The New Leading Man: Andrew Garfield

Andrew Garfield isn’t in the business of accepting random Facebook friend requests. “I don’t like to reject anyone,” the 26-year- old actor says. “If I see them and they go, ‘Oh hey, I requested you on Facebook,’ I say, I never use Facebook, sorry.” Of course, that’s not quite true. “I wish I didn’t,” he adds sheepishly. “But it’s just too easy and it preys on the laziest, most idle part of our nature. I really wish it hadn’t been invented.” But if that were true, the British-bred, L.A.-born dual citizen wouldn’t have landed a starring role in The Social Network, a film about the creation of Facebook directed by David Fincher, written by The West Wing’s Aaron Sorkin and co-starring Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg.

Garfield, who got his big break—and a BAFTA award—for his wrenching performance as a recently paroled teenage killer in Boy A, appears this winter in Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Heath Ledger’s last film. “I’m really thankful to have gotten to meet Heath and spend time with him,” he says, despite the fact that Ledger wasn’t easy to be around during rehearsals. “I was younger than Heath and I was the new kid on the block, and he gave me a hard time because the characters we were playing were at odds. It was really horrible, because I respected him and I wanted him to like me. I was really pissed off at him and jealous of him and suspicious of him, and it all worked! It was perfect for the film.”

Next year, Garfield will appear in an adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go with Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan. This year, he stars in the Red Riding Trilogy, a series of pitch-black murder mysteries filmed for British television. For his part as a cocky investigative journalist working in 1974, the actor grew some intense sideburns. “I didn’t shave for about a year and they had to be trimmed down because they were a bit too bushy,” he says, laughing. “I was kind of proud of that.” His girlfriend was less amused. “She was like, ‘Oh my God, you look like one of the Jonas Brothers!’ That was the opposite of what I was going for.”

So let’s talk a bit about The Red Riding Trilogy. You are brutally tortured in the first film. What was it like filming that? Yeah, brutal. It felt worse than it looked. It wasn’t fun actually to do those scenes. I get quite sick of seeing people doing torture scenes. It feels very like, “Now we’re doing a torture scene. Now is going to be my moment to show how good I am at getting tortured.” So there always seems to be a sort of self-consciousness about it as a “cool” thing to do, but it really isn’t. Or wasn’t. I just thought, “Ok, how am I going to avoid being someone that I diss.” I went pretty deep and it wasn’t fun. I kind of wish I had just only scratched the surface

Do you have that choice? Of course, I could have done it with only scratching the surface and it would have been rubbish. It would have been pointless. Those extremes can be quite fun in a way. It’s kind of masochistic, but if you’re in the mood for a bit of masochism, it’s fun.

Was it fun having those crazy sideburns for a month? Yeah I just let my facial hair grow. My facial hair career so far hasn’t been very prolific, so this is my first real opportunity. I didn’t shave for about a year. I let whatever hair was growing grow. I was kind of proud of that. And for the movie, they didn’t have to paint it or anything, just trim it down because it was a bit too bushy. I felt like one of the Jonas Brothers. One of them has really big sideburns and at one point I was doing Skype with my girlfriend and she was like “Oh my God, you look like something Jonas.” And I was like, “That’s kind of the anti of what I’m going for.”

How do you feel about that whole experience of making The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, which obviously must have been very intense. I’m thankful for it. I’m really thankful to have gotten to meet Heath and spend time with Heath. I really appreciate that. There are so many great things about it and awful things about it. Well one awful thing about it, which was far worse than anything good about it. He was just an incredible person to spend time with and work with because of who he was as a person, as an actor. It’s difficult to avoid the very huge, extreme conflicting emotions that event brings up. But it was great to work with him and to work with [director] Terry [Gilliam] was an experience that not many people get to have.

We did a piece with Terry and Lily Cole, who is also in the film, and Terry said that Heath gave you a lot of shit because he got into character, Tony, and he decided that Tony didn’t like your character. Yeah, that was really horrible because you kind of go, “I want to be friends with Heath, but I don’t want to be friends with Tony.” I was younger than him and I was the new kid on the block and he just gave me a hard time for the first three rehearsals. I knew exactly what he was doing. Our relationship on screen, he abuses me, steals my girlfriend, steals my job, steals everything. He’s a sly guy. He’s a chess player and he knows how to push people’s buttons. And the role I was playing was an open hearted, non game playing guy with genuine love and joy and joyousness about the world. The characters we were playing were at odds and that was kind of reflected in our relationship during rehearsals. It was tough because I really respected Heath and I wanted him to like me. I was like, “Why is he so mean?” It was perfect. It was absolutely perfect for our relationship on screen. I was really pissed off at him and jealous of him and suspect of him, and it all really worked. That changed when we started shooting. We were able to access it and then be ourselves.

Would you do that for future roles? Imitate the relationship the characters have in rehearsal, or off camera? I think it happens naturally. I think if a film is cast well and put together well, then the feelings toward the people you’re supposed to have feelings towards will be there anyway. Right now me and Jesse Eisenberg are playing best friends and I don’t know if it’s subconscious because I have to portray it on screen– I don’t think it is– but I feel like we really get on as people and I have a lot of love for him even though I’ve only known him for two weeks. I think if you’re in tune with what you’re doing and you’re subconsciously working towards something then all that stuff happens naturally and you haven’t got to force it. I don’t think I could ever set out to be mean to someone. That’s just not in my nature. To consciously put someone through shit, even though it helped me with Heath, and I respected him for doing it because it’s a really brave thing to do, I get too upset when I have a negative effect on someone. It’s kind of naïve of me.

Or nice of you. Are you big into Facebook yourself? I wish I wasn’t, but it’s too easy and it preys on the laziest, most idle part of your nature. So I really wish it hadn’t ever been invented.

How many friends do you have on it? Not many. I get too scared. Do I want this person to know when I’m online?

Do you have a very strict friending policy? No, I just ignore them. I don’t like to reject anyone, I just pretend and if I see them and they go, “Oh hey, I requested you on Facebook,” I say, “Oh I never use Facebook, sorry.”

Has it gotten to the point where people Facebook message you because they know you from movies and want to be your friend? I don’t use my real name in arrogant fear that that would ever happen. Maybe one day it’s going to get to the point, but that’s really just wishful thinking.

I feel like if you’re on a reality show it happens to you, so the bar’s not that high. I think if you want that to happen it’s very easy to make it happen and if you don’t want it to happen it’s very easy to avoid.

You filmed Never Let Me Go between Parnassus and The Social Network. Had you read the book before the screenplay? No I hadn’t. People had been talking to me about it and it was on my list. So I read it and it was kind of a sucker punch to the gut. It’s a beautiful book. It’s slow, it’s a slow fucking stab wound.

Do you feel, at this point, when you start a film, “I totally know what I’m doing in front of the camera. It’s going to be fine.” Never. I just sabotage myself. It’s a really irrational thing. I care about the job so much and I don’t really understand why. When you actually look at it you go, “Just go to work and do your best.” It’s pretty simple, so why all this unnecessary pressure? It doesn’t help. It’s a very odd moment to objectively look at it. It doesn’t make sense.

