A young star rapidly on the rise, Juno Temple takes the title role in Dirty Girl, opening in limited release this Friday.
Written and directed by first time feature helmer Abe Sylvia, the film stars Temple as Danielle, a brash, loud-spoken, sexually promiscuous girl growing up in a small Oklahoma town in the late 1980s. The story inspired by real events in his life, Sylvia finds his autofictional self in Clark (Jeremy Dozier), a young gay teen and social outcast forced into shame by his homophobic parents. When Danielle and Clark are assigned to look after a bag of flour as a mock child for a class assignment, they form a unlikely bond that leads to them running away together (with their flour baby, Joan) on a road trip to find Danielle’s real father in California.
Temple spoke with ComingSoon.net about the stylish world of the film, which borrows from both reality and the slightly fantastic as well as about her exciting upcoming slate, which includes this month’s The Three Musketeers (re-teaming Temple with Dirty Girl star Milla Jovovich) and next summer’s The Dark Knight Rises.
CS: Where did “Dirty Girl” begin for you?
Juno Temple: I got sent the script and anyone would have wanted to play that character. I wanted it so much. I went and I auditioned and I learned all my lines. It’s funny actually, because I was wearing biker boots and cutoff denim shorts. I had a nose piercing and my hair was all weird. It was just the way I was dressing at the time. I still do when I’m not at press days (laughs). They said, “We really love you, but would you come back in to audition and this time brush your hair and take out all your noise piercings.” I came back in and did all that and got called back in to do a chemistry read with Jeremy. I immediately clicked with him and he’s been one of my very best friends ever since that day. So we had that great chemistry read and then I got a phone call from my agent saying, “They want you to play the ‘Dirty Girl.’ I cried!
CS: It seems like the piercings would help fit the character.
Temple: Abe told me that it was definitely a thing that he noticed because a lot of girls came in looking kind of slutty. He said they were all like Cyndi Lauper and I came in looking like Courtney Love. I’ll take that for sure!
CS: Why do you think it’s important to have the film set in the ’80s instead of present day?
Temple: It’s fun to watch period movies. You could set this in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s. Anywhere. The morals of the film are timeless. The idea of friendship and family and not judging a book by its cover. Be proud of who you are. It’s all timeless. I think the ’80s was a very important time for Abe and that’s why he set it then. It’s partially based on his childhood, so it’s all part of his vision. I think that the ’80s is colorful and crazy, but the movie also isn’t outrageously ’80s. The ’80s doesn’t take over the movie, you know especially for Danielle, because she doesn’t quite fit into the world of the ’80s. She looks quite ’70s. She inherited her mother’s hand me downs.
CS: Did you talk with Abe about anything personal that you could pull from his life for your performance?
Temple Yeah, we talked about a lot of things. We talked about Danielle for a long time. He created this incredible young woman. She’s a firecracker and she’s just so outrageous and completely herself. But she’s also frustrated. She’s very misunderstood and people don’t really take the time to try and figure out who she is until Clark comes into the story. And he changes her life. He opens her eyes to a lot of different things. I think that’s a really good kind of friendship, when someone makes you look at the world slightly different and you like the way that that looks. I think they really do that for each other. And Abe choreographed us with all the dancing. He was so hands on with all of it, even my costumes. Hair and makeup and everything was a huge part of it. He knew exactly what he wanted her to look like. That’s so exciting. He also gives you a lot of freedom to go and play, too, so it’s such a magical experience. We talked a lot about the character and where she’s from and why she felt this way. About what was going on and where she wishes she was.
CS: It seems like a character that is particularly hard to shoot out of sequence because she goes through so much personal growth. Did you have any tricks for remembering who Danielle was at any given moment?
