“No personal questions,” I’m told by a publicist before my interview with Camilla Belle. It’s not often I hear something like that, but when your client is accused of being “The Other Woman” in the very messy and very public split between Joe Jonas (of the Jonas Brothers) and country superstar Taylor Swift, it’s understandable. Belle’s career is young and malleable, and too much focus on her romantic escapades will turn her into a tabloid queen–career pesticide for someone who “just wants to be taken seriously.” And Belle does, toggling between art-house fare like The Ballad of Jack and Rose opposite Daniel-Day Lewis and the big-budget misfire 10,000 B.C. So the rule is stick to her new movie Push (alongside Chris Evans and Djimon Honsou), a kinetic thriller caught in a purgatory between an X-Men movie and an episode of Heroes. No problem.
Belle plays a Pusher, someone with the power to control thoughts and will people to do her bidding. I’ll ask her about that. Belle costars with Dakota Fanning, who after this role can add former in front of her “child star” tag. In one scene, Fanning is drunk. I’ll ask her about that too. Her next film is a Brazilian production, in which Belle acts in Portuguese. Something else to ask her about. She’s also close with Twilight star and it boy Robert Pattinson, so I’ll ask her about that whole mess. Then I’ll ask her about her relationship with the tabloid media, and we’ll both be thinking about her non-relationship with a Jonas, even though neither of us will dare bring it up. Here we go!
You’ve said that 10,000 B.C. was more of a business choice, and not necessarily an acting choice. Can you clarify that? What I meant to say is [that] you do make different choices as an actor. There are films like The Ballad of Jack and Rose that are really, creatively satisfying. And, then there are films like 10,000 B.C. where you learn so much on a different level—I had a huge life experience on that film—and, you know, in New Zealand, you learn so much as a person. Then you’re working with a big mammoth and all these other things. I learned so much from watching Roland direct. Just seeing how he was able to control about four cameras going all the time—I’ve never seen anyone direct a film of that scale before.
Push has that big-budget aspect to it, but at the same time it has the feel of a smaller film. Right. That’s one of the reasons I was really intrigued by it, because it did have the action element and action sequences, but at the same time it’s character-driven, and that’s the type of film we’re trying to make, with character-driven stories. The action elements ended up becoming the bigger deal while we were filming because it ended up working out so well and it looked so good that everyone got excited about it. But it really was a character-driven piece, and I think everyone’s characters were very well rounded. It’s about the relationships with the characters, more than anything.
So when you call 10,000 B.C. a ‘business choice’, you’re not talking money, but experience. Right, exactly. The great part about this job is being able to make different types of movies, and learning from each experience. I never studied acting—it’s all about learning through observation. When you make a film like Ballad or Chumscrubber, you’re learning something really profound on a creative level, and working with people like Daniel Day-Lewis. And you make a film like 10,000 B.C., or When A Stranger Calls, that matters more about the life experience, and learning how to do action scenes.
Your film is getting a lot of comparisons to the show Heroes, and rightfully so. They’re strikingly similar. Had you seen the show before, and were you concerned about comparisons? Well, that’s what I had heard. I remember when Chris and I were both on set and we were talking about that. Both of us had never seen the show, and we were thinking, Should we watch it, should we not watch it? And I never ended up watching it, so I honestly have no idea what the show is about. I mean, I’ve heard it kind of touches on these powers, or these abilities that our film has. But, I honestly have no idea to what extent. So, I have no way of comparing.
In the film you have the power to control peoples thoughts. If you had that power for five minutes in your real life, how would you use it? I have no idea! How would you use it?
I’d get you to answer that question. What was it like working with Dakota in her first “teenage” role. Was it a little bizarre? Because it was bizarre for me. Sure, of course. You’re picturing her from I Am Sam, you know? That little angelic girl, which she still is. She still is Dakota, you know? She’s just so mature, and so talented, and she knows exactly what she’s doing. Djimon [Hounsou] and I were talking about it today. She really approaches work as her job, and she sees it that way, and she goes back and has her family, and really is able to balance things out so well.