It’s hard to stop caring about something though. I know, but why? I do know why. At best, making films and plays, and telling stories, and writing books, at the end of the day it’s important and it may not be as important as other things, but people want to see themselves reflected and feel like they’re not alone. If I’m going to do any job, I want to do it to the best of my ability and be as generous as possible.

Are you living in L.A. now or just going from set to set? My home is in London. My girlfriend is in L.A. and I have two nationalities, so I can be either here or there, so it doesn’t really matter. I’m ok with being kind of slightly nomadic.

Do you like L.A.? Yeah I do actually. I really do I love the weather. I like surfing and I like snowboarding. I’m better at snowboarding than surfing. I used to skate, so I have an aptitude for it. I can catch waves and turn right. I can’t really turn left. I can do it, but it’s like a one in 10. I’m not really interested in killing myself so I’m quite happy to cruise. Unfortunately, my face needs to stay intact for work.

Do you watch television? I’m half way through the second season of The Wire so I’m still in the early days, but I want it to last my whole life. I don’t want it ever to end. I want to spread out watching the whole five seasons until I’m 80, so I only find out what happens at the end and I’m 89 years old.

Do you have a kind of movie that you really like to watch? I love all movies generally. I’ve been trying to watch Where the Wild Things Are for the past ten nights it feels like, but something always comes up. I just worked with Spike [Jones] on a short film and it was one of the most fantastic experiences I’ve ever had. He’s just an incredible person to be around and to play with and play fight with and mess around with. His sensibility and his desire to be a child is so present in every single move he makes. Life’s like a total playground for him. So I’m excited to see that. I also love all the films from my childhood like Karate Kid and The Goonies and anything Michal J. Fox was in. Teen Wolf, which they apparently are going to remake. That’s the only remake I think I’d do, if I was lucky enough to get that call to audition for Teen Wolf.

Photo by Eric Levin Grooming Sean Byrne @ UMI

The New Mood: Salem

Salem makes black ooze music. It flows languorously and is impossible to shake. The sound, which borrows as much from Dirty South hip-hop as it does from ’80s goth, is born from a dark place that some have called demonic. “I’m fine with that,” says band member John Holland. “But I don’t feel all that demonic when we’re making it.” Heather Marlatt adds, “It’s not like we’re on suicide watch. I just think we’re realistic people.” The fount of their gloom, explains Jack Donoghue, is more about disappointment than despair. “The older we get,” he says, “the more we realize things didn’t pan out the way we thought they would.”

But it’s a little hard to feel sorry for the press-shy trio, who are currently recording the full-length follow-up to their debut EP, Yes, I Smoke Crack, a limited edition vinyl affair that was released in early 2009. “We’re making a bunch of songs, and we’re going to choose the 12 best,” says Holland, oblivious to their impending success. “Isn’t that how you make an album?”

What kind of influence do drugs have on your music? Jack: There’s not much influence of drugs on the music that we make. They are not the main component of our music.

How did you think your music makes people feel? Jack: I mean I don’t even know how people feel in general. Heather: I don’t understand anyone. John: One time I was trying to send out music to someone, and there was this lady who asked “Could you meditate to it?” Then my friend asked, “How do you meditate?” and she was like, “You want to go to a place you’ve never been to before.”

Where does the need to make music come from? Heather: I don’t know what else I would do. Jack: It wasn’t like we sat down and made some decision. It sort of just happened.

How do you feel when people use words like “nightmarish” and “demonic” to describe your sound? John: It’s cool if it takes them to darker place, or if it’s “demonic.” But I don’t really feel that way when I make the song and listen to it.

What’s your relationship with nature? John: I feel a really strong connection to nature and the elements. It definitely plays a really huge part in our music. Heather: I think we all do, but we all sort of interpret it a little bit differently.

How has being born and raised in the Midwest affected you? Heather: Where John and I grew up, there wasn’t really anything, so I think that really pushed us into thinking about creative things. John: Everybody hates where they are if they’re there long enough. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Midwest or anywhere. Jack: I think that people in the Midwest are more real in a way. They’re more themselves without really realizing it. John: Something I’ve noticed about Michigan—I don’t know about all of the Midwest—but a lot of people have delusional ideas about reality and themselves, so they disassociate themselves from what’s really happening and create their own reality.

What things disappoint you? John: I think that we all have a really strong connection to our childhood and how we felt then, and then the older we get things happen and change, and sometimes it gets to the point where it makes you feel like the way you felt like when you a kid. Jack: I think we’re all sensitive, and somewhat connected more to that mentality

What do you guys do when you’re not working or making music? John: We all do different things. We work apart. We draw and take photographs and make collages and make food and go exploring and I don’t know we do all kinds of things. Jack: I guess that’s more of what Heather and John do. I don’t know what I do.

Photography by Terence Koh.

The New Look: Mandy Coon

“A reversible tank top. Why does no one do that?” wondered Mandy Coon. So she made one. “It’s something that I had been really wanting.” This sort of innovation characterizes the 33-year-old designer’s edgy, structural, self-named line, which launched during last season’s New York Fashion Week. Coon began as a DJ with friends in high places. In February of 2008, when she was better known in New York as one half of 2 Mandy DJs, her dramatic black bowl cut inspired YSL to send a parade of ravenbobbed models down its runway. (“It was actually very weird,” says Coon, who was at the show.)

Deciding to make the jump into fashion,Coon apprenticed for Danish designer Camilla Staerk for a few seasons. One day, Coon says her boss “walked up to me and gave me a piece of paper with the contacts for the fashion calendar. She said, ‘You’re going to do a presentation next season.’” And so Coon did.

Through her inventive, geometric designs—one dress unzips to become a top and a skirt—Coon aspires to make things that she hasn’t already seen out there. Her interest in the new fashion frontier even extends to canine couture. “I would love to do a clothing line for dogs,” she says, laughing, and then goes on to describe the silver lamé cape she crafted for her French bulldog, Petunia.

Photo by Billy Kid. Hair Charlie Taylor. Makeup Lauren Whitworth using YSL Beauté.

Taylor Kitsch: The New Action Hero

Any day now, Taylor Kitsch will cut his hair. To transform into the title character in John Carter of MarsWall-E director Andrew Stanton’s first live-action feature, based on Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burrough’s sci-fi novels about a Civil War veteran’s adventures on the Red Planet—the 28-year-old actor, who plays the dreamy, brooding, beer-drinking, football-playing Tim Riggins on NBC’s cult drama Friday Night Lights, will lop off his locks for the first time since he was 19. “Hopefully, it’s a 10-year job,” Kitsch says of the potential franchise, which co-stars Willem Dafoe, Samantha Morton and Thomas Haden Church.

