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Tag Archives: Evan Rachel Wood
Clad in a high-collared tan retro-dress and a pair of red-soled Louboutin shoes, Evan Rachel Wood is the model of a modern starlet as she talks about her role in “The Ides of March” — until she wants to talk about the paralysis of partisan politics in modern legislation. It’s rare to find the modern actor — regardless of gender — with a mind as clear as their skin, but Wood is that actor, and that intelligence — and, yes, a tempering hint of naiveté — is evident on-screen as she plays Molly, the Presidential-campaign intern whose romance with high-level campaign staffer Ryan Gosling opens up problems in George Clooney’s political thriller. We spoke with Wood in Toronto.
I feel like we can’t talk about the twists and turns of the plot too much because it might dilute the pleasures of the film for some people. When you were reading the script, were you going, ‘Oh my God?’
Wood: Absolutely. I didn’t see the play; I didn’t know the story. The storyline surrounding my character, there’s a lot of twists and turns that occur in that. I was shocked.
Do you feel like audiences won’t see it coming, either?
Wood: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of surprises in the film that no one’s going to see coming.
You’re playing an intern in a political campaign. Did you research that world? Did you get a taste of it? There’s documentaries and research materials, but did you go and look at that process and what it’s like or just go with what was on the page?
Wood: The story’s so great, the writing’s so great, it was really there. George gave a lot of the cast some great documentaries to watch, which show the behind-the-scenes with press on the campaigns and the interns. It’s a really interesting line of work, to get that close to a candidate and to see the evolution of where they go throughout the whole process. It’s clearly interesting. ‘Journeys with George’ was my favorite, I think. That’s an amazing documentary.
Your character is the lowest of the low on the food chain, but she’s also the daughter of the Democratic National Committee chairman. It’s the weird combination of privilege and lack of privilege. How do you play that?
Wood: I felt like my character has grown up in this world. It’s all she knows, so I think it was always assumed that this was what she’s going to do, and when she gets out of college she’s going to be an intern. She’s accepted this as her life. I think she’s still a 20-year-old girl and she’s still going to have her fun, and she’s not intimated by any of these men. I think she uses it to her advantage, really.
There’s an old and cynical line that politics is show business for ugly people. Did you find any similarities in the worlds?
Wood: Of course. I think a lot of politicians are some of the best actors in the world. You have to sell yourself to an entire country, you have to be entertaining, you have to be charismatic. That’s all like a show. I do see similarities, sometimes.
The film talks quite a lot about politics and idealism versus reality, campaigning versus the pros of getting elected. What could a candidate, regardless of party affiliation, say to you right now to earn your vote and your support in 2012?
Wood: I don’t know. I’m in a weird place where I think at this point it doesn’t matter who gets elected. I think the way this system’s built, they can’t govern the way they want to govern. It’s an uphill battle for anyone. I think a lot of things need to change, and I think people need to stop being so afraid. Things do need to evolve and need to change. I think we need to let go of some of our past ideas.
When you’re caught up in the madness of a film festival like this, is it very easy to forget about the actual work? When you’re busy doing press and worrying about what to wear, is the hubbub worth the hassle?
Wood: Absolutely. Something like this is fun. I’m so proud of this movie, and the cast is amazing. I love doing press and touring with these guys is amazing. I try to have fun with it, and it’s fun to play dress-up. It’s whatever.
You get a sense of the fevered feelings that must have gone into the making of Robert Redford’s latest directorial effort, “The Conspirator.” The story of Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), the only woman held as part of the conspiracy to kill Abraham Lincoln in 1865, it’s fraught with implications of and similarities to our present-day situation: civilians tried in military courts, constitutional rights trampled in the pursuit of unity and national healing, murky and dangerous precedents established in the name of clear and present danger. But on-screen, some of the heat and passion behind the initial impetus seems to have curdled and cooled as the idea became an actual film.
From the first frame, “The Conspirator” looks like a bad idea, shot in a way that makes every scene look like it’s going to give you hay fever from the motes of dust hanging in every shaft of hazy light, with actors in period facial hair and costuming looking like they’re playing an especially expensive children’s game of dress-up. There was potential here for a film that recast half-remembered history in the new light of real facts — Lincoln’s assassination was not a lone killer assaulting one target but, rather, a coordinated assault on several high-ranking officials — but James D. Solomon’s script rushes past the interesting realities of the past, instead stretching and straining the story to be relevant to our present. (It’s as if “All the President’s Men” abandoned the dogged, shoe-leather detective work of Woodward and Bernstein — a source of both dramatic tension and interest — to instead feature characters declaiming how bad Nixon was.)
Certainly, the ideas raised by the Surratt case are relevant to our present circumstance; what’s damaging to the film is that everyone involved places so little trust in us to make those connections for ourselves. At one point, protagonist James McAvoy, a Union veteran reluctantly pressed into service as the lawyer defending Surratt, rails at bearded bad guy Secretary of War Stanton (Kevin Kline), saying, “Why did I fight for the Union if my rights are not assured?” Much like Redford’s last directorial effort, the noble but immobile “Lions for Lambs,” his latest film has a two-fold problem: Its (bleeding) heart is plainly on its sleeve, and its brain is nowhere to be found.
McAvoy and Wright are fine enough, but they’re ultimately fighting in vain against the fact that the script is so clearly on their side. The only possible question of dramatic tension is in just how painfully the filmmakers expect us to strain our necks from nodding in agreement with their values and positions right down the line. There’s a huge cast here — Tom Wilkinson, Alexis Bledel, Evan Rachel Wood, Danny Huston, Justin Long (who looks as out of place in 1865 as Abraham Lincoln would behind the counter at a 21st-century Del Taco) and many more — but they’re no more than puppets made to mouth platitudes, moved about the film with such black-and-white morality and restricted movement that we may as well be watching a chess match.
“The Conspirator” is suffused with such earnestness that, when it finishes, you half-expect to find yourself sitting at a desk in your senior-year civics class, with your teacher poised at the ready to guide you through a series of preapproved discussion points. There are occasional flashes of emotion, like when a testifying Wood is kept from even seeing her mother, Wright, by a phalanx of soldiers standing to obstruct her view. But these flashes of light and life are so few and far between that it’s hardly worth trudging through the heavy-handed moments. The cast and financiers were surely called to participate by the golden glow of Redford’s past glories, but that glow must have blinded them to the clanging clumsiness of the film’s script. Great moral stands don’t make for great drama; good intentions aren’t good art. “The Conspirator” wants to show us how the struggles of the past can guide us in the present, but it might have served that aim better if it first tried to give us an exciting story instead stumbling over itself in the need to tell an “important” one.