And you’ve had the good fortune of working with Quentin Tarantino, who’s a walking, talking cinema encyclopedia.
During the shooting of Grindhouse, I watched a lot of those old grindhouse films from the ’70s, and there’s one that Quentin introduced me to called Welcome Home Brother Charles. I loved it because it was so insane. It’s about this guy who kills people with his…um, penis. [Laughs.]
I have so much respect for many actresses who’ve done nudity. When you’re starting out, you have a more self-righteous view, like, 'I’ll never do that.' Once you get older, you realize those things aren’t as important as you thought they were.
Sounds like a masterpiece!
You have no idea. The best part is that the guy’s penis grows and turns into this snakelike thing, and he strangles people with it. The trailer is one of the best things ever. As crazy as it sounds, I feel lucky to have been exposed to stuff like that.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter falls into the Comic-Con lane that you’ve been working in throughout your career. Has that been a conscious decision?
It’s partly a coincidence of those being the films that I’ve been lucky enough to get to work on. The other part of it is, it’s easy for me to say yes—those are the kind of movies I want to see. It’s harder for a lot of other actors because they don’t appreciate the genre stuff as much; they don’t feel like it’s good for them career-wise. But I’m more likely to go see a horror film over a romantic comedy any day of the week.
Does your preference of horror flicks to rom-coms mean you won’t be in one of those movies that women use to make their boyfriends feel like inferior suitors?
[Laughs.] It’s just harder for me to get excited about a romantic comedy. If I were to do a really smart and funny romantic comedy... actually you could consider Scott Pilgrim a romantic comedy. That kind of thing I can get behind. But there are a lot of rom-coms that talk down to women. I don’t want to be condescended to. I want to see a woman in a romantic comedy who represents a real woman.
In terms of auditions, is it harder to sell yourself as someone who is funny?
It’s definitely nerve-wracking. I’ve had several auditions where I’ve read with really big comedic actors—“chemistry reads,” they call them. You go in and you improv together, and it’s always really intimidating. I don’t come from that world; I’ve never studied how to be a comedic actress, specifically.
I have my own way of doing comedy, and sometimes it doesn’t quite fit into certain comedy worlds that are working and getting made right now. I don’t particularly like the pressure of trying to be funny; it’s a lot like what I was saying earlier about trying to be sexy. I don’t feel like you should have to try to be one thing.
Though it's common for people to peg actresses as just one thing. Some actresses don’t like the “scream queen” classification, because they think it’s limiting. Do you feel that way?
I think it’s great. Admittedly, I will probably focus on doing other things in the future. Even within the genre stuff I’ve done, I’ve managed not to repeat myself. I like to surprise people with every film I do, so it’s hard to find a horror film now where I wouldn’t be repeating myself. But if I were to find something that breaks the mold, I’d be totally excited to do it.
In that regard, a film like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter clearly breaks the mold.
Right. I’ve always wanted to do a period piece, and I’ve always wanted to an action-adventure piece, and that’s what that is. It definitely has a horror element, and there’s a horror vein in there, but it’s so much more than just that. That’s what I can appreciate about it.
In the past, you said the one thing you’d never do is get naked in a movie.
When you’re starting out as an actress at a young age, you have a more self-righteous view of things, like, “I’ll never do that.” Once you get older, you realize those things aren’t as important as you thought they were. I have so much respect for many actresses who’ve done nudity. Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine is one of my favorite performances of the last few years. When I see something like that, I say, “OK, I totally understand why she did it.”
So you’re more open to nudity nowadays?
It’s still something that I would be hard-pressed to say yes to. A lot of things would have to fall in line. It would have to be important to the story. I’m not the kind of person who’s just going to take her clothes off casually and be totally cool with it. [Laughs.] But I am more open to it now. All I want is to be true to the character. If it’s important for there to be nudity in that case, then I don’t feel like it’d be right for me to say no.
Has taking that stance in the past limited your career in any ways?
Not a lot, thankfully. There’s certainly one or two things that I look back on from early in my career and I think, “Oh, man, if I had just been a little more open-minded, that would have been a really good thing to do.” But at the same time, it wouldn’t have been right for me to do it then, because I wouldn’t have been comfortable with it.
I definitely don’t have any regrets. Everything has to come at the right time; if I had done nudity at 19 or 20, I think it wouldn’t traumatized me. [Laughs.] And who knows how that would have damaged my career, as a result. Even if it did limit me in certain aspects, that’s OK, because I got the roles that I was supposed to get.