Even though the motorcycle-riding actor has spent four seasons playing high-level pigskin on TV, and was a serious hockey player in college (it was only after he busted his knee that he took up acting), the intense preparation leading up to John Carter exceeds anything he’s done before. It includes sword training, gun fighting, horseback riding and seven-hour cram sessions on the Civil War. And while learning to fence with four-armed giant green Martians might not be every actor’s idea of the method, Kitsch uses physicality as entrée into psyche. “It makes it a bit easier,” he says. “I have to look like this, walk like this. I have to lose this much weight. I’ll know this inside out. Then I work on the mental state.”

Before Carter’s eight-month shoot in London and Utah begins, Kitsch will wrap this season of Friday Night Lights and hopefully see The Bang Bang Club screen at Sundance. In Bang Bang, Kitsch plays another Carter, this one a Kevin, a real-life photographer who, along with three friends, captured raw and horrifying images of the end of apartheid in South Africa—and killed himself weeks after winning the Pulitzer Prize. The shoot was grueling. “No joke, I think I was on bandaged knees and broken down in every scene past the halfway mark,” Kitsch says. “I needed a lot of counseling to come out of it.” After that he’s on to Carter, which Kitsch admits is stressing him out a bit. “It’s not a bad stress where I wake up and say, Oh my God, I’m doing this and that,” he says. “But the stakes are incredibly high. It’s a big movie. I just have to keep my head down and go to work.”

Over the course of Friday Night Lights Riggins has gone from being very quiet to being, if still quiet, very funny. Can you talk about that a little? That’s from Pete [Berg] and four years of playing Riggs. I watched it last night and I started laughing too. I cannot stop smiling when I see some of the scenes between Riggs and Billy. Sometimes it’s just so whacked out you’ve got to just laugh. But at the same time, there’s an actor in both of us, and the guy who plays Billy is a damn good one, and we have a good time really diving into the dramatic stuff. I do what they call for me to do. If they want me to be funny and do the comedic stuff, I’ll do it.

It sounds like you enjoy the dramatic storylines more. I love the comedy too. It’s a lot of fun to play and I love breaking the guy next to me. There’s a scene where Saracen and I go hunting and I cannot even tell you the laughs we had on that. It was 90 percent improv and it was just ridiculous. I was just thinking, “What would it be like hunting with Riggs?” I mean, he’s 18. I sometimes forget about that. He’s a fucking 18-year-old kid and I’m 28. That’s why it’s so fun to dive into that stuff. Just those little things, like the, “tater me.” I think that’s what works best, when we don’t play for the humor, but we find it.

So you aren’t thinking, that’d be funny to say? No way! The director was like, “You haven’t eaten for a bit.” So I was like, fucking chugging down tater tots and I’m just chugging down food the entire scene.

Both the show creator Peter Berg and the showrunner Jason Katims have said they wanted to explore a character, like Tim, who comes home to a small town, without having really tried to “make it” in the big world, and have that be alright. Not everyone has to leave. I think we’re dealing right now with the transition of Tim’s coming home and the fact that he’s not who he was before he left. The town has kind of moved on, especially in terms of football. There was that scene where Billy just lays it on Tim and Tim can’t grasp why Billy’s snapping on him. And then Tim basically says, “I just want to come home.” He doesn’t have much else. Later on in the season it circles back to the pilot, to the Texas forever speech, where Tim just says he is going to get a plot of land. That’s truly just as simple as he feels about life. He’s a simple guy, a small town Texas kid. We have football guys that come and play on the football team who are living what I’m playing right now. Maybe not living in a trailer, but they were definitely 18, 19, 20, 21 years old playing college football in front of a 100,000 people and all the sudden it’s taken away from them. I think Tim has always been lost, but football was the place where he had a sense of purpose, at least when he was out in the field. That’s why I think so maybe people relate to Tim. You meet people in their 40’s who still don’t have that one purpose that gets them up in the morning. Tim exemplifies that.

Are you going to have to cut your hair to play John Carter? I hope so.

A thousand fan girls just cried. This year Riggin’s hair is ridiculously long. I have never had it longer. It’s well past my shoulders.

So if it was up to you, you’d have cut it already? Right now, I’m totally in Riggins mode so I like it. He’s living in a trailer and he’s a mechanic so like, really, why is he going to try and look good? I think that’s the least of his worries.

When was the last time you had short hair? When I was 19. I can’t wait for John Carter. He’s going to have a lot of looks, believe me. There’s this one part where he’s just so grizzled. I’m pumped. I can’t wait to dive into it and all the prep and all the other actors. I think we’re going to hit the ground running. We’re very ready.

Have you read the John Carter of Mars books? I have now. I’ve been studying. The books don’t give Carter a backstory to dive into, so I’ve been studying the Civil War. I sat down with a historian for like seven hours straight to talk about Civil War stories and that helped a lot. It’s everything, the mindset, why they fought. Life was a lot simpler in the 1800’s and hopefully we can bring that to the film. It was fucking raw the way they lived out there and I love that part of it. Sword training is starting up too, which I love. Horseback riding, gun fighting, and of course, just the training to get ready for the physicality of it.

Did you have to audition for the part? Oh, believe me. A lot of the actors, their resumes are self-explanatory and I was up against some great cats, man. The screen test was the most intense screen test. They want to see if you have the chops to carry this guy. It wasn’t as simple as going in and reading a scene, I’ll tell you that much. The stakes are incredibly high. It’s a big movie. Hopefully it’s a ten-year job.

Does that stress you out? Man, you have your days just because you want it so bad and you want to do a great job. I’m very passionate about my deal so, yeah, of course. It’s not a bad stress where I wake up and say “Oh my god, I’m doing this and that,” but it’s just keep putting your head down and go to work.

Tell me about The Bang Bang Club. I’ll get to see a lot of it this Sunday and I’m incredibly nervous for it. I put so much into it, I needed a lot of counseling to come out of it. Coming home I had some problems, just adjusting to find me again. You just kind of lose yourself in it and I had some difficulties getting back to everyday stuff. I had kidney problems doing that as well. It was just heavy. The stakes are so high. You’re playing somebody who left such a mark. It’s a true story and the family is going to watch it so you put anything and everything you can into doing it. I’m incredibly proud of what we did with it so I’m just hoping it came out. I know in my gut though that I played every moment as honestly as I possibly could. Every moment was truthful and as an actor, that’s a very rare deal, especially when there’s so much demanded for this role. No joke, I think every scene after the halfway mark I was on bandaged knees and broken down. It takes a lot to play that truthfully and to go there day in and day out. I’m incredibly anxious to see i

You seen to be attracted to parts that have a big physical component. I think it helps when you have a lot of substance to dive into, when you have a lot of layers to play. As an actor, as ironic as it is, it makes it a bit easier to go, “Okay, I know what I have to do for Kevin Carter. I have to lose this much weight. I have to look like this, walk like this. I’m going to shadow this photographer. I’ll know this inside out and then I’ll work on this mental state.” That gives me a lay out of what to do. If I go, “Okay, I’m going to play this good looking guy whose a quarterback for a football team,” I think I’d be fucking terrible at that. Just because there’s nothing to grab onto, there’s not much substance there. To play some generic guy who just comes in and out and there’s nothing to him that’s hard. I think that’s very soapy and that’s where I tip my hat to those guys because there’s no way I could do it. I would look so bad if I went onto something like that. I think it’s just a different art in it’s own right.

