Conviction Interviews – Part 3: Juliette Lewis
Ed: Well, you’ve been at this like 20ish years.
Juliette: Yeah, yeah, something like that. Over 15.
Ed: Oh, I’m sorry. Anything over 10 we’re not supposed to mention.
Juliette: I don’t know, I’m just kidding.
Ed: Back on the movie for a second, you mentioned all of this work that had to go into this character, but you have to compact it into basically two scenes. What’s that like? Is that difficult?
Juliette: That is exactly …Basically I just wanted to be present. Without getting too esoteric, it’s an energy thing. It’s sort of like “What’s the energy of her at 25?” on the witness stand, and seeing the seeds of that lying nature and sort of self-preserving woman, who’s also living on the outskirts of mainstream living. So, that’s sitting at the witness stand. But it’s also the 80s, so you’ve got the acid wash skirt, and the thing, and the look, and she’s young. But she’s lying there. She got coerced into believing a memory that didn’t happen. …Basically, it’s how to deaden your own joy behind your eyes. You know what I mean? Because people have different energy, or different vibes, I don’t know how you’re going to write this down. But my point is, …so there’s that scene when you first meet her, and you see an essence of what she could potentially become if she keeps at it. So then 18 years later, that was my favorite thing. They come into her world. The come into her trailer, and she… if I just played an alcoholic who never left her trailer, that would be interesting. But I’m playing also somebody who is faced with the person they’ve done the most wrong to. And they’re disconnected from reality, but at the same time their past is coming to get them. They have to face the truth. And there are many different truths. So that’s why she sort of bounces off the walls.
Ed: She’s looking for any excuse…
Juliette: YEAH! To not be hung by her own misdeeds. That’s amazing. And Tony, to do a scene like that, that’s what I mean about energy. If you talk to …you see people you know something’s not quite right with them, and I find that fascinating. ‘Cause what makes them that they are living in the here and now, superficially like we are, but when you talk to them they go to other places in their mind. You can’t even trust that what they’re saying is true. You know, we call them crazy people. But basically… it’s just delusion. And I liked trying to find out how to make that person, what makes that person work and how they’re functioning now. But it was really challenging, and I had all the hair and makeup was integral to the process. But I wanted to make that all disappear, and have people believe me as the person.
Joe: Well, that scene is so interesting to me, because on the one hand you have Peter Gallagher who’s just dispassionately typing everything down. You have Hillary… Betty Anne wants to literally beat the truth out of her.
Juliette: Yeah, yeah, yeah!
Joe: And you’re rambling, and you can see, there’s this switch in your face almost and in your eyes when you realize that this character is now telling the truth. Because you’re almost haunted by it. It’s just such a well put together,interesting scene with all these different energies.
Juliette: That was part of all the thing. That was all taken directly from transcripts, and actual real events. But then you make that, how does that person express all that. And that’s where you get into drinking the 3 dollar wine in the afternoon, everyday, for the last decade. Also, there’s little colors in there, I don’t know if you pick up on it or not, but she doesn’t normally get guests. So there’s a little bit of “I’m sitting down and socializing.” And that’s at least in my mind. And that’s the insanity of it.
Ed: She kind of likes the attention.
Juliette: Yes, exactly. And I head that from Betty Anne a great deal after the fact. Because she wasn’t there when I was there. But that this character did like the attention. You find elements of people you’ve known in your life. There’s people who tell stories for attention. They create drama. They’re destructive people. So you take that element, and then you blow it up times 20 or 30 or something. And so this is how you piece together a personality. Anyway, it’s been really amazing that people are getting it. That they’re seeing it. You know, so often in this business you think things, and you don’t expect to be appreciated necessarily. And sometimes you make movies that no one even sees them. So it’s really gratifying that people are noticing the work.
Joe: Do you find that the smaller roles like this tend to be meatier emotionally than, perhaps, doing a starring role and carrying a picture?
Juliette: No. Not at all. I mean, I would love, and will hope, that the next thing I do, and I’m up for a couple of things, will be something, a bigger role. The point is, where I’m at, it’s just the quality, it’s not quantity. …Also where I’m at age wise, it’s about the experience rather than the expectations. And so again, I don’t mind if it’s big or small. It’s really who I’m working with. And this is sort of dream thing. ‘Cause rarely do you get to be involved in a topic that’s also shedding light on such a meaningful issue as people being convicted and sitting in prison. And how people may be able to help with that through the Innocence Project. So that’s just the icing. ‘Cause that wasn’t the intention of Tony. Initially it’s an emotional story. It’s a love story. But, yeah, in the future, this is what I’m aiming toward, that I have a new chapter and do another huge body of work that people really appreciate.