Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Native American Actor Wes Studi A Valued Player in Avatar and The Only Good Indian

Exclusive Q&A by Brad Balfour

It was no coincidence that actor Wes Studi was cast an the tribal chief Eytukan in director James Cameron's Golden Globe-winning 3D film Avatar or as bounty hunter Sam, the lead character in Kevin Willmott's The Only Good Indian. From the days he was in Dances With Wolves with fellow native American Graham Green, Studi's been a go-to guy for authentic native American characterizations. And though he has often played parts that had nothing to do with his heritage, his passion, and total commitment has made him immediately recognizable.

For the 63-year-old Studi, being a Native American has been a driving force for his career --whether in terms of the characters he has played or the issues they have addressed. Usually his performances are charged by a strong, almost arrogant stance, as if expressed by a man who is proud to have not only survived but thrived.

Vietnam vet, sculptor, musician, author, and activist, Studi caught Hollywood and the public's attention being in more than 50 film and television productions including Last of the Mohicans, Geronimo: An America Legend, Comanche Moon, Streets of Laredo, Mystery Men, The New World, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee and Seraphim Falls. He also starred as Tony Hillerman's Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn in a triology of PBS films produced by Robert Redford--Skinwalkers, A Thief of Time and Coyote Waits. And before join the blue-skinned cast of Avatar, he hit the bullseye as General Linus Abner in the TV mini series, Kings.

Born in Norfire Hollow, Oklahoma, this fit six-footer exclusively spoke his native Cherokee language until he started kindergarten. A professional horse trainer, Studi began acting at The American Indian Theatre Company in Tulsa getting his shot in Hollywood but he and wife Maura Dhu never became Californians; they now live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and perform in the band Firecat of Discord.

In Avatar, Studi plays an idealized character that comported itself with a dignity becoming of a tribal leader that represents the values and strength of the Na'vi--the tribe that resists the human invaders who threaten to destroy his community's way of life. In the indie-produced The Only Good Indian, he plays a very different character--a deeply conflicted Indian who stalks his own people--the young kids taken from their tribes and forced to be Christianized but who run away -- and strives for acceptance within a White world.

Q: Each of these films have their own little pleasures and difficulties. What were they for each?

WS: The pleasures of course were working on a huge blockbuster--and I don't think I'm premature in saying that's the case with Avatar. But of course, it had many difficulties. That world's language, for one, was fairly difficult in that it's a made-up language.

It also remind[ed me] that all these things were a very real thing to my ancestors. And then, in a way, we're reminded that indigenous cultures many times fall under the manifest destiny of those who would gain something from our suppression. So it's always a difficult and sad reminder that life is not as equitable as it could or should be.

Q: By becoming a successful actor and getting to be in a movie like Avatar -- where you are able to convey a message in a variety of ways -- is that part of the way you turned your anger into something positive?

WS: Right. Exactly. That's the whole thing in that you can't allow the anger to hold you in a state of mind that would prevent you from doing anything positive about it.

Q: Avatar's native characters have some characteristics like indigenous peoples from Africa, but they seem so connected to Native American traditions -- the relationship with plants and animals, especially to the horses. Did you have an opportunity to infuse some of your own experience or ideas in the process?

WS: I think a lot of the research had been done on the part of the writers themselves already. But yes, I could certainly relate to what was on the printed page, and I think they had a good understanding of the situation from a general viewpoint.

And the idea that Native Americans are perhaps more connected to nature is reflected in the Na'vi connectedness of the tree and the roots that expand everywhere. And it's a Native American premise to life that everything is connected and that we're all related in one way or another and it's a matter of cause and effect.

You know the old story about the flapping of a butterfly in China has an effect on things that happen in Maine or someplace. It's all an interconnected being that we're a part of.

Q: How did you get involved with Kevin Willmott, director of The Only Good Indian who had success at film festivals with C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America?

WS: I had met a couple of his producers, Scott Richardson and Greg Hurd, earlier. Then they got in touch and said they had a script that they'd really like me to consider.

I was working on Avatar at the time. I took a look at it, and sure enough, it has a story that totally piqued my interest because of the content. So we made arrangements to actually do it, and the rest is history.

