Interview with Charlie Countryman’s Evan Rachel Wood

We sit down with Evan Rachel Wood to discuss her new movie, Charlie Countryman, as well as her learning the cello, her North Carolinian roots, and family traditions.

Evan Rachel Wood continues to be one of the more interesting actresses of her generation. Despite being in the movie business since she was nine-years-old, she has always skewed away from conventional studio fare, choosing instead more ambitious projects. This of course includes her star-making role as a teenager in Thirteen (2003), but she has also appeared as often the best part of a number of indies, including Pretty Persuasion, Down in the Valley, Running with Scissors and Across the Universe. More recently, she has branched into movies like The Wrestler and The Ides of March (rumors also have it that she will appear in a spin-off of 10 Things I Hate About You), but she can still reliably be found looking for her own off-kilter choices, such as when she played a Vampire Queen for several seasons on HBO’s True Blood and collaborated again with the premium cable giant for her Emmy and Golden Globe nominated performance in Mildred Pierce. In her latest film, Charlie Countryman, Wood once again changes her appearance for a totally unique character, separate from her previous roles: A Romanian cello player with a Pixie haircut and a taste for gangsters (Mads Mikkelsen), as well as sensitive souls (Shia LaBeouf). To promote the film, she was gracious enough to sit down with us only four months after giving birth to her first child (a son with husband Jamie Bell). I was grateful for the kindness, and our conversation spans from the more colorful rumors about LaBeouf’s “method” on set to how she prepared for this movie. But what I was most interested in was asking about her earliest roots in acting with father and North Carolina stage star Ira David Wood, as well as the continuation of that family tradition. Could you describe working with Shia LaBeouf? Evan Rachel Wood: You know, everyone asks, “Oh, what was it like working with Shia?” But I had a great experience working with him! He was insanely dedicated and took what he did so seriously. He was willing to go as far as was needed to go to give a great performance, so I admired him for that. How did you perfect your Romanian accent for this film? I worked on it with a dialect coach for about three months, but before I was even cast in the film, I had to show them some kind of Romanian accent before they would cast me. So, I worked on it for a while. [Did you study with a classical cello musician?] I had a great girl teach me cello once I got to Romania, and it was much harder than I thought it was going to be. Unfortunately, [Laughs] some things got lost in translation while I was having my lessons or when I was given a song to learn. I showed up for the big scene where her father’s just died, and she’s crying, and she’s playing with the orchestra, and I got there on the set one day, and I started playing, and the rest of the band was playing a different song [Laughs]. I had learned the completely wrong theme for the scene, and it was like the last day, and there was no time. We had to do it. And the director looked at me so apologetically and said, “Can you just look out of the corner of your eye at the person next to you and just mimic what they’re doing.” And I’m like, “Are you serious?! This is one of the most important scenes! Really? Okay.” [Laughs]. And somehow it worked. I don’t know how we managed to do that, but we pulled it off.  You play such a strong character in this, did you have any preparation with [director Fredrik Bond] prior to filming? Yeah, we talked a lot. But I think the best thing, and I think Shia and Fredrik would agree, was just spending time in Bucharest, and just immersing yourself in the city, getting to know the women there and the people there. It gives you a lot of insight. So, I had a lot to draw from just around me all the time. It must be very different to film there. Yeah, it is. It is. But they were really great to us and our Romanian crew was amazing. Their work ethic is insane. It is a place that has been through a lot. Their history is violent, and I think it’s one of the lines in the movie actually: It’s made them stronger. It’s really given them a lot of character, and the people are really amazing there. Speaking of playing a strong character, I got the sense throughout the movie, at least at first, Gabi might have been using Charlie a little bit. Do you think she was manipulating him early on and when do you think that changed for her? I don’t think she was manipulating him. I think he caught her at a very vulnerable moment, which is why I think she lets him in. Because I think otherwise, she’s too guarded and there’s no way it would have happened. But we were conscious of keeping the audience guessing of what her motivations were. You never really know what side she was supposed to be on. That was on purpose. Her husband is obviously such a different