Monday, August 21, 2006

Amy Smart: Gettin' Cranked Up (Q&A)

Many remember Amy Smart from the risque scenes she shot in flicks like Road Trip and Starsky & Hutch but there's a trifle more to her than that -- girlfriend really enjoys a good laugh. I caught up with Amy Smart over the weekend @ the Sofitel over in BH -- she was doing press for the new action flick Crank in which she co-stars with the Transporter himself, Jason Statham. Look for her this fall in CBS' crime-drama Smith as well. Here's a little bit of what went down in our 1:1 session, just before she had to bolt and do some TV shite...

Q: What do you think the audience's initial reaction to all of the action in this film will be?

Amy Smart: I think this film will definitely surprise people and keep them going from beginning to end, non-stop -- keep their heart rate up; it will completely rock their world. I don't think it's boring at one bit -- I just think it will keep you entertained from beginning to end -- it's like a big rollercoaster.

Q: In the bio it says that you'd always wanted to get into an action flick -- did you want to do more kicking and scratching.

AS: You know, it's fun. I'm kind of doing that in a TV show I'm doing right now, Smith. I have a lot of that going on so I got my fix from doing Smith. I was happy to be a part of the stunts and climbing fire escapes four stories up and dodging bullets. I don't, necessarily, feel like I've got to do a lot of action films but I had a great time working on this one.

Q: Well, this is your first one or was it Starship Troopers?

AS: Yeah, it's my first one -- I had a tiny part, though.

Q: How was it working with Jason Statham because he's got a couple of action flicks under his belt.

AS: I loved him! He's so talented, you know, he's from the streets. He's got a lot of street smarts and life experiences and he brings that to his work. He's raw and he's direct and he's so funny -- he's got the great British sensibility...I love British people, I think they're more aware of what's going on in the world, more educated in some ways because America can be very isolated in it's own view of the world and basically think that it is the world. So, I find, for the most part that when I meet British people, they there's a stronger sense of values of the world as a whole. And Jason, to me, he's kind of like an underdog. As a British actor, he hasn't done what most British actors have done which is like gone to 'this training school' and 'this theatre' [for classical lessons]. He's really working with his instincts -- I think as an actor that's really important to keep in mind because I think a lot of theater schools can train that out of you.

*Q: So getting to that, do you think his past of working as a busker on the street of London helps him out?

AS: I think it's made him the kind of actor that he is today, absolutely.

Q: You live here in L.A., some actors don't like to work here and live here was that a big deal for you?

AS: No, it's kind of fun because I do live here and it was nice to go to work and come home at the end of the day. It's fun shooting around L.A., it's got amazing aspects to it and a lot of times in L.A. [people] tend to spend a lot of time in certain areas. It was fun to get out and see more of the aspects of the city and to feel the pulse of different neighborhoods.

Q: Yeah, I get dim sum in Chinatown all the time -- did you guys shoot that public sex scene down in the real Chinatown square or what?

AS: -- that was shot in San Pedro.

Q: You and Jason were getting buck wild -- I was like what the fuck?! I wasn't expecting that! Was it difficult to do in front of all of those extras and crew?

AS: Well, I read the scene in the script and I was like 'oh my god, what the hell?' But it was fun because Jason and I were both apprehensive and nervous and embarassed because we were like 'okay, we've got to go and shoot this -- let's go for it! I couldn't have done it by myself. I knew that if we both were putting ourselves on the line, then it wasn't just me.

Q: So is the character Eve anything like Amy?

AS: There are definitely parts of me that are like Eve -- I'm always up for an adventure. But Eve lives in her own world and she's not aware of the pace of the people and the life around her. She lives her life the way she wants to, she can't really hold a job -- she's a trust fund girl that can survive on her own.

Q: Are there any trust-afarians that you know personally that you drew on?

AS: Yes, [women] that do have that lifestyle, that are kind of lazy and only interested in what they want and there's no time frame. There's no urgency because they've got nothing that they'd really need to do. So she, I think, is creative but getting by on a day to day basis and just making money is just not a part of who she is.

*Q: So what's up with the TV show Smith, break it down; what's the premise and who do you play?

AS: Smith is a crime drama with Ray Liotta as the main character and he has a family life. He tries to lead this normal life with his wife, Virginia Madsen, and his kids but on the side he pulls these huge, multi-million dollar heists -- he's a master criminal and thief. I'm one of the criminals in the crew that he works with, I'm the only female, Annie. And my character's very smart, very strong and very dangerous -- she'll do anything to get what she wants and she will use her sexuality to get it.

Q: She's a dancer or something like that?

AS: She's a showgirl for fun, she's multi-talented and I love playing her.

Q: I know it's an action film but do you think there's an underlying message to Crank?

AS: I think the fun part is that you do really see that life is meant to be lived to it's fullest -- and try not to be a hit man because you'll be shot up with Chinese poison. [laughs]

Q: You're engaged, right? In the film, Eve falls for a tough guy, did you?