Q: How long was the shoot and how close was it to where you live?

WS: It's actually about a nine-hour drive from where I live, but I was commuting from Los Angeles because we were shooting Avatar at the time.

I had about a nine or 10-day break from Avatar when we got started on the first part of the script in Wichita. Then I had to go back and finish up Avatar, and came on back to Kansas and we finished it within a matter of, I think, it was a seven or eight-week shoot.

Q: What were the challenges with The Only Good Indian?

WS: I'm at a loss to see it from the outside. I'm a product of those kinds of policies that led to the kinds of physical and emotional abuses that occurred during the transition from the 1800s into the 1900s. It's always been a reality to me; it exists at all times, it didn't just go away.

And I'm at a loss to see it from the perpetrator's side of the whole thing. I can only see it from our side of the fence.

Q: In The Only Good Indian, you had a more direct influence by being the Executive Producer. At what stage did you decide to do that?

WS: The intriguing part of the whole story to me, which I was part of bringing forth, was the idea of the vampire and how it spreads itself and continues to just grow and grow and grow when it's either accepted and/or adhered to.

When we first see me, I am totally working toward becoming that which is the oppressor. [I have] decided that the old ways are of no use, and so why not, if you can't beat them, join them. I have known many people like that throughout my life, and I wanted to be able to show that this kind of effect can be rampant.

It's like that Stockholm syndrome thing, in that we become one with our enemies, our oppressors. That is a reminder that we need to stick with the strength of that which we at one point believed in.

Q: You've been a carrier for your culture and other times had roles that were not necessarily reflective of that culture. Is it still hard not to be typed? Do you feel that it's important to be able to play those characters rather than let somebody else who didn't come from that culture?

WS: It's [important] to me to be able to play those other characters, because even then I've continued to carry the banner. And that's not just with American Indians. Actually, what it comes down to is that it's brown people; it's the fact that we see some brown people on screen. It's a matter of people of color is what it really comes down to, and anytime a guy like me winds up in a film like this, it's very good for people of color.

Q: Good thing you mentioned color because they were blue in Avatar.

WS: It's still a color, isn't it?

Q: So when you saw Avatar completed, were you amazed, were you glad, or did you have a whole different emotional experience?

WS: I was overwhelmed by the technology; I really was overwhelmed by the amazing 3D of it all. The story, yes, absolutely--I think it's a very old story, but this time told in a technologically new way that makes it even more acceptable for audiences.

It's a great pleasure to be a part of something that is not only technologically advanced to the point of amazement, but also one that carries a message that it does and acceptance of one group by another.

Q: How is it to have all those things stuck on you? And were you able to play that character while playing with the other actors, or do you do that individually?

WS: No, you play with other characters. The only thing that you have to be careful of is the camera that sits right in front of your face and the light. But once you become accustomed to that, it's acting in the grand old fashion.

Q: Are you upset when your character dies in movies?

WS: Well, of course I'm upset when he dies. I would rather have lived to see a sequel. Many times it's a matter of providing the drama of a death that adds to the film. I've died many times in film and television.

Q: At least you get to play the leader; that's something. You have been the sage, or the great father, a warrior or whatever.

WS: But in The Only Good Indian, I live. And live gloriously, at that.

Q: It must astound you when you look at it from the other point of view, the incredible arrogance. Is there ever a point when you can understand what was the thinking? Or is it just that you can only be angry about it?

WS: No. It's actually a curse to be able to understand that our people were somewhat imperial in their movements at times. I'm Cherokee, and there were times when social expansion was something that is needed by a cultural group or a national group.

I can understand that to a certain extent, but the arrogance of it is something that amazes me. And to use the use of religion or belief systems that contribute to the attitudes that came up with manifest destiny, that kind of thing, as well as the need for fuel that is apparent in Avatar.

All of these things come to mind. And while it's amazing, it's also a very sad thing that we actually can allow ourselves to become a part of something that is destructive to others.

Q: When you work on movies like these, do you get angry? Or do they make you feel that now you're at a point where you're able to get the message out?

