Rising star Nina Arianda Reprises her role in the sensational ‘Venus in Fur’

Meteoric rises to fame are Broadway’s bread and butter, so much so that, well, innumerable plays have been penned about meteoric rises to fame on Broadway. The breakout star of 2010 was Nina Arianda, a 26-year-old actor from Clifton, New Jersey, whose twisty, hilarious, hot-and-cold performance as Vanda in David Ives’ Venus in Fur earned her a mantel’s worth of awards. After wrapping a Tony-nominated turn in Born Yesterday over the summer, Arianda, who has an endearing Betty Boop voice and a heart-shaped face, will reprise her role in Venus, this time on the Great White Way.

“This is such a rare opportunity,” she says. “Every part of playing Vanda is challenging. David Ives has written such a beautifully layered, ornate, and complex character. It’s so important to me to honor that.” Arianda is also making inroads where Hollywood is concerned, with parts in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, the underrated Win Win, and Vera Farmiga’s Higher Ground, among others. With all those personalities to channel—all the costumes and makeup to cycle through—what does her off-duty beauty routine consist of? “I’m mildly obsessed with skin care,” she says. “I do a lot of homemade masks and use an embarrassingly wide variety of creams.” Fortunately, her time in the makeup chair is brief where Venus in Fur is concerned. “But I’m sure if I was doing Wicked I’d be getting a couple of extra facials a month.”

‘Dirty Girl”s Juno Temple Plays by Her Own Rules

Juno Temple’s striped underwear is visible beneath the fur-and-plastic dress that’s just been pulled over her tiny frame. The 22-year-old actor is readying for a photo shoot in Ozone Park, an outlying residential section of Queens, and she’s concerned that the pattern will show through as she poses between puffs of Marlboro Seventy-Twos and repeat visits to the stylist’s chair to tame her tangle of blonde hair. Not that she particularly minds; lingerie is one of her obsessions. “I’m always dressed in ripped-up, nasty clothing, so it’s almost like this surprise package when I undress myself or someone else undresses me,” she says. “I wanted to design this line of surrealist underwear with, like, eggs and bacon, eyes and a mouth. I have an entire book of crazy designs.”

While crafting Man Ray–inspired unmentionables remains on Temple’s list of to-dos, performing has always been her primary career fixation. This month, she’ll star in Dirty Girl, a cherry-scented teen flick set in 1987 Norman, Oklahoma, as Danielle, the town’s wedges-and-halter-top–wearing provocateur. Danielle’s knack for sticking her polished fingers into other people’s soft spots—a talent that can also make her mean—is tested when she and Clarke, a tubby, gay misfit played by newcomer Jeremy Dozier, decide to steal Clarke’s bigoted father’s car and set off in search of Danielle’s own long-lost dad. A lightly anthropomorphized sack of flour, a “baby” assigned to them in a pro-abstinence sex-ed class, rides in the back seat, its Sharpied mouth moving from a complacent smile to a curlicued expression of angst as their exploits unfold. Somewhat puzzlingly, country stars Dwight Yoakam and Tim McGraw costar as Clarke and Danielle’s respective dads, occupying opposite ends of a spectrum that runs from physical violence to khakis and burger flipping. While it’s difficult to gauge exactly who Dirty Girl’s intended audience might be—a male prostitute shares the screen with talent show–finale teen pandering—Temple’s performance is alternately vulnerable and chafing, childlike and precociously knowing. Says Temple, “I really hope people love that movie and want to go see it, and I hope that for so many reasons,” not least of which is Dozier himself—the two became extremely close while filming. “This is his major moment, and he’s fucking extraordinary in it.”

Temple’s father is legendary punk documentarian Julien Temple, whose early films about the Sex Pistols—most famously The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle—helped define the ’70s London punk scene (“Whenever I listen to the Kinks it makes me miss my dad more than anything”). Her mother is movie producer Amanda Pirie, who she refers to as her “best friend in the entire universe.” Considering her familial ties to the industry, it’s all the more impressive that Temple’s first real acting gig, as Cate Blanchett’s daughter in 2006’s Notes on a Scandal, was one that she earned entirely on her own merits. But it was a role she wasn’t exactly meant to land. Recalling how her parents attempted to coax her from the spotlight, Temple, who’s changed back into her own black stockings, high-top Chuck Taylors, ’90s-era floral print skirt, and distressed “I Love New York” T-shirt, explains, “They sent me to the open audition and were like, ‘You want to see how many other girls want to be an actress? Good luck to you.’ Two weeks later I got a phone call to my parents’ house, and my mom came out crying. She said, ‘Guess what, you booked it. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.’” image

Still, Temple’s early and stratospheric success, balanced equitably between searing indie roles and lighter Hollywood fare, wasn’t a surprise to anyone in her family, herself least of all. “I’ve been a drama queen since the moment I popped out. I’d do things where I’d dress up as a Russian refugee, someone with a very strange accent that I would wing completely, and I’d knock on the kitchen door having tiptoed around the house with a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. I’d say to my mom, You…must… feed me, and she’d be like, ‘What?’ That was followed by a moment of, If you don’t play along, mom, there’s going to be drama.”

After Notes, Temple graduated from bucolic English boarding schools (St. Trinians, Cracks) to bucolic English manors (Atonement, The Other Boleyn Girl) before leaving London, at 19, for Los Angeles. “I think it’s important to be in a place where you can go meet people for auditions,” says Temple, who now lives in Los Feliz with her best friend, an Oklahoma native. “I’ve definitely benefited from being able to shake people’s hands and not just send in tapes.” Within a few months of the move, Temple had lined up supporting parts in Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg and Gregg Araki’s Kaboom (“It makes love affairs seem so enticing and romantic”), swapping in American Spirit for Rule Britannia. Before the year’s out, in addition to Dirty Girl, she’ll also have appeared as Queen Anne, who ruled France as a teenager, in the 3-D remake of The Three Musketeers. “That’s an intense thing to have to deal with, to have to run a country and be on top of your shit at 15.”

