MALONE DELIVERS A SUCKER PUNCH IN DEVASTATING INDIE DRAMA
by Paul Fischer
Film Monthly Home
Short Takes (Archived)
Small Screen Monthly
Behind the Scenes
New on DVD
Books on Film
What's Hot at the Movies This Week
Actress Jena Malone is incredibly choosy as to the films she takes on. Intelligent, ferociously ambitious and always fascinating, she goes from playing the ex-girlfriend of a soldier with three months left in the army [Nen Foster] to the intensity of Sucker Punch,. Both of which exemplify her diversity as an actress. And if she gives up on acting, there’s always her music. Malone talked to PAUL FISCHER in this exclusive interview.
QUESTION: How did The Messenger come your way?
JENA MALONE: Really, really straightforward. I read it, looked at who was involved, really wanted to – you know, loved all of the actors. Talked to Oren on the phone, and was blown away by his sensitivity and his heart, and what he wanted to do with it. And – you know, a few weeks later, I was on a plane and got to meet Ben, and did, like, a week of rehearsals, and then we filmed for, like, a week and a half, and that was it. But – and, you know, everyone involved in the film is still a really good friend of mine. I think it was a really bonding experience for everyone – everyone involved. It was just so beautiful. It was – you know, the set that Oren creates is a set that’s built for actors, 100 percent. I mean, I never even knew where the camera was. It was all about what we were doing, and building a world that felt real, and safe, and that we could just fall into and get lost, and play, with no expectations of trying to hit moments, or – you know, elaborate – you know, heartstrings. It was really, really, really beautiful, and it kind of made me hungry for film again. I remember when I – before I read the script, I was kind of like, “Well, you know, there’s nothing interesting out there right now. I’ve been kind of like – The Ruins was so intense, that I feel like maybe I don’t want to work for a bit. And it really, really made me hungry to act in a really beautiful way, that I hadn’t felt in a long time.
QUESTION: What was it about this character that you could identify with, if anything?
JENA MALONE: I mean, the sense of a woman that’s sort of growing apart from a child’s love, and sort of – trying to figure out what her life is, in the sense of – you know, she doesn’t have a war that she has to go to. But she’s still trying to sort of piecemeal her life together. And not really – I mean, I could also identify with not knowing what the hell happened over there in Iraq, and men coming home, and not really knowing how to understand them, in a weird way. There’s this disconnect between my everyday life, and a soldiers, you know? And it’s kind of hard for a loved one, or a girlfriend or a mother, or – you know, or a father, to understand.
QUESTION: Was it refreshing for you to read a script that was – even though it was set around the Iraq War, that it wasn’t a political film that dealt with the war, per say?
JENA MALONE: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s so important to find new ways to talk about this war, and how it’s actually affecting us all. That – this film and this script was a gift, you know? It was a complete gift. Because, I mean, I had read – and there’s a lot of films that have come out recently about the war, and it’s something we need to talk about, and it’s gonna be part of our myth, and it’s part of our consciousness. And – you know, we need to figure out what it means to us, and where we go from here. But this film is a very healing step towards, I think, where we have to go. You know, after we get out of this war, we continue this war, and how we’re approaching how we handle it as humans, you know?
QUESTION: You said to me before that you were getting kind of concerned about the your future, as far as acting goes, because of the lack of good material. How disillusioning, or how unsettling is it for you to be in that situation?
JENA MALONE: Well – I mean, it’s not difficult to feel that at all. What’s difficult is to find a place for it. And I feel like sometimes it gets harder and harder and harder to be able to just work in a way that I love, and work on films that I love. There’s a lot – you know, the older you get, I feel like, there’s more and more and more bullshit piling up all around you, in the sense of the strategy of a career, and – you know, celebrityism, and all of this, that it can be very disheartening. Because it becomes less and less of a place for the purity of the passion, and there’s more and more of a place of sort of the over-the-counter, easily-sold – you know, characters that I guess I’ve never been interested in, you know? So, it is hard.
QUESTION: Well, how do you deal with that bullshit that you’re talking about? What do you do to deal with that?
JENA MALONE: I mean, you know, if your neck hurts when you turn it that way, don’t turn it that way, you know? Like, hopefully tomorrow it’ll be better. I just find that I just keep doing the work that I love, and when it dries up, I try to do other things. I mean, music is very sustaining and so is life. Sometimes I find when I get really frustrated with what I can work on, and what’s happening, and projects, I just need to step away and start living. You know, because you become so fixated on something you’re not doing, instead of being alive and present in the moment of what you are, that – you know, you just have to remind yourself of that.
QUESTION: So, what else gets your juices flowing, then, besides acting? I mean, if the acting was to stop tomorrow, what would be your game plan, your backup plan?
JENA MALONE: If the film industry crumbled in 6000 pounds of rubble, and all of the movie theaters burned down, I would absolutely study architecture, and building, with only sustainable, reusable materials. And I’d want to just build houses and make music on street corners, and be the head of a children’s choir, and convert cars into veggie oil. And – you know. Have a garden, and just build things. I mean, I love doing things with my hands. It’s like, the one thing I never really allow myself, or build time for. But literally, if I never acted again, I think I would want to just be building houses.
QUESTION: Why don’t you do that anyway?
JENA MALONE: Well, I can. I will. I want to. But I’m just – I don’t know, I haven’t.
