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Thirteen - Holly Hunter Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. It says in the production notes that you were gripped by the script from the get-go. Can you tell us why you were stirred by it and realised this was going to be a very powerful movie to play?
A:
Well, oddly enough, the movie that you see, is kind of what I read; the feeling that the movie evokes is exactly what the script evoked as well. It has a sense of emergency, and on the page it had that same kind of urgent, uncensored, very detailed kind of description going on.
And I suppose, what I often try to do when I act, is think a lot, an awful lot, before I show up on the set, and then I try not to think at all when she says 'action'.
What I really want to do is just obey my own impulses, when the camera's rolling, and I think the script kind of has that, in fact; it has that non-judgemental, uncensored, unedited version of itself, that I think very much is still intact when you see the movie.
I was also very drawn to the fact that, in a way, the movie does not stand in judgement in any of the characters. Even the role of my character's boyfriend, played by Jeremy Sisto, you kind of like the guy, even though he is very damaged and broken, and a practising addict. You see he has an ability to love, and a desire to love, and I think this is true of all of the characters, and it really creates a difficulty to categories this people and stand in judgement of them. You more or less can see yourself in each of the character's situations.

Q. You must be dying to tell us about your youth? Do you recall any major moments of teenage rebellion in your life?
A:
You know, I was so involved with music; I played brass instruments in the band, I was in choir practice every day, so between band practice, which lasted three hours, and choir practice, which lasted three hours, I had six hours, every day, of extra-curricular activities. I was really deeply engaged in one of the two activities, so I do actually believe that this is a major contributor to me not.. I just don't think I was inherently a rebel, though. I inherently am not.
CH: This is one thing that is missing in our schools in Los Angeles right now, because they have cut the funding for arts almost to zero. I wanted to do a scene in a music classroom, which is not in the movie, because there aren't any music classrooms any more. It's kind of shocking and is part of the reason why kids don't have too much to get excited about, cos we've stripped all that. I don't know how it is here, do you guys still have all that?

Q. Given what you were saying about your own background, do you have any sympathies for 13-year-olds now? Would you like to be 13 again?
A:
Oh yes I would, because if you're 13 it means you're alive. I could never stand in judgement of what time it is in a life....

Q. What I mean is, the pressures on a 13-year-old now must be vastly different to the pressures you were under when you were younger? Apart from the approval of your peers?
A:
That's interesting, but it's not actually what really attracted me to doing the movie. I mean, I think that this right of passage has always been something worth remarking on in an artful way. People have been commenting on it, and espousing about it, and arguing about it, and trying to describe it, and trying to unveil the mysteries of this right of passage for as long as we have been around - the Greeks were writing about it. Different cultures ritualise it, where there's the slaughtering of an animal, or you drink certain kind of hallucinogenic properties, I mean this is something that we have incorporated into our ritualised cultures. Until recently. We don't really have that anymore, where it is a recognised period of time we just know it as adolescence. But it's been a time, traditionally, of tremendous upheaval - hormonally, brain growth, culturally, peer-wise, the tearing away from your parents, the trying to join the world; adopting different poses, who are you now? Who do you want to be? How can you adapt to your body? It's that what is really attracted me. The trappings are different, but the setting's the same.
Adolescence is a startling time for any kid, and I was no different. But I think that my more experimental years happened later. It didn't happen when I was 13. I was a little more paralysed by my adolescence. My experimental, feeling liberated happened kind of later.

Q. You have used the expression right of passage several times, but it's also about betrayal as well, isn't it? Can you two recall a moment when you felt really let down or betrayed by someone, or something, that may have changed your view?
A:
It's interesting for Catherine and me, but the fact is that a lot of this particular challenge of this story was imaginary for both of us. Neither one of us are mothers, so in a way, I think that afforded us a certain amount of freedom in terms of creating a conflict and making the story personal for each of us to tell, and for each of us to want to tell.
In any role that I've ever done, the only thing that I've ever really, really had to draw on is my own life experience, and what I've observed, because a lot of what I harvest as an actress is borrowed, or something that I have seen that I would like to reinvent, or some inspiration that I got from a song, or a place, or a smell, or something that I've felt, physically, that I want to bring to the screen. Sometimes it's borrowed, and sometimes it's my own experience, but who's alive who hasn't felt betrayal?
CH: There was a thing that was kind of a betrayal, or kind of a rejection, does that count? One time, I remember, I wanted to get in with the popular girls at my school, and we were at this retreat or something, and there was a ping-pong table, and I just patiently waited in line, and totally wanted to be there, and I said, 'can I play too', and they said, 'yeah, you can play', and handed me the paddle, and I was so excited and they just walked away. My heart just dropped, and the girl next to me, when I started to follow them, said: "Don't you get it, they don't want you; they don't want to hang out with you; you're not cool." That was my moment, when I realised I'm not cool. I didn't even know what cool was and suddenly I wasn't cool.
And I remember that same girl, one of them came up and told me, you know, during one of the first days of seventh grade, 'you don't shave your legs'. I have really bad eye sight, and I couldn't even see that far down to know, that you had hair. I didn't know about shaving your legs, so all day long you're sitting there and crying, and ran home, 'mum, I'm going to kill you, why didn't you tell me?' But I think everyone has those moments.

Q. We don't seem to see you as much, onscreen, as we did; is this because you are rejecting more material now than you would have done when you were younger?
A:
I act probably a lot more than you see; I just happen to choose movies that don't have much of a life [laughs]. Or I choose movies, I did a couple of movies that were released on cable, instead of in features. I did a movie that came out before Thirteen, called Levity, which I actually loved, but it just didn't take at the Box Office, for maybe marketing reasons, or distribution, or whatever.
It's partly the luck of the draw, you've got to hold your tongue right to be in a movie that gets recognition and fires with a mass audience.
But I do stage, I just did an original theatre piece in San Jose rep, in California.

Q. And animation? Is that a different type of experience?
A:
It's very different. It's really different. That's actually kind of hard. But I'm doing that for Pixar, and it's called The Incredibles. But I do all kinds of things. I'm involved in television, which may or may not reach your audience here, and cable which may or may not reach your audience here, and small movies that don't make it; and stage, which you don't see here.

Q. You've never acted onstage here? Would you like to? Have there been any offers?
A:
I'm talking about it now, on this trip out. It's a new work.

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