WS: In a way, that was the case with the story of The Only Good Indian as well. Anyone in other places who gave a shit probably didn't know what was going on in the West at the time. Just as we may be a planet removed from what was happening on Pandora, anyone who was of any social conscience probably was unaware of what was going on out West as we portrayed in The Only Good Indian.

Q: Do you find that this movie was raising the consciousness of people that might not be aware of it?

WS: I like to be able to raise people's consciousness, yes. And to remind that those of us involved in the receiving end of the oppression, we have a duty. What they really make up is a prophecy of, "Why should we continue to do what we've always done? Can't we do it in different ways?"

Like the characters that Sigourney and Zoe play, in that research is one thing, and perhaps that would lead to a better kind of conciliation between the two groups if it wasn't just the out-and-out use of "might is right." It's something that, unfortunately, we as a human race haven't really learned up to this point.

Q: What was the best experience that came out of each movie? I guess you didn't have to shoot Avatar on location.

WS: All the locations were in the computers. One day before we started work, the actors were standing around there waiting, and James Cameron came walking up. I saw his shirt and I thought, "Boy, I like that shirt he's wearing." I said, "James, wow, that's a great looking shirt, I really like that," and he just took it right off his back and said, "Here, have it." And I still have the shirt.

Q: And working on The Only Good Indian?

WS: I think it was learning to ride the vintage bike. It really is just a bicycle with a motor installed and a leather drive. We had to find a real one we could use for long-shots, but the one that I rode was actually built to the specs of the original bike.

Its drive was a leather belt, and you know how leather reacts to heat, it stretches out. It was very hard to always be able to take off on, so we had to have another one built that worked off a different principle. I don't remember any funny anecdotes about the whole thing, but it was a pleasure to work on throughout.

Q: That subtle hit to Hollywood in The Only Good Indianwhen Sam says, "Now I'm going to move to Hollywood and play a cowboy." One of the great pleasures of making this film seems to be that irony.

WS: Absolutely. Irony is one of my favorite aspects of life.

Q: You've been able to play a Native American in a lot of different contexts. Do you feel that there are still other kinds of roles that you want to do and stories that you want to tell?

WS: There are more--perhaps more to the point, the kind of stories I would like to be able to tell. What I'd really like to say is that these, if you will, Indian Wars have never ended. They've been a continuation ever since we first met, ever since the creation of the United States.

It's been a continual warfare and a struggle to exist for most of the nations here in the United States, and it continues to this day. I don't really see an end to it because it's always a clash of cultures and interests here in this wonderful nation that we live in.

Q: Were you surprised to find somebody like Kevin wanting to make a movie like this?

WS: Kevin surprised me a little bit, but no, I think he has a mindset that agrees with my own outlook on life. Sometimes it's a matter of the better alliances to make in terms of what kind of story you want to tell. I think it was a great meeting of the minds and I think we both learned a few things from one another that can help us with our individual struggles in life.

Q: It seems you've worked with every major director that has touched onto the subject in one way or another in the last 20 years, so you must have probably one of the best surveys of directors. Who has inspired you?

WS: I don't know about inspiration, but I've taken away something positive from each and every one that I've ever worked with, I believe. I think one of the great pieces of advice I ever got from a director was from Walter Hill. He [told] me, "Talent is a wonderful thing, and it's something to be used and abused in every effort of storytelling. However, one of the things that we all need, those of us that are making movies, what we really need is stamina--emotional, physical, and stamina of the soul as well."

Q: And you've had a chance to work with some of these directors more than once?

WS: Oh yeah, I've worked with a number of them several times. I've worked twice with Walter Hill on Geronimo and Undisputed. And Michael Mann with [The Last of the] Mohicans and Heat. In fact, I saw Michael at the premiere; he's wild about the film.

Yeah, it's a business of creating relationships, you know. I'd like to work with James Cameron again, and of course we practically plan on working on something with Kevin again. It's good to work with people that you know how they work and they know how you work. It's mutually beneficial.

Q: You--and, I would say, Graham Greene--are probably the two best known Native Americans actors working regularly. Both of you are in the two biggest blockbusters of this season--he is in New Moon, and you're in Avatar. Both films in some way draw on the value, or the importance, of being connected to this cultural heritage. Has that had some larger resonance, or did you even think about that?

