Conviction Interviews – Part 3: Juliette Lewis

The new film Conviction is based on a true story. Hillary Swank plays Betty Anne Waters, a High School dropout whose brother Kenny (played by Sam Rockwell) was wrongfully arrested for murder in 1983. The film portrays Betty Anne’s struggle to free her brother, going so far as to put herself through Law School so she could become his defender. With help from her best friend Abra and Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project, they are able to uncover DNA evidence to help exonerate Kenny. The film also features Minnie Driver, Peter Gallagher, Melissa Leo, and Juliette Lewis in supporting roles.

Recently in Seattle on a press junket, Joseph Dilworth from and I were granted some interviews in support of the film . Following is our last interview with actress Juliette Lewis:

Joe: Well thank you for your time today. I’m sure this has been the millionth interview you’ve done for this movie.

Juliette: Yeah, but it’s kind of been the best promotion experience I’ve ever had, just ’cause of the movie and everybody involved. So, I don’t know, I’m enjoying the ride. AND you have to know, I never expected to be so involved because I thought “Oh, this is just a little role”. But people were reacting so passionately, and so the fact that I’m invited to be on such a stellar team, I’m pretty happy about it.

Ed: Well your character represents… it’s kind of a turning point in that she’s the first one to admit anyone was lying.

Juliette: That’s true. THAT’S TRUE!! (loud squeal) Oh my God! …No, but we didn’t get why, that’s another element! ‘Cause everyone’s like no, no, no, no, and against her. And even though my character is a compulsive liar, and she’s chemical and alcohol dependent, and all these complexities, she is admitting some element of remorse, isn’t she

Ed: Yeah, it’s the first chink in the armor.

Juliette: Yeah.

Joe: Well, at least the screening that I went to, at that moment when you’re talking, and then you turn and start saying what you were forced to do… I mean you could’ve heard a pin drop in the theater. I mean it kind of focused and riveted everybody.

Juliette: Oh, that’s great.

Joe: And that’s like the moment where you go, “Wow, okay, I know what this movie’s about now.” It’s pretty powerful.

Juliette: Thank you. Yeah, this was one of those things that I didn’t know how I was going to pull off. And those are the best things in art you could want for, is something that makes you a little bit nervous and scared. It’s the same performing on stage. And it’s the same in a part …because it’s got twists and turns, and she goes into, that’s a vivid memory for her. And that really happened. So the majority of my dialogue, 98% of it, is taken from interviews this woman gave. So that’s the language she used. And that’s the way she described things. But she was coerced by Nancy Taylor. And she was …given alcohol. So all these things. But she’s also a destructive personality, and she’s also vindictive, and self preserving, and conniving, and all those things. So it was amazing to play …that knot of contradiction. And how to make it seamless, and flow from one moment to the next. That’s something I’d never done before in this type of extreme fashion. And then the transformation, these were all things that I didn’t care how big or small the role was. I was happy to be involved with such a profound movie. And a character that was so intense. It’s probably the most intense work I’ve done in the last 10 years. Also, ’cause 5 of those years I took off just making records and touring deliberately. So this is my re-emergence into film again.

Ed: Are you still doing the music as well?

Juliette: Yeah. Now it’s a thing of balance and scheduling. So, right now I’m promoting and screaming from the mountain tops “Go see this movie! It’s really beautiful!” So, I’m doing this promotional tour, and then I was writing just a few months ago while on the road. Sort of assembled what songs I want to make. Starting to think about the next record. And I’ll probably do that in the winter months when I have a moment off. It’s one of the pleasures of being an independent musician. I can sort of make it up as I go. There’s no big machine behind me. And I really worked diligently the last 5 years to find my audience. The people that were going to stick it out with me.

Ed: I’ve listened to some of it. I dug some of it. I wish I knew more names, but the one that was on your most recent album, that was kind of a bluesy song?

Juliette: Hard Lovin’ Woman?

Ed: Yes, yes. That’s it. I liked that a lot.

Juliette: Thank you. That live just rips the roof off, ’cause the whole band comes in on the second verse. But it’s very stripped down on the record. But thank you for that. That’s nice.

Joe: We’ll definitely have to talk music. You have to come play Seattle.

Juliette: Absolutely! We’ll do it again. We’ll do it all next year. A tour. Right now though, it’s the second or fifth chapter, I don’t know what chapter. It’s another chapter in my movie making career that I’m really excited about. ‘Cause I’m in my 30s now…

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I'm a family man who got his Drama degree back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth and now works at a desk. I love movies of all kinds, and I am still working my way through the list of 1001 movies you must see before you die.

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