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Mena Likes The Meaningful Stuff | Mena Suvari
an emily blunt interview




There are a few lava hot actors around turn with decidedly female features! I think the doe-eyed chickbabe from American Beauty, American Pie and Sugar and Spice, Mena Suvari, is one of the brightest of the lot personally. She seems to be the anti-bimbo actor even when doing the bimbo ballet. Mena manages to stay clear of typecast hell and get some pretty clever parts for a girl with that blonde vixen every man's-fantasy appeal that could, if she chose to, just do repetitive cake [no pun intended] roles and still have the bungalow off the PCH in the Malibu Hills.

Her latest gig in Sonny will certainly ad a notch into her diversified portfolio of characters. The role is not easy, flattering, or glamorous. A high maintenance actorchick woulda freaked from Sonny's "rain scene" alone; had them running for the shelter of their mother's little helpers and their Evian infused Green Tea at a perpetual temperature of 78° back in the Feng Shui trailer designed by foo-foo Frank of Beverly Hills.

Mena's an open honest gal who genuinely digs what she does. It shows. She's in love with her beau, gets some interesting scripts thrown her way thanks to her continuing intelligent choices, and beams with that special spark one hopes a lucky starlet has…

Sure she's all girly girl but without being frilly and phony ditsy. Don't get me wrong she's willing to play the boopsy-doll so-long as it's a bit off and allows her to create. Mena is a talented little fawn- but will let the mascara run if need be. The old Gilda Radner motto, "You can look good at the party later" is worthy of Mena.

EM: Your character is pretty gosh-darn wild in Sonny. What was the appeal for you in the role?

SUVARI: Well, honestly, everything about it ranging from being able to work with an accent and period and playing around with the clothes and the makeup. They were different, and the subject matter involved, and all of it. I think that it's just very realistic.

EM: Yeah, without being cartooned too! It's a smart role under all the subject matter- did you specifically chase down the role?

SUVARI: Actually, they came to me, and they came very quickly and right
before the holidays, like around this time, and it was pretty much, 'Here
it is, read it and let us know tomorrow what you think,' and I was like,
'Okay.' Then, I found myself going to New Orleans on the third of January, just really all of a sudden it happened, and it's weird how things like that

EM: Wow. So you didn't have time for traditional "Preparing?"

SUVARI: No, I did. I did because it happened before Christmas.

EM: So how did you get into this character then? Under her skin?

SUVARI: Well, I had a few weeks here to work with a dialect coach on an Arkansas accent. You know, it's something that I don't do, any specific research. It's just something that happens for me and working with the speech coach is really important and then, you know, meeting with the costume designer and just seeing kind of what paths they wanted to take with the character, and then, just going to New Orleans and playing around with all of that, and seeing the sets and the city and there's something that just kind of happens for me.

EM: Is it easier with the clothes and the accent…to get into the head of your character?

SUVARI: Well, it all makes a difference. I mean, like, when I worked on
'The Musketeer', I mean, you put on those clothes, those corsets and like, you stand out in a beautiful, serene place with a river and you know, you just think like you're…I don't know… You just get into it and you start thinking about that time and definitely, all of that combined really made a
difference for me. It's sort of like hearing the Def Leopard 'Hysteria' album and Blondie [Laughs].

EM: Did you interview any of the "working girls" in New Orleans while you were there?

SUVARI: I actually didn't and I didn't pursue that. I mean, I wouldn't have
minded, but it's just something that I didn't do.

EM: What was the toughest scene to get down?

SUVARI: The toughest scene? Yeah, things could be a little tough. I don't really ever want to look at them like that, like it was too hard because I really enjoyed working on this film and I knew what the story entailed, and what I had to do beforehand and what I was getting myself involved in, but I think that was probably, I guess, the toughest day of my life. [laughs] That day at the barn and in the rain, and I seriously thought that I was going to end up in the hospital with pneumonia, but we got it done. Yeah, it was like, 'Jeez, I love how they just decided that my character has no shoes and no coat, like it's warm out,' and that rain from the machines is just not warm! [laughter] But you know, they were just really sweet and they made a little platform for us in the puddle when we had to do close ups, and like, anything that they could do. It was really nice and I tried to use it in anyway that I could.

