In Magic Magic, Juno Temple and Emily Browning play best friends whose rendezvous in the Chilean countryside with some boys takes a turn for the worse when Temple’s Alicia is plagued by insomnia. Chilean writer-director Sebastián Silva has teased that it’s a disturbing psychological thriller that is meant to confuse the audience, so it’s a perfect movie for the Park City at Midnight slate at the Sundance Film, Festival, which begins today.
For Temple, who has three films at this year’s festival, playing unbalanced, unpredictable women is becoming something of a hobby. Her father, Julien, is an accomplished director who filmed the Sex Pistols, and some of that wild punk DNA seemingly was passed on to Juno. She got her first big role in Notes on a Scandal, playing Cate Blanchett’s rebellious daughter, and she’s never flinched from the unflinching, starring in films like last year’s NC-17 rated Killer Joe, opposite Matthew McConaughey. Her choices are bold and she never seems to take the same role twice. Magic Magic promises to keep both of those trends going.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You co-star with Michael Cera in Magic Magic, but it doesn’t seem like the sequel to Year One I was expecting.
JUNO TEMPLE: No, we actually had a lot of fun with that. We were like, “Ummmm, no, definitely not a sequel to Year One.”
So what’s it about?
My character visits her best friend, who is dating a Chilean boy, and the Chilean boy has a friend who’s a diplomat’s son, who’s living in Chile and speaks Spanish. My character comes in from the outside of the group and she feels kind of threatened by it from the get go, but she’s got her best friend there, so… Ultimately what happens is they end up going to this house in the countryside in Chile and my character unravels. She’s struggling a little mentally. And what I find so exciting about the movie itself is that sometimes you’re very frustrated by my character and just want her to shut up and get on with it, and sometimes you really hate the other characters around her who are doing the things that are absolutely destroying her. So it’s cool because it keeps toying with that. It’s upsetting because you can’t just leave the theater afterwards and walk away and be like, “Anyone hungry? You wanna go get some grub?” It’s definitely a movie that makes you think after you’ve watched and you feel so shaken. But I like that. It’s definitely not a romantic comedy.
Was it upsetting to live in the skin of this character as she starts to melt down?
At some moments, yeah. Definitely. But Sebastián [Silva] the director was incredibly gentle and patient with me, and I guess I was thankful that I wasn’t really going through that in my real life. Plus I had such an amazing group of people around me. We all lived in a beautiful house in southern Chile together so it wasn’t like at the end of the day, you went to your hotel room and sat down on your own. At the end of the day, you went and had dinner with everybody. There was an amazing sense of community, an amazing sense of support.
You seem to be drawn toward rebellious, extreme, somewhat fringe characters. When you see something like that on the written page, is that part of the allure for you or do you fear certain scenes?
I definitely fear a bunch of the scenes that the characters I’ve played have to go through. But I want to be challenged. I want to keep my heart pumping and my blood rushing. That’s definitively part of it. I also think that every character I’ve played so far, I’ve really wanted to play her. I want to be a chameleon, and you know pretty instantly if you want to play a person or if you don’t. And who I’m going to be working with, the director especially — it’s a key, key, key reason to take a role for me.
One of the your other Sundance characters is a stripper-turned-nanny in Afternoon Delight. I’m guessing you really wanted to play her.
I read it and I thought it was brilliant because the thing’s that so genius about Afternoon Delight is you would expect my character to be the one who’s really really f–ked up, and she’s not. It’s the [other] people. It was such a brilliantly written script because it’s funny, but it’s about pretty serious subject matter. It’s about relationships, it’s about communications, and it’s about women when they’re going through different moments in their life, what they want, what they feel, how they look at the world.
Was the character on the page enough, or did you also do some homework for this role?
I met with an amazing, amazing woman who shared her experiences with me and I listened to her a lot for that character. Obviously, there is so much tragedy in that line of work. If you’re forced into it I can’t imagine the sadness. But my character enjoys what she’s doing. So that was an interesting thing to talk about and get into the mind space of. Because there are so many cons to that business, but there can also be some pros: if you enjoy it, you enjoy it for so many reasons.
You mentioned the importance of trust in the director. This was Jill Soloway’s first movie.
I had such a lovely time working with her. She is born to be a director. She gave such amazing direction, and the script is so honest. There was so much of her in the script that I think there were moments where she was so taken by what was happening in front of her. I really enjoyed working with her and would do it again in a heartbeat.
Do you play a similarly off-kilter character in Lovelace, the movie about Deep Throat porn star Linda Lovelace?
I play Linda’s best friend, Patsy. They lose touch for a little while and then I end up coming back into her life, to see if she’s okay. It was an exciting thing for me to be in a film like this but actually not be the one who’s taking her clothes off and not be the one who’s the temptress or the victim. Because I haven’t really played a lot of roles like that. I play such a normal girl and I was really excited by that. I actually didn’t really know the ins and outs of the story of Linda Lovelace. It’s such a heartbreaking tragic one, it really is.
So no lingerie for you. I’d read you wanted to design your own lingerie one day.
It’s an obsession.
Did you find a way to incorporate such fashion into your characters?
Lingerie? I play a stripper [in Afternoon Delight], man. Oh, yeah. There’s lot of me in lingerie in that movie.
You’re still in the early stages of a promising career. Are there any actresses you especially admire whose resumes you’d like to emulate?
Michelle Williams is someone that I’m amazed by right now — her honesty as an actress. Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet. And I’ve been a big Marilyn Monroe fan since I was a tiny, tiny, tiny girl. My bedroom wall at my parents home is still covered with posters of her.
You can’t do much better than Some Like it Hot. Are there others that you love?
Seven Year Itch is such a great one. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is such a great one. Misfits. She just can kind of do no wrong in my eyes. Her incredibly ability to be so vulnerable yet so sexual, she was the queen of that.