Juliette Lewis (On the set of Natural Born Killers)
[ How did you manage to beat out anybody else for the part of Mallory Knox? ] ^ I just met with Oliver and I sold him on the idea that only I could play somebody who could tear your throat out with their bare hands. I said ‘If you honestly think that any other actress could actually kill you, physically, with their bare hands, then go for it.’
[ Did he ask for a demonstration? ] ^ No. You know, you just have to have it internally. Physically, you can be small but still be the person to actually shoot a gun, or just be able to maul someone and go crazy. And I’m really thin because my metabolism goes crazy, especially on a movie. I was a little bigger when I started. [Laughs]
[ Did [weapons and tactics instructor] Dale Dye help bring out some of that killer instinct? ] ^ Well, it’s always there, but I had to learn how to use the stuff. Like, I never used a gun before so I had to got used to that. And I did a little boxing which was fun and a little fighting just to get oriented with the physicalities of fighting and stuff. ‘Cause it’s all fake. I could probably fight pretty good when it’s just made up spontaneous stuff, ’cause that’s what fighting is. But when it’s staged it’s so hard to make it look raw and everything.
[ But you did do some of that in Cape Fear. There’s a lot of physical stuff toward the end of that, too. ] ^ Yeah, but that was mainly being like pulled about. It wasn’t me like hitting or taking a punch or something like that.
[ Did you look back at anything that Robert DeNiro did in that film for his character for Mallory in this film? ] ^ No, I don’t look at it ahead of time, I don’t really preplan but as I was doing it I was reminded of his character, though.
[ Is there anything that you may have incorporated? ] ^ No, that’s totally by coincidence. But yelling in a Southern accent and the narcissistic kind of thing reminded me of him though.
[ Well, do you think that a character like that which is really different than your character in that he’s a man, a big guy who looks physically challenging but like in the opening scene of this film – ] ^ Did you see any footage?
[ No, I haven’t seen anything, I’ve read a draft of the screenplay, but the thing that is most shocking about it is that your character just fucking coils and just rips on these guys. Do you think it’s going to knock people out of their boots? ] ^ Oh yeah, well wait until you see it (laughs). I don’t know, it’s really surreal, it’s really great. I think so, so they’re telling me. Only because from a girl, you don’t very often see a girl ranting and raving – – not in a girly fashion either. This is like… I can’t explain it to you but, I’m aware that my anger is a little bit different than most, if I could be so bold. I don’t know, you have to see it. That’s why I don’t like talking about it. I’d rather someone see it then if they’re blown away, they’re blown away and if not that’s fine, you know.
[ What’s interesting, too, is that this character is a total flip side of the character you played in Cape Fear. Everyone thought you brought that character off so perfectly, and here you get to really turn the tables on that person. ] ^ Yeah, that’s what I wanted to do. Even like little stuff to follow, like in Romeo Is Bleeding, I play a girl from Queens with blonde hair, really stupid, which was really fun but I just wanted to take this to the whole other extreme. It’s viciousness. I just wanted to say that that’s why I took this cause it’s to the whole other extreme. I’m playing things I haven’t yet played before and that’s always fun. Cause playing like naive people, you can play them all differently, but they all have a thread in common and that’s that they are kind of… stupid.
[ How would you see your characters attitude toward the violence compared to Woody’s? It seems like his character is more of a soldier, while yours is more like a coiled spring that is just waiting for some idiot to touch it. ] ^ Wow, I mean you haven’t even seen it, I didn’t know that came across so much in the script. But that’s exactly how it’s played, too. I have no idea, other than what it looks like, the obvious differences. I don’t know how to put that in words.
[ So, the cliché question: “How was it to work with Oliver Stone?” ] ^ Perfect. For me, I think that we work really good together and I told him that, and that I think we should work together more often, too. You know there’s some director you just click with or something and I think that’s Oliver. He’s pretty fun. It’s like totally limitless around here, there are no limits. It’s kind of hard to get used to. You’ve got to say, “Oh yeah, right, I should just make something up right here.” He doesn’t tell me to do that but you get the feeling of how much freedom you have and what directors like, and he gives you freedom to do anything and then I just do that.