Like the art of faking it, you mean? The more real it is and the more stuff to dive into, the more honest I can be with it and dive into it. So it just feels a lot more organic that way.

Photo by Jeff Wilson Grooming Darilyn Nagy Location Donn’s Depot, Austin, TX

The New Carnivore: Alexander Skarsgård

As Eric Northman on HBO’s racy vampire saga True Blood, Alexander Skarsgård is not your average bloodsucker. Sure, he’s tall, pale and inclined to exsanguinations, but he rarely chews the scenery—or his co-stars—and his louche breed of boredom is a refreshing antidote to those pubescent Twilight lightweights. The 33-year-old actor, who says his character is “both a mirror and weird reflection of my personality,” masterfully embodies Northman’s above-it-all cool. And for good reason. He’s seen it all before—albeit on a smaller, Scandinavian scale—as the son of internationally respected actor Stellan Skarsgård.

The rumored swain of Evan Rachel Wood, Skarsgård became famous in his home country when he was only 13 for his performance in a breakout hit called The Dog That Smiled. He quit acting for almost a decade after that experience, but Skarsgård no longer fears exposure. “I’ve learned not to worry about that and not to let that affect me or my friends,” he says calmly. During production on his new movie, a remake of the Sam Peckinpah classic Straw Dogs (starring James Marsden and Kate Bosworth), fans drove all the way from Chicago to Shreveport, Louisiana, just to get his autograph. “Yeah, it can get a little intense,” he says. “But it’s a good thing. I haven’t had any bad experiences, knock on wood.”

You’ve said in other interviews that your experience of fame as a child actor was kind of scary and put you off acting for a few years and then in your early twenties you decided to give it another try. What motivated that change? Well, I don’t know if “scary” is the right word. I did my first feature when I was seven back in Sweden. I never really considered it a profession or potential work for me in the future, I just thought of it as something fun. Then I did this movie when I was 13 and it got quite a lot of attention back in Scandinavia and it just made me very uncomfortable. It’s weird when you’re 13 to get all that attention. From the day I started working as an actor I wasn’t saying, “I’m gonna be a big star.” So it wasn’t a tough decision for me to stop. And my parents never pushed me. They said, “If you’re not passionate about this, if you don’t like all the attention, just do what you want to do.” And I did for seven years. And then when I was 20, like most people that age, I started thinking about what to do with my future and potential careers and obviously acting came up again. I realized that I had a strong urge to be on a stage again. I missed acting and I also knew that the fact I quit had nothing to do with the craft, with the work itself, it had to do with everything around it. So I figured it might be different now that I was 20 as opposed to when I was 13.

You felt more able to deal with it, at that point, maturity wise. I was still young but I felt that at least I wasn’t 13. I felt that I kind of owed it to myself to give it another go and see how I felt about it. Then I went to study at a drama school in New York and from day one I knew how much I missed it and how much I loved it, so, you know, after that I’ve never looked back.

In Generation Kill the character you played, Ice Man, who is based on a real soldier, is very reserved and the performance itself was similarly restrained, but the scene that I really liked and that a lot of people have commented on, is the one where you’re, for lack of a better word, flying around in that field where everyone’s camped. How did that particular scene come about? It happened. It happened for real. Reading the book and the script I just loved that moment so much. It’s towards the end of their journey, they’re almost outside of Baghdad at that point, they’ve gone through all this madness. It’s just this moment where [my character] Colbert, who is the Ice Man, and is always strong, just has to become a child again for just a few seconds. He just has to let all that out for a brief moment and be the guy who leaves his gun behind and just enjoys the moment, which he hasn’t done up until then.

I know that you had decided not to talk to the man you were playing during the filming, but that you met him after. Did you talk about that specific moment with him? I don’t remember. We talked, I’m pretty sure we did, we talked about everything. I picked his brain for hours. It was just such a big moment for me to sit down and meet with him and talk to him about the whole journey, and his take on the series, how he felt about what we did with it, how we portrayed him and his fellow marines.

Was he pleased? I’m still alive so I guess. He seemed to like it. It would be tough for him because it was personal. Everything I say on the show, talking about his ex-girlfriend, and hookers and all that stuff, it’s real, it’s quotes from real life. He never asked for this to become a huge HBO series. This is stuff he said in front of his men, inside the humvee, and yes, he knew that there was a journalist back there, but after a couple of days you forget that the guy’s a journalist. When you’re tired, and you’ve been on the road for a couple days it’s hard to censor yourself. But I think that he liked what we did and felt that it was a portrait of what they went through out there. That meant everything to me to hear that.

On the flip side of Ice Man you have Eric Northman in True Blood, who’s very flamboyant and predatory, if vulnerable. Which of these characters feels closer to your real personality than the other? I think both of them are born inside of me. I always use my own feelings and experiences in portraying a character so I think they’re both a mirror of my personality and a weird reflection of my personality. Also, for me as an actor, to be able to go from playing Ice Man for seven months to playing a character like Eric that’s the polar opposite– someone who’s flamboyant, who likes the attention, who’s always in the center–gave me tons of creativity. I wouldn’t want to play the same character in ten different projects in a row.

A friend of mine mentioned that in the love triangle you have going on in the show, she likes is that it seems like Eric and Bill spend as much time staring deeply into each others’ eyes as Bill and Sookie do. And of course then Evan Rachel Wood’s character told you guys to just to do it already. How do you guys feel about how that relationship is going? Eric and Bill? I love it. I think that it’s so much fun for Eric to toy with Bill, because Bill is so serious, he’s so young and naïve in a way, and Eric enjoys that. Bill’s so, “Oh, I’m in love and I’m going to save Sookie,” and to Eric, Bill’s not even two-hundred years old, so to Eric he’s just a little baby. Eric knows he’s in control and he’s in power and he really enjoys all those moments and seeing Bill upset and angry, because to Eric it’s not a real threat.

Have you noticed a difference between True Blood fans and Twilight fans? You’re not being chased around in hotel rooms like Robert Pattinson, are you? The fans of True Blood, they’re very devoted, they take this very seriously so, it can get a little intense but I try to see it as a positive thing. I shot a movie down in Shreveport and there were these fans who drove down from Chicago and drove up from Miami just to come to the hotel where we stayed for an autograph. I would never do that, but on the other hand I really have to appreciate how much they love the show. I haven’t had any bad experiences. Knock on wood.

One of the consequences of the recent uptick in your fame lately is that your personal life is being scrutinized, with people connecting you with Evan Rachel Wood and Kate Bosworth. How do you deal with that ? I’ve been dealing with this in Scandinavia for the last ten years now, plus those years when I was a child actor, so this is like that only a thousand times bigger. Even though I’ve just become famous here in the states, I’ve dealt with the fact that people recognize me or look at me wherever I go and start rumors about me and my private life before. I’m already used to all that stuff. I’ve learned not to worry about it. It’s pretty much the same phenomenon only it’s a lot bigger here.

