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Maria Bello - Precinct 13

 

The Diva's interview with
Maria Bello
One of the Stars of
Assault on Precinct 13 (2004)

 

The Diva's Assault on Precinct 13 Movie review

 


 

Comment: Lovin’ the hair!

Maria Bello:
Thank you! I worked for the last 10 months and every director I’ve worked for, I’ve said “I think this character should have short hair! And the directors who were all male said, No!” and so I finished this shoot and my hair dresser chopped it off – just for me! So I don’t have to ask anyone for permission. On how I wear my hair. That’s kinda of a drag.

Comment:
I don’t know why they won’t let you, you could always wear extensions.

Maria Bello:
Yeah I don’t know why they won’t let me. So many actors wear wigs nowadays. Besides if someone is hiring me because of how I wear my hair, I don’t want to work with them anyway.

Question:Was this shoot a fun experience for you?

Maria Bello:
Awwww it sure was. Laurence said that some days it felt like we were on a play ground together. It was like theater summer camp. We were all so excited to work together. We all have sort of that theatrical base and we were invested in playing and making the story good. We had a great great time together.

Question: How did you get involved?

Maria Bello:
I was sent this script with interest in me to play Alex and I wasn’t quite sure about it – about the part because as it was originally written– it’s original inception, she was quite staid and in control for the whole movie and she had moments of where maybe she was going off the deep end, but not quite. And when I met with Jean-François, the director and James DeMonaco, the writer, I said, “ I think she has to go more off the deep end and I think that just because she is a psychiatrist, she doesn’t have to be so straight. I think that she should be really odd. Because I think psychiatrists are really odd human beings. I’ve met quite a few of them so I can say that. Actually, I ran into one last night! At a movies. This psychiatrist that I met a couple of times and I find him really odd. And I looked at him and I said that I’m sure you are the most neurotic person inside!

Question : So are you going to be an action movie star now? Is this a new genre for you?

Maria Bello:
Oh I don’t know. I always say that I’m dying to do it. This was my first action film and I loved it, but I’m the girl who can’t handle a gun… who can’t run.. but that’s okay. I really like the idea of a normal person in extraordinary circumstances and then how do they handle that. I never want to be an action hero that you know slick. Cool. I wanna be the kind that is a bumbler. You know someone who just can’t quite do it right. So hopefully this will be the beginning of that. I’ve done very dramatic movies in the last 10 months. They were just so heavy and dramatic – I just want to do a comedy. I want to do more action adventures and more romantic comedies.

Question: So your turn in Sin City is not that dramatic?

Maria Bello:
I am not in Sin City that’s a big fat lie. I know it’s on imdb.com and everyone keeps asking me about it, but I’m not in that movie. Weird.

Question: Were there any problems with working with this director in terms of the language barrier?

Maria Bello:
No. The thing about Jean-Françoise is that he is so enthusiastic. Right? And he is so expressive with his eyes and his body. It was like he comes from a child like place and we actors are such children, so we all understood one another. You would know what he was saying from he gestures and his hand moments. From his eyes and his grunts. We knew exactly what he wanted and he was getting it. He is a very strong leader and we trusted him.

Question: Had you seen the original movie before?

Maria Bello:
It wasn’t until after I decided to do the film that I saw the original movie and I liked it. For the time I think it was very provocative and you know, campy and violent. But when I looked at this film on the page, it’s quite a different movie. It’s not a remake it’s more of a retelling of the original story. I think our movie- this telling of it is a lot edgier and more modern.

Question: Would you have done it if it was just a remake of that one?

Maria Bello:
I don’t think about stuff like that, you know? People asked me a lot of questions [in previous interviews] –“What about all of these remakes that are being done?” and I said, “What remakes?” you know I don’t know. For me I just read the script and either I like it or I don’t. Nd in this one I felt invested in the character and I felt that I could do something interesting with it. And I decided to do it and I’m so glad that I did. Working with all of these extraordinary actors.

Question: Was it your idea to have the character count?