[ I know a lot of the stuff in the first act, what has been shot in New Mexico, didn’t exist in the first draft of the screenplay, when you initially got on the project. And from what I’ve been told, it really expanded your character that much more. ] ^ No, those scenes were in the draft but what happened was that we did a scene which was the just drive-in scene and had this little dialogue. We then went off the dialogue and I made up everything I said, and he just let’s you do that and then there’s other scenes that we just made up everything.
[ There’s a lot of stuff that’s off-script? ] ^ Yes, I work kind of best that way especially with this kind of character which is so unpredictable and vain…
[ Is she vain? ] ^ Well, I think people would say that. This scene I’m wearing like a gold-lamé coat to court…
[ I’ve seen Woody’s outfit. You can’t let him top you. ] ^ But the movie is that way, I don’ know “vain”… I usually don’t like the characters I play. I think she’s a total loser. I think anybody who kills people are the weakest human beings there are. Some people idealize them and think, “Wow, if only I had the guts to be able to just knock somebody off I didn’t like.” But I think it’s a weakness to not be able to get along with people. She can’t go out to dinner with people. If someone says the wrong thing or, if they are annoying, she just kills them out of being annoyed.
[ Because she can’t handle the circumstances? ] ^ Yeah. So I think that’s weak. I think killers aren’t something to be respected or wowed upon. They are weak.
[ Do you think the character of Mallory would turn on Micky? If she found some situation where she couldn’t handle him? ] ^ Uh-hmm, and that’s sort of expressed a little bit in the scene. She doesn’t kill him because he was there in the beginning. For some reason when you like somebody… it’s total aberration, is what it is, it’s not logical. She doesn’t kill him when he gets annoying, because she maybe thinks that “Well, I’d like to keep him around so he’ll be there tomorrow. I don’t know what the logic is in that, but she just doesn’t kill him.
[ Is there like a competition between them? Or are they more of a pure team? ] ^ They are a team. They are different, they complement each other. He’s less volatile, less explosive.
[ He would let a situation play out, where she would just as soon punch somebody out? ] ^ Yeah, it’s coming off that way. That’s how it’s being played. You got five hours sleep in like three days?
[ This is my fifth day here. ] ^ Yeah I feel that same way. That’s why I’m kind of strange. I also don’t like being an actress a lot of the time, so I get like really strange.
[ I’ve read stuff in other magazines about you… ] ^ Yeah, I really get really silly articles –
[ Why do you think that is? ] ^ Because I’m young and they want to hear certain things and I guess I don’t say them. I have no idea, I guess because I’m not overwhelmed by show business or something. I kind of have it in perspective, a little bit.
[ Is that why you could say to Oliver, this multi-award winning director “I think we should do more movies” ] ^ (Laughs) That’s how we talked from the beginning. Yeah, we get along, Oliver and I. But acting is, like, so vain in a way, I don’t know. I have a hard time with it sometimes, but I’ve gotten rid of it, I had to play this part. You have a camera on you and to be able to act and do this stuff. It’s kind of selfish and strange… I have a hard time doing it sometimes but he wants you to really milk it, cause that’s what you’re supposed to do, milk it.
[ Well, maybe it would be fun to do that because in another kind of movie you’d be “acting” but in this movie you’re over-acting. It’s a parody of acting, too, because it seems like a lot of this movie is a parody of the media, it’s a parody of what’s real, and what you were saying about going so far with the acting, it’s another parody of the movie itself. ] ^ Some of the stuff is really obnoxious, like just wearing these clothes. See, to other people this might be fun, but I feel really obnoxious. Because I’m not egotistical. See, they write about me as cocky, it’s not cocky or arrogant or something, that’s not what it is. Or we’ll have an interview and we’ll talk about all these things and then they’ll write shit that’s really dippy. That’s the stuff they’ll pick to print. I’m happy if like twenty percent of me, you get like a generally tiny feeling of Juliette – just a little bit – then I’m happy. I don’t expect too much, you know. So it doesn’t drive me crazy, I guess.