I had forgotten until recently that you had a cameo in Zoolander as the Meekus character. How in the world did you end up in that movie? I was here in the states on vacation. My father’s an actor and he was working in LA and his manager knew that I was working in Sweden at the time. So she was like, “Well do you want to go out and take a meeting and audition for something.” And I thought, “Oh that’s fun, you know, I’m in Hollywood I’ll try that.” And I think Zoolander was my first and only audition when I was out there was and I got the part. I was like, “That was easy–is that how easy it is in Hollywood?” And then of course I came back two years later and realized that I was very lucky and it took me a couple years until I landed my next gig. So it was just a fluke. It was an amazing experience for me, coming from the tiny film industry in Sweden with no expectations. It’s not like I was in LA trying to get work. I was on vacation hanging out with my family and two weeks later I found myself in Tribecca in Manhattan working with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson and Will Ferrell. I flew back to Stockholm right after that and spent another three years in Sweden and then I came back to the states. I was a little naïve when I came back because I was like, “Piece of cake you go in, you read, you get the job, you go do the job.” But then I faced reality and realized it’s not that easy.

So that movie you were talking about in Shreveport was Straw Dogs. Tell me about that. It’s a remake and it’s not. Rod Lurie wrote it and directed it, and you can’t just copy a Sam Peckinpah movie because there’s really no point in doing that. You have to add something and I think Rod did. What attracted me to it is that there’s also a love triangle drama there. My character had a history with Kate Bosworth’s character. They dated for many years, she leaves and she comes back ten years later with James Marsden’s character who’s a screenwriter from Hollywood. It’s a culture clash.

It’s definitely another change from what you were doing before. Yeah, I mean this is a local guy from down in Southern Mississippi so it was quite different.

If I heard correctly, your dad was just cast in Thor and you were in the running for that title character, what did you think about that prospect? I was very flattered. I know that they considered me for the part and I got, from what I understand, very close to getting it and that’s amazing because I know how many guys they look at for a part like that. I was very humbled by that. It was a great experience and you know you win some you lose some, of course I wanted to do that but…

Did you actually audition for it? Oh yeah, many, many times.

So just to wrap up, do you care to tell us about any of your favorite places to go out in LA or New York. I usually go to house parties. I’m from Sweden and we don’t go out to clubs until 1 am in Sweden, so it’s hard for me to adjust to L.A. where you have to go out at 10 and then the bars close at 1:30 and you have to drive. I prefer to stay in when you don’t have to drive and you can hang out as late as you want.

Photo by Chris Mauszynski

The New Natural: Alia Shawkat

Alia Shawkat has the words “Mister Baby” tattooed across her back. It’s a tribute to the anxious Elvis fan in Jim Jarmusch’s 1989 film Mystery Train, three linked stories filled with awkward silences and understated comedy. It’s exactly the kind of movie, and exactly the kind of tattoo, you’d expect a cooler-than-thou Brooklyn hipster to like. Shawkat, best known for her role as Maeby Fünke, the kissing cousin on Fox’s rightly canonized Arrested Development, is that kind of girl. All this makes the 20-year-old actress the perfect person to pen Stitch N’ Bitch, the satirical send-up of urbane tapered denim fans she is writing with Ellen Page (her recent co-star in the roller derby flick Whip It ) for HBO. “It’s about two girls who leave Williamsburg and move to Silver Lake. It makes fun of all the people we are and we hang out with—all of these kids who look like French pirates at ironic parties with the wiry bikes,” Shawkat says. “It’ll have a lot of Ray-Bans and lots of red flannel.”

When not eviscerating the cool kids, Shawkat will appear as a fictional band member opposite Kristen Stewart in The Runaways, a Joan Jett biopic, as well as in the long-gestating Arrested Development movie. She also hopes to break into the indie comic book scene (she designed one of her tattoos, a squiggly triangle that looks like a rotund man in a top hat when viewed from the right angle), but couldn’t find a coffee shop in Brooklyn conducive to her creative pursuit. “I can’t pull out my journal in a vegan restaurant, when I’m surrounded by all of these people and their asymmetric haircuts. I would have seemed like such a tool bag.”

So what was Arrested Development like? It was great. When I got a script we were so excited for all the crazy shit we got to do. The only bad thing about it was that literally every other day we were being thrown into cancellation. We were never settled. So every time we were doing another episode we were like, “Really? We got another one? OK great!” But otherwise it was one of the best experiences ever. We were like a family. There were a couple of bad seeds but we’d just make fun of them.

What was it like getting the recognition for the show after it was over? It was very strange. I’ve been recognized for it more in the last year than ever before. When it was on I never got recognized. It was the DVD sales that got everyone. I think [the creator] Mitch [Hurwitz], was offered two more seasons with Showtime, but he turned it down because we won an Emmy, but no one watched it. He was kind of sensitive about it. The movie idea came about since people started watch the show so much and Jason [Bateman] and everyone is doing so well movie wise. They’re writing it right now, but I feel like the timing is imperative because everybody is still hot for it.

Why do you think the pause after production with Arrested Development and other shows like Family Guy works so well and makes them more popular? I think it’s because if you watched the show while it was one air, you couldn’t just tune in like to a Will & Grace episode and understand what was going on. My grandfather tried to watch it and he was like, “I can’t do it. They’re talking too fast!”

You’ve been doing all these girl projects, working with Drew Barrymore on Whip It and the all girl cast for The Runaways, was that a marked difference to working on such a male-dominated show as Arrested Development? It’s harder sometimes. When I was on Arrested Development it was a lot easier because it was such a big cast, too, so when had photo shoots it was pretty much just me and Michael [Cera] in the background. We got to do our bits but it was no pressure at all. The adults would take care of it. With Whip It there were a lot, a lot of girls, but there wasn’t one person that we didn’t like. I really take my hat off to Drew because she has such a positive attitude and I think that contributed a lot to that. We were just talking about it the other night, there was no one person that I didn’t get along with on the whole set. And with so many girls that’s so rare. There are so many egos. We still all hang out. It was really rad. The Runaways wasn’t as easy of an experience but we still all got along pretty well.

The Runaways are so emblematic of a very specific time, what was the biggest gap you had to bridge to make it realistic? Well thank god Joan Jett and Cherie Currie were on set a lot. I’m the bassist in the band. My character has nothing to do with the movement of the plot. The director [Floria Sigismondi], she’s a music video director and this is her first film, so the story is going to be focused on the style. I wasn’t playing a real person, because [the real person] was going to sue the shit out of us if I did, so we we’re all just staying in a very specific style more than telling the authentic story of a young girl in the 70’s. It’s all about the music and then the drugs and we break up and that kind of thing.

