Q&A: Sundance It Girl Brit Marling
DETAILS: You were a hit at Sundance, having cowritten, coproduced, and starred in Another Earth and Sound of My Voice. Are you okay with your new It-Girl status?
Brit Marling: Is there anything worse than being called the It Girl? By definition, there will be a new one in two weeks. There seems to be less of this shelf-life thing for guys. So I try to think of myself as a guy.
DETAILS: Was it nerve-racking waiting to see if the films would be accepted?
Brit Marling: I was in the bathroom at LAX when the programmer called me, and I literally just sat on the floor. By the time the conversation was done, I was lying on it. A child said, “Mom, something’s wrong with that girl. We should call an ambulance.”
DETAILS: It is true that Sound of My Voice was unfinished when it was accepted?
Brit Marling: We were having a total panic attack. [Director] Zal [Batmanglij]’s brother Rostam stayed up for 10 days straight on a break from touring with his band, Vampire Weekend, to finish the score. Two days after Sundance started, we got the finished print. We couldn’t even book flights because they were too expensive by then, so we just got in the car and drove it there.
DETAILS: How has your professional life changed since Sundance?
Brit Marling: I have access to scripts and projects that are really meaningful, and that’s really exciting. The other thing is that it becomes easier—a little easier—to get your next film made. To get more resources and talk to actors. In L.A., there’s this huge crisis of legitimacy, and it’s such an insider versus outsider battle. Post-Sundance, it’s like being a spy that snuck in from the other side.
DETAILS: Being a young, attractive filmmaker in Hollywood can probably be an impediment.
Brit Marling: It’s really tricky. When I go into a pitch room and I’m pitching something with a writing partner, everybody tends to look at the guy, even if I’m doing a lot of the talking. And it’s not just the men in the room looking at the guy. It’s the women too. A lot of people think, “She didn’t really produce these films.” The world likes to think of things in terms of what it’s seen before . . . put you in that box. I don’t know that I really belong in that box.
DETAILS: In Another Earth, you play an ex-con picked to visit space. In Sound of My Voice, you’re a cult leader. Not exactly typical roles for a twentysomething actress.
Brit Marling: Women are just in bikinis for no reason, running from somebody with a chain saw! People say, “You pay your dues.” I just remember thinking, “There’s no way that if I do that I’ll be the same person on the other side.” It was either get a sex change or learn to write. Learning to write seemed cheaper and easier.
DETAILS: You resorted to guerrilla tactics while filming. Anything illegal?
Brit Marling: We got busted for shooting a scene from Another Earth illegally, but instead of getting arrested, we made friends with the cop. Turns out, he had wanted to be an actor, so we put him in the film, and he let us shoot a scene in the New Haven jail.
DETAILS: What else did you learn about DIY filmmaking?
Brit Marling: We read online that if you shred diapers and add water, it looks like snow. Turns out, it actually does look like snow.
DETAILS: There’s a scene in Sound of My Voice where your character wanders Skid Row.
Brit Marling: We couldn’t afford to buy costumes for a bunch of people and make them up to be homeless. And it wouldn’t have felt real. So I got naked and wrapped myself in a sheet—my character gets kicked out of a motel room. They dropped me at one end of Skid Row and filmed from a van across the street. I like to think I’m pretty brave about stuff. But when I got there, I thought, “This is intense. Even for me, this is intense.”
DETAILS: Before your senior year at Georgetown, you actually turned down a job offer from Goldman Sachs and dropped out of school to pursue filmmaking.
Brit Marling: Filmmaking was my closeted obsession. I was having an affair, but my husband, the banking job, didn’t know.
DETAILS: After quitting school, you went to Cuba to make a documentary. Did that freak your parents out?
Brit Marling: I wasn’t the radical girl at school wearing the dark eye makeup and smoking cigarettes who never goes to class and says, “I’m running off to Paris.” This was the opposite of that: the girl who spent every night studying in the library, getting perfect grades, suddenly saying, “I’m dropping out. I’m going to Cuba. I’m going to be an artist.” You can imagine the shock.
DETAILS: People who haven’t seen your films may recognize you from a guest spot on NBC’s Community. You made out with the actress Gillian Jacobs.
Brit Marling: It was awesome. We totally went for it. The first time, we both went with such energy and thrust that our teeth hit. We were both rubbing our mouths, and I was bleeding a little bit. The first one was not graceful.
DETAILS: You’re currently shooting Arbitrage, a thriller also starring Richard Gere that is set in the financial industry. Do you feel right at home?
Brit Marling: I’m not much of a heels girl, and my character wears these really badass six-inch heels. So I’m practicing. Even if I’m going to the grocery store to buy coconut water, I’m wearing heels.