Brittany Snow Finds Herself


For every young actress in Hollywood, there’s a time when you have to step up your game and show that you can be more than a pretty face, when you have to start getting noticed in order to get cast for the meatier roles. Appearing in hit horror movies like Prom Night and a hit musical like Hairspray might not have done it for 22-year-old actress Brittany Snow, but starring in Peter (“Rescue Me”) Tolan’s directorial debut Finding Amanda, as Amanda no less, might do for Snow what Alexander Payne’s Election did for Reese Witherspoon, Junebug did for Amy Adams and Pretty Woman did for Julia Roberts. Okay, maybe we’re getting a bit carried away, but Snow certainly has found the first really great role of her career, as the bubbly young woman who takes up the world’s oldest profession (that’s prostitution, not entertainment reporting) to maintain her dream home in Las Vegas. Matthew Broderick plays Amanda’s uncle Taylor, a television writer with a gambling problem who travels to Vegas to try to “save her.” The pairing of Snow with Broderick, and Tolan’s sharp acerbic sense of humor might also remind some of Election, but it’s Snow’s performance that always leaves the most lasting impression as she brings a new dimension to the old adage about a “hooker with a heart of gold.” spoke to Snow last week and found her to be funny, smart and grounded compared to other young actresses, not to mention the fact that she’s so adorable to boot! She walked in following an interview with Tolan and Broderick, where the wise-cracking duo had the room in stitches with their clever quips, so Snow was concerned they might be a tough act to follow.

Brittany Snow: I think those guys got you warmed up and I’m just not as funny as they are, so be prepared. It’s not going to be as good a time as they are, but I’ll try. I do know mime. I can mime for you. (laughter) This is in print so I’m not sure that would work.
Snow: Dammit! (more laughter)

CS: What was it like working on the set with Matthew and Peter?
Snow: Horrible. No, I’m just kidding. Of course, you’re going to use that clip. No, it was so fun… oh, my gosh. It was weird how much they have their own sort of dialogue and we were just talking about this, how they would just break out into these old movie quotes or start singing musicals, and my facial expression was always the same, which was like… I don’t know what the heck they’re talking about, but they’re so fun and so crazy, especially together. It was fun. I found myself challenging myself to keep up with them on their humor. Peter I’ve been a fan of and just when I met him, I feel in love with wanting to work with him, and him as a person, I thought he was so brilliant and talented. The way he uses humor and the serious subject matter like this script is just kind of genius. How he can do both and make it really relevant and heartfelt, I think is really cool. And Matthew’s not bad either. He’s done a few things. I think he’ll make it.

CS: What attracted you to this very different character?
Snow: There were a number of things that attracted me to the character. I think for the most part, I loved that there was a mix of traits in her that I connected with and I really felt that I could relate to and also, there were also the things I had absolutely no concept of and things I didn’t relate to, and that’s what I wanted to learn about and experience and explore. The two were very different to me because they were so extreme. Obviously, I don’t know much about prostitution, because I haven’t done it, but there were other things about her that I think everybody can relate to and that were very human and endearing, qualities that I wanted to see what would happen if I explored more about myself. I liked all those levels and how many layers there were to her, and yet she would still be funny and likeable.

CS: Do you have any idea why Peter thought of you? It’s obviously a great role, so had he seen other things you’d done and knew you could play those different layers?
Snow: I don’t know actually. I do know that he told me a story that my headshot came across his desk and he said to somebody, “I hope she can act because this should be Amanda.” I guess it just had to do with that I looked 12 sometimes when I don’t wear make-up and I was really young and I look like I should be holding a lollipop and I’m all innocent. He wanted that sort of shocking quality of “this is the girl that you wouldn’t expect to be a prostitute” and that’s what’s so sad and funny about it, in some strange way. I think that had something to do with it and then thankfully, and I’m grateful for it, I auditioned and somehow got the part. It worked out.

CS: In the recent past, you’ve been mainly playing teenagers, but you’re now playing different roles, like that of a prostitute, so how do you think this role fits into what you’ve done?
Snow: Well, I played a prostitute now three times (laughter)… it’s a stereotype where people look at me and go “prostitute!” It’s weird. (laughs) No, but I don’t know how it comes out that way, but yes, I definitely played girls who have all been in high school and I think that’s important because a lot of life-altering things and challenging things happen in high school, and I like to play those types of characters. But in terms of this, it’s just a matter of me growing up and becoming a little bit older and wanting to play characters that have some layers to them that I can play with and I can look into about myself. That just changes with how I grow up and what I’m passionate about, but I don’t ever rule out a character because of their age. Life happens at any age, and if I can play it and I want to, I’m passionate about the part, then I’m going to do that.

CS: The style of humor here is darker and more subtle, so on-set, are you thinking to yourself whether it’s going to be funny? Do you know right off the bat if something is going to be funny?
Snow: No, and that’s what’s so scary about the whole process, especially comedy, and with this type of thing, it was a very independent movie and we did things very fast. Peter talks very fast and we only did one take and we were running around, so the pace of it was very intimidating, being an actor, you’d like feedback and you want to really think about it, and Peter was just like, “We gotta go! We gotta go!” and he only did one take sometimes, and I was freaking out. It was good, because it was a change of pace, and it forced me to keep up with the comedy and the tone. There wasn’t really enough time to really question, “Oh my gosh, is this going to be funny? Should I do it over?” or anything like that. We just kept moving, which I think added a lot to my character because I wanted her to be like that. I wanted her to keep going, keep going, keep happy. “If you stop, you’re going to feel something, you’re going to cry, you’re going to break down, but if you keep moving and keep happy, you’ll be fine.” It kind of gave that illusion she was going to be fine. It actually worked out to my best interest that it was very fast and we didn’t have a lot of time to think if were funny or not, which was good.