Temple’s biggest role to date, about which she remains tactfully but apologetically mum, won’t arrive in theaters until next July, when Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises arrives in theaters. Speculators from Den of Geek to IFC have her playing everyone from Robin to Catwoman’s sidekick to a street urchin. “All I can say is that I’m fucking excited to be a part of it. It’s such an honor.” She admits that Nolan was on her Most Wanted list before Batman, and as for how she discerns which scripts to pursue, it all comes down to her directors. “It’s a give-and-give-otherwise-you-don’t-win kind of a relationship,” she says. “With all my roles, I’ve had moments where I’ve needed to trust whoever’s directing it because I need to go to a pretty dark place, so it’s very important that a director could then help me get out of that dark place afterward.”

From depictions of sexual abuse in Atonement and bleak Sundance favorite Little Birds (out this spring), to casual dorm-room sex in Kaboom, to lycanthropic lesbian makeout sessions with Riley Keough in Jack and Diane (also out next year), Temple is not an actress who shies away from sexually charged material. Explaining why she’ll take her top off when the script calls for it, she says, “Who goes home and fucks with their bra on when they haven’t seen their husband or boyfriend all day? I know that sometimes nudity can be risqué, but it’s also honest, and I want to be an honest actor.” A hint of frustration edging into her voice, she adds, “I’m not nervous about nudity. I’m more scared of reacting to an invisible monster that’s going to be added in green-screen when I can’t even fucking see it.” Lighting up a cigarette, she puts on a shaggy white coat, looking suddenly very punk rock.

JUNO LIKES Squaresville

Photography by Jeffrey Graetsch. Styling by Christopher Campbell.

Das Racist Get a Sober Hair Cut, Hahahaha jk!

When Das Racist performed at BlackBook’s 15th anniversary party last week – a labor of love they totally took seriously – Victor Vazquez’s beard appeared a fluffy chin-nimbus, while Heems’ ‘hawk flopped to and fro with each pull off his joint. Not that the hip-hop trio’s hair should particularly interest you (leave that to their scintillating live performances), but if you’re fans of Das Racist – and we are – then you notice everything. Like this new video on Details’ website. Is that a Hitler moustache, Kool A.D.? Watch as Das Racist has a completely sober conversation about Fader, the “singles game,” and Kantian metaphysics.

September Movie Reviews: Drive, Restless, Machine Gun Preacher

Drive Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn’s bugaboo is blunt violence, from medieval drubbings (Valhalla Rising) to institutional trauma (Bronson). His latest film, the Los Angeles–set Drive, has a lot to offer: Refn’s masterful pacing, a spooky electro score, Albert Brooks as a convincingly craven gangster. Wearing a silvery jacket embroidered with a scorpion, Ryan Gosling plays a stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver (named Driver) with a blend of high-octane efficiency and psychotic rage.

Carey Mulligan’s Irene and her chocolate-eyed son are the only emotional chinks in Driver’s otherwise featureless exterior (clearly, man-as-machine is a trope). A bungled heist and several extremely tenuous coincidences later, Driver is out for revenge, and it’s here that Refn’s whirligig genre blending—Howard Hawks and John Hughes both earn nods—muddies the plot. Brains are variously smashed and splattered. Call it Brand America desensitization, but where Refn’s past attempts to show the suddenness and banality of real violence mostly succeed, Drive accelerates into comedy. —Megan Conway

Restless Not surprisingly, the latest offering from Portland film deity Gus Van Sant concerns youth and mortality. Newcomer Henry Hopper (son of the late actor Dennis) plays Enoch, an introspective young man who sees dead people. Annabel (Mia Wasikowska) is about to become one, courtesy of an untreatable brain tumor. Their mutual fascination with death brings them together at a memorial service, after which they share a first date at the local morgue. As time continues to breathe life into their young love, we watch them follow the vaporous guidance of fortune cookies and Hallmark cards, all while living every day as if it could be their last together. It’s all very romantic on paper, but there’s also something silly about the film’s maudlin trajectory. Enoch’s “best friend” Hiroshi (Ryo Kase), the ghost of a kamikaze pilot who never loses a game of Battleship, makes us feel better for laughing through the tears. —Amarelle Wenkert

The Debt Shakespeare in Love filmmaker John Madden takes a stab at the political thriller genre with his remake of Assaf Bernstein’s 2007 Israeli film Ha-Hov, about a trio of Mossad agents (Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington, and Marton Csokas) assigned in 1966 to capture or kill Vogel, a sadistic Nazi war criminal. Fast-forward to 1997, and the three former partners (now played by Helen Mirren, Ciarán Hinds, and Tom Wilkinson, respectively) are reunited when news surfaces that their initial mission was never accomplished. Through a series of flashbacks, Rachel Singer (Mirren) is forced to confront her murky past and the bitter cover-up that threatens to destroy them all. —Nadeska Alexis

Machine Gun Preacher Gerard Butler with a mullet doesn’t exactly scream Oscar, but The Bounty Hunter meets Dog the Bounty Hunter this is not. Director Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball) has crafted a moving drama that could find major play come awards season. Based on the true story of Sam Childers (portrayed with a pleasantly surprising mix of gravitas and restraint by Butler), a former drug dealer who becomes a champion for Sudanese orphans, Machine Gun Preacher is not only inspiring—it’s inspired. After bottoming out, Childers, at the insistence of his wife, turns to God, and it’s through the church that he discovers his higher calling as the founder of the Angels of East Africa rescue organization. Although it’s at times almost too brutal to watch, the film’s strong supporting cast (including Michelle Monaghan and Michael Shannon) makes it impossible to look away. —Hillary Weston

Circumstance In the trailer for Circumstance, we’re told that “sometimes we have to accept our reality.” But what makes Iranian-American filmmaker Maryam Keshavarz’s debut feature so riveting is that its two female leads (Nikohl Boosheri and Sarah Kazemy) do no such thing. Based on Keshavarz’s own experiences, Circumstance tells the story of two teenage best friends, Atafeh and Shireen, who struggle to grasp the rigid divide that separates men from women in modern-day Iran. Forced to quell their romantic love for each other, they dream of escaping to an idyllic world without prejudice. Where they end up are the underground nightclubs of Tehran. Although it’s a story of burgeoning same-sex desire not unlike My Summer of Love, Circumstance, told in Farsi with English subtitles, never feels tawdry or exploitative. —HW