There’s a scene where she’s absolutely wasted. How do you think she knew how to act drunk? We all wanted to know! We were laughing and we had to keep on cutting throughout that scene, because we were all laughing so hard. We couldn’t take it. I think we had to do that scene so many times because all of us would burst out laughing.
What would you say to people who call Push a superhero movie? I think superhero is the wrong term. We’re people with cerebral abilities that can kind of really exist. It’s somewhat believable that someone can see the future. I’ve seen some elements of that. I’ve never seen anyone move something with their mind, but it is feasible in a way, and we handle it that way. Especially with Djimon’s and my character—we’re pushers, and we try to make it really subtle so it looked like normal human beings that happened to have these abilities.
You recently shot a Brazilian movie in Portuguese. What was that like? It was the most special experience I’ve had on a film set. I lived in Brazil for a month And working with Vincent Cassel, who was a lead, and speaking Portuguese, it was all wonderful.
Does he speak Portuguese fluently? He does. He does, fluently. Which I had no idea until I got to the set. It was really surprising. He’s obsessed with Brazil. My mom is Brazilian. Her whole side of the family lives there, so just being able to live like a Brazilian was so satisfying. I actually miss that experience even today.
Was it difficult to act in another language? It wasn’t difficult to act in a language. The only aspect that was a little difficult for me was because I’d never studied Portuguese. I speak it fluently, but my grammar sometimes is not perfect. So, sometimes I would want to, you know, improvise, or say something, but I’d have to check beforehand to make sure I’d say it correctly. Besides that, a lot of the time I’m thinking in Portuguese. I speak Portuguese with my mom—we don’t speak English to each other.
In the latest issue of Nylon, you mention that the studio made Robert Pattinson go through media training for Twilight, and that he was frustrated because they wanted him to speak like someone else, not himself. What do you mean by that? I think if you read a whole interview it makes more sense, and if you excerpt it then it really doesn’t make any sense. But I think when you read the whole article it makes more sense, because people always do that and it it’s not the whole story.
And the media will jump on anything Twilight related. Exactly. So, that’s kind of unfortunate. I think if you read the whole article it makes more sense.
Being a young actress in Hollywood, are you weary of the attention you get from the tabloid press? I’ve never been concerned about it, and I think you can’t be, or else you’ll become quite neurotic— if you worry about every little thing that’s written about you, or everything people say about you. Because you can respond to things all you want, but people are going to write what they want to write, and you can’t change that. I think the more you distance yourself from it and the more you keep to your own—and you know what you’re doing and what you’re not doing, that’s the most important thing. I know the way I’m living my life, I know who my friends are, and what I do and I don’t do, and at the end of the day I’m the one who’s going to bed at night feeling okay.
Is it true you’re considering attending Columbia University? I was accepted at Columbia a couple years ago, and I was supposed to start. I mean, unfortunately I can’t. Well, fortunately and unfortunately. It’s kind of the best of both worlds, I guess. It’s kind of the flip-side of the coin. But life throws some twists at you and you kind of have to go with it. I wasn’t able to start, so then I just ended up focusing more on my work right now, and that’s what I’m doing at the moment. But I don’t know what the future will hold.
Do you feel the pull of Hollywood lifestyle? I could go out, but I choose not to. Sometimes I’ll go to a concert.
Are you still living at home with your parents, or are you out on your own now? Well, it’s kind of a mix of both. I travel so much that I’m on my own a lot anyways, so it’s kind of a mix of both. I’m really close with my family—I’m with them all the time. And all my best friends too, we love cooking. We much prefer staying at home. And our favorite thing is potluck dinners, so now they’ve all started to cook too and on weekends we’ll just go to someone’s house and bring food and eat. That’s our nightlife.