WS: I'm glad that Graham and I made it into a couple of films in 2009. It's kind of indicative, I guess, of the amount of interest and influence we have in contemporary and futuristic endeavors in Hollywood.

Q: That is a good thing. To think at one time they were having non-Native American actors playing Native American characters and making them villains, and 50 years later the most heroic figures in two of the biggest films of all time are Native Americans.

WS: Yeah, I think it's definitely a positive move; it's a move in the right direction. And hey, I'm catching some optimism.

Q: There's been an effort to have an activist African American actors community. Do you feel that the same thing is needed with the Native American community of actors?

WS: Yes, there is an American Indian community of actors, and fortunately we're getting to the point where we don't all know each other on a first name basis anymore. I would probably be referred to as the old guard at this point. A lot of younger people are coming along these days that are beginning to make waves and that's a great thing.

The doors have been opened and more and more people are deciding that they would like to step through the threshold. The activism I would leave to those who are younger than myself and have more energy to devote to that endeavor, and I applaud them for it. It's something that's needed.

Q: Are there stories that you feel still need to be told from the Native American experience, and are there stories you want to be a part of that don't necessarily involve it?

WS: One of the things that I would work toward is telling a contemporary Native American story that is of real consequence in contemporary times. It's always going to be a matter of connecting with the past and thinking about the future, but we also have to work on the really great contemporary Native American story. We haven't found it yet but that's what we're looking for.

Q: Are there particular Native American stories or books that you hope to see made or that you want to make?

WS: Yeah, I would like the story about a bicoastal Indian, maybe one who lives and works and functions in places like New York City or Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles--perhaps Tokyo; the world. Because that is the fact.

The fact is that we are citizens of the world as much as anyone else. A story that reflects that, I think, is something that we're really looking forward to being able to produce and throw up on the screen. And eventually, an Academy Award for Wes Studi.

Q: Was it inevitable that the Native Americans were going to lose, or do you think there was a point when they could have defeated the invaders?

WS: Tecumseh had a really good idea, to tell the truth. A unified front at that point maybe could have stopped expansion at the Ohio River Valley or at the Mississippi River, something like that.

As a matter of fact, I read a book a number of years ago that was called, The Indians Won, [by Martin Cruz Smith] which was a science-fiction at that point and time, but would probably put us at just where we are now. It was that coalition of Native nations had been able to stop the westward expansion and claimed an area within the confines of North America.

It was a nation divided; they were on the coasts, and then the Native Americans occupied an area in between, and we were on the point of shooting for the moon with rockets. It was an interesting story that I'd like to find again and maybe find the rights to it.

Q: Do people expect you to be able to use all these Native American weapons and ride? Are you a good rider?

WS: The first job I ever got out of Los Angeles was dependent on the fact that I could ride a horse, shoot a bow and a gun, and speak a language other than English, simultaneously. So I got the job.

Q: Are there other Native American languages that you speak?

WS: Not fluently, no. Just un poquito EspaƱol.

Q: The Only Good Indian has appeared in festivals, but this is an unusual effort that you're self-distributing it to a degree. Was there any frustration about getting it out there, or you just wanted to control it?

WS: It's really a matter of control. We don't want to bend over as much as distributors would like to have us do. I think it's a better choice to contain control of it on our part at this point.

Q: Did you think of writing a book based on your experiences?

WS: I'm probably working on my memoirs as we speak, yes.

Q: Make sure you add in this interview once it gets posted.

WS: I would like to be referred to as the 20th-Century Electric Indian.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

English Actress Carey Mulligan Get An Education and Award Noms

Feaure Interview by Brad Balfour

With An Education, the 24-year-old British actress Carey Mulligan has come out of nowhere to garner the kind of critical acclaim and award notice that few receive so quickly -- she's up for a Golden Globe tomorrow for example. But her performance as 16-year-old Jenny in Danish director Lone Scherfig's version of Lynne Barber's story (adapted by writer Nick Hornby), not only glistened but showed an understanding of her character and the era beyond her years.

