We've watched Evan Rachel Wood grow up since working on Practical Magic in 1998, through movies such as Running with Scissors and The Wrestler, and TV series Mildred Pierce, and True Blood. Now she teams up with George Clooney and Ryan Gosling in political drama The Ides of March. The stunningly beautiful actress sat down with Buzzine to talk about her aspirations to direct one day, teasing Ryan Gosling, her admiration of Justin Bieber, and the number 15...
Izumi Hasegawa: 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?
Evan Rachel Wood: What do you mean?
IH: You kill yourself, right?
ERW: 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 wanted it to be an accident, but you don't know.
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IH: 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?
ERW: Her father is 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 -- 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 very honest about it.
IH: Maybe getting back at Daddy a little bit?
ERW: 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.
IH: Can you talk a little bit about the directing process and working with George Clooney?
ERW: He's wonderful. We had some rehearsal time blocked out beforehand. It was mainly him, Ryan (Gosling) 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.
IH: Is it easier working with a director who's done some acting than someone who hasn't?
ERW: 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.
IH: Your character is an intern. In real life, have you ever been an intern?
IH: If you had the opportunity, what type of internship would you want to have?
ERW: Oh God, I don't know. I haven't really thought about that. I don't know if I would.
IH: What about fashion or cosmetics?
ERW: Maybe fashion. Fashion would be cool. I mean, it just never seems like it's fun, but maybe. If anything, it would probably be fashion.
IH: 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?
ERW: I don't think so. I think she's savvy to the way the world works. I think that's why, if she was an opportunist, 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 literally scared to death. It's sad.
IH: What was it about this character that initially drew you into the project?
ERW: 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 based her on George in a weird way.
IH: How so?
ERW: I don't know. He was explaining the character to me, and just his 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 his point across. So I just based her off of him and it worked.
IH: Do you pay a lot of attention to politics, or did you do some research on the political system?
ERW: George gave us some great documentaries to watch about the behind-the-scenes and the campaign trails and the press.
IH: The War Room?
ERW: Yeah, that whole thing. So that was cool. I'd never seen 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.
IH: Can you talk a bit more about working with Ryan Gosling? Because you spend most of your screen time alongside him...
ERW: 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, 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.
IH: Were you guys trying to make each other laugh on set?
ERW: Totally. Oh, all the time, man. 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.
IH: How old do you think she was?
ERW: She was 20.
IH: With this film, you have a powerhouse cast, but it seems like you almost entirely worked with Ryan.
ERW: I know. I just now got to know Paul (Giamatti) and Phil (Philip 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.
IH: It's a shame you weren't around for them.
ERW: I know. It could be worse. It was not a bad day at work.
IH: So they shot you for two weeks then...?
ERW: 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.
IH: Was it a challenge to play a character with smaller parts spread out that way?
ERW: 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.
IH: Did you give him hell for that?
ERW: Of course. I'm always giving Ryan hell, actually.
IH: 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?
ERW: Advice for her? Oh Jesus! So many bad jokes have just come into my head. I'm not going to say anything.
IH: Say them all!
ERW: 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.
IH: Keep your pants on?
ERW: No, she should be able to pull her pants off as much as she wants. But maybe be safer? I don't know. Probably just that. Be more careful next time, I guess.
IH: George Clooney is known as something of a prankster on set. Did he pull any shit on you?
ERW: 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.
IH: What were you guys dancing to?
ERW: Justin Bieber...which is why he knew it would be 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.
IH: Have you met him?
ERW: 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.
IH: Do you admire him from afar?
ERW: 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. 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, that's amazing. I can't imagine what that does to a person, so the journey ahead for him must be just crazy.
IH: Have you ever given advice or been asked advice from a kid performer about how it worked for you?
ERW: Yeah, and it's weird. Sometimes parents come up to me and they go, "Should I let my daughter be an actress?" and I have a real dilemma of going, "Yes! Yeah, do it!" because there are so many sacrifices. You sacrifice your childhood. It's really a lot. So I don't know if I would advise it. I don't regret my life because I'm really happy, but that's not to say that it hasn't been really difficult. I don't know if I would advocate it. It's kind of dangerous.
IH: Was there a point where you thought, "Maybe I'll stop"?
ERW: I've had those moments. Because when you've been doing something your whole life, you really want to make sure it's what you want to do and not just what you're used to or good at. I think the only other thing I would do would be a psychologist because that's kind of 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.
IH: You were talking about analyzing people and picking out a part. Are you writing anything?
ERW: I do write. I write a lot. I've always written, actually. I feel like, one day, I need to write an autobiography, though, because 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.
IH: 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...
ERW: Totally. Now I'm trying to take in every little thing and ask questions and learn as much as possible.
IH: Is that something you got from George Clooney, since he's an actor-turned-director?
ERW: A little bit. It was really inspiring watching him, especially as an actor. It's so cool that he's taken everything he's achieved, and now he has the opportunity to make these incredible films and these important stories. That's inspiring. That was cool.
IH: You talk about the craziness of those particular years. Did they feel crazy when they were happening?
ERW: Yeah. 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, all right, 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 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.
IH: 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...
ERW: Oh God! No, 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.
IH: Of all the roles that you've had, have you had a favorite to psychoanalyze?
ERW: Oh my God, Veda from Mildred (Pierce). 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, that was really difficult because she's not somebody you want to feel bad for in any way.
IH: What was it like working with Todd Haynes as a director?
ERW: He's amazing. He's just got such a huge heart. He's one of the most gentle, loving, passionate people I've ever met, so he's amazing to communicate with, actually, because it's like he feels it, and he wants to communicate that, and he knows what he's asking of you, especially in things like Mildred. He knows where you have to go, so he's really there with you every step of the way. He goes through it with you. He feels it all, so it's special. It's weird.
IH: 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?
ERW: It was really fun. We had a great time. 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. Oh my God! The first episode I did, it was terrifying because I had literally seen every episode, and all of a sudden I was there and the characters were there, and Stephen Moyer comes over to me and he's teaching me how to pop the fangs out, and I'm just like, "This is happening!" It was crazy. It was so cool, and I think Alan Ball is amazing, and I thought the character was hilarious and over-the-top, so I miss it.
IH: Do you still relate to the show as a fan? Do you still watch every episode?
ERW: 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.
IH: Was there something about just that show, or was it that genre? Do you read or watch other things in that territory?
ERW: I've always been a fan of it. 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 I really like. I loved the first season, and I loved the chemistry between Stephen and Anna (Paquin), which makes perfect sense now. They were so good, and I loved the love story and I loved the humor in it. It was dark, but it was really funny, which is what Alan Ball is so great at.
IH: What's next for you on the horizon that we should be watching out for?
ERW: There are 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 has really gotten a chance to see.
IH: Do you mean dark comedy, like Pretty Persuasion or just light comedy?
ERW: Light, like a stoner comedy, I would love to do and it would be fun. I think everything I do, I have to come on set and go [takes a deep breath as though 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.
IH: Is this your call out to everyone right now? "Hey, I want to do a stoner comedy."
ERW: That's exactly what I'm doing. Absolutely.
IH: Sort of a Matthew McConaughey role?
ERW: That would be great, actually. That would be amazing.
IH: What's with the tattoo behind your ear?
ERW: Is it a heart or 15?
ERW: It's my lucky number.
IH: Where did you get this lucky number?
ERW: It's just a recurring theme in my life. I'm surrounded by 15s all the time. What room are we in?
ERW: No, seriously.
IH: We're in Room 1215.
ERW: I told you!
Columbia Pictures' 'The Ides of March' is released on October 7, 2011.