Temple: Well, you definitely know emotionally where she is at each moment. About what’s going on and why. But it never became too regimented or overwhelming. But when you’re making a movie and telling a story, you have to keep it linear for yourself, no matter what the shooting entails. She goes through such an experience and and an arc and that was what was vitally important for me to represent. But it’s also about seeing her through Clark’s eyes, because that’s how the audience is meant to see her. She’s quite abrasive at the beginning and you’re kind of like, “Oh my god!”
CS: Joan, Danielle and Clark’s bag of flour becomes an actual character in the film. Was there a special interaction on-set with the prop?
Temple: Yeah, absolutely! But Jeremy was the one in charge of her because I’m quite clumsy. But she was our little baby and sometimes they had a bunch of different ones with all the different faces. You get to see her change her facial expressions. I love the scene in the motel where Joan falls on the floor and suddenly Danielle is so concerned. It’s so unexpected and you’re like, “Where did that come from?” I like that. She does care about things and Joan is a great symbol of family. You can find family wherever it feels right. I think Clark really teaches her that. At the end, she learns a lot about her mom because of what she and Clark went through. It’s a moment where she really needs her mom.
CS: You worked with Milla Jovovich as your mom in this and then appeared alongside her again in “The Three Musketeers.”
Temple: She’s one of my favorite people that I’ve ever worked with. I would work with her over and over and over again. She’s become a very dear friend of mine and I love her very much. She’s someone I really look up to. I think she’s really, really sexy and I just love being around her. Especially on “Dirty Girl,” I got to bond with her. We really bonded about our relationship and especially the idea of mom wanting to look really, really young. It’s funny because there’s no way in real life that Milla is even nearly close to being able to be my mom.
CS: She’s a fantastic singer, too and you’ve got some singing in “Dirty Girl.” Was there any bonding over that?
Temple: She sings beautifully! And plays the guitar.
CS: Were you nervous singing at all?
Temple With Melissa Manchester? She’s actually in the scene! She’s in the background playing piano and I had to sing her song with no music. It was like a capella. I’ve never been so nervous in my entire life. If you look close enough, you can see that I’m shaking.
CS: You’re a very transformative actress and really disappear into your parts. It seems like people are finally starting to catch on and realize that you’ve got such a talent and your upcoming slate is getting bigger and bigger. Is there something that, now, you look for in roles that you didn’t when you first started?
Temple: I’ve always wanted to be challenged. You don’t know until you’re reading a script and meet that character that you’d be reading for if it’ll fit that. You can’t just say, “I want to be in that movie!” Directors, for me, are also really important. I have to really click with a director and know that I can trust them and go to places that I need to go. It’s like a family and I think it’s a bit funny that, in a way, actors are constantly coming from broken homes. But I want a challenge. I want to be able to play people that are different to me and similar to me. Aliens! There’s nothing that I wouldn’t give a shot to. I can’t guarantee that I’ll nail it, but I want to be a really great actress.
CS: You are a really great actress!
Temple: Oh, thank you, but I still have a lot to learn. I just want to do this for as long as I can. Some of my favorite actresses are people like Kate Winslet and Michelle Williams. They take such amazing roles because they are, like you said, very different. They’re very much like a chameleon. At the same time, you don’t know anything about them personally. They’re very private. Then you see them onscreen and they just blow your mind. I love that. I have so much respect for those two.
CS: Can you talk about what’s next for you? Have you finished shooting “The Dark Knight Rises”?
Temple: Yeah, I finished “Dark Knight.” I also just finished shooting an independent in upstate New York called “The Brass Teapot.” It’s about a young married couple which is me and my husband, played by an actor named Mike Angarano. We’re kind of in a sh–y situation. We have nothing going for us and have no money. We’re in love, though. But I’m very annoyed, as my character, that I haven’t made something of myself yet. Then one day, I find this magical brass teapot that, when you inflict pain, it spits out money. So she gets crazy!
CS: Pain on yourself or on the teapot?