A Conversation Between Best Friends Forever, Adam Scott & Paul Rudd

Crushed beer cans. Air guitar. Progressive rock. This is the stuff cinema-goers connect to the on-screen bro-world of actors Paul Rudd (right) and Adam Scott, whose careers in comedy are littered with the detritus of late-onset manhood. Turns out, two of the three associations are accurate—it’s not Rush, but Billy Joel shattering their real-life speakers. Rudd and Scott, 42 and 38, respectively, and best friends for going on two decades, are both married with children and living in Los Angeles. But that doesn’t mean they don’t still make time to indulge their inner man-boys.

Rudd and Scott wrapped Our Idiot Brother, their first feature film as costars (Scott has a cameo in 2007’s Knocked Up, in which Rudd delivers the line, “Marriage is like an unfunny, tense version of Everybody Loves Raymond”), after just six weeks of shooting last year. In the film, which also stars Zooey Deschanel and Rashida Jones, Rudd plays Ned, a sometimes infuriatingly positive neo-hippie (he owns a golden retriever named Willie Nelson) who’s arrested for selling weed to a uniformed cop. After Ned gets out of prison early for—what else—good behavior, he heads to the big city to live with each of his three self-obsessed sisters in a carousel of haplessness, hilarity, and real insight about family dynamics. Scott’s character Jeremy is the downstairs neighbor of Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), the sister with Condé Nast bangs who’s unwittingly in love with Jeremy. While Ned’s unseemly beard and joblessness are at first grounds for dismissal from New York, with its gleaming skyscrapers and competitive grade-school applications, his honesty, filtered through hempy layers of idiotic behavior, eventually reveals him to be their moral superior and the movie’s bleeding heart.

One Sunday in July, after a photo shoot that Scott describes as “a disaster and a triumph,” these two friends called BlackBook from a room filled with naked girls (more on that below) to talk about the Grateful Dead, testicles, and Kyle MacLachlan.

BLACKBOOK: Adam, basically the first thing listed on your IMDb profile is that you’re friends with Paul Rudd. How did you two meet, and what was the moment when you realized you’d be BFFs forever? ADAM SCOTT: We met in 1992. I had just gotten to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in LA, and Paul had just graduated. Paul was already the school celebrity because he’d done a Nintendo commercial right out of the gate. Everyone was like, “Holy shit—he’s in SAG.”

So you hit it off straight away? PAUL RUDD: Well, we both had long hair. We both really liked R.E.M. And those were the days of Automatic for the People, so there was a lot to talk about.

Our Idiot Brother is the first movie you’ve been in together as costars. AS: It’s weird that this is the first time we’ve really worked together. PR: Especially since we’ve literally been friends for 20 years and have the same taste in movies and comedy. AS: I have to credit Paul for my career going in the direction it’s gone these past few years. I was just kind of around the summer they were making Knocked Up, hanging out and going to barbeques. And then this really tiny part popped up—the role of a male nurse—and Paul and Shauna Robertson, who was producing it, were like, “Let’s just have Adam do it.” PR: And now you’re taking over the world. image image

In Our Idiot Brother, Paul, your character, Ned, is played for laughs while Adam’s character, Jeremy, is a more classic straight man. What’s the difference, and is there one type you prefer? PR: There are certain characters who are so ridiculous—Anchorman would be an example—that they’re almost like caricatures. With Ned, while there’s something inherently funny about his look, I tried to play him as a multidimensional person and not as a hippie or a stoner. I’ve never really viewed roles in terms of funny or straight, in the same way that I don’t distinguish that much between certain comedies and certain dramas. I think they coexist. AS: If you think about the funniest performances, they’re usually funny because the person is so dead serious.

That said, you do some fine noodling in one scene, Paul. Were you ever a Deadhead? PR: There was a time in college when I had really long hair, but that had more to do with INXS than the Grateful Dead. There were about six months where I thought, Maybe I’m kind of granola. Maybe I should totally be into camping. But in truth, I always felt like an imposter. I saw the Grateful Dead one time in my life and it was with Sting in Las Vegas. AS: I was at that show! PR: I was like, I’m going to do this because everyone’s supposed to do this, right? You’re supposed to see the Dead. I didn’t do any drugs, but I remember being really bored and watching other people on drugs freak out. One kid was having a really bad time. AS: It was broiling hot in a giant stadium packed with people in the desert. PR: But as far as basing Ned on anyone, not really—it was more like, this is a guy who sees the good in everything, who keeps trying to be super-positive. Ned looks like an organic farmer from upstate New York, but I didn’t really concern myself with thinking, Is he a stoner? You know, there are very similar qualities between Jesse Peretz, our director, and this character. Jesse is so nice and so thoughtful, to the point where he would give direction but he didn’t want to insult anybody. I’d be like, Should I do something different here, Jesse? And he’d be like, “No, man, it’s all good!”

How much do you rely on improvisation as comedians? AS: There was a lot of improvisation on Step Brothers. I remember it being really frightening, and it took me a long time to get used to it and grow to be able to hold my own. But I remember when it was done feeling like, I don’t know if I ever want to go back to working another way. No one on set is concerned with getting it wrong. Just screw around and have fun until there’s something that’s great and then move on. Also, I’m really into nude acting. I think everyone should just get nude for a full day of shooting. PR: It’s true, Adam was always saying how we should take all our clothes off, and we’d be like, Adam, we’re done shooting for the day.

There’s a scene in Our Idiot Brother where Steve Coogan’s naked and bent over. In fact, I was trying to think of a question about Steve Coogan’s balls, which are plentifully on view, but I’m having trouble finding the words. PR: We had no idea. It was the greatest. And actually, I did strip down. I had to do a scene where I’m getting painted by Hugh Dancy, and the poor boom guy got an eyeful. I still feel like he should’ve gotten extra pay, some kind of severance. He wasn’t even our regular boom guy. He was just there for one day.