How would you describe the aesthetic? They didn’t really tell us much. The director would be strapped onto this thing and we would be spinning and filming and it was just a weird experience because I’m usually very involved. Like on Whip It, every scene we were able to take time and talk about the character and, not to sound stupid, but as an actor that’s what you do. And it wasn’t like that on this set, at least not for my character. It was a lot more, “rock out!” I learned the bass, which was cool. I think that was probably the most challenging thing, making it look real, making it look like I really know how to play bass.

What else have you been working on? I leave in a couple of weeks to go to Ann Arbor—that’s where I shot Whip It. So I’m going back there again to do a movie called Cedar Rapids with Miguel Arteta who directed Youth in Revolt and he’s one of my really good friends so I’m excited.

So what what you like to be doing in the next five years? Working would be nice. And maybe have a house.

Here in LA? Here and then be able to have an apartment in New York.

Welcome to the dream. I would love to do puppet shows. Do you know Punch and Judy? I went to London over the summer and got a wooden cart and it’s super cool. It would be cool to have a show at a gallery. I do sketches for comic book stuff so it would be great to make a comic book. My brother and I were working on an idea for one.

Are there any comic books that you particularly like? I like Daniel Clowes. I’ve been doing painting too, but the art world makes no sense to me. I’ve been acting since I was little and you just go in, you audition, and that’s it. But do I walk into a gallery and say, “Hey, I have art work do you want to look at it?” But I go into these small galleries in Chinatown and I’m like, “my shit’s better than this.” I’m not as into the super hero ones as I am to the graphic novels.

How old were you when you started acting? I started acting when I was 9. I had to convince my parents because my mother’s father was an actor and she just didn’t like anything about it. We started sending in headshots and we never heard anything back. My mom finally called and asked about it and they said I looked too “ethnic.” My hair was longer and curlier and I looked ethnic.

What is your “ethnicity?” I’m Arabic. My dad’s from Baghdad. I went and auditioned for an agent and I got it. Then I had a Barbie commercial as my first job. Barbie in a Porsche. I had a ponytail literally on top of my head. Then my second audition was a movie called Three Kings and I was there for three months, and that was my first real shooting experience with Clooney, Ice Cube, Mark Walberg, Spike Jonze.

So what do your folks do? My father owns a shopping center in Palm Springs—the main attraction being showgirls. I’m first generation—he came over in the ‘70s with $200 in his pocket, you know one of those guys. Then he met my mom in Los Angeles and they moved to Palm Springs. Mom’s a housewife. She got all her degrees and then wanted to be a housewife.

Do you have any siblings? I have two brothers; I’m in the middle. The little one is 14 so he’s worthless. The older one is a piano player—he wants to do compositions for films and stuff. He’s into classical. The younger one is 14 and the older one is 22. The last one came and we were like, “What the fuck?”

What is a 14 year old like? Intense. I work and then I go home and I haven’t seen him in a couple of months and his voice has changed, he’s wearing baggy shorts and he’s gelling his hair into a little faux-hawk. He’s cool; we relate, but if you say one thing like, “No I’m not going to take you to go get ice cream,” he’ll be like, “Fuck you!” and lash out, and it’s like “Whoa-whoa-whoa I just said no, but OK, let’s go get ice cream just settle down.”

Does he have a myspace? I guess so. I don’t know. I’m not on myspace so I don’t know. I don’t have any of those things. He was born with that stuff right away. He’s also one of those World of Warcrafters. He’s on it all the time with a head set and he’s always saying weird stuff like “I leveled up like 3 points,” and I’m like “We have to go to dinner,” and he’s like “No! My friends are gonna die if I leave!” and I’m like, “No one is actually going to die.”

Would you like to do more movies? Comedy? Drama? I’m actually working on a show, writing a TV show with some friends right now. We just wrote a pilot. That’s the only TV I would want to be involved in right now, if I was writing it. Otherwise, I’d rather do film.

What’s the TV show about? It’s called Stitch N’ Bitch. We got the name from this cranium game. We were playing and our friend Brett had to mime “stitch and bitch” and I had never heard that before. But the show is me and Ellen Page and my friend Sean Fillman, and us three wrote it together and it’s about these two hipster girls who leave Williamsburg, Brooklyn who moves to Silverlake and we are just kind of making fun of all the people we are and hang out with the ridiculousness of wanting to be an artist and all those girls. So shit like that, just making fun of the culture. I was in Williamsburg doing research and it was ridiculous.

They have a uniform. They look like French pirates and they have these wirey bikes and funny mustaches. It was like nonstop. I had my journal in my purse and I couldn’t pull it out. I couldn’t sit at this vegan restaurant with all these people with asymmetrical haircuts and pull out my journal to write.

Dress by Trovata, Photo by Randall Slavin, Slyling by Jewels, Grooming by Jeffrey Paul @EA Management, Production Sara Pine @Creative 24.

The New Chameleon: Saoirse Ronan

When Saoirse Ronan walks into the Old Poland Bakery in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood, the 15-year-old actress looks every bit the schoolgirl. That is, if she went to school. Since her Oscar-nominated performance in Atonement two years ago, Ronan has been too busy to attend regular classes. “I tried to go back recently,” she says, “but I felt like I was in a zoo. I felt like there were 20 kids crowding me, teasing me.” Still, all things considered, Ronan’s life has been fairly normal. Her parents travel with her wherever she goes. She refuses to move to Hollywood and doesn’t much care for fame. “I try not to read much press about me,” she says in her sophisticated Irish brogue. “Most people are nice, but then you have really mean people who are like, ‘Who’s prettier: Saoirse or Dakota Fanning?’ I hate when they compare.”

This Christmas, Ronan co-stars in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Alice Sebold’s bestselling novel The Lovely Bones, as the film’s brutally raped and murdered narrator. Ronan, who will also appear with Colin Farrell in The Way Back, Peter Weir’s upcoming war drama about escapees from a Siberian gulag, says it was difficult to film the scenes in which Susie looks over her family from the afterlife. “I was surrounded by a blue-screen most of the time, so I had no idea what Peter’s heaven was going to look like. My family is Catholic, but I don’t know if I believe in a god.” Before Ronan has the chance to get into her personal theology, her lunch arrives, and her otherworldly eyes light up. “I’m so excited!” she says, finally sounding her age. “I’ve never tried chicken noodle soup before.”

What was your initial reaction when watching the film? Did you have any idea what it might look like? I knew that whatever happened, Pete was going to do something incredible with it, because he always does with all of his movies. The waiting process to see this movie has been almost two years. But since I hadn’t seen it until recently, I’d never really thought of it as a movie, as a finished film.

How do you try to understand a character like Susie Salmon, someone whose life experience is so vastly different from yours? When you put it like that, it actually sounds quite difficult. But I’m pretty good at understanding people in everyday life, and that’s one of the most important things about becoming someone else on camera. I also think it’s important to have a good relationship with your director. If you don’t have that then I don’t think you can portray the character in its entirety, the way it deserves to be played. Although Pete’s style of directing is different from any other director I’ve worked for, it just works. He talked to me about loss. It wasn’t exactly about death, but more about having something taken from you and never getting it back.