Maria Bello:
She has OCD and James Demonaco had a bit of that in there, but I told him oh no she should go all the way! As she gets more and more stressed she should just go out there! When she completely loses it, the only thing she can do to stay sane is the counting. And I have a thing with my 9 multiplication tables that I constantly do over and over so you’ll see some of that in there too. Like the scene where we are sitting in the car – I’m just doing my 9’s and 5’s over and over again

Question: Why do you feel that your character had to take that risk and go on the mission and get help when she was the most helpless compared to all the others?

Maria Bello:
Well I think that when she landed into the depths of her own terror – when she really had to confront herself – you know in the beginning of the movie she was so staid and in control. And the thing that cat and mouse game [she plays with Ethan Hawk’s character] but she is still on top of it and in control. But when she falls apart and has to come to terms with her own helplessness and then she faced the reality of “yeah I’ll probably die in this” she has to find that ounce of courage to walk out the door. But I think it is like at the moment of you know you have to jump off a cliff – do you stay or do you jump? I think she thinks, “Well I might die anyway so I might as well jump.” I don’t think there is brave moment for her where she is like “Yes! I can do this!” it’s more like I’m going die on the cliff or I’m going to die jumping. And she decides to jump. Question: You said that you have been doing a lot of dramas lately. Why do you think the directors are look to you for dramas and not comedies?

Maria Bello:
I don’t know! I think people who know me would describe me as kind of quirky funny, but the roles that I’ve done just haven’t been that, you know? I tend to take roles that are a little quirky, but dramatic as well. I’m drawn to that, but right now I’m interested in expressing a different side.

Question: Are you getting any good scripts for comedies?

Maria Bello:
Some. But not a whole lot. I said I’ve worked for 10 whole months – I have a boy who is going to be 4 in March and he has been all over the world this year. He’s been to Toronto, Oregon, London and Wales and finally I got done working on November 12th and decided that I needed to be home with my boy. You know, just hang out with him and focus all of my attention there. Only if I just love something and I can’t say no is when I’ll work. I don’t have anything lined up and I don’t really care at this point. To be honest. Unless something blows me over, I’d rather just be with him and do my pottery and hangout and be neurotic.

Comment: That’s a good place to be.

Maria Bello:
I think so. Do you have any kids?

Comment: I have a daughter who is going to be two in two weeks.

Maria Bello:
And there is a real struggle isn’t there being a mother? You want to be out there in the world…

Comment: You want to be your own person, but part of being that person is being a mother. And so you have to struggle with that, but you are in a really good spot right now.

Maria Bello:
I think so, but is definitely a constant struggle. Whether to stay or go. But I really think I enjoy the gypsy life and my son is learning that and eventually he’ll get to choose if that’s what he wants to do when he grows up. You never know if you are doing it right.

Question: Is that something you would try to talk him out of or would you let him become an actor?

Maria Bello:
He always says, ‘When am I going to do my movie?” Umm when you’re 18? And that’s the truth. I wouldn’t let him doing anything until he’s 18 and can decide for himself. Let him finish high school and then make that decision. I have no control over his souls journey and where it’s going to lead him that I don’t know. But he sure is fascinated with filmmaking. Actually he’s really into directing. He likes to tell everyone what to do. My last movie with David Cronenberg he would sit in David’s chair behind the monitor and he would go, “ David, I think they should do that one again.’ [Note from Kamal: I’ve cut this segment because it contains spoilers about the movie]

Question: Do you think that at the end of this year when you’ll have taken a year off, do you think you’ll be aching to go back to it?

Maria Bello:
There is a part of me that is always like that. I’m a workaholic and I always need to be creating something so it’s a little difficult for me to get into domesticity which is what I’m doing now. But the truth is like I said, I know if something shows up on my door step that I just can’t turn away, then I’m going to do it

Question: So have you gotten your action “jones” taken care of?