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I’m surprised you’re fully naked in that scene. I always figured actors wore nude thongs or something. PR: You see the side of my body. My legs were up. I’m sure if the guy could’ve boomed the scene so that he was looking at the back of a card, as if he were looking at a solar eclipse, he would’ve done it. AS: Your penis shines pretty bright. PR: It’s a little like looking at the sun, it’s true. I think the only way you can really look at my penis is if you’re wearing a welding mask. AS: Which is why, when you see the photos we took today, I have on a welding mask.

Ned is a well-intentioned idiot who sometimes throws people under the bus because he’s uncompromisingly honest. How much stock do you put in the notion of good intentions being more important than the consequences? PR: I think … I’m having a tough time listening to your question right now because I’m on this studio’s computer looking at naked people. AS: There are naked girls. We’re in this office and there are pictures of naked people on the desktop. PR: It’s a terrible place to do an interview. But what? Good intentions?

I feel like we should talk more about the naked girls. But yeah, Ned… PR: He has a pretty idealistic way of living, which I suppose in a perfect world is the best way to be—but it’s not a perfect world. I sound like a dick. AS: Nah. PR: I sound like a total dick. I knew it as soon as I was saying it. It was a dick question. PR: It was fun to be that kind of person for six weeks. I think the title is a bit of a misnomer, actually. I don’t think he’s really an idiot. He does some things and makes some decisions that could be considered idiotic, but they are conscious decisions. He lives his life according to a certain ethic, and by doing that and really sticking to it, it actually makes him kind of noble. I’m not quite as open and un-judgmental and carefree as Ned. But I do think that if you give people the benefit of the doubt, more often than not they’ll want to live up to it.

Paul, Adam—you’ve been friends for 20 years. What was it like back in the day? AS: We had dinner together with our families last night—our wives are friends, our kids play with each other—but after dinner I was driving back past Paul’s old apartment and laughing about how many times we’d go back there at, like, four in the morning and play music. It was such a shit-hole. But we were happy listening to music so loud and staying up late just so drunk. PR: Hammered. AS: Air guitaring. PR: We’d go out to bars until they closed and then we’d go back to the apartment and just sit around and play music with, like, three or four dudes.

R.E.M.? You said you bonded over R.E.M. PR: Billy Joel. A lot of Billy Joel. AS: We were in a Billy Joel phase for a while there. It’s funny because a few weeks ago we were at Paul’s house and his son was listening to some Billy Joel. PR: He’s way into Billy Joel right now. Like, crazy—he has every single Billy Joel song, including demos. AS: He was listening to this Billy Joel live album and I was like, What’s this? He tells me so I go home and buy it, and I’ve been listening to it now for weeks. Fucking Billy Joel, man. PR: My son is 6 and that’s all he gives a shit about. Not even the hits. He’s into some Streetlife Serenade shit.

You must be a proud father. PR: Oh, completely.

What was the best part of working together on Our Idiot Brother? AS: It was fun doing that Dune stuff. [Rudd and Scott’s characters bond over the line, “Father! The sleeper has awakened!”] Didn’t we YouTube that scene from Dune so we could say Kyle MacLachlan’s line properly? PS: And then the next night we went to a premiere—and Kyle MacLachlan was there.

Did you do the line for him? PR: We both completely pussed out. AS: It’s happened enough times in my life where I’ll go up to someone and say, Here’s what we were doing yesterday! I know now that it’s never a good idea. I’m sure Kyle would’ve been lovely about it. But what would have been a big deal for us would’ve just been a mild annoyance for him.

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Photography by Dan Monick. Styling by Jenny Ricker.

With ‘Horses & High Heels,’ Marianne Faithfull Is Finally Ready to Be Amused

Considering Marianne Faithfull would rather forget all about the ’60s, the decade that witnessed her transformation from flicker-voiced ingenue to addicted ex-Rolling Stone muse, it’s funny to find her puffing a Marlboro Light on the downstairs patio of New York’s Standard Hotel, a building whose design and retro-futuristic flourishes pastiche that agitated decade. “It’s full of wild activity, though I am quite quiet,” Faithfull says (other verbs that could be used instead of ‘says’: boils, growls, quakes).

A few weeks ago, Faithfull released her 23rd album, Horses and High Heels. Recorded in New Orleans and produced by Hal Willner, it’s a mix of unexpected covers — Carol King’s “Goin’ Back,” the Shangri-La’s “Past Present and Future” — and new material. Sure, there are songs about wrestling with demons, wasted love, and apocalypse, but Faithfull insists she’s in a good place – the best ever, maybe. Mick who?

You recorded Horses and High Heels in New Orleans. Were you trying to channel something of that city’s musical heritage?

I didn’t go to New Orleans to record a New Orleans record. I was never going to make a Cajun record or a Zydeco record. I went there because I wanted to work with these great musicians. They don’t travel, you know. It’s like Memphis. If you want to work with them, you go to them. Otherwise, great food, great clubs, and very hard work.

You recorded the album in an incredibly short amount of time.

Three weeks. But that’s long for me! Easy Come, Easy Go was done in 10 days.

There are four original songs on the album and the rest are covers. How did you choose the cover songs? [Producer] Hal [Willner] came to Paris. It’s the same as we usually do, from Strange Weather on. We get together wherever we are – in this case it was Paris – and he plays me some songs and I play him some.

What does collaborating bring to your music?

Oh, a lot. I have a gift for it. For collaborating and choosing who to collaborate with – I’m good at that, too. It’s a great gift, making it so nobody feels unequal or less.

You’ve been in the music industry for so long. You must have a very unique perspective on how it’s changed.