QUESTION: You have managed to avoid, in some ways, the sort of Hollywood career route. Was that by intention or design? Or did you just feel that was not the direction that you wanted to work in?
JENA MALONE: I feel like – you know, you don’t become that Hollywood starlet without some form of intention or design. I mean, I – there’s a lot of ways to not do things that – you know, they tell you you have to do. But for me, it seems like just a natural course. But I guess looking back, it was my choice. You know? Like, more of a design, to sort of stay true to what I wanted, instead of what other people wanted me to do. Which I guess is also very stubborn. You know, I guess I was a very stubborn youth, in a way, and still am, in the same regard.
QUESTION: Your agents must be either very happy for you, or at times very frustrated by you.
JENA MALONE: Well, he’s got the patience of a saint, let me tell you.
QUESTION: Now, you have that other movie besides The Messenger that is still coming out, haven’t you? I mean, you have a couple things that you’ve finished, or that you are about to do, yes?
JENA MALONE: Yeah. There’s this film called Five Star Day, which is a really small little film that’s still trying to find distribution, which is a really simple, beautiful love story. I got to play a single Mom, which was interesting.
QUESTION: Can you relate to maternalism at all?
JENA MALONE: Oh, yeah, totally. I mean, I love – I mean, you know, my Mom’s a single Mom, and – I mean, I feel like I’ve grown up around single mothers. And it’s like – I have a lot of friends who have kids now, and they’re single Moms. And I – I don’t know. I feel like it’s a really – it’s one of the most untold stories, but yet the most prevalent, in a woman’s life today. Is raising children on your own at a young age. And so it was really interesting to get to explore that for a bit. And it’s really fucking hard. I was [LAUGHTER] – the girl that played my daughter, she was like, five. I think she just turned six. And she was like a hellcat. You know, she was like, so crazy. And it was like, amazingly hard just to try to control and handle and let her be free, and – you know. Allow her – you know. How she allowed me to be her Mom for a couple days was pretty amazing.
QUESTION: So, clearly it didn’t encourage you to become a mother in real life very quickly.
JENA MALONE: Yeah. No, I mean, I know how hard it is. I mean, I have a little sister, you know? And I see how hard it is with my Mom. I mean, I love kids. If it happens, it happens. But, I don’t know. It should be a surprise. I mean, children are the strangest things to plan, you know?
QUESTION: What about Sucker Punch?
JENA MALONE: Yeah. I’m still working on that. I finish the end of December.
QUESTION: Now, that’s an unusual step for you, because that’s a pretty a biggish movie. How much fun has it been to work on something like that?
JENA MALONE: Amazing. I mean, it is probably the craziest and most beautiful theme park of a ride kind of film experience I’ve ever had in my life. I mean [LAUGHTER] – I don’t know what I’m going to do after this. Because – I mean, doing, like, intensive, like – you know, weapons training and martial arts, and – you know, doing weight and strength training with these ex-Navy Seals for – you know, three and a half months before we even start filming. I mean, I’ve never prepared for a film like that, you know? To start so in the body, so in the pain of the body, you know? And the discipline of the mind and the body. It’s really eye-opening. And I’ve kind of become obsessed with it, you know?
QUESTION: So, you have a lot of action sequences in the movie?
JENA MALONE: Oh, yeah. Yeah. There’s a lotta action. [LAUGHTER]
QUESTION: Have you started shooting?
JENA MALONE: Yeah. We started filming in September, and they finish the middle of January. I finish the end of December.
QUESTION: Whereabouts did you shoot this?
JENA MALONE: In Vancouver. Yeah. I’m just in LA for two days to come in and do some press for The Messenger, they let me have two days off. I’m actually flying back tomorrow.
QUESTION: And how is it working with Zack Snyder?
JENA MALONE: Amazing. I mean [LAUGHTER] – he is the only director I’ve ever met that can handle 60 million things at once, with, like – amazing energy, a childlike excitement, and a complete and utter decisiveness, you know? He’s really, really, really clear-minded and focused and energetic, and inspires. You know, inspires all of us to – you know, just keep working, and give our best, and – I love Zack. I think he’s awesome.
QUESTION: And you play whom in this movie?
JENA MALONE: I can’t really tell you too much about it. I’m not really allowed to talk about – I mean, things have already been said. I basically play a woman in a mental institution in the late ‘60s.
QUESTION: So it’s a comedy.
JENA MALONE: [LAUGHTER] Totally. Total comedy.
QUESTION: And what about after that? Are you going to go back to music? Are you going to look for something else? What’s going to happen?
JENA MALONE: Oh, gosh. I mean, I literally – this is, like, an eight-month commitment, this film. After December, it’ll be eighth months of really intensive, intensive work. So I think I’m just going to take some time off, and maybe go climb a few mountains or something. I mean, I’m in the best shape of my life. So I need to do something physical.I mean, it’s crazy. I can dead lift 235 pounds.
JENA MALONE: I can do pull-ups. I mean, I can do things with guns. I mean, it’s really insane, what you can teach your body to do, you know?
QUESTION: Well, so I presume you’re going to go to the gym and work out after this.
JENA MALONE: I think so. I mean, I’ve discovered an amazing love for mixed martial arts. I feel like it’s something I want to maintain for the rest of my life.
Paul Fischer is originally from Australia. Now he is an interviewer and film critic living in Hollywood.
Got a problem? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org