Stifled by the social conventions of 1961 England, Jenny's life changes when she meets a handsome older man David (Peter Sarsgaard) who both opens her eyes to world at large and the sexual life within her. Though he tenderly draws her in, he has an insidious, deceptive side, which unfortunately reveals itself, destroying her and her father's' (Alfred Molina) hopes for a life with him.

The London-born Mulligan had been in a few films such as 2005's Pride and Prejudice (playing Kitty Bennet alongside Keira Knightley, Judi Dench, and Donald Sutherland) and in the 2005 BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens' Bleak House (as the orphan Ada Clare). but the Covent Garden resident first established herself in the new version of Doctor Who as a guest actress.

According to IMDB, Mulligan has said that her passion for acting was first kindled at Woldingham School, where she performed in Sweet Charity in her final school year. Once she began her professional acting career, and found an audience she also started a relationship with Shia LaBeouf as of last August, who she met while they filmed Oliver Stone's Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

Q: Did you identify with your character?

CM: I think mainly in the way she feels about school. I got quite bored with school towards the end. When I was 14, I was really academic, and then I slowly lost interest in it towards the more important parts. It was just that I felt like I was doing things to tick boxes and to get on another level, and to just pass that exam so that I could get onto that exam, and I just thought, "This isn't interesting and I'm not learning anything that I'm interested in."

I just felt like I was doing it for other people, and I was doing it to please other people. But then I didn't take advantage of my education, and that's quite sad. I admire Jenny, in that she really does want to learn and feel passionately about things. If some of the things that I was taken to do when I was in school...

It was a really nice school in Surrey, and we went on really amazing school trips to really amazing places, even just museums in London or concerts and things. But it was just an opportunity for us to run out and find a Pizza Hut that serves alcohol, like where can we get drunk in 45 minutes before we have to be at this thing. So I related to her in the fact that she wanted to escape all of that, because I thought it must be better somewhere else.

Q: You and the other actors have a lot of theater experience. With this movie that would contribute to making some of the set pieces in the house and some of the other interactions work because you're really familiar with that kind of interplay of dialogue, that talk back and forth. Did the film have a theatrical, on the stage quality to you?

CM: When you do a play you come away from it feeling like you've really acted for a bit. But it pretty much would have come out of lots of people who are brilliant and have done a lot of film. It's the cast [that matters] -- when you get a group of people together who genuinely like each other a lot, and make each other feel comfortable. Those sort of things work when everyone feels at ease with each other, and so you don't feel nervous about making mistakes or are embarrassed.

Because I was probably the least experienced person, [that was] certainly the case for me. I never felt embarrassed, and that was because I was around a lot of people who don't worry about perceptions of themselves like that. So it had more to do with that; I've not done that much theater [actually]. We didn't have a huge amount of time [for rehearsal]; we had 6½ weeks and then two days in Paris.

Q: Did you enjoy having a chance to live through the experience of the '60s--especially with the clothes, and hair?

CM: It was great; I loved all that. It's always helpful to put on the shoes of the character you're playing, and it certainly helps wearing a school uniform. And then being surrounded by girls who really were 16 or 17 years-old; all the extras that age were really helpful. When you wear no makeup, or film no makeup -- which is lots of makeup to make it look like you're not wearing anything, and a school uniform, and then someone puts on a nice dress and does your makeup, you do feel like you've been done up and transformed.

You walk around and don't feel so horrible in front of the crew; all those things make you feel generally better about yourself. It was great and it was fun, with girls false eyelashes are always fun.

Q: Was the '60s music a revelation?

CM: Lone [Scherfig, the director] made me lots of CDs before we started shooting. Also they'd written this sort of soundtrack, or the piano piece that goes over the whole film, and I had a minute of that, it was put on one of the CDs. And then it was on my iTunes and I didn't know what it was, and six months later I was going through it and played it.

I had no memory of where it had come from, so I labeled it because I was going through a labeling phase. I labeled it as "Pretty Song." It wasn't until I Dominic Cooper and Peter Sarsgaardwent to Sundance and heard the song that I realized it was from this. I love the music in the film; the Duffy track at the end is cracking.

