Earlier this year at Sundance, Chilean director Sebastian Silva ("The Maid") made a splash with two very different movies. The first, "The Crystal Fairy," was a trippy road comedy that starred Michael Cera and Gabby Hoffman and saw a limited theatrical release this summer from IFC Films (read our review here). The other Silva joint was an equally trippy but far darker film that also co-starred Michael Cera called "Magic Magic," which will be released on DVD this week from Sony. It stars Juno Temple as a young girl who descends into madness while visiting her sister abroad (it involves many sleepless nights, hypnotism, a memorable use of a Knife song and finally some kind of witchcraft). We got to talk to Temple about what it was like working with Silva, what her reference points were for the character, and asked about what she's got coming next—Robert Rodriguez's "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For," Alexandre Aja's "Horns," and Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" retelling "Maleficent" (where she plays a tiny fairy).
In the Chile-set film, Temple plays Alicia, who comes to visit her sister, who soon leaves her (supposedly to finish some exams at school) with her boyfriend and their bizarre American friend (Cera). From there, the tiny, unsettling moments start to pile up, and they culminate in what is an all-out psychological break, embroidered with culturally specific mysticism. It's quite a wild ride, captured elegantly by cinematographer Christopher Doyle in a distilled dreaminess that suggests the entire film was shot underwater. Losing your marbles isn't the easiest thing to play for a young actress, but Temple pulls it off beautifully.
How did you become involve in this project and what made you want to do it?
I got sent the script and I read it and was fascinated by it. It was almost like a bad dream, reading it. And then I met with Sebastian and we talked about going out to Chile and what it was like going to Chile and being out of your comfort zone. Later I found out that he wanted me to be in it and play Alicia. And I absolutely wanted to do it. It made a lot of sense, Sebastian doing it, because he's got an amazing perception of the world. I wanted to be a part of one of his movies, for sure. I think he's a genius.
You got to play a role that's very archetypal in these types of thrillers: the woman who loses her mind. Were you referencing anything specifically in your performance?
Of course! "Repulsion" was definitely a huge inspiration for the film; I think Roman Polanski in general was a big inspiration for the film. I think getting the opportunity to play a character where you so deeply have to dive into somebody, and really figure out what's going on inside before you understand what's going on outside, is something that I was really excited about. There were also all these amazing performances of women losing their minds. And I realized it was about finding something small that the audience could relate to. I think the main conversation between me and Sebastian in relation to Alicia was that she was suffering from insomnia and anxiety and on top of that was losing her mind. So I think it was really interesting for me to relate to that. There have been days where I haven't slept and it's really annoying and then you have that anxiety of walking into a people you don't know or whatever it is. But then when you add a psychotic episode into that it's really frightening. As an audience, the idea of losing your mind is so frightening. We had a lot of fun making this film but it was definitely hard work.
Did Sebastian tell you how he was going to cut it all together?
Well the way that he and Christopher Doyle made the movie look, it's so beautiful and eerie at the same time. You kind of feel on edge from the beginning, when the movie starts on Michael Cera's feet. Sebastian definitely kept us in the loop about what he wanted from each moment. Fortunately, for me and him we really had to keep in touch and make sure we knew where Alicia was in each scene, because I felt very strong that her unraveling is a delicate one. She's a little off at the beginning, but she's a sweet girl, and you cut to the shower scene and realize something is wrong. I love those moments where she tries to be cool and in it with the boys; it's such an awkward attempt at being like "Let's hang!" I can't speak for everyone else but we were very aware of what was going on in each scene and where Alicia's head was at.
The other part of it was that we were living together in a house in southern Chile. So you felt very safe. So after you had the madness of the day you could come home and have some more madness – a mad night – or you could have a peaceful family night where you take care of each other and discuss and digest what you just put out into the universe.
Are you a fan of these types of movies? You're in "Horns" next, which is also a horror type thing.
I think anything psychological is great and what's so great about them is they make the audience think. Different films serve different purposes for different people but I think that when you go see a psychological thriller or horror movie, you think. It stays with you. There should be a couple of hours when you think, Whew, that was fucking weird. And I like that. I like being left with that weird taste in my mouth.
You were in a bunch of amazing movies last year but you also got to pop into "Dark Knight Rises." That must have been fun to go from something so small to something so huge.
I felt like Bambi when I walked onto that set. I had never seen anything like it before in my life. My eyes must have tripled in size. But it's amazing that it doesn't matter if the movie is big or small, but if you have a visionary director behind it that's what's going to make it special. Whether you're Sebastian Silva or Christopher Nolan, if you've got the mind behind it, you're going to make it extraordinary no matter how much money you have.