Evan Rachel Wood started playing a rebellious young girl in Thirteen, and that role has lingered over her for much of her career. Wood talks about having some “crazy” years, but now she’s in George Clooney’s Ides of March, and she feels like she’s on track again. We talked about her work in the movie, Clooney and Ryan Gosling, her work on True Blood and Justin Bieber. Check it out…
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 phased 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 political father. I’m sure she’s got a lot of stuff to work out.
Can you talk a little bit about working with George Clooney, director?
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.
Is it easier working with a director who’s done some acting than someone who hasn’t?
It is because sometimes it’s 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, literally scared to death. It’s sad.
What was it about this character that initially drew you into the project?
Everything. 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.
He was explaining the character to me and just his kind of vibe. In a lot of 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.
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, 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. I get frustrated and emotionally worked up so I have to disengage. It’s a weird world.
Can you talk a bit more about working with Ryan Gosling because you spend most of your screen time alongside him?
You can’t ask for a better leading man right now. He’s extremely talented but he’s also a cool, interesting guy and he’s fun to hang out with. It makes your job easier when you’re 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.
Were you guys trying to make each other laugh on set?
All the time. I think that’s how that whole tie thing came about. It was improvised. I was just trying to screw with Ryan and make his tie look as bad as possible.
With this film you have a powerhouse cast but it seems like you almost entirely worked with Ryan.
I know. I just now got to know Paul (Giamatti) and Phillip (Seymour Hoffman).
It’s a shame you weren’t around for them.
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.
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 rest 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.
George Clooney is known as a prankster on set, did he pull anything 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.
Have you met him?
I haven’t. Before I was a fan, I was in the same room. Now I’m like “Gahhhhh!” No, I haven’t met him.
Do you admire him from afar?
At this point, with everything that’s been in the press, now I’m sure he’s like “I don’t want to meet that person. She’s nuts. She’s going to attack me.” But it’s not a crush. That’s the weird thing. I don’t have a crush on the guy, and that’s the thing. God, I hope he knows that. 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 crazy.
When you were a child actor was there a point where you thought “Maybe I’ll stop”?
I’ve had those moments. Because when you’ve been doing something your whole life, you really want to make sure that it’s what you want to do and not just what you’re used to or good at. I think the only other thing that I would do is be a psychologist because that’s what I do in a weird way. I analyze people and characters and motives and I’m picking apart human beings constantly. It’s just something I’m passionate about. But, I took a step back and looked and now I really know that this is what I am extremely passionate about and what I want to do. It’s just an amazing platform to reach people and I think that’s one of the most rewarding parts about it.
You were talking about analyzing people and picking out a part, are you writing anything?
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 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 said “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 talk about the craziness of those particular years. Did they feel crazy when they were happening?
I think the point of having those years was to be as crazy as possible because I didn’t really have a childhood or an adolescence. I didn’t have that time so it was like “alright, I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to get to know myself and know what’s out there and have my fun so that I can really focus and commit to this life and this career and get serious.” But I knew before I was going to do that that I was going to be very unserious.
Are the scales balanced now or should we expect more? I mean, between 18 and 24, you’ve probably got a few more years left.
I think things have definitely calmed down a lot for the better but I’m really glad I had that time because it just teaches you so much about yourself. I feel like you can’t be an actor without life experience and without things to draw from. It was all an amazing learning experience. I gained many tools.
Can you talk about what you learned from the True Blood experience, the fans, and working on the TV show for such a long time?
What did I learn? It was cool because I was such a huge fan of the show that getting a chance to be on it and in that world and be a part of it was pretty amazing. I was so nervous though. The first episode that I did was terrifying because I had seen every episode and all of a sudden I was there and the characters were there and I was just like “Oh!” And Stephen Moyer comes over to me and he’s teaching me how to pop the fangs out and I’m like “This is happening!” I think Alan Ball is amazing and I thought the character was hilarious and over the top, so I miss it.
Do you still watch every episode?
I haven’t seen the new season yet – I haven’t had time. I didn’t want to get into it and then miss it so don’t tell me anything because I’m behind. But yeah, I’m still definitely into the show. People have already done it and I’m like “Gah! Why?!”
Was there something about just that show or was it that genre? Do you read or watch other things in that sort of territory?
I’ve always wanted to play a vampire. I don’t know an actor that doesn’t want to do that. I do like that genre, but it’s hard to find ones that I really like. I loved the first season and I loved the chemistry between Stephen and Anna (Paquin) which makes perfect sense now. It was dark but it was really funny which is what Alan Ball is so great at.
What’s next for you on the horizon that we should be watching out for?
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. That’s just a side of me that no one’s really got a chance to see.
Do you mean dark comedy?
Light, like a stoner comedy.
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.
Your character makes this very dramatic choice. Did you guys talk about layering in moments that would lead us to believe that you would head in that direction at a certain point?
What do you mean?
You kill yourself, right? And so….?
I think it’s open to interpretation actually. I think it could have been an accident. It could have not been. It’s like you make that decision, I think. George and I talked about it. We didn’t really think…I mean, we wanted it to be an accident, but you don’t know.
So then it wasn’t necessarily a choice that you had killed yourself?
Ides of March Opens October 7. Check it out.