I don’t think I work according to the music business. The way to always make money in the music business is to make very disposable records, unless you are a genius. Like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, though I wouldn’t call the Stones genius. Only a very few people can afford to do what they really want to do. Somehow, I’ve managed to do that, probably because I’ve never really been in it for the money. I wanted something else – I wanted what I got, which is a body of great work behind me, just carrying on doing great work.

Horses and High Heels is your 23rd album. How many more do you have left in you?

Well, certainly another one. I might stop after that.

You just wrapped filming on Belle du Seigneur, due out next year, alongside Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Natalia Vodianova. How do you like the experience of acting compared to making music?

I don’t have any control over filming. With records, I do. I can personally make sure they’re good. With a film, I just have to hope the director’s good. But I like working with a group. I like – I really like – that it’s not all on me. I’m not the main thing; I’m not the main attraction. I mean, I starred in Irina Palm, but in these two I have a nice supporting role. And it’s lovely.

Is that why you collaborate so much?

I like a bit of the attention to be deflected, yes. I hadn’t heard a lot of the original versions of the covers…

Well, you wouldn’t. They’re very obscure.

How did you find them?

Well, I knew already “Past, Present and Future” because I’m old enough to remember when it came out, which is in 1962, when I was listening to it under the covers of my bedroom in Reading. So I remember that, and I remember “Going Back” – I wanted to do that. Hal came up with some wonderful ideas. “The Stations” was Hals ideas and “That’s How Every Empire Falls.” Beautiful, beautiful song.

“Unconventional” is a word you use often.

I’m trying to sort of make sure that everybody knows that. I don’t have conventional expectations [laughs]. But it’s very rare now. It used to be that everyone I knew was unconventional, but it’s really changed. It’s got very much more conformist. America is going back to the ’50s.

What about France, where you live?

France is always France, as you know from Strauss-Kahn [laughs].

The album art for Horses and High Heels is so wonderfully kitsch. It is kitsch, I know. I just got sick of always having these really tasteful beauty shots. I mean they’re lovely, but I’ve been doing it for so long, and I thought this once, I’m going to do something different. I always had wanted a psychedelic cover, but I never did get that together in enough time. So we found this picture on the internet, and we asked him [artist Jim Warren] to put high heels in it. And he did. He’d do anything we wanted, actually. And I liked it. It’s funny.

It’s so literal.

Very. There are even high heels in the tree. And there are seven horses! There’s one in the sky, three in the trees, there’s two coming out of the water…they’re all over the place.

Amusing cover art – is that an indication of your overall mood these days?

I’m feeling very, very amused. I’m having a very good life. I don’t feel moody and tragic at all – and you know, I’m not. But now I realize that the fans really were shocked. So shocked.

By the cover?

Yes! Yes, man. They weren’t pleased. They wanted a Marianne Faithfull cover. A proper, normal Marianne Faithfull cover. And they got something they didn’t expect. But the songs are still very dark.

Not dark enough. They’re a bit pissed off. But they do love the record – they just were surprised at first. They thought the songs were too bright. They thought “Why Did We Have to Part” was too cheerful.

Really?

Well it is. It’s a bouncy little song with a lovely tune. I don’t really sound that devastated, do I?

Is it frustrating that people want to keep you in a dark corner?

Well it is a little bit, but I’ve got over it. I understand. I mean, it’s always been a problem for me – I will never stay where people want me to stay.

Where are you in your career?

I’m in the best bit. I’m very disciplined, having a very good time, not having a problem with it. I think this is what I always wanted. And I’ve felt like that for a long time now. But I have actually put my foot down now – come, come…

Are you always trying to write new songs, or is writing something you approach in fits and starts?

I’m really trying to write more songs for the next one. That means I have to stockpile. You know, I won’t be starting it [the next album] for another two or three years. I’ve got six weeks off in summer, and then I go back to work. I’m not crazy about the airplane. But I love performing, so I have to pay the price.

Your voice has changed so much over your career. Do you choose to cover songs that suit your voice as it is now?

Oh, I’m very good at that.

Do you ever feel limited by your voice?

Sometimes a little bit – I have a few regrets. But then I honestly do think that I’ve got the right voice for me, that it will say what I what it to say. It’s not pretty, but I don’t want pretty.

Your career has been long and varied. Looking back on it, what are some of the most significant milestones you’ve marked?

As Tears Go By” is a milestone. Writing “Sister Morphine” is another one. Broken English is a milestone. They all are. Strange Weather was a huge difference. Then doing the Kurt Weill stuff was really interesting. And then coming back to my own songs has been great.

Are you at all frustrated that people focus on your life story so intensely?

I think it hasn’t helped my music at all. I’m really a working musician. That’s it. The 60s is not my life – at all. And I find that people don’t want me to move one, but I have anyway. [Trying to light cigarette in the wind] Fuck it. I’m going to go light it indoors.

All Hail Monarchs, Austin’s Reigning Indie-Soul Outfit

Of the unofficial but widely-accepted perks that come with an editing job, plugging friends’ work is the most gratifying. (Not so the grade-school chum who resurfaces as a really successful shell collagist in the Outer Banks, and won’t you write something nice about his gallery show?) Doubly gratifying – and bordering on humbling – is championing an artist-friend who blows your socks off, and leads you to occasionally fantasize about quitting said editing job to join her band as a berserk hype-man/kazoo player. So: this Friday at Pianos, Austin-based Celeste Griffin and Monarchs.

The Rise and Fall, Monarchs’ first full-length record, was produced by Mike McCarthy of Spoon (yup, he’s a fan) and is being released on July 12. A shifting constellation of some of Birmingham (Griffin’s home town) and Austin’s best musicians make up the genre-bending band, equal parts soul, folk, and indie rock, but it’s Griffin’s voice – so assured, soulful, and thick – that lifts Monarchs to day-job-ditching levels of good.

Yes, Griffin is a comely blonde with a Southern twang and guitar strap, but as the Austinist says, “Can’t brush off Monarchs as another ‘pretty-girl-with-achingly-satisfying-vocals-fronting-tight-indie-outfit’ no matter how hard you try.” Furthermore, comparisons to Cat Power’s Chan Marshall and Janis Joplin – and there are plenty – will only get you so far, as Griffin seems to draw her formidable vocal and emotional energies from an altogether more light-filled well then her cigarette-scrabbled predecessors.