EM: Okay- girl talk. You have made out with some pretty cute guys on film; Kevin Spacey, James Franco…. Anyone in particular you'd call the best? [As the thought whisks me away onto Fantasy Island where Kev, Jim and myself are guests of Ricardo and begin our own episode of forbidden love triangle...]

SUVARI: No, I can't say. [laughs] No way am I saying [laughter]

EM: Figures! You do have some pretty intimate scenes in this film. How do you deal with those? [see how cleverly I reword the question....]

SUVARI: All liquored up before I go in there? [Laughs] God, no. I don't know what would happen if I did that, but yeah, I mean, it's a little weird, but you have to do what you have to do. I mean, like I said, I knew that those scenes were coming and where those days in the shoot were. I mean, I knew what I'd have to do. Like, for the doubles scene, I met that guy that day and it was like, 'Hi, so yeah, I'm going to be riding you later on. It's nice to meet you,' but I got really lucky because he was so professional and all of those people were. It was really…it could've been worse. So, it's a little weird, but I mean, I understood the character in this story and that was part of it, but yeah, it was a little…it was fun, that day [Laughs].

EM: So tell me…how was this little studmuffin extravaganza Nic Cage as a director? Did he guide you? [ Thought but not spoken: Does he dig blondes or what---SPEAK]

SUVARI: Nick was great and he's so talented as you know, and he's so experienced. It didn't seem like first time direction or whatever that is, and he knew what he wanted, and he really was so passionate about it and believed in it, and you know, was so adamant on doing what he wanted to do, and for me, what was great was that he just gave us all the freedom to do what we wanted to do and suggest anything and gave us all the time that we needed and the space because there's a lot of really emotional scenes, and I don't think that it was ever really about trying to fulfill your day to day schedule or get something done at the right time, and you know, it was…if you needed the time, it was yours and however long you needed, and I just think that comes from his experience as an actor and he knows what it takes to get into that. So, that was really nice, and I always felt like he was there. He wasn't breathing down your neck all the time. He was like, 'I'm here for you,' and he just worked so hard on it. I just admire him so much for doing something like this because he's so busy, and he does it so well.

EM: Did ya party hearty in New Orleans or what? [Thought not spoken: I'd love to see Cage get wacked and start a striptease...slow and sexy baby...]

SUVARI: No, I did, but I'm not like…it's just not my town. Like, I don't drink.

The food there is the draw for me- Bourbon Street is a tad creepy… Did you get to eat some of their famous tidbits?

SUVARI: Yeah, but I'm allergic to shellfish. So, I'm not just a big party person. So like, I'm an old married lady. I just go home.

EM: So no flashing for beads?

SUVARI: Yeah, right [Laughs].

EM: Certainly you all hung out a bit? Often you grow close to someone.

SUVARI: Yeah, I think so. I mean, everyone was so excited about the film and really wanted to be there and work their hardest on it, and I ended up playing a lot of poker with Nick's hair and makeup. So, I was always hanging out on the set, and everyone was so cool, everyone who worked on it was so nice and wonderful.

EM: It was such a short shoot- Do you think the passion you all had for the script helped it gel faster?

SUVARI: I guess it can help. It can smooth things along. Yeah, but it felt like enough time to do it. I never felt rushed in anyway. I think that it definitely helps to have things go smoothly.

EM: Did you and James Franco rehears? Map things out together before a scene?

SUVARI: We did, a little bit with Nic. Like, we had rehearsals because it was like rehearsal/establishing camera shot. So, they'd be running around with the lights and everything and what we wanted to do, and especially because I said that I wasn't going to do a lot of nudity, and so, it was a lot of kind of mapping out with those scenes. It's very old fashioned
[Laughs], very old times.

EM: You're not into doing naked scenes - cool. What if you had to do or were asked to do like, Eve for Coppola or Soderbergh?

SUVARI: [Laughs] Wow, naked through the film? I think that it's something that? I mean, my whole life I take step by step and look at everything individually.

EM: Are any of you girls going back to American Pie?