Q: What was Lone's direction like?

CM: she doesn't see the task of making a film as stressful. I'm sure she has enormous stress, but you never feel that stress from her, and she sees it as a really joyful thing that we've all be given this gift of a script. So it does feel very measured really.

Q: Do you think that 16 years old girls nowadays could fall in love as easily as a girl in the '60s?

CM: Yeah, definitely. Probably the only difference is that I wouldn't advocate getting in the car in 2009. Don't get in the car. But then, my dad would tell me that when he played on the streets -- he'd played football in Liverpool when he was growing up -- if you got thirsty you just knocked on the door and asked someone for a glass of water.

You just wouldn't do that now. So I think the only difference is she wouldn't have got in the car. God, girls at my school would just go crazy, and instantly, and I don't even think Jenny ever falls in love with him; I think she loves him and finds him endearing and he introduces her to a different world, but I don't think she's in love. I don't think the sex would be so calculated. But I think she does love him.

Q: Is she more in love with her projection of herself in that world?

CM: Absolutely. She's becoming who she thinks she wants to be, and then realizes of course she's not. There's one good thing that someone said the other day, there are a few shots in the film where the lighting changes, or moments when she's realizing stuff about herself that she doesn't particularly like, and every time there's a shot like that, in the car when she reads and she finds out that he's married, and there's another moment as well, the makeup suddenly doesn't sit on her face anymore; it looks like she's put on her mum's shoes and done her makeup.

The lips look wrong and the eyes look wrong, and I like that. I think the lighting suddenly becomes harsh and you see a really young face with too much makeup on it, and you suddenly see her, and those are the moments when she realizes that she's just gone way too far.

Q: It wasn't a problem for a girl that young to get involved with a guy that old? Not a problem conceptually, but did it seem realistic?

CM: Oh absolutely; definitely.

Q: You get a chance to live 16 again, so were there things you've thought about or learned or reflected on so that you say, "At least I didn't do that," or "Oh yeah, I didn't think about that?"

CM: She's more rebellious than I was; I wasn't that interesting. And I wasn't that bold either; I would never have got in the car, and not even in the '60s, I would have just walked away and waited for the bus. I think I wish I'd taken more advantage of the stuff I got to at school. I think I wasted quite a lot of time. I had fun, but I didn't do very much.

We went on a choir trip once to Washington and we spent the whole time being like, "Oh it's so hot." Like, come on; we had amazing opportunities and threw them away, and I feel a bit guilty about that.

Every time I do a job I'm always amazed by how knowledgeable people are, and on Wall Street, the amount that Oliver and Shia and Frank and Michael have all learned about, they already knew so much, but the amount they know about finance and the economy, and I kind of come in a go, "god, give me a copy of the 'Economist', I need to figure out what the hell you're all talking about." So I think I'm trying to learn more for myself than I was before. I was kind of coasting along before, quite happily ignorant.

Q: Have you every tried singing?

CM: I sang a lot at school but I've never done it professionally.

Q: Who are your role models as actresses?

CM: I think people who've had interesting, varied, gone back and done plays and lots of different things. Like Samantha Morton, Emma Thompson obviously, Kate Winslet, Toni Collette, Claudie Blakley, but lots of American actresses as well. Penelope Cruz; I met her in Toronto and almost cried.

Q: Dominic Cooper said you went to lots of readings and auditions together but never got the role. What do you remember from that time?

CM: I love how he's telling that story. The reason Dominic and I know each other is that, when [the production company] Working Title has a new film they have a big roundtable read and they just ring up actors to come play the parts, not necessarily the people who will play the parts, and in our case, definitely not.

So we've been in, a fair few times where we've been called in to play very small parts in big films, and we sit around and we get really horribly nervous because we've got like three lines and then we just make a complete mess of it and then they never call us.

Then you find out when you watch the film that everybody else around the table ended up playing those parts, apart from me and Dominic. So that's how Dominic and I met basically, by being rejected together.

Q: Dominic made it sound much more glamorous when he was telling it.

CM: He does [like to milk it].