CS: Can you talk about Amanda’s relationship with her uncle? It was really strong, much like your relationship with Michelle Pfeiffer as your mother in “Hairspray.” How do you prepare to create that kind of family rapport with another character and make it feel real?
Snow: Yeah, that’s a really good question and that’s something that I definitely do consciously. With Michelle, I spent a lot of time studying her, which sounds really creepy, and I told that to her and she was a little freaked out, but also, I think a little honored… no, not honored. Flattered, that’s the word. She can’t be honored because of me; I’m honored because of her. (laughter) I would watch her in a certain way where I wanted the daughter/mother relationship to be the way she stood, I wanted to stand like that, the way she walked, I wanted to walk like that, just so there was that element of “Wow, this younger daughter is looking up to her mother” and it’s an unconscious thing they have and it’s connected. I didn’t want Michelle to be aware of it, because I didn’t think Velma even knew that her daughter was growing up wanting to be her mother so badly, and that happens with a lot of mother-daughters. In terms of working with Matthew, I loved from the very beginning when I first met him how I instantly knew that it was going to be great, because his humor and his energy is so different than mine, and I appreciated his so much. I knew that I wanted to play the character a certain way, so I definitely played off of that a little bit. I knew that my energy was going to be really high and really crazy, because I wanted her to be overly happy, and I knew that he was going to play it a certain way, so I liked that back and forth banter and chemistry we had. Hopefully, it worked.

CS: Vegas very much plays a character in the movie and Amanda has a very specific relationship with this city in which she lives. Can you talk about that?
Snow: Yeah, it’s really interesting because Vegas is such a huge part of the movie, and we didn’t film anything in Vegas. Nothing actually. We were supposed to, but we didn’t. (chuckles) We filmed pretty much all in L.A. and Pasadena, and I think the interesting thing about Amanda is she has such a connection to Vegas, because that’s where her home is and she has such a connection to what she thinks is her home and it’s the perfect home with the perfect couch and the perfect car, and the perfect boyfriend. It’s like this sacred place and yet it’s ironic, because it’s Vegas, so she has this holy place that she can’t put her shoes on, but it’s in Vegas, the city of sin. It’s very ironic and symbolic in a lot of ways of what she thinks about everything and how she’s so naïve in her own world that that’s her heaven, but when really, it’s not as it seems. She does have that connection and love for Vegas.

CS: Amanda has to go through a lot in this movie, even being spit in the face at one point. Is that a humbling thing? What do you walk with personally after playing this character?
Snow: After I play every character, I always walk away and feel a little bit different and that’s why I act, because at the end of the day, I like to feel like I’ve grown a little bit and changed a little bit. It’s not like a conscious thing. It’s just that I’ve experienced something that’s not my life, but I’ve made it my life, and what does that do to me? It is humbling in a way to see what happens to me when I become somebody else, and see what I do and what I feel about certain situations, and the differences between the character and myself. It’s never easy, but at the same time, when you really figure it out and sink your teeth into it, it’s almost easy because it is hard, like it’s so rewarding and you have a high at the end of the day that’s so great you want to do all those challenging things all the time. That’s why I like acting is that feeling. That was kind of convoluted, but I hope that made sense.

CS: Do you think Amanda is able to resolve anything at the end of this movie?
Snow: I think it’s open to interpretation to anybody. I kind of like that it’s not wrapped up and tied with a bow. It’s not a storybook ending, nor is it a storybook movie, because it’s based in reality. All that needed to be done to change Amanda was just the seed needed to be planted. Something occurred in her where she did change and she had a realization, but people don’t change overnight, so I liked there wasn’t some big dramatic ending where you feel like she’s going to change her life and move away. There’s something that’s been instilled in her now and the audience knows that and that’s all that needs to be said, which I think is true to life. The reality of babysteps and taking it very slowly when you’re wanting to change your life.

CS: You seem to be leaning more towards independent movies between this and “The Vicious Kind.” I was curious about that because you’d been headlining big studio movies and I wondered if that was a personal choice, whether you prefer those kinds of movies or those are just the better scripts?
Snow: It’s weird because it’s not really a conscious choice to veer away from studio movies or make any sort of decision when it comes to… I genuinely, honestly go for both, but it’s just sometimes because I’m really picky about the scripts that I do, sometimes the characters I find that are the most compelling and the most interesting and the ones I want to play are sometimes in independent movies because there’s more of a chance there. It’s more scripts that people can really take chances on and there’s not so many cooks in the kitchen and the things that go into making a movie. But I’m not partial to either one of them. I think they’re both really great and different experiences. It’s just really all about the character and the script and the material, and I pick and choose what I want based off what I can gain from it and what I can experiment and challenge myself with.

CS: You don’t have an agent or a manager who says “You can make us more money by doing this…?”
Snow: Yeah, I know. Luckily, thank goodness, I don’t have a manager, and I’ve been with my agent since I was 11, so we have this very clear thing that we know this is not a money thing, and it’s never been for me. I want to do this until I’m 80 years old and I like just being constantly challenged and pushed and just working. Sometimes, you have to do the big movies but sometimes, I dunno. I try not to think of it as a strategy or a money thing, because that takes the fun out of it, I think.

You can see Brittany Snow in Finding Amanda, when it opens in select cities on Friday, June 27. Also check out our interview with writer/director Peter Tolan here.