SUVARI: I haven't even read the script. Like, I don't even know exactly what it's about and I've heard that it's going at the beginning of next year.

EM: I adore Brenda Blethyn Can you talk about working with her?

SUVARI: Oh my god, Brenda is amazing. She's so talented, and she's so
perfect for this role. She's just so cute. Like, we decided that we were going to get nails for our characters. Like, she's just so cute, she's so fun and she worked so hard on her accent because she's English and you know, there are different dialects in New Orleans and hers is more of the lower class and certain words like birthday…she just nailed it and worked so hard on it, everyday, and then, she'd be asking you, 'Does it sound okay?' You were like, 'You're amazing.' I was so blown away by her with the rehearsals and the scenes. It's just great, and she's just so talented, but so humble. She's so real and so cool. I love working with her.

EM: So you learned from the experience with her?

SUVARI: Yeah, and you know, everything, and I take in everything around me.

SUVARI: Everything affects me and I just absorb everything and I mean, it's just really pleasant to work with someone like and that and so much fun and just so easy.

EM: What about James Franco? [thought not spoken: like is he single? Is he into older women? After five shots is he "loose?" SPEAK]

SUVARI: James was great, and I mean, I don't want to talk about what he does, but I think that I can safely say that he works in a little different way. You know, he gets very, very into it and he was very serious. He's so nice, and I felt like, you know, that he was very comfortable on the set. It was so cool working with him, he's such a great guy, and the most important thing was that everyone was really passionate about it and wanted to work their hardest. I think that was?

EM: Have tyou done anything since this?

SUVARI: Since it, no, because just being…I think that it's been a weird time and I'm really picky, and I look younger than I am. So, it's really hard to find roles for women that are interesting and more and more, I'm aware of how important this film was for me, and for it to come along. It's just, you know, there are so many two-dimensional characters, especially for women and I don't want to be in high school. I don't want to be associated with school and it's just really limiting right now. So, I've really been looking and it seems like this whole year, it's been like push, push, push, everything just keeps being pushed and it's okay. I mean, I decided a while ago that I didn't just want to work on things just to work.

EM: Working or waiting…it must be hard?

SUVARI: Yeah, but it's more important for me to work on something that I believe in and that means something to me because I don't ever want to be on the set thinking, 'What the hell am I doing here?' I can't do that. It doesn't make any sense to me, and I like doing things that are just challenging to me, that are different, that I find interesting, and it really is, I mean, for women, it's like really limited, and I can't play twenty seven. So, it's like…so you know, I turn down so many things if it's stuff that I've done before or involve school or whatever. It'shard to find things like Carol, she's in her twenties, and it's like this subject matter that's so different and so deep and so emotional. I find it very realistic and I like that. It's just interesting to me.

EM: So what was it specifically that drew you to "Carol?"

SUVARI: Well, even though I didn't have any experience like living the way that she did, that lifestyle, I think that there were common themes I could understand; not wanting to be in a situation and wanting to get out of that, and you know, it's relative, I think, in so many areas. I just loved the whole love story. I thought that it was just so different and it's so heart wrenching, but yet, I find it so beautiful.

EM: I love your eye shadow!

SUVARI: Yes, it's fun, but it's funny, like getting ready for this and getting ready for the premiere [of Sonny] last night, I worked with Paul Star. He's the most amazing makeup artist and he's so talented and like, the way that he uses it, I was just blown away, and I was thinking how I have all this makeup at home and sometimes, I look at it and I'm like, 'Duh, what do I do with it?' It's all about using it in the right way and he was talking about mixing things, and I was like, 'God, I can't do that for some reason.' I was like, 'I wish I knew how to do that.' There's so much and it's fun. I don't know. I never end up using all of it. You've got that hot pink eye shadow, and you're like, 'Yeah, it's so great,' but what do I do with it?

Yeah I know…I have a draw of shadows that seemed down right logical in the store…what does one do with Hawaiian Hue of Gingerlily shimmer anyway??? Mena was a delight. A warm gal slight in size but not in spunk or talent. I for one can't wait to see what she chooses next.


Read Sonny Review


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