Griffin says music is her family. Maybe that’s why listening to Monarchs feels like both a revelation and a homecoming.

Monarchs – “Date Night” (music video) from Monarchs on Vimeo.

With ‘Super 8,’ Elle Fanning Graduates Straight to the A-List

Blue-eyed and blonde-haired, 13-year-old Elle Fanning has just finished seventh grade. She loves to draw, dance, and act. She lives with her family in a house in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, where her parents—Southern Baptists, her mother a former tennis player, her father an ex-minor–league baseball pro—moved from Conyers, Georgia, when Fanning was a toddler. This summer, a full year before she enrolls in high school, Fanning plans to go to Paris, already her favorite city in the world despite her never having visited. (“I want to go there so bad,” she says.) She also has three Hollywood movies premiering before Christmas, which she filmed under the supervision of mega-directors J.J. Abrams, Cameron Crowe, and Francis Ford Coppola.

Precociously talented child actors aren’t a new phenomenon in Hollywood—Jodie Foster dropped jaws in 1976 as a teen prostitute in Taxi Driver, Anna Paquin won an Academy Award at 11 for her work in 1993’s The Piano—but Fanning’s career trajectory is remarkable for its range and continuity, and for the fact that her older sister, 17-year-old actor Dakota Fanning, is already earning comparisons to Meryl Streep. In fact, Fanning’s entrée into the acting world was as a younger version of a character played by her sister. By age 4, she was striking out on her own, delivering astoundingly nimble performances in films like The Door in the Floor, Babel, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. (Fanning’s growing collection of on-screen Dads scans like the male half of People’s Most Beautiful list.) Last year, she appeared in Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, a tale of haute-bourgeois listlessness at the Chateau Marmont. It won the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion, the awards ceremony’s highest honor.

Talking to Fanning, one begins to appreciate the beguiling blend of childhood and professionalism she represents. She squeals, giggles, sprinkles her speech with cusp-of-teen parlance (“like,” “oh my god,” “you know?”)—in short, she’s genuinely delightful. She also handles an interview like a seasoned vet, summoning equal parts deflection and flattery. (Fanning on the possibility of future career clashes with Dakota: “We haven’t gotten really competitive with movies yet. I don’t think we ever will.”) Like many children still on the lunch-pail side of puberty, Fanning is comfortable with herself. She’s comfortable with her age, her acting, and her unique traits, which are just beginning to come into focus: goofiness, intelligence, the discipline of a prima ballerina. image

On June 10, Abrams’ Super 8, a super-secret, super-big-budget adventure film about an Area 51 monster-alien unleashed on a sleepy Ohio town, will hit theaters. Like most of Abrams’ projects, Super 8 has been shrouded in a haze of secrecy so thick it seems yanked from one his screenplays for Lost. “We were sort of scared,” says Fanning about maintaining the strict code of silence. “We didn’t want to slip up and say anything.” Even during the auditioning process, the plot of Super 8 remained obscure. Then the script arrived. “It was just, like, the biggest thing ever,” Fanning trills in her helium-balloon falsetto. “J.J. was so good with us,” she recalls of filming Super 8. “When we were doing the big train-crash sequence, all these explosions were going on, and there were so many people everywhere—and then you have these six kids. He had to take care of us and make sure that we weren’t getting into trouble. There was fire.” When he wasn’t acting as a sort of paternal deus ex machina, issuing stage directions through his ever-present microphone, Abrams was “like one of the kids,” according to Fanning. “He’s obsessed with his iPhone, obsessed with Angry Birds. He’d just be sitting in his chair playing Angry Birds.”

As Abrams surely knows, being like one of the kids is the point. Super 8 is being backed by Amblin Entertainment, the production company co-founded by Steven Spielberg in 1981. For more than a generation of American high-schoolers, Amblin’s filmic aesthetic—E.T.’s flying bicycle, the Gremlins’ furry malevolence, the blazing tire treads Doc’s DeLorean leaves in the mall parking lot in Back to the Future—instantly conjures the terrible wonder of early adulthood. The chutes, traps, and treasure maps of The Goonies, were, of course, just metaphors for puberty, the most unknowable X mark of all.

In partnering with Spielberg for Super 8, Abrams meant to evoke the same giddy blend of science fiction and adolescence as early-’80s Amblin films. It’s hard to imagine a more fitting—or more telling—movie for Fanning to be starring in next. “[Super 8] is based in the ’70s [1979], around the same time Steven and J.J. were growing up,” she says. “J.J. told me that Steven did exactly the same thing the kids in Super 8 are doing—he made crazy monster movies with his super 8 camera. You could tell he was really excited because he saw us doing what he did.”

With two other releases expected to hit theaters later this year (Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo, adapted from the memoir by Benjamin Mee, and Francis Ford Coppola’s gothic, Dan Deacon-scored Twixt Now and Sunrise), red carpet appearances, and, most unnerving, eighth grade, Fanning might be the one struggling to stay free of adult cynicism. When Twixt wrapped production in Napa, California, earlier this year, Ford Coppola—“I feel like he’s my Italian grandfather now!”—gave Fanning a piece of advice: “He told me, ‘You always have to love it. You can never just act because someone else wants you to. You always have to feel it in your heart,’ which, well, I thought that was great.” Giggling, as if realizing it for the first time, she says, “And it’s so true!”

Photography by Yu Tsai. Styling by Britt Bardo.

The Kills Turn Up the Volume on ‘Blood Pressures’

It’s opening night at New York’s Mondrian Soho hotel. A blackened afternoon sky unleashes a mini Noah’s flood on the cobblestone streets outside. Rain is pooling in gutters, ravaging umbrellas, and rendering impossible the job of the five workmen trying to affix fake ivy to the hotel’s arched awning. Inside, the hotel is trilling with backstage energy. Boxes of piping and spools of electrical cable clutter the lobby, where a crew is checking the integrity of a makeshift stage. In just a few hours, the Kills’ Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart will push their way through a well-heeled mob and onto the stage, where they will perform for the first time songs from their raw-hearted new album, Blood Pressures.