Temple: Pain on other people! It get quite crazy. I like scripts with a moral and that’s a great message to send that money doesn’t make you happy. It really doesn’t. That’s what that script is about and it was great fun to shoot. I go from being very, very poor to very, very rich and some of the costumes are very cool. Now I’ve got a couple of projects that I’m attached to and hopefully will get their money and there’s always auditioning. But it’s nice to have a little bit of downtime. I haven’t had downtime in a year and a half.
CS: Can you talk about going from the scale of something like “Dark Knight” to an independent?
Temple: I really can’t say anything about it at all. I’m so so sorry!
CS: No worries! Back to “Dirty Girl,” this is a film that’s very much plays into the idea of the American road trip. You grew up in England. Is there any sort of culture shock in playing a distinctly southern American girl?
Temple: I think it would be a very different movie if you set it in England, but I think that, even in America, English people are going to be able to relate to it. Americans and English people are kind of fascinated with each other’s culture, especially since when I grew up, I went to boarding school. The idea of being at an American high school in the deep south is something that I’m fascinated by. I’m sure that if I met a young girl from the south, she’d be tripping balls by the fact that I went to an English boarding school. I know that my friends in England are really excited to see me playing a southern girl in an American high school. It’s just so different.
CS: How quickly does the accent come to you?
Temple: (Slipping into the accent) Southern? I love me the Southern voice. I do it just by myself in real life sometimes. I love it.
CS: Jeremy is from Texas. How instrumental was he in helping to build your character?
Temple: That’s one of the most important things for me, is creating that friendship. You can’t really fake that level of friendship. That was one of the things that I really, really felt proud of in the movie. I think that you can really see that we’re best friends. We spent a lot of time hanging out and he’s going to be one of my best friends for life. We inspired each other so much and you can see it on-screen. We laughed so much and he told me so many stories of being in a Texas high school.
CS: Because Danielle hinges on just bigger than life, is there a risk of being too big? And do you know when that happens or does Abe sometimes have to step in and say that a scene needs to be brought down a level?
Temple: I think it’s a combination of both. I think the important thing with a character that big is to make it fit the scene. There’s one scene where she says, “You don’t know who you’re dealing with, Mister!” and that’s a big, big scene. But then there’s the scene where she meets her daddy and she’s very small. She’s quiet. She’s vulnerable. When you meet a real person who comes off as big, they still have their vulnerable moments. That’s really important to remember. I think Danielle is such a brilliant, classic character, but I wanted to make her real. She sometimes knows when she’s screwed up and has moments of being happy or sad or free or suffocated.
CS: Tim McGraw plays your dad and he was only on-set for one day. Did you meet him in advance or did you avoid doing so to use the unfamiliarity in the scene?
Temple: No, I didn’t meet him until right up to the rehearsal, which I think is something that Abe did on purpose. Suddenly he was just there. I thought he was so amazing in that scene. It was such an intense scene to shoot.
CS: It’s interesting that he’s paired against Dwight Yoakam in the role of Clark’s father as they both started their careers as country musicians and give completely different interpretations of southern dads.
Temple: Dwight Yoakam is a firecracker! I didn’t have too many scenes with him, but he’s such a gentleman. That’s what I love about southern people. They’re always so respectful. I wish more people did that. They’re always saying “ma’am” and “mister.” I love that. My best friend who lives with me is from Oklahoma and she is always saying to my mom, “Miss Amanda.” But he was such a gentleman. The scene where we’re in the car together is obviously not a very nice scene and he was still so courteous with Jeremy and making sure that Jeremy was okay. He was a very, very sweet man, which was really indicative of working with the rest of the cast. They were just so great. You feed off them and suck up what’s happening. I had so much fun with William H. Macy, too. I had great conversations with him. It’s like being in drama school.
CS: Is there much room for improv on set?
Temple: Sometimes. I don’t normally want to improv unless a director tells me to because I’m doing the movie specifically because I love the script. But if I get told to improv, I definitely plan on having fun with it.
Dirty Girl opens in limited theaters on October 7th.