Q: After all that rejection how do you feel about everybody saying this movie is a big vehicle for you?

CM: I'm amazed by the reviews. I'm not amazed, I think it's a lovely film, but I think it's been wonderful to be part of something that people seem to genuinely like. But it hasn't come out yet, so. It hasn't been years and years of rejection; I've a had a really lucky, nice career so far, Dominic's just made it sound like we lived in hovels and occasionally sang songs for people.

Q: Well he did.

CM: He did; yeah that's true. But I can't say enough about what this has all meant to me. But really the best thing that's come out of this has been spending time with the people we made it with.

Nick just gave me this, and when we were about to do a Q&A and showed me the dedication at the beginning and I just burst into tears. I've got so much love for all the people that we did this with, and the fact that I get to spend all this time around them again is just great. But if these nice things mean that more people will see the film, that's nice, because it won't just be your aunt and my Welsh granny.

Q: How are things on Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps?

CM: Good, they're good, yeah.

Q: How did you land the role in Wall Street 2? How is it working for the first time here?

CM: This is not the first time I worked here; I did a film here last summer, The Greatest -- which was also at Sundance -- and then I did the play here. But someone slipped Oliver a copy of An Education and my agent rang me when I was still shooting Never Let Me Go and said, "Oliver Stone's going to give you a call."

What a strange phone call to have. I was sitting with Andrew Garfield, who was in Never Let Me Go with me, and he just went mental. I went and got a hands-free so we could both lean over the table and listen, because we just wanted to hear Oliver Stone speaking, which I've never told Oliver and now he'll know.

Then he offered me the job and I went over to L.A. a couple of weeks later and read it and loved it. I had versions of the script since July and we started rehearsal; we had about three weeks of rehearsals about two months ago, and then we've done about four weeks of shooting. I haven't had to do very much yet, they've been kind to me and [scheduled] all of my big stuff for after I've released this. But it's great; it's an amazing cast.

Q: You've seen the original movie?

CM: Yeah. It was weird actually because the day before I was going to meet Oliver to read it, and I still didn't know if it was something that I, I didn't know what to do really, I didn't know what the part would be like and I didn't know if I should just dive in regardless of the part because it's Oliver.

I was staying at this hotel and I was doing this thing with the New York Times and I went to rent a dvd the night before I left, and I opened the dvd player to put in the one I'd got - I got Risky Business - and Wall Street was in there. And then when I was flying to LA I was reading this magazine and my horoscope said, "blah blah blah blah blah, rubbish rubbish rubbish, like Gordon Gekko said in Wall Street, "Greed is good." And I thought, "Why is the universe telling me to do this film?"

Q: Who do you play in the movie?

CM: I play Gordon Gekko's daughter.

Q: Working with Oliver Stone, and all the good reviews and award notices for this movie, it is a big break in a sense of global domination. How you feel about that, because everyone wants a piece of you; there's also the bad side of fame and the paparazzi and of course once everyone recognizes you on the street...

CM: I mean, I've been recognized twice [laughs].

Q: That could change.

CM: Well, I don't really look like I do in this film. My years so far, and my life so far, and even to do with Wall Street, and there are paparazzi and it is distracting because you're trying to film a scene on the street and you're trying to think about your character or the other person you're acting with, and you have 20 people taking other images of you.

When you think there should be just one image of you there are all these images of you, and so you have to try and not think about any of that, so it's distracting for your work. But ultimately, you can get upset about it, but it's not a bad position to be in. I'm doing the job that I love with people that I really respect, so it's like a 98% good situation with a 2% downside. I'm so absurdly lucky to be working, let alone working with the people I'm working with. I don't even know if it will enter my world, but if it does it's not bad in the grand scheme of things.

Q: Are you irritated that when you're out with Shia [LeBouf, star of Transformers] that everybody's is clicking camers and, everybody surrounds you? He's probably stalked by people.

CM: At work there are always paparazzi there, but there are always paparazzi on the set of Sex and the City and everything else that shoots in New York or any major city, so it comes with the territory.

it's irritating at work really because you don't want to think about it, but then they're doing their job and 're earning their living for their families. You just have to block it out.