Before the gig—before 32-year-old Mosshart will appear in her favorite paper-thin leopard shirt and convulse to the thumping, anthemic “Future Starts Slow” that kicks off Blood Pressures, and before she and 42-year-old Hince create an onstage chemistry that makes it nearly impossible to believe their sets aren’t bookended by bathroom-stall sex—the pair enters the Mondrian’s lobby looking exhausted. They’ve just returned from the photo shoot for this story, for which they consented to being sprayed down with water; just the night before, they flew in from London, the city where the two first met and formed the Kills. “I plan on having a few drinks and playing new songs in front of strangers,” Mosshart says about the night’s schedule. “When we get too serious about playing a party in a hotel lobby, we’re fucked.”

We settle into wicker settees inside the Mondrian’s restaurant, Imperial No. Nine, a glassed-in, chandelier-strewn hothouse complete with a garden swing set and potted plants. Hince and Mosshart do not match the fantasy wedding theme. She’s wearing a blue-plaid shirt, tight black pants, and a jacket that looks as if it were sewn together from Muppet pelts. Her eyebrows are drawn in with slashes of magenta, and, like Hince, who’s perfected the haute-rocker look his fiancée, supermodel Kate Moss, all but invented, her neck is adorned with a tangle of silver charms. (Mosshart, who contributed a “Today I’m Wearing” column to British Vogue during the month of April, counts Pam Hogg, Hannah Marshall, Burberry, and Isabel Marant among her favorite designers.) A table heaped with glass baubles divides the center of the restaurant. Hince pokes the air. “That looks like a disaster waiting to happen.”

Famously, Hince and Mosshart heard each other before they met face to face. Almost 10 years ago, Mosshart, a native of Vero Beach, Florida—“a really strange state,” she says—was touring with a former band, Discount. The group was staying in the Gipsy Hill section of South London, right next to Hince, whose own band, Scarfo, had just broken up. “I was upstairs writing songs and recording on little four-tracks, and Alison was staying in the apartment below me, and she was listening to me playing guitar. She didn’t talk that much, so she just listened outside my window,” says Hince, who grins before adding, for effect, “…with a knife!” image

“We were laughing about that the other day,” says Mosshart, who’s just returned from the restroom after extracting something painful from her eye, flopping onto the sofa in a way that communicates both fatigue and an unwillingness to carry herself as a sex symbol. “We still sit in separate rooms when we write and then we play what we’ve just made for each other, but it’s a lot quicker because we’re not thousands of miles apart.”

Their connection—as friends (best friends) and as artists—was immediate; during that first visit they produced seven songs in two days, and when Mosshart had to fly back to Florida after an all-night session, they continued their sonic courtship, sending tapes back and forth across the Atlantic. (An early obsession with mediums of communication—operators, phone lines, telephones—still crops up in the Kills’ lyrics.) When they realized that the music they were making was actually compelling, Mosshart moved to London to pursue the Kills full-time. Noms de rock were adopted, “VV” for Mosshart and “Hotel” for Hince. “It was just to get us through the day and build a little bit of romance around the band so it felt like a dream,” he says of the monikers, which they no longer use. “As soon as we got any attention we came over to America, booked our own tour, and traveled around for three months.” On Valentine’s Day, 2002, the Kills took the stage for the first time. Mosshart had the date tattooed on her left hand.

It’s worth noting that the Kills toured before they recorded an album. (Their debut, 2003’s Keep on Your Mean Side, was recorded at London’s Toe Rag Studios, the same place where the now-defunct White Stripes made their chart-buster Elephant.) For one, performing is their bread and butter—“We’re a band that makes money going out on tour,” says Hince. “We don’t have radio hits. We go out and we work”—but turning a profit at gigs isn’t the Kills’ real reason for hitting the road so much: The stage is where Mosshart’s nearly crippling shyness transforms alchemically into rock star exhibitionism. “I’m not trying to discredit what I do, but it comes easily to me,” she says of performing versus day-to-day social interactions. “Maybe it’s cowardly to be on stage in some ways, because I feel really safe up there. I feel like I can do whatever I want because there’s this line in the sand. I could never do that on the ground. I wouldn’t have the confidence—I know myself,” she says.

About that shyness: Early publicity from Keep on Your Mean Side through the band’s second and even third albums (2005’s No Wow and 2008’s Midnight Boom) tended to paint Mosshart as a chain-smoking, hair-in-her-eyes wallflower who’d brood where words failed her. “I don’t think that I’m shy anymore, but I’m definitely socially awkward. I wish I wasn’t,” she says. “It sucks, but I’m not great with crowds.” It’s true, according to Hince, that she’s not nearly as nervous as she used to be, and today, after a quiet first few minutes, Mosshart does warm up—interrupting Hince, even, and laughing at the backstory of one particularly intriguing photograph floating around the web of an intoxicated-looking Mosshart arm-in-arm with Mary-Kate Olsen and Kylie Minogue. “Me and, like, the two shortest women in the world walking next to me—I look like an absolutely huge giant,” she says. “They’re both stunning and tiny.” As it turns out, Mosshart is genuinely funny. image

A few weeks later, I email Mosshart to ask how the tour is going. “So far, so good,” she writes back from London. “Ask me in a few more weeks. Halfway through the American tour I’ll have some kind of answer.” But back at the Mondrian, in front of a live crowd for the first time in nine months, she’ll give a performance so grittily sexy it would make Mick Jagger blush. Mosshart compares the sensation of playing shows to drugs, a rush of adrenaline so powerful you crave it again instantly. The Kills’ music sounds like it was written to be performed—and that’s what they do best. “It’s weird when you find those things in your life that you just feel totally at home with, and it’s funny that it only lasts an hour and then you’re in search of it again. It’s like, Oh no, how am I going to feel like this again?”