Maria Bello:
Nooooo! Actually Aisha Hinds (the 3rd female lead in the movie) and I got to be really good friends during the shoot - and that stuff in the car that we have when we have this kind of Thelma and Louise moment – we made up so much more that’s not in the movie between our relationship and we talked about doing this female Lethal Weapon type of movie she and I. And we were you know, talking about stuff like that.

Question: What type of stuff did you guys make up that didn’t get in the movie?

Maria Bello:
Oh she lets it sleep that she has a daughter and my character is like oh wow you have a daughter? And she was like yeah. We did this because we were trying to humanize her. We wanted people to know that she is a woman and a wife and a mother. Not just some gang girl. You get a tiny bit of that in the film, but not everything we did is there and then my character is like “ oh my gosh you have a daughter?” and then she is like yeah and asks if I have a family and I’m like “No, but I have a cat.” So there are these little moments of humanizing. You think that because of the part Aisha plays, she is this bad ass, but in real life she is the most girly girl diva. The first time we met, we went to this spa in Toronto to run our lines and there we are naked, getting our nails done and talking about how we were going to do various scenes. We just had a great time together. It’s always like that when you do a movie. You meet one or two people who stay with you for life and she is mine for this movie.

Question: Are you into visual arts? Do you like painting or sculpting or..?

Maria Bello:
I really like photography. I’ve been involved in that for a few years, I’ve also written quite a bit. But just recently I’ve gotten into sculpting and pottery. It’s the perfect place for me. Perfect medium. I have a lot of power and anxiety in my hands and so many people have told me over the years that potting is the place to put all of that energy. I’ve only been doing it a couple of months, but the other day my teach puts this block of clay on his wheel and makes the beautiful 12 inch Japanese vase. He puts the same block of clay on my wheel and I make an ashtray… But that’s one of the things I love about it. I don’t have to be great at it right away. Pottery is about process. I love that that. I love to be in process. Maybe one day I’ll be great, but right now I just love learning it and feeling it. Feeling my way around it – then I’m supposed to start sculpting next Thursday.

Question: It sounds like you all had a lot of fun on the set. Was this one of your favorite set experiences?

Maria Bello:
Oh yeah. I mean there is always one person on the set who has a lot of anxiety an actor who is really intense and has to stay in character and holds himself away from the rest of us and you’re like “Oh Jesus Christ” or a director who is really brutal and anxious. We had none of that. We would have a really intense scene and then when it was over someone was like, “Anyone want coffee and a smoke?” It was just kind of free flowing and easy. And this particular group of actors, I would work with everyday if I could.

Question: That’s unusual right? To get such a good cast of characters for basically an action film

Maria Bello:
But that is a huge credit to Jean-François. I heard great stories about him when they were trying to cast this movie. The studio had different ideas about what the characters should be “Well this character is white and this one is black and well this one would be 20 and ummm this one…”. And Jean –Françoise (Maria imitating Jean Francois with a French accent) “I don’t care. How old they are and what color they are. We just get the right actors. This is the actor I want.” He wanted fine actors who could really elevate this story- this action movie.

Question:How did you would out your scenes with Ethan Hawk. They were kind of intense at times.

Maria Bello:
You know from the first day that we met to rehearse, he worked every day – 15 hour days for 3 months straight. And by the last week of it he had the same energy and enthusiasm that he had the first day. His presence of being really into it and enthusiastic about it is who he is as a human being and as an artist. So he would show up for the scenes that day with this power and excitement and asking “what should we do. How should we play it?” And we would work them and re-work them and just play back and forth. You know it was just like throwing a ball back and forth to each other. I really love his work. I love his acting. I just “Before Sunset” – the movie that he and Julie Delphy helped write and I was just riveted. Did you see that? Did you like it? I loved it. It wasn’t just about two people walking around Paris. I was never bored for a minute. You really get to know those two people. And you get to know yourself in a way. Especially if you are a mature person who has kind of had this love experience. You understand the essence of what they are discussing and feeling.

Question: Can you talk about your character in the “The History of Violence” with Viggo Mortensen?