AS: I'm not engaged, actually, I mean I've been with the same guy off and on for many years...In some ways I think there is a draw to tough guys; guys that live on the edge and take risks.

Q: What kind of music's in your iPod? What're you listening to these days?

AS: I like so many different kinds of music, I just got this Sarah Vaughan and recently I just got Madonna's new LP, Confessions on the Dancefloor. I like the new Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. I like Nikki Avalon. I like soulful music like Sting and Seal and U2. And then I like Queens of the Stone Age -- I just like a little of everything.

Q: Is there one act, that really speaks to you?

AS: I like Pink -- she's a friend of mine.

Q: You like what she has to say about things, I take it?
AS: I do, I really do.

*photo credits: Ron Batzdorf

Crank opens nationally on September 1st

Friday, August 18, 2006

Lili Taylor: Factotum (Q&A)

Q: You have any difficulty settling into the role of Jan while shooting Factotum?

Lili Taylor: Not really, Matt (Dillon) talked a lot -- he had done a lot of the work. I could get a lot of information from him. I didn't want to do too much research. I wanted it to be a little bit more instinctual, than intellectual [of an approach] for Jan...I hadn't read Factotum but I'd read other stuff of Bukowski's so [then] I read the book but I didn't use the book a lot [for character reference] during the filming...I read the book like a month before we started shooting.

Q: Just the one, any poems or anything?

LT: I'd read Bukowski before, like when I was 17 and I was more familiar with his poetry.

Q: You have a favorite poem?

LT: No, I don't have a favorite. I just actually got into his poetry again because I'd read some of it for some live thing and I think I found the middle period to have some really interesting stuff -- because I was reading from an anthology.

Q: What was your relationship with Bukowski's writing to begin with? Was it just his writing that you'd read when you were 17 and then a large lag until you came into this project came around?
LT: It felt like a lot of other people, who, mostly guys at a certain time [in their lives], were helpful. And then, after they got me to where I needed to be, I was able to put [Bukowski's writings] down for a while. So it's nice to be able to pick him back up, and I think [after this movie] that other people might too because he's worth looking at.

Q: The last time I spoke to you was around the time you were doing press for A Slipping Down Life and you were getting set to do a play in NYC. How'd that play go?

LT: That play went well, I've done a few of there, after that one.

Q: What else, tell me.

LT: I've done Ant on a Lemon, a play written by Wally Shawn in New York and then I've just finished a John Brill play called Landscape of the Body -- I just finished that this Spring.

Q: How was it working with Wallace Shawn?

LT: Amazing, he was there for rehearsals and the play was a really, really interesting play. It was pretty timely because it was about fascism and stuff, so.

Q: So what have you been doing movie-wise, besides Factotum? You did the plays and then Factotum, is there anything else?

LT: I just finished Quebec a few nights ago, it's a movie written directed and written by Steve Conrad. John C. Reilly's in that and Sean William Scott and I'm in another independent called Starting Out in the Evening -- I did that in the winter -- so, it's been nice, I've been doing some independents which is really nice.

Q:So you prefer the smaller films?

LT: Yeah, I do.

Q: How did you go about getting to your character to contrast with Henry Chinaski's?

LT: I've known women like that and I felt like I understood her and I just felt that I wanted to be as open as possible which is hard -- I mean that takes it's own preparation, in a way -- and to be as instinctual as possible. It was sort of a clearing stuff away and trusting, which is hard. Trusing that the choice that's coming up or the instinct that's arising is to be trusted and I don't have this "work" to back it up. You know, sometimes all that "work" can help keep [your judgement] at bay but I was kind of jumping in empty-handed, so it was a little scary in a way.

Q: You give a very intense performance in this film --what kind of emotional toll does playing something like this take on you? After shooting are you able to easily slip back into your life?

LT: I've found that, with movies, because there's such a motion [while] filming -- you're just moving through scenes all day, then in this case it's 24 days, really fast, and Bent ( Hamer, the director) was working so much with fighting against the heaviness of the [characters' alcoholic] lifestyle. All of that combined, it never got stagnant or too heavy because it was in motion all the time. And because [Jan] was in a lot of denial and on some levels it was still working -- I was playing it when it was still working. So, instead of maybe [if the setting was] ten years later if I was going to play her, it would've been a little bit harder to keep up a front.

Q: The humor in the film is dry and dark. How was the atmosphere on set?

LT: It was actually the perfect atmosphere for this type of movie. You know, there was very little money and very little time and so there was a great [esprit de corps] -- everyone that was there was working really hard and wanted to be there which you want. You want that on a movie -- it had a rawness to it that's similar to one of the essences of Bukowski and it had a fly by [the seat of] your pants, impulsive, extemporaneous feeling as opposed to [over] though out, corporate - you know, any of that stuff would've just not been appropriate for [Bukowski], his essence.

