Emily Browning appears to be one of the busiest actresses around, starring in a variety of projects – each different from the next – ranging from Pompeii, to God Help the Girl to Magic Magic. It’s the latter which we discussed with the talented performer about – speaking to us on the phone from LA.
Magic Magic was shot on location in Chile, and we spoke to Browning about her experience in the country, where she worked closely with one of her best friends Juno Temple. She also tells us about her life in LA, why she misses London, and her thoughts on why so many Australian actors leave their home town to seek pastures new.
Of course choosing a project is down to the script and material, the director, the cast – but it must be a pretty nice bonus when it involves shooting on location in Chile?
Oh yeah, absolutely. Everything was perfect in that sense with Magic Magic because I loved the script and I loved Sebastian Silva the director, but also we were living in this beautiful house in the south of Chile. We actually moved in next door to the house we filmed in. We didn’t really have any hair and makeup so we would roll out of bed, put our costumes on and walk down some stairs, which was amazing. Plus it was right on the water and it was stunning, completely beautiful. Also, Juno happens to be one of my best friends so that was a nice bonus as well, that we could go to Chile together and make a film. It was kind of perfect.
Juno was a close friend prior to taking on this project then?
She was. Actually I was at her house one day and we were both just sitting around in her room reading scripts, and we realised we were both reading the same script and it was Magic Magic. We both had a meeting for it the next day and we tried to weasel our way around it. Like, let’s accidentally bump into each other at the meeting and be like ‘oh hey!’ It’s pretty cool that it worked out that way.
When shooting abroad do you get much of a chance to get immersed in the culture and do some sightseeing, or can it be all strictly work?
I had quite a bit of time off because I’m not present for the first quarter of the film, but we were all in the south of Chile, about an hour away from any town or anything, a couple hours flight away from Santiago. But it was fine cos we were staying in this big, beautiful house by this lake and it was idyllic. Chile has a lot of stray gods and they’re all really friendly, big dopey dogs walking around, and we had a huge property, and there was a donkey and a lake to swim in. So I got to know the environment we were in very well as I had a lot of free time there, but I didn’t get to explore the rest of Chile very much unfortunately.
It doesn’t turn out to be the greatest of trips for your character, but what’s the worst holiday you’ve ever been on?
Oh, interesting. Um, I don’t know. I don’t know if I’d even call it a holiday, but I came back to England recently, as I lived in London for a little while, and I came back to visit my boyfriend who was filming in Henley-on-Thames, and we hadn’t seen each other for about three weeks, and it was all meant to be lovely. We were taking nice little boat trips on the Thames, and then we both got really, really bad food poisoning and it took us out for the last five days I was there, so that wasn’t ideal. Not the best holiday.
And how about the most exotic place you’ve ever travelled to?
I guess the south of Chile would be up there! I spent some time in Bali, which is pretty incredibly, it was like 100 degrees the whole time I was there and I went with friends and we just ate mangoes all day and went swimming. I dunno. I’d say Bali or Chile. Is that boring?
No, Bali sounds amazing. Would you recommend it?
Well, unfortunately it’s full of Australians. If you can cope with that, it’s really beautiful.
Much of your work takes places here in Britain, what is it about being here that appeals to you as an actor?
I think it appeals to me as a person. I don’t know what it is, but I lived in London for about two and a half years and I felt very at home there. Now when I go back I’m always like, damn, I wish I still here. I don’t know what it is about the culture but, having spent so much time in America, London feels a bit more like home. Maybe it’s the cynicism that America seems to lack a little bit and it’s something Australians and English people have in common and I love being there, so I’m always happy to work there.
So where are you based at the moment?
I’m in LA, and I love it, it’s fantastic. But to be honest, most of my friends here are English!
I interviewed Zachary Quinto recently and he was telling me that LA isn’t what it used to be, and not nearly as many films are made there. Have you found that to be the case?
It’s still very much an industry town, you can’t escape sitting in a cafe and every single person around you is talking about their script. Or talking about an audition they have coming up and it gets a little frustrating sometimes, so I’ve got as far away from that as possible cos I don’t like in West Hollywood, I couldn’t handle that. But yeah they don’t film very much here. I mean, television sure, but it’s rare for a film to be made here. I just shot one here and everyone was going on the whole time about odd it was to be working in LA, and it was the first time for me in ten years when I’ve gone to work during the day and come back home to my own house at night, it’s very strange. Most things are shot in Canada or something at the moment.
Do you like going home at night? Or can a project benefit from you being out on location?
I was really excited about it, but it did feel kind of strange. There’s something nice about staying in a hotel in the middle of nowhere and having a drink together after work. Then again in LA we don’t live very close to each other so we kind of did that anyway. But it’s nice to have a place that is work, it means work and you can’t come home and forget about it. It’s strange to take your work home at night.
You’re not the first Australian actor to seek work elsewhere, like Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe to name just a few. Is it a shame for you that a lot of Australians need to move on to other nations and industries across the world to make movies? Perhaps not as satisfied doing so on home soil?
Yeah it is a shame to me. I know a lot of Australian actors that do just stay within the Australian film and TV industry, and have good careers, but it makes me a little bit sad that our film industry isn’t quite as booming as it could be. But hopefully that’s going to change. I’m always looking out for great Australian scripts, I would love to do more at home, but right now, this is where the good films are being made – in America and Europe. You just have to go where you feel the most fulfilling work is going to be.
Why do you think that it’s not booming as perhaps it should be? Because with the names I mentioned before, and filmmakers too, there is some incredible talent to come out from the country.
There is definitely a whole political side to it but I couldn’t explain it eloquently enough1 But there are some amazing films like Animal Kingdom, but unfortunately they are just so few and far between, whereas in LA especially it’s just constant. A million different projects being talked about every day, it’s just a bigger thing here I suppose.
As for yourself, you seem to move so effortlessly between genres, Magic Magic is a psychological thriller, then Pompeii which is a big blockbuster, then independent flicks like God Help the girl – is that a deliberate move? To try and mix things up and keep things fresh?
Yeah I don’t know how deliberate it is, but it’s definitely a deliberate choice for me to not repeat things I’ve done before. But look, I just read things and if I want to be a part of them then I guess it makes sense, I’m always trying to go in different directions. I guess I get bored easily so I feel like it;s happening naturally, to just go after the work that I love, there’s not a strategy there Like, ‘now I want to do a blockbuster’, I just always have my eyes open to different things I’ve never done before. It’s worked out like that.
Plus it means you’re not tied down to any genre, which is good.
Yeah but I have been in some kind of mental facility in various different projects. I don’t know if that’s considered pigeon-holing but it’s definitely something I’ve been through a lot. I don’t know what that means!
Pompeii is actually coming out quite soon here in the UK – can you tell us a little bit about that one?
Oh, really? I’m so bad at knowing when things come out! Well, it’s a love story that takes place in the couple of days before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, so there’s gladiators and sword fighting and explosions and that kind of thing. It’s an epic love story. Like Titanic, but with a big volcano.
MAGIC MAGIC will be released in cinemas and on Virgin Movies from 18 April, and on DVD from 28 April 2014, through Koch Media,