Playing Crystal Fairy – a hippie who embarks on a trip across Chile to take hallucinogenic drugs on the beach with her new friend Jamie (Michael Cera) amongst others, the former child actress – starring in films such as Uncle Buck and Field of Dreams – shows off a different side to herself that we’ve never seen before…
Crystal is one of those characters you never want to be off screen. Where did you get your inspiration from?
Thank you, that’s very nice. Sebastian [Silva], the director, had had a real experience with Crystal Fairy, who’s very similar to the one in the movie, about a decade before he made it. So the movie was inspired by that; there was no screenplay, there was just an outline. So you know, her words and the choices that she makes, her movements and her motivations, and her sort of personality hadn’t been ruled out by Sebastian – however, we had talked about how he felt about her, impressions of her and memories of her, so I had this sort of anchor he had offered me, and then I developed that privately in terms of how I wanted her to feel, how I wanted to experience her. And then, honestly, once I’d made those choices, she just sort of came to me. I’m a very sort of haphazard and unsure actor – I don’t really know what I’m doing [laughs]. So after I acquired those ideas in my subconscious, I forgot about them – and then she just sort of emerged.
So he met the real Crystal Fairy about ten years ago, is that correct?
She must’ve been a real character for him to remember her so fully, ten years ago, and then make a film about her.
Yeah, she was. You know, it was a similar experience that Sebastian had that Michael [Cera] created, where he met her at a party, invited her on a trip, then regretted it – and he himself was struggling with his behaviour. And she told all her favourite stories – not the details – but that she was a dominatrix, that she had this whole other life at the end, and then she disappeared and he never saw her again. So it was very memorable, and I think that Sebastian really loved her and had a really good experience, despite the fact that he was behaving otherwise. And I think it was the moment, for him, a moment of maturation and emotional development – so it really stayed with him. [But] he couldn’t even find a picture. We looked for her, we tried to find her while we were in production, and to no avail. And I was in Portland a month ago working, and somebody that I knew fifteen years ago in New York state where I went to school, he [got in contact with me] after recognising me, and told me that he was good friends with Crystal Fairy! And we got in touch with her.
So you’ve actually met her now?
I haven’t met her, no, but I’ve got her phone number and I gave it to Sebastian, and Sebastian called her and reunited with her on the telephone – so I’m yet to communicate with her, but I plan to meet her one day. I’m very excited.
I wonder what she makes of the film…
According to my friend, she really liked it, and was very happy with it – and he sent me a picture of her posing in front of the poster, looking very excited. So that made me happy, because I wasn’t doing an impression of her, but I was certainly trying to represent her spirit.
Well, I think if the real Crystal Fairy approves of your performance, that’s a pretty high accolade indeed, so congratulations.
[Laughs] Thank you!
Onto the shoot itself; it was shot in something like two weeks, is that correct?
That’s right, yeah.
And you were staying at Sebastian’s parents’ house as well. It sounds like the kind of shoot that was totally independent and off-the-cuff. As an actress, do you prefer that kind of filmmaking? Because you mentioned you’re quite ‘haphazard’ – or do you prefer something a bit more regimented?
The style of filmmaking really suited the film, and the way that we were approaching it. It worked for this film. I don’t think that that would work across the board, you know, for just any story, or any character or any filmmaker – so, it suited it quite nicely and it was a lot of fun, and because of the way we were shooting it. The narrative was definitely developed; you sort of knew the goal of each scene, but there was a lot of improv that was sort of parallel, you know, we were curious of the parallels in the way that we were testing it. So that was energy that matched, but yeah, I don’t think you could make any film that way, it wouldn’t work quite as well.
Definitely not. Well, I definitely enjoyed the way it was very freewheeling, but it never quite felt like an improv movie for some reason. But obviously as improvisation was a big part of making the movie, are there any lines, or actions, that you’re particularly proud of coming up with on the spot?
Oh, goodness. I don’t remember the film well enough…
Is that a good or a bad thing?
No, no – I mean, I really love the film. That’s a given. I certainly don’t say that about everything I’ve done. I really, really love the film and thoroughly enjoy it; I don’t remember my choices, but just the way that Crystal felt to me. But I remember surprising myself on occasion.
That must be a good feeling as an actress?
Yeah, I think the first time you see anything, obviously you think of the things you didn’t do and the things you wish you’d done, but I try and enjoy it for what it was.
On the same kind of topic, between shooting, are there any particular moments that you remember fondly between you and the other actors? Because it looked like a fun shoot.
The whole thing was really an enjoyable experience. Michael and the brothers – Sebastian’s brothers who play the boys in the film – are pretty much the four sweetest people you could imagine being with on the road, and there was only the car floating around, and singing, and playing – it was a really relaxed atmosphere. And we were all piled in this van, driving around, playing games together… so the whole thing felt like a family adventure.
You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that you’d love to work with the director Mike Leigh. Are there any other directors, or actors, that you’d like to work with in the future?
Oh, so many. There are an untold number of actors that I’d love to work with. As for directors, that is… tough. There’s certainly many of them… oh, goodness, you’ve really put me on the spot. [Laughs]. But yeah Mike Leigh is definitely top of my list. I don’t imagine I ever will…
Have you ever tried to get in contact with him?
No, no- I mean, I think I said that just like yesterday. It would be really interesting to work with somebody who has a different approach, and I’m a huge, huge fan of his films – but no, I don’t know if he would take my call! [Laughs] It’s not a bad idea, maybe I should give it a shot.
You definitely should! Finally, what upcoming plans do you have? Any films, TV that you’re particularly excited to be a part of?
Yeah, well, currently showing here [the US] is The Girl, which is a HBO show, which I have a storyline in and that was a lot of fun. And we made a pilot for Amazon, called Transparent, and will be airing in a few weeks – or streaming – on Amazon. And that was a project that I had a real ball with, with a really wonderful filmmaker called Jill Soloway, and it’s quite good and I’m really excited by it, and proud of it. I hope we get to make more of those.
Crystal Fairy is available now both digitally and on DVD, and you can read our review here.