In some ways, Mosshart has answered that question with her own prolific career. Not including her old act, Discount, and the bands she played in beginning in middle school back in Florida, her vocal contributions to Placebo and Primal Scream songs, and her dedication to the Kills, Mosshart also fronts the Dead Weather, a rock “supergroup” with Jack White. (The White Stripes, White’s Grammy-winning duo with Meg White, recently disbanded, fueling rumors that Mosshart is almost too good at what she does.) A few years ago, at a concert in Memphis, Tennessee, the Kills were opening for one of White’s bands, the Raconteurs, when White lost his voice. Mosshart was asked to step in. “It wasn’t an easy transition because I never consciously decided to start a new band and neither did any of the boys [White, Dean Fertita, and Jack Lawrence],” says Mosshart. “Suddenly a year and a half went by and Jamie was like, ‘Hey, are we going to do this Kills record?’ I was constantly calling and being like, Jamie, actually, I’m not going to be home for another month, those kind of calls where you have that feeling, like, shit… ”

Even as one of the very few female rockers with boozy, motels-and-squats bona fides, Mosshart doesn’t necessarily consider herself an inheritor to the rock goddess mantel. “I have so much respect for people like Patti Smith and Debbie Harry, and even someone like Joan Jett, but I’d be lying if I said that they were my biggest inspirations. It was always bands like Fugazi in the DC punk scene, and I went through a real Berkeley, California, phase when I was 14, where I was like, I have to live there,” she says. “It was all punk for me—that’s what made me want to do music.”

Eventually, in November of 2009, after the Dead Weather finished touring, Hince and Mosshart returned to Key Club, their favorite recording studio in Benton Harbor, Michigan—it’s located across the road from both a mental institution and a prison—where they’d recorded Midnight Boom. “Jamie and I wrote a record when we should have written it,” says Mosshart of Blood Pressures. “I really love the album and whatever it took to get there.” A return to the lacerating rawness and dirty drum machines of their previous records, the sound that made the Kills a garage-blues sensation, Blood Pressures is also a more restrained and melancholy effort, with the coda-like ballad “The Last Goodbye” featuring both strings and piano as well as Mosshart’s most polished—and persuasive—vocals to date. image

“This time it didn’t feel like we had any objective other than to write good songs. It sounds stupid, but that’s what we did,” says Mosshart. “We concentrated and picked songs to work on that had good melodies and felt like they were complete, whereas usually we just beat ourselves up and drone on and act, like, bluesy and endless.” Adds Hince, “I think there’s something to be said for, after eight years, becoming better and quicker at writing songs.”

Getting better and quicker at making music was something they took very seriously, and for good reason. Recording Midnight Boom was a hellish experience that “took too long and cost too much money,” says Hince. In addition to several dead-end collaborations that nearly foundered the album, Hince’s relationship at the time with French model Valentine Fillol-Cordier messily fell apart, but lest the rocker be long without a model at his side, he met and started dating the world’s most famous “super” not long after. The couple is due to be married this summer.

At the mention of Kate Moss’ name, Hince’s face tightens painfully. Is he excited for the wedding? “I am excited.” Does he have plans for fatherhood? “I have no plans for anything.” His reluctance to talk about his relationship—he seems both apologetic about halting the conversation and harried—is understandable considering the paparazzi blitz he endures daily in London. If, as the tabloids like to suggest, Hince can be credited with taming a Doherty-drunk Moss, the Kills’ recent meteoric success must in some part be attributed to the publicity Moss brings the band. It’s an interesting turn of events considering the Kills used to book their own tours and still shirk major-label representation.

“There are so many lies written about us that I don’t want to reveal anything about my private life, even when I’m given the opportunity to come clean and tell the truth,” says Hince. He begins to list some of the more preposterous things that have been written about him: “I go to psychics, apparently. I buy Fabergé eggs. I’m always making a record with my girlfriend—but I’ve yet to hear it.”

Mosshart, for her part, isn’t in a relationship. “One day, one day, I’ll find a way,” she says in a theatrically wistful voice. “She’s married to the road,” Hince riffs. Clearly a bit pleased with the idea, Mosshart laughs, “Oh my god, I’m going to be this old haggard roadie lady with leather trousers and a screwdriver in my back pocket, ready for anything.”

The rain is still coming down in curtains in New York. “Honestly, I want to nap,” says Mosshart, stifling a yawn. She’s warily eyeing a camera crew on the far end of the restaurant. Drills, hammers, and thumps—possible samples on a future Kills album—are making conversation hard. Tomorrow night, Hince and Mosshart will play at legendary rock club Don Hill’s, the launching point for a long tour around Europe and America. And after that? Both insist they’ll continue to put out albums as the Kills. But with marriages, side projects, and the rigors of recording and touring, it’s impossible not to wonder what will happen to the duo next, or what their next album—assuming there is one—might sound like. Hince now lives in posh West London, Mosshart in the same building where they used to live together. “We’ve been super-close for almost 10 years,” Hince says. “We used to work together, live together, socialize together… I enjoy hanging out with her more than being in a band with her.” Mosshart makes an aw-shucks noise and playfully punches Hince’s arm. Then, more soberly: “I miss him.”

Photography by Marcelo Krasilcic. Styling by Christopher Campbell. Top photo: Jacket by Versace. T-Shirt by Louis Vuitton. Sunglasses by Ray-Ban. Necklaces by Giles & Brother by Philip Crangi. Shirt by Versus. Second photo:Jacket by Giorgio Armani. T-Shirt by Paul Smith. Jeans by Topman. Necklaces by Giles & Brother by Philip Crangi. Subject’s own scarf. Third photo: Vest by Maison Martin Margiela. T-Shirt by Bess Necklace by Ugo Cacciatori. Jeans by Topshop. Subject’s Own Ring. Hair by Marco Santini @ Community NYC. Makeup by Thorsten Weiss @ Community NYC. Photo Assistant: Jeremy Dyer. Stylist ’s Assistants: Lee Muston and Gina Zuniga –Baldwin. Location: Hudson Studios, New York City.