Once Juno Temple hits the big screen, it's hard to take your eyes off her. To experience what we mean, spend the rest of your day watching Killer Joe, Little Birds, Dirty Girl or Kaboom. In each one, she exhibits the same exact qualities that seem to keep independent film directors clamoring for her to be in their movie: vulnerability, magnetism, and fearlessness, yet in the most delicate way possible. It's as if she's got her own brand of confidence that's simply impossible not to get sucked into.
And she's adding to that list this weekend with her latest indie flick, Ramaa Mosley's The Brass Teapot, in which she and co-star Michael Angarano play a financially inept married couple who steal a magic teapot that fills with money whenever they inflict pain on anyone, including themselves. High off their good fortune, the couple inevitably begin abusing their power, turning the dark comedy into a cautionary tale the dangers of losing sight of the difference between what you want and what