Jena Malone: A Real ‘Go-Getter’
by Paul Fischer
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Two years after we spoke about this film at Sundance, The Go-Getter is finally having its time in theatres and the always beautiful and ferociously who smart Jena Malone co-stars in this beautifully comedic tale of a teenager takes a road-trip in a stolen car to find his long-lost brother. Jena Malone plays a sexually liberated young woman he meets on his odyssey of self-discovery. The always fun actress and now singer talked exclusively to Paul Fischer.
Paul Fischer: Do you remember what drew you about this character in Go-Getter, Joely?
Jena Malone: Yeah. I had never played someone, a woman on the cusp of learning to toy with her, you know, sexual manipulation of, you know, control. What it means to be a woman. And there are these strange things that she’s learning to balance, and I thought that was really interesting. Because it is manipulation, and it is fantasy. And it is drawn from what our mothers do, and it’s drawn from magazines, and it’s drawn from television, how we view our sexuality, some semblance of how we control it. I thought it was really interesting, to play a mix of all the other women in Mercer’s life. And I loved the script, you know?
PF: Could you identify with her at all? It doesn’t sound like you could, but I don’t know, maybe there’s an aspect of you.
JM: Parts of me, of course, just becoming older and trying to figure out what it is to be, you know, understanding your sexuality. I mean, she’s crazy, I definitely know women like her and sort of hate them. So there’s also the idea of wanting to understand, have empathy, and learning to love that thing that I find so maybe unattractive at times, you know?
PF: Are roles like this easy for you to come by? Do you still have to fight for stuff, despite the fact that you’ve done somewhere like 30 films since the mid-’90s.
JM: But listen, I think that whether I’m fighting for it, whether they’re fighting for me, there’s always a fight, there’s always going to be a fight within independent films, within things that aren’t bankable, within things that don’t require, you know, a shiny guaranteed paycheck. There’s always going to be a fight whether it’s on my end or the director’s end or on the producer’s end, or it’s fighting to get the film, you know, to the light of day. There’s always a fight, I feel like it’s a struggle you have to become really comfortable with, because it’s part of the creation of the project, it’s part of the evolution of the project.
PF: Is the indie world one you’re more comfortable with, as opposed to the studio world?
JM: I feel that I don’t really know the difference anymore, to be perfectly honest. I just feel like when you’re doing something with your own money because you love it, then there’s usually more clarity and sense of purpose and more of a distinct voice then when a bunch of people are coming together, throwing ideas around, there’s a lot of money, it’s not just one singular vision, it’s sort of four different writers, interviewing thousands of directors. I don’t know. But then sometimes, you know, Sean Penn’s able to sort of, you know—to make his film, and then that’s exactly where the line borders, you know, being able to get $25 million to make an indie film that you believe in that’s going to come out in multiple theaters. That’s the eternal goal, that’s the dream.
PF: So yet here you are having appeared, in The Ruins, which struck me as being something of an odd choice for you.
JM: Good. I’m glad. I love it when my choices are unexpected and surprising.
PF: Why did you want to do that? Are you a fan of the genre?
JM: Yeah. I’m a fan of a genre that talks about fear and strange abscesses of the mind, and, you know, being able to sort of play with that the manipulation of fear and, I mean, sometimes that’s the most, the thing you’ll learn the most from. you know, watching films like Rosemary’s Baby and Lord of the Flies inspired me to want to explore something of a more extreme nature, like The Ruins.
PF: How different was it?
JM: It was an extremely physical role for me, something that I had never been demanded of, or demanded of myself for a part. So, I felt like it was something so different than anything I’d ever done that I felt really amazing to be a part of because it was so hard and so strange. It was work every day, and it was challenging, you know?
PF: The studio didn’t screen that one for the press, so I can’t even tell you what I thought of it. But I assume that it’s a movie—
JM: You haven’t seen it?! You should go and see it right now and e-mail me and tell me what you think.
PF: Immediately! In fact, I’ll go the next available.
JM: No, no, I think it’s coming out on DVD. No, I’m proud of it, regardless of wherever it stands within the cinematic shelf, I think it’s a really beautiful examination of life in the extremities.
PF: Tell me about The Messenger. What is that? You play a character in that called Kelly, right?
JM: I do.
PF: And this movie is about—
JM: It’s about a lot of things. It’s hard to talk about what it’s about and what it’s not about. For me it’s about the sort of, the re-imagining of how long can work in a world where we have to deal with a lot of loss and pain, and how to re-imagine yourselves. That love can come in many forms, with friendship, touch, and discovery. It’s about this soldier Ben Foster plays, who comes back from Iraq with injuries, and has two months left on his tour, and is enrolled as a communication officer. So he sort of becomes the, to go and notify the family members of soldier’s death. Partners with Woody Harrelson. It becomes a strange film about, you know, male companionship and sort of the roots of it. And I play Ben Foster’s ex-girlfriend that is now to be engaged after he comes back.
PF: What about your music?
JM: It’s going well. Things are going really well. I started a new project. I don’t know, you should go to “There Was an Old Woman,” which will lead you to either of the MySpace pages. I’ve got a new band I’m working with right now I’m very excited about.
PF: Does the band have a name?
JM: It’s called Shoe.
JM: Well there are thousands of reasons. It was a dream I had, I wanted to build a shoe, and ol leather workman’s boot that was a mobile music cart, it would be a one-woman band. I was the builder…
PF: Are you recording or touring?
PF: Wow. Do you see music as being a fundamental area that you want to focus on, or are you going to be able to find the balance between acting and music?
JM: It’s like the balance between you know, a sister and a friend, being, you know, a woman and a girl, it’s all a balance. But I feel like something is driving me, there’s no reason to stop it in any way just because I have other loves. I feel like they all feed each other.
PF: You’re a woman now, aren’t you?
JM: I’m 23 years old, shit!
PF: Yes, you are, in fact. What about creating sort of a persona life for yourself, are you able to? You seem to be so busy in your professional aspirations, do you have time for a personal life?
JM: Of course. I mean, what is personal. it’s everything. I have—my life right now is more than it ever has been ever.
PF: Are you in love?
JM: No, no—yes, and no, with everything.
PF: You are really not going to give anything out here?
JM: There are so many things to give out, you know?
PF: I see. Are you signed on for anything else?
JM: I’m just focusing on my music right now. Just doing the best I can on it.
Paul Fischer is originally from Australia. Now he is an interviewer and film critic living in Hollywood.
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