personality from Charlie. What do you think she found interesting in Charlie or how did she compare them in her head? I think for me, I think this is the first time that a man has come along and really showed her tenderness. She’s very hard because she’s had to be. She’s kind of been used and abused a bit, and I just think this guy sees a part of himself in her in that moment, and he doesn’t want anything from her. He just kind of wants to take care of her, and I think that’s news to her. [Laughs]. You talked about spending time in Bucharest. So, did you spend a significant amount of time there before filming? No, but it was so helpful to have. I was happy to have that around all the time, especially because usually when you have a dialect coach, they usually stay with you throughout the whole movie and they monitor what you’re doing, but we didn’t have the money for that. So, thank God we actually were in Romania, and it was in my ear constantly. You said you had to audition or show that you could do the accent before. Had you spent much time in Romania before this role? No, no, never been. I just have a great dialect coach [Laughs]. He really helped me. What was your relationship with [director] Fredrik Bond on this film? Fredrik is amazing because he’s so much more than what’s on the page. And I think that is why we all really wanted to work with him, because visually he’s pushing boundaries and trying new things, and he wanted to make the movie kind of wild…But this was also his first time working with actors and working with actors who all had very strong personalities and very strong opinions on what things should be and how things should go. So, I think it was kind of fun for all of us to slightly be in new territory with people. He was a first time director, and the movie was kind of crazy. It was kind of new territory for all of us. So, I think we were all being tested and pushed in a good way. [Given the rumor that Shia LaBeouf dropped acid for one scene] did you go as far as he did in terms of this film? Well, my role didn’t call for it, luckily [Laughs]. But yeah, I wasn’t even there that day. I didn’t even know it was happening. I heard about it afterwards. If he did do that, I think it’s just because he’s a perfectionist. He wasn’t just doing it to “Wooo!” have a good time. I think he was just so nervous and wanted the scene to be as real as possible—and that’s Shia! [Laughs]. He’s dedicated. He’s dedicated. There was so much violence in this movie. Did anyone get hurt? Well, no. Well, yes and no. Again [Laughs], Shia is very method, and a few times I think he really wanted to be kicked or hit. I think he cracked his head open on the camera actually once while filming one of those scenes. And we’re all looking at him going, “Shia, you have to go get stitches.” And he’s like, “No, no. We’re fine. We’re fine. Just keep going.” Because Shia is so tough, I don’t think he wanted stitches. Can you talk about working with Mads Mikkelsen? I adore him, and I think he was so perfect for this role, because it called for someone who was very intimidating and who when they walked in the room, you knew that was a force to be reckoned with and that was the villain. But there also has to be something kind of charming and likeable about him. You have to know why [Gabi] was in love with him. There was something about him that was very alluring. Literally, every woman on this set was madly in love with him. No pun intended, but they were. [Laughs]. What are some of your upcoming projects? Next year, the thing I’m most excited about is this movie I just signed on to do with Ellen Page called Into the Forest. It’s based on a really wonderful book, which Ellen found and she’s producing the project. Yeah, we just kind of started collaborating on that, gearing up for filming. And 10 Things I Hate About You? That’s still kind of up in the air. Were you a fan of the original? I was a fan of the original. Yes, definitely. I thought it was great casting. I loved that the main female protagonist wasn’t always likeable and was kind of a badass. I think that’s why a lot of people loved that movie.  This is kind of a non sequitur here, but I grew up in Raleigh— Oh my gosh! So, I also grew up with seeing your father play Scrooge— Noooo! Yes. He’s going to love that. So, I saw it several times when I was kid—did you ever perform in that? Yeah! Yeah, for years. My whole childhood I was in that. You may have seen me in the play. That’s what I was wondering. That’s crazy! One of Cratchit’s daughters? Or I was the Ghost of Christmas Past for about three years. It’s a family tradition. It is a family tradition. He’s been doing it for over 30 years. It’s like the most successful show in North Carolina. [Could you see your son doing something like that one day]? If he wants to [Laughs]. I’m not going to push anything. If he shows interest, then sure, yeah. Maybe he can be in A Christmas Carol. He’ll be Tiny Tim or something [Laughs]. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing.