved and I think she really didn’t mean to or expect to be put there. She was naïve because she was just having fun. She was living in the moment and now she’s screwed and she’s scared to death... It’s sad.
What was it about this character that initially drew you into the project?
Everything about the project drew me to it. But I loved her. I loved her confidence. I loved how subtle she was, how direct she was and I kind of based her on George in a weird way.
I don’t know. He was explaining the character to me and just his kind of vibe. In a lot of great roles that he’s played, he’s always been very subtle and very cool and collected and he doesn’t need a big show to get across his point. He just *is* so I just based her off of him and it worked.
Do you pay a lot of attention to politics or did you do some research on the political system?
George gave us some great documentaries to watch about the behind the scenes and the campaign trails and the press.
The War Room?
Yeah, that whole thing. So that was kind of cool. I’d never seem that side of it. For the most part, I try to stay informed and involved about politics but it’s really hard for me. I get really frustrated and emotionally worked up so I have to disengage. I don’t know. It’s a weird world.
That sounds like the general consensus for anybody who involves themselves or pays attention to politics.
Can you talk a bit more about working with Ryan Gosling because you spend most of your screen time alongside him?
He was awesome. You can’t ask for a better leading man right now. He’s extremely talented but he’s also a really cool, just interesting guy and he’s fun to hang out with. It makes your job so much easier when you are doing those scenes and when you have to play opposite somebody like that. There’s just a comfortability there that really helps. I think we both knew that we could go toe to toe with each other and try to intimidate one another and see who was going to crack first. It was fun.
Were you guys trying to make each other laugh on set?
Totally. Oh, all the time, man. All the time. I think that’s how that whole tie thing came about. It was just improvised. I was literally just trying to screw with Ryan and make his tie look as bad as possible. That was just what we did.
How old do you think she was?
Twenty. She was twenty.
With this film you have a powerhouse cast but it seems like you almost entirely worked with Ryan.
Yeah, I know. I just now got to know Paul [Giamatti] and Phil [Seymour Hoffman]. They’re great. They’re amazing. But I didn’t actually have any scenes with them. Most of them were just with Ryan.
It’s a shame you weren’t around for them.
I know, it could be worse. It was not a bad day at work.
So they shot you for two weeks and then…?
It was a couple of months actually. It was pretty spread out. When we filmed in Cincinnati and Detroit in winter, we still had a great time so that’s saying a lot.
That’s very impressive.
Was it a challenge to play a character with smaller parts spread out that way?
No, it was great actually. It was nice to not have the movie just resting [on me]. Poor Ryan, he was in every single scene.
Did you give him hell for that?
Of course, I’m always giving Ryan hell actually.
Later today, I’m sure. It’ll start.
Your character is 20 and you’re now 24. Given that you have four more years of real life experience, what advice might you have for your character?
Advice for her? Oh Jesus! So many bad jokes have just come into my head. I’m not going to say anything.
Say them all!
I know, I know. But I’m supposed to promote this movie in a good way. Okay. What advice would I give to her? God! I mean, I really don’t know.
Keep your pants on?
No, she should be able to pull her pants off as much as she wants. But maybe be safer? I would say. Be safer. I don’t know. Yeah, probably just that. Be more careful next time, I guess.
George Clooney is known as something of a prankster on set, did he pull any shit on you?
I don’t know. I feel like he’s always pulling something. That’s the thing. I think one of the greatest pranks of all time is just establishing that you’re a prankster so every day on set you’re looking over your shoulder. Everyone was on their toes just waiting for something to happen. I think the only thing he did to me was catch me and Max [Minghella] dancing and singing and he rolled the camera, but that was about it. I think Ryan was the one that got water squirt bottles in his crotch and things like that but I was spared.
What were you guys dancing to?
Justin Bieber…which is why he knew it would be embarrassing.
Yes, that is embarrassing.
But I am a firm Belieber and I’ve embraced it. I used to be a closeted one who was really embarrassed about it but there’s nothing I can do so it’s best to be honest.
That’d be a little weird.
No, no, and that’s the thing. God, I hope he knows that. It’s fine. It’s nothing to be freaked out about. I just really respect you and what you do and how hard you’ve worked because I was a kid performer. Anytime someone that young is born with that incredible of a talent and has gone as far so quickly, I mean, that’s amazing. I can’t imagine what that does to a person so the journey ahead for him must be just crazy.
You were talking about analyzing people and picking out a part, are you writing anything?
Yeah. I mean, I do. I write. I write a lot. I’ve always written actually. I feel like one day I need to write an autobiography though because Jesus it’s like it’s been so crazy. I’d love to do that one of these days. Julie Taymor wants me to make a movie about the years between 18 and 24. She was like “This whole time you just need to put on film immediately.” I don’t know. I would love to keep writing though and maybe direct one of these days. That’s what everyone keeps telling me I need to be doing but I don’t know if I’m there yet.
You’ve spent X amount of years in front of the camera and you’ve obviously got the eye for how everything works with actors.
Totally. Now I’m trying to take in every little thing and ask questions and learn as much as possible.
Is that something you got from George Clooney since he’s an actor turned director?
A little bit. I mean, it was really inspiring watching him, especially as an actor. It’s so cool that he’s taken everything that he’s achieved and now he has the opportunity to make these incredible films and these important stories. That’s inspiring. That was cool.
Of all the roles that you’ve had, have you had a favorite to psychoanalyze?
Oh my God, Veda from Mildred [Pierce]. I mean, she was a field day. But she was also the hardest to pick apart because she does things that are so hard to fathom and so hard to imagine anyone actually doing and the motives behind it. To find a way to sympathize with her and to figure out why she does what she does, I mean, that was really difficult because she’s not somebody that you want to feel bad for in any way.
What’s next for you on the horizon that we should be watching out for?
I don’t know. I mean, there’s things in the works but I don’t think I can talk about any of them yet. I just have to wait and see. I really want to do a comedy next. I do. That’s just a side of me that no one’s really got a chance to see.
Do you mean dark comedy like Pretty Persuasion or just light comedy?
Light, like a stoner comedy, I would love to do and it would be fun. I think everything that I do, I have to come on set and go [takes a deep breath preparing for a really serious, dramatic scene]. I would just love to come on set and be like “Hey! Let’s do this!” That would be great. It would be a change of pace.
Is this your call out to everyone right now? “Hey, I want to do a stoner comedy.”
That’s exactly what I’m doing. Absolutely.
Sort of a Matthew McConaughey role?
That would be great actually. That would be amazing.
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NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.