The Lovely Bones is an adaptation of a fictional story, but it’s also based, however loosely, on Alice Sebold’s life. Were you conscious of that during filming? I wasn’t really. For me, Susie was completely separate from Alice. I wanted to create for Susie her own identity. She became a part of me for two months, not in a method acting kind of way but as if became her friend. I knew everything about her, and how she would react to something.

Did you discuss the story or your character with Alice? I haven’t met Alice. I think they invited her on set, but she never came. I thought it was great that she didn’t want to get in the way of Pete’s interpretation of the story. It seemed to me, from what I heard, that she really respected him and his vision.

Were you able to leave the tragedy on set? Sometimes I’d come home from work and get really upset because I was so close to Susie. As a human, as someone with a heart, of course I got upset. But I tried my best to leave it there.

Tell me about your working relationship with Stanley Tucci, who plays your murderer in the film. Stanley is one of the sweetest guys. He is very kind and funny, really easy to be around. And it was important for us to be that comfortable with each other in order to go into those uncomfortable scenes. After we finished the cornfield scene [during which Stanley’s character murders Susie Salmon], I went over to him and gave him a hug. He had his arm around me and we walked off and had a chat.

What’s it like when you’re at home? The Irish are a proud group of people. I mean this in the most modest way, but everyone loves Ireland. We’ve got a very good reputation and even though we’ve had some trouble in the past, I think that’s made us more proud of who we are. We’ve really fought for our country and for freedom. I have to say that the stereotypes people have set for us kind of annoy me. Sure, there are a lot of people who drink in Ireland, but there are also a lot of people who drink in Britain and everywhere in the world.

But how normal is your life at home? Have you been affected by fame? It’s not as normal as it was before I started acting. I’m quite well known in Ireland, so people recognize me.

Does that happen when you walk down the street? Yeah.

Has that started to happen in America? It’s happened a few times, but America is a lot bigger than Ireland. A lot of people know me over there. It’s quite odd when you’re walking through the town you grew up in and people start to look at you differently, people that I know, people that I don’t know, or people that I’ve seen on the street before and recognize. I’m really happy that my acting career has taken off, but at the same time, I’m not doing it for fame.

How has your film success affected your school life? It’s changed quite a bit. When I was nominated for an Oscar, I was working on Lovely Bones and I couldn’t start secondary school with the rest of the kids. I had planned to go back to school after Easter but it didn’t really work out. I’m not going to delve too much into it, but it just didn’t work out at all, for me at least.

Because the other kids knew about the movies you were in? Yeah, I felt like I was in a zoo. I felt like there were 20 kids crowding me, teasing me. It was just a bit mean. There were some good kids, too.

Was a film career something to which you always aspired? I’ve read stories of child actors, the ones who start working at 3 years old, but I can’t see how acting is something you aspire to do at 3 years old. You’re playing with your dolls and you’re eating food. That’s all you care about and I think it’s silly to say otherwise. But I’ve always been an entertainer and my dad is an actor. When I was about 6 or 8, my dad said to his agent, “Maybe you could hook her up with a few things.” So she did and I got this part in an Irish Drama. And then I did another show that I liked even more. From there, I was in a movie with Michelle Pfeiffer [I Could Never Be Your Woman] and things just kind of took off.

Since you weren’t raised in Hollywood, can you recall your first introduction to a major celebrity? So far, it was probably at the Oscars. I was in the front row with all the nominees and Jack Nicholson came on stage to present some award or something, and I swear I looked up his nose. I was that close to Jack Nicholson! I don’t get star-struck—I’m not into that kind of thing and I don’t believe you should treat anyone as a superior—but to see someone like him, who you’ve grown up watching, who’s so good at what he does, it was a big slap in the face.

Young Hollywood is such an interesting demographic because it can bring out really great things in people, really creative things, but then it can also breed monsters. I see so many kids who get famous really fast, and even though sometimes I might get a little envious that someone is more well known than me, I like the way my career is going at the moment. It’s building slowly, which is kind of what happened to Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansen. My parents are with me everywhere I go and my dad is an actor, so he has insight into show business. They both keep me really grounded.

But this really does seem to be your breakout moment. You must be taking advantage of it, no? For someone my age, I’m getting paid really well. But compared to Miley Cyrus, I’m getting nothing. But she’s Miley Cyrus.

Now there’s a role model! You said before that Kiera Knightley was someone who you held in high esteem. I really like Kiera. She’s gotten a lot of poo from the press, about her image and stuff, which a lot of the girls do. I respect her because she doesn’t pay attention to any of that.

Have you ever read anything nasty about yourself online? Not from the press, no. But there are really mean people on IMDb message boards, who are like, “Do you think she’s pretty?” Or, “Who’s prettier: Saoirse or Dakota Fanning?” I hate when they compare.

Since you’re not looking, I read today on there today that you look like Chloë Sevigny. I have to say I don’t think I look like her at all. People compare me to so many different people. Why can’t I just be who I am? I don’t really think I look like anyone. Do these people have nothing better to do? If you’re not a journalist and you’re not actually sent to write about these people, why do it?

At the other end of things, you have a fan site, which seems kind of sweet, unless a 40-year-old man runs it—or Stanley Tucci! The people who run that site are quite genuine. And I think it’s very sweet what they’re doing. It’s not like their adults. They’re teenage girls… I think. I would never do that for anyone—if I wasn’t doing what I’m doing, I’d still prefer to do things that I’d benefit from.

Ronan wears top by D&G. Sequined top by Tory Burch. Photography by Billy Kidd. Styling by Bryan Levandowski. Hair by Charlie Taylor. Makeup by Lauren Whitworth using YSL Beaute.

Its and Misses: 20 Years of Young Hollywood’s Could’ve Beens

Since 1927, when Clara Bow became known as “the It girl” for her star turn in the silent film It, Hollywood has been hyping young talents. Sometimes these silver screen hopefuls make good on their promise (see: Audrey, Julia), but more often they don’t (don’t see: Edie, Molly). On the brink of a new decade, we look back at the past 20 years of actors who didn’t quite live up to their billing.

1992: Edward Furlong — The star of Terminator 2: Judgment Day was only 14 when he and Arnold fought the machines to a standstill. For the next few years, the preternaturally cool rebel flirted with legitimacy, appearing in John Waters’ Pecker and American History X. But Furlong was dogged by the ick-factor of a long-term relationship he began, at 15, with his 29-year-old tutor, Jacqueline Domac. Maybe it’s not too late: Furlong will soon appear with Seth Rogen in Michel Gondry’s The Green Hornet.