[ As far as I know, I’m the only press reporter that’s coming to the set, is that like a relief for you? ] ^ No no no, it all serves a purpose. I guess you do the magazines to sell the movie and also as kind of a small obligation. Because if you are going to be a performer and a lot of people are going to see you, I guess they want to know where you’re born and what you’re like. I know I kind of want to know that, especially if you have an affinity toward an artist, like a particular painter or something, you think “How does he do that?” or “What’s he like?” or “Did he go to school?” or just little stuff like that. And then of course, other people want to hate you or something so, I don’t know. So like in article you sell the movie and then you talk a little bit about yourself.
[ Has that formula kind of worked out for you, do you kind of know what they are going to ask? ] ^ No, it’s been really silly, but I expect that because I’m young and people look at young people and think “Oh, you have a lot to go through and blah, blah, blah and that’s fine, but everyone’s different.” It’s not like all adults have learned from their mistakes. You have some people who have been doing the same thing for, like, twenty years and are complete morons and are sixty and fifty and seventy so age is just a number of how old your body is, sometimes. And some people actually suit their age, I don’t know. But, no, I don’t get overly stressed out about press. Maybe I will later, but I haven’t gotten that way yet.
[ Do you think that when some people see this movie, especially younger people, are going to decide in their minds about Mickey and Mallory “Hey, they’re really cool” and not get the joke? ] ^ No. That was my concern about this movie and I think the way it’s being done, even though it’s hard to predict what the end result is going to be, I really do think it’s going to come across that this is a satire on all the people that go “Wow, Manson really does have something to say, he’s really interesting”. I think it will be great. I think it will show that. They had some talk show on people who thought Jeffrey Dahmer was really cute. They weren’t there, they don’t have the full reality of sitting the room with the guy cutting a guy’s head off – or smell it – so they are really detached. I think if they were there in the room, I don’t think they would feel that way.
[ Is this picture going to be a very “you’re in the room”, I mean like the opening scene in the cafe, it’s so savage just the way it’s written, is the camera just going to show it the way it is? ] ^ It is, but then it’s also like – some of the girls on the set were like going “that is so cool” and it made them feel aggressive because I sing that L7 song “Shitlist,” you know: [Singing] “You made my – Shitlist!” Personally I think it’s stupid for a person to act like that. Some people think though, “Yeah, if I was to beat the shit out of a person, that’s the way I’d want to do it”, so it’s that kind of a thing.
[ Well it’s a fantasy that people can live vicariously through you. ] ^ Exactly, and that’s fine.
[ Do you think that maybe you taking a roll like this in a movie like this – despite the fact that it’s an Oliver Stone movie – because it’s this young woman who is a shit kicker, and who acts on what she feels? She’s not demure, she’s not a victim? ] ^ Well, no, I actually play her as very pathetic sometimes. I don’t know if you read the new script but she got abused by her father and all that so there’s moments that I wanted to play her multi-layered and I didn’t want to, like, make it that she’s fearless and stuff and it’s because she’s trapped in that age in her mind, I made some scenes very pathetic like the gas station scene. The way it’s written it’s really like lusty… like she’s a seductress, and I made it, like, really pathetic. She asks him, “Do you think I’m beautiful?”
[ It’s funny that you should point out that scene cause Mallory is really reacting to her jealousy and so she tries to turn the tables on Micky in the most crass way that she can. Is that because she is like a simple person upstairs or that’s just the most direct way she could think of? ] ^ We made it like their relationship is like “the thrill is gone,” you know, like that B.B. King song?
[ Do you notice that when Woody looks at something, his eyes are a little wider than most people’s would be? He’s sort of looking at something beyond what he’s looking at, he’s like looking through you a little bit? ] ^ You should tell him that, he’ll like that. (Laughs)
[ Well, I was talking to Dale Dye who is probably the most professional guy I’ve ever met – ] ^ I love Dale, see I love working with all those guys like [stunt coordinator] Phil Neilson, I had so much fun with them they are so cool.
[ But Dale was saying Woody’s thing is that he gets that snake-eyed look, for his character. Just before he’s about to kill somebody he gets that reptile look. For your character, is there a certain thing that Mallory will do? Like when a rattle snake coils to strike, it starts rattling: is there something similar that Mallory does that you have developed for her or is she totally unpredictable? ] ^ Totally unpredictable, hopefully, that was what I wanted. You would not know what she was going to do next. She would yell a lot sometimes and then in the scenes like the one that we talked about where it’s the standard girl seducing shit, I wanted to make it really multi-layered, so no there is no one trait. I mean you might see things that are similar, I mean she yells a lot.
[ Talking with Oliver, he really typified Mallory as being this animalæ, this pure animal, the way she acts is purely by instinct. ] ^ Uh-huh, it’s not premeditated.
[ We were talking about premeditation and forethought and planning and that’s not her strong suit. But just acting right on whatever her impulse is. You were mentioning that there were some things that you improvised? ] ^ It’s the drive-in scene after they get bitten by rattle snakes and they go to a drive-in and Oliver said just ask about death cause Woody just killed this Indian and we finally kind of feel bad. And it’s kind of the end of the road, too, they are kind of feeling bad, so we just ask questions and I just talk a bunch of shit, and feel how you feel if you were bitten by a rattle snake you know totally, and Oliver loved it. Which was so funny cause I said “Oliver, I’m lying through my teeth”. And that’s what acting is, especially if you are playing characters to an extreme, not everyday people, it’s just you are lying.
[ Is Mallory a liar? ] ^ No, she’s not, I’m saying me – Juliette – playing, acting is a big fat lie. It’s so funny.
[ Have you ever thought about what you’d be doing or what you’d want to do of you weren’t doing this? ] ^ I don’t know, I really thought about it, I don’t know.
[ You haven’t thought about that career change yet. ] ^ But I want to, I’d love, you know, to do something else, but I just don’t know what I’d do. I don’t know what I’d do. I thought about baking pies, but that’s just like a joke.
[ Was there anything about shooting in the desert that brought anything out for you, you know, all that open space? ] ^ Yes, it’s really dirt, a lot of fucking dirt…” We made up other shit, too, a whole arguing scene. You just get the basis of what’s going on in the relationship between Mickey and Mallory and we had a whole argument that was before we got bitten by the rattlesnake. We pretty much improvised a whole bunch of stuff. It was fun.
[ You were saying that you wouldn’t know what you would be doing if you weren’t an actress, but once you do get to that point where you can make some decisions, maybe if you do continue acting, what are some of the things that you’d want to have? ] ^ Well, I’d want to have more to do with making movies, the creative process, cause acting is just one small little portion of making a movie, and I’d like to have just more creative input. You find people along the way who you work really well with and you guys complement each other’s creativity, so I’d like to add on. Just have more to do, maybe writing. I wouldn’t like to direct all by myself, that would be really hard, that’s really hard. Just to have more to do, like making up scenes, I love natural dialogue, the flow to it.
[ Have you done any writing? ] ^ Not real structured writing, that’s hard, that’s where you have to meet people to help put it together for you. I have ideas of different movies. I’d love to see movies I haven’t seen before made. (Laughs) Do you know what I mean? A different “formula”. I think I relate more to European movies, just generally speaking. I’ve only seen a few…Last Tango In Paris. I liked its transient nature cause it’s more sort of like real life – I hate predictability, especially in movies ’cause they should be spontaneous and take you somewhere. But I’m totally uneducated in the film world.
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Juliette Lewis (On the set of Natural Born Killers)