Maria Bello:
I have had great experiences this year- I have to say that. All the jobs I’ve done – great crews and casts. David Cronenberg is one of my favorite directors ever. His acceptability is so bizarre and gets to you emotionally, but you meet him and you think he is going to be this bizarre guy, but he is the most down to earth, sweetest family man that you’ve ever met in your life. But I think that is why he can tell stories that are so bizarre and dark, because he is in touch with his lightness. But any way. Viggo and I play a married couple who live in the Midwest and Ed Harris shows up one day – he is this mob guy from Philly- and it is a case of mistaken identity. He thinks Viggo is someone he’s not and our whole world unravels when violence comes into our little small town lives. I want to say it was an intense shoot. It was some days. I had some of the most intense scenes with Viggo in my life. I’m not a nervous actor, I find that if I work from a very joyful or playful place it’s easy and it’s fun. But I had some days when I came to set literally just shaking and saying that I can not possibly do this scene. I was just terrified because it was quite quite intense. But we just sure had fun. David Cronenberg was an incredible leader. A father figure.

Question:You obviously love your craft. Have you always wanted to be an actor?

Maria Bello:
I have always wanted to be one, but didn’t know that I could be one until I was at the University studying Political Science and Pre-Law. Then I found out that I could take an acting class as an elective. I just didn’t know. I came from a family of contrction workers, you know? It’s just not something we did. But, I’ve very drawn towards telling stories. I’ve been reading since I was 3 and ½.I’ve always been fascinated with books and wanted to be characters in these books. And I can’t believe as this goes on, I love it more and more. And I’m learning more and more – and that’s shocking to me. I thought would tire of it, but I’m still learning. You can never never learn enough.

Question:Now you said that you think your son my want to direct. Have you ever thought about that?

Maria Bello:

I’ve thought about it. I’ve been working on a screenplay and I’ve toyed with doing it one day, but I don’t think I’m organized wnough. I’m quite all over the place. Like I’m giving a baby shower for my friend next week for 40 people and I started calling them yesterday – “can you come? Can you bring something? I don’t know – a bagel?” I’m not terribly organized and I think a director ahs to be organized or they have to be good at delegating and I’m not good at delegating either. So it’s probably not my gift.

Question: But you’re working on a screenplay?

Maria Bello:
Yes. I’ve been writing an awful lot over the last 20 years. You know I have almost a complete novel and a bit of this screenplay and a bit of that screenplay, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be brave enough to put my writing out there. That takes a lot of courage and I don’t know if I have it.

Question: How is that harder than putting yourself out there as an actor?

Maria Bello:
Well as an actor , I’m always hiding behind a character to a certain extent. But in writing, you really put your soul on the page and say here I am – have it. So no matter what you write it’s personal even if it’s fiction just based on your souls journey and who you are and what your life has been.

Question: Is there any character that you still connect to even though you’ve been separated for some time?

Maria Bello:
I always connect to the character that I’m playing at the time. I always believe that a movie has come into my sphere and I choose that because there is something emotionally in myself that I am working on or need to learn. From that character. And then when it’s over, I feel like I’ve moved on and so when I look back on them, I think all these characters are connected to what was going on in my life.

Question: There are none that you would like to go back and revisit?

Maria Bello:
No.

Question:Let’s say you could organize your thoughts and put it on screen. What would you like to do or better yet, what would you like to see on screen?

Maria Bello:
That’s a good question. What I want to see on screen. I’m an actor with pedestrian tastes in a way. I grow up on “Indiana Jones”, and “Lethal Weapon” and “Die Hard” movies. Those are the kinds of movies I want to see. Last night I went to see “The most critically acclaimed movie!” and I thought “gawd! I’m going to kill myself!” there were so many moments that I just wanted to walk out because a lot of the time I don’t want to go to the movie and have to think can get emotional with myself or invested with myself. I want to go away. I just want a fantasy. I have enough to deal with min my daily life. I want a fantasy. I wan’t ordinary people doing extrodinary circumstances and how they deal with that. That will be my next thing.



 

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