Panicking Screaming: Julia Stiles on It’s A Disaster

Her new end of the world comedy with David Cross, her thoughts on 'Dexter,' and why she finally had to let The Bell Jar go.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

 

The Los Angeles Film Festival has the world premiere of It’s A Disaster, an end of the world comedy by writer/director Todd Berger. Four couples get together for a brunch and end up barricaded in when they hear a bomb went off and the contamination will kill everyone. Julia Stiles plays Tracy, who shows up to lunch with her latest boyfriend (David Cross), and her biggest regret in the end is that she never watched “The Wire.” We spoke with her by phone before the June 20 premiere at LAFF.

 

CraveOnline:  Was it fun acting all the panicking screaming chaos of It’s a Disaster?

Julia Stiles: Yes, although I feel like my character was the last one to really absorb the fact that the world is ending, but yeah, it was really fun. We had a good time.

 

That’s why I thought when you finally freak out and panic must’ve been a good moment.

And also, I love that all the characters do this, but mine in particular is completely in denial, so she focuses on minutiae or something less important than the end of the world. So her panicking screaming frustration fear at the end is all focused on her date.

 

As an actor is it possible to go too big with that?

I wasn’t really thinking if it was too big or the size of my reaction. I was just trying to relate to it. Largely it came out of her denial of it all.

 

Everybody pairs off with different character at different times. Can you describe the chemistry you had with each different pairing of characters?

My character Tracy is the only single person on the couple front. So I pair off with David Cross’s character who I think Tracy’s kind of suspicious of at the beginning, and just when she starts to find him really charming and endearing, then the tables turn.

 

So you worked with David and then you got to work with other actors as they paired off, how did you feel the chemistry changed?

Oh, it was great. I knew the guys in the group, like Todd [Berger] and Kevin [Brennan] who play our group of friends. I met them two years ago through mutual friends. We did a short viral video together so we had a lot of fun doing something longer. And then America Ferrera and I have both known each other a little bit before. We worked on a play together and it was really nice to be able to work with her every day. David Cross I had been a fan of from afar of his comedy and was really excited to [see him work], especially the scene where he reveals his faith. Just the ridiculous look of his face and his delivery of that scene is so hilarious.

 

Could you be tough and keep the door locked if someone was trying to break the quarantine?

No, but that scene to me was one of the funniest because I love watching characters misbehave or not be a good example of a human being.

 

Do you struggle with that in Hollywood movies where they want everyone to be likeable and they won’t let you go too far in the direction of misbehaving?

I don't know that I struggle with it. I just know what I’m interested in.

 

Have you actually seen “The Wire?”

Finally, yes. When we shot It’s a Disaster, I had never seen “The Wire.” I was a little late to the party but I just got hooked on it to the point where I stayed up until 5 o’clock in the morning watching it. So I can check that off my bucket list.

 

And did you love it?

Oh, absolutely, yeah. It’s really, really well written, well acted, very suspenseful, very naturalistic.

 

Once they’re in survival mode, this group rummages through the house for supplies. If the world were ending, where would you look for supplies and what would you hope to find?

I’m probably the worst person when it comes to situations like that. It depends on what kind of [disaster]. I think I might go the way that America’s character goes once I accept it. I don’t know how to answer that question. I’m sorry.

 

Are we going to see you in The Bourne Legacy?

No, it’s a different incarnation. Jason Bourne’s identity has now been set aside. I’m not really sure what it’s about but they explained to me that it was a different character.

 

Just had to ask. You do have Silver Linings Playbook coming out, right?

Yup, and I just got back from London filming a movie called Closed, for Working Title with Rebecca Hall and Eric Bana.

 

What kind of characters do you get to play in those movies?

In Silver Linings I play Jennifer Lawrence’s sister who’s a little bit pushy and overwhelming and despite her best intentions, a little overbearing. In Closed I play a journalist. It’s a political thriller all about this trial of a bombing that goes off in London. I play a journalist who has a conspiracy theory about it.

 

I know theater has been important to you. What does it take to get you to take time out to do a movie?

You know, I really have a hankering to do a play again. I have that urge. Honestly, it’s so simple but good material and good directors. That’s what draws me, whether it’s a movie, an independent film or a studio film, a web series that I did with Rodrigo Garcia [“Blue”], a play. It doesn’t really matter the medium. It’s more the script.

 

Are you still attached to The Bell Jar?

No, I had to let that one go. It was very difficult to try and get financed and I have no experience as a producer, so for me it was just I loved the book and my idea for how it would make a great movie was what attracted me to be involved with that for so long. Ultimately, I may come back to it eventually but ultimately I had to let the rights expire.

 

Step Up 4 is coming out this summer. Do you feel you played a role in the dance craze with Save the Last Dance?

Well, I was just carrying on a tradition that had already been in place. When I was a kid I really loved, like any girl my age, Flashdance and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. I’m happy to be part of that.

 

How was your time on “Dexter?”

Amazing. I really, really enjoyed working on “Dexter.” It was such a cool show so I was excited to be a part of it and I was really happy with what they were writing for me. To be absorbed in the same character for a longer period of time than you would be for a movie was very challenging but in a very positive way.

 

Obviously knowing that you couldn’t stay on the show indefinitely, but as a fan were you hoping Lumen could be his soul mate?

I don’t even know what soul mates really means. I was interested in their bond I guess and what they provided for each other. I was surprised when they chose to separate them.

 

Were you expecting to maybe do another season if they stayed together?

I was expecting her to be killed honestly.

 

Do you prefer doing the scrappy independent movies like It’s a Disaster than the big Hollywood ones?

Again, it’s not really the size. It’s the people involved so we had a lot of fun making It’s a Disaster. It’s nice to get paid but that’s not the first priority.

 

Do you find there are more opportunities like this movie and “Blue” now than there were maybe 10 years ago, with all the new media?

As far as the web series, yes, because that’s like the wild west, a frontier that nobody really knows where it’s going. So that’s exiting. Independent film has been around for a while. There’ve been waves of really great independent films, then a sort of glut of independent films but I do think it’s nice that Todd and the other guys involved with it had the opportunity. I thought that Todd wrote a really clever script and I was glad that he had the opportunity to make the movie. It might not have happened as quickly if more money was involved or he had to go through the studios.