1994: Julia OrmondLegends of the Fall established Brad Pitt as a box office draw. It looked like it might do the same for his British leading lady, until the release of First Knight, the ill-conceived Arthurian adventure in which Ormond played a much younger Guinevere to Richard Gere’s Lancelot and Sean Connery’s King Arthur. Then came an even more ill-advised remake of the Billy Wilder classic Sabrina, with Ormond assuming Audrey Hepburn’s part. The two actresses do look alike, but that’s where audiences decided the similarities ended. image

1995: Alicia Silverstone — Well, if an actress is going to stagnate after one hit, she could do worse than Clueless, one of filmdom’s great teen comedies. Still, more was expected of Silverstone, especially by the suits at Columbia pictures, who gave the 19-year-old star a $10 million, three-picture deal and the chance to produce—based entirely on the success of Amy Heckerling’s Emma remake. Excess Baggage followed, as did a Batgirl cameo, ensuring that Silverstone will be best remembered as Cher Horowitz and the hot girl in those Aerosmith videos. image

1998: Freddie Prinze, Jr. — After the success of gore porno I Know What You Did Last Summer and teen romance She’s All That, Prinze was a frontrunner to play Spider-Man, a part that ultimately went to Tobey Maguire. Having missed out on Peter Parker, Prinze slung his web on one too many lame teen confections (Down to You, Head Over Heels, Summer Catch), frittering away his fledgling cachet. Today, he’s best known as Mr. Sarah Michelle Gellar.

1998: Gretchen Mol — Although the failure of Matt Damon’s first big post-Good Will Hunting film, Rounders, didn’t hurt his career, it wrecked his co-star Mol’s, one of the most striking casualties of hype in recent memory. The then-26-year-old blonde bombshell, a virtual unknown, landed on the cover of the September 1998 issue of Vanity Fair because of the poker film, which turned out to be a Godzilla-sized flop that grossed a measly $22 million (even though it’s had a healthy DVD afterlife). Mol has gone on to do decent work (Mary Harron’s The Notorious Bettie Page ), but unlike Stella, she never really got her groove back.

1999: Wes Bentley — This is a disappearing act of extreme proportions: to much acclaim, Bentley played the plastic bag-appreciating outsider in the Oscar-winning tale of twisted suburbia, American Beauty. And then… nothing. His only credit of note is the old-fashioned epic Four Feathers, co-starring Heath Ledger and Kate Hudson, which was released to muted fanfare in 2002. His co-stars in American Beauty—Thora Birch, Mena Suvari and, by some reckoning, Kevin Spacey—haven’t fared much better. image

2001: Jason Biggs — The cast of American Pie and unmet expectations fit together like dessert and Jason Biggs’ penis. Joining the pie Lothario in both the original and its sequel were Tara Reid (pre-irrelevance), Chris Klein, hot off Election, and the aforementioned Suvari. Biggs followed up his performance in Pie with a Woody Allen film, to no avail: the franchise’s most successful graduates are still How I Met Your Mother’s Alyson Hannigan and Stifler. image

2003: Lindsay Lohan — The freckled phenomenon first encountered celebrity as a child starring in Disney’s The Parent Trap remake. She followed up with Freaky Friday and by the time she dabbled with the burn book in 2004’s smash Mean Girls, Lindsay Lohan was a star. Sure, her résumé has had some other peaks (Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion, last year’s straight-to-video masterpiece Labor Pains), but her credibility has been wholly eclipsed by addictions, Twitter terrorism, tabloid goings-on, fashion projects, family feuds, tabloid goings-on and the amount of time she spends mooning for the tabloids. She’s in the tabloids a lot. image

[PHOTOS COURTESY OF PATRICK MCMULLAN COMPANY.]

Movie Reviews: ‘Youth in Revolt,’ ‘Dr. Parnassus,’ ‘Brothers’

Brothers – The blistering 2004 Danish drama that inspired this Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, In America) homage makes Brothers look like a timid version of its predecessor. Luckily for Sheridan, most Americans haven’t seen the original, so the film’s minor achievements won’t be dwarfed by comparison. Restrained and serviceable, Brothers belongs to the Coming Home school of war films where Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is the enemy. Grace (Natalie Portman) is coping with her husband Sam’s (Tobey Maguire) presumed death in Afghanistan, when his black- sheep brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) comes along to gradually assume the role of surrogate husband and father. When Sam suddenly returns from an unspeakable POW experience with a terrible secret, the film’s third act becomes a gut-wrenching glimpse at war’s long- term effects. Not quite the Oscar powerhouse it aspires to be, Brothers is still haunting. (Dec) —Ben Barna

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus – The latest film from loveable crackpot Terry Gilliam (Brazil, 12 Monkeys) will surely attract those intrigued by Heath Ledger’s last performance and the trio of superstars (Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell) enlisted to fill his shoes. But Imaginarium is more than an ode to its fallen lead—it’s also a return to form for the committed weirdo director. Realists beware: Gilliam allows his CGI-enhanced, schizophrenic imagination to roam free across a thin plot. But the former Python exerts more control than usual, seamlessly incorporating the three cameos into a story about the eternal battle between the immortal Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) and the devil (Tom Waits). The three A-listers give lively performances, but it’s difficult not to think about the man they’re replacing. Ledger’s final bow is by no means a tour de force, but littered throughout with faint Joker-isms, it’s a suitable farewell to a unique talent. (Dec) —Daniel Barna

The White Ribbon – Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon is a bleak morality play set in a remote German village prior to WWI. When a series of tragic, bizarre events disrupts the social order—the local doctor falls when his horse is deliberately tripped; a disabled boy is brutally attacked—the townspeople turn against one another hoping to unearth the truth behind these ritual acts of violence. As with Haneke’s last film, 2006’s misleadingly named Funny Games, Ribbon’s evil is all the more insidious because it lacks motive. It’s a whodunit in which who did it is superfluous. The performances here, specifically from the astounding child actors, are chilling, as is the luxurious but somber grayscale color palette. (Dec) —Nick Haramis

Creation – Jon Amiel’s sweeping portrait of Charles Darwin skirts the great thinker’s theory of evolution, choosing instead to explore the tension between faith and reason in the scientist’s personal life. After the death of his oldest daughter, Darwin (Paul Bettany) forsakes religion and nature, and wallows in self-pity for “killing God” with his unpublished On the Origin of Species. His wife (Jennifer Connelly) finds comfort in her devotion to the church and denounces her husband’s godless ideals. The real-life couple’s lack of on-screen chemistry is jarring, if ultimately compelling: their iciness contrasts strikingly with the warmth of newcomer Martha West, whose spirited performance as the ghost of the couple’s 10-year-old daughter is the heart of the film. (Jan) —Cayte Grieve

Youth in Revolt – Michael Cera and newcomer Portia Doubleday star in director Miguel Arteta’s less-than-riotous Youth in Revolt as teenagers stuck in mundane suburbia, wasting away their impressionable adolescence under the control of backward- thinking, manipulative parents. Cera’s Nick Twisp, an affable young man in the vein of Igby and Holden, is far more engaging than his manufactured Francois, the mustachioed, cigarette-smoking alter ego he dreams up to wreak havoc on his family and get closer to his love, Sheeni Saunders (Doubleday). Although solid cameos by Zach Galifianakis, Steve Buscemi and Ray Liotta (along with unnecessary involvement from Justin Long) sprinkle the plot with some genuinely funny moments, these are few and far between for the man behind Chuck & Buck and The Good Girl. (Jan) —Eiseley Tauginas