Q: I hear actors say all the time that they want to have a wide-ranging body of work but few seldom follow that path. How do you find that variety, how does Lili Taylor pick her roles?

LT: The director, the director's the main thing and maybe that's helped make it so varied because I haven't really had a "plan," per se. For me, those "plans" can not turn out the way I was hoping, you know what I mean? And they can get a little bit narrow or close off other options. So, because the first, most important thing has always been the director, I've had some rich, deep experiences -- beyond what I could've imagined for myself.

Q: How was it working with Matt Dillon on this?

LT: It was great, I've known Matt for a long time and so he felt very familiar to me. But it's neat being with him right now because he's just coming into himself so much as a man and as an actor and it was really neat to be a part of that and to witness it firsthand.

Q: At some point you were going to do a Janis Joplin thing, what happened to that, did it go away?

LT: We lost the rights, our little group, and because of that, I'd have to go in and cold audition and seeing how things are changing so much -- I'm sure they're going to want someone who's not necessarily right for the role, who can make I don't know if they'd let me in, I don't know.

Q: So you've closed the door on doing that role?

LT: I'm open to it, I don't know if they'd open the door. You know, I'd walk in but I don't know if they'd open the door, especially if those rights cost a lot and they've got a lot of investment pressures which is a shame because, you know -- not that I'm the [only] one for [Janice Joplin's] role.

Q: What do you think the message of Factotum is because it just kind of ends?

LT: - it just ends, yeah, I know, I know -- which I like. I like those endings which are suspended in a way and [the audience is] left to imagine. Any time imagination [from the viewer] is encouraged I think it's a good thing and I think that there doesn't have to be a message. I just think, one thing, it's just sitting back and letting [an experience] wash over you or just seeing something authentic, emotional or some true feeling -- that can be enough, that's all we need.

Q: -- art for art's sake?

LT: Yeah.

Q: So, why do you think Jan's so into Chinaski? What do you think drew her to this, for lack of a better word, loser?

LT: I think there is something to be said about the fact that he drinks the way she drinks, so that's a plus -- they drink the same amount and that's not always easy to find, particularly for people who drink that amount. That's a big thing that's keeping them together, they love to drink together.

Q: They weren't looking for any redemption at all.

LT: Right, and I like that too, I like the lack of redemption -- I found that interesting too.

Q: So, any more plays in the forecast? Anything in L.A.?

LT: I don't know. I don't know about out here -- I'm not closed to it, it just doesn't feel like it happens as much out here, you know? It's more anemic, the theater scene.

Q: You said you just wrapped a film a few nights ago, what's next? A trip? A vacation?

LT: Yeah, I just want to enjoy the rest of August, the little that's left.

Q:Circling back to when you were just beginning to read Bukowski at 17, where were you at that time that lead you to this career? Did you come to acting before then?

LT: Well, I'd always wanted to act but I was already, by 17, professional -- I'd done my first play -- I did a couple of TV shows, scenes and stuff, so I'd already started to act professionally by 17. So, it was a lot of my friends reading Bukowski, Kerouac and all those guys...a big part of [reading] them is about throwing caution to the wind...

Q: So you pretty much just kept everything open, you mentioned this earlier with chosing directors. Did you come to this realization along the way or did it take a while?

LT: It took a few years, you know, because I was young and not sure -- I didn't have a lot of experience to back it up. It took a risk of starting to say no and realizing that no is a complete sentence -- by saying no enough, your actions are going to speak loudly and people won't come to you with stuff that you're going to constantly keep saying no to, so it kind of started to work itself out."

Q: Did you have any issues as an actress with getting practically naked in Factotum?

LT: No, it was okay on this and it didn't feel extraneous and it felt honest. That's the thing, if it's not honest then I don't want to do it -- it just felt okay.

Q: What did you enjoy most about this role?

LT: I think it was the contradictions and the surprises. I just love it when...the more complexities that there are in a character, the more that interests me. And that was another thing that I really appreciated about Bukowski, his ability to capture contradictions in the human experience...that's the reason that I love documentaries, they're always surprising me. I realize that I'm always expecting, I'm underestimating or I'm expecting something that's not as interesting and more general and human beings usually [naturally do things that] are like , "my God, how interesting."

Q: You see any similarities between acting and writing based on Bukowski's standpoint? Is there a similarity that you see, that you can draw between the two disciplines?

LT: I think that they're all very different and they can all draw from each other but at some point there's going to be departures with the "how to get in there" and how to dance with it whereas, I'd imagine, the writing can be so isolated, with the theater I'm with people all the time, experiencing the feelings and working it through with [other] people -- that's one point of departure. I think all artists can exchange stuff with each other -- we could all take a little bit from each other.

Q: In terms of your career, is there one project that you've always really wanted to do?

LT: Not one thing in particular but I think it all would be going towards creating a really complex woman on screen -- that's what I'd be going for.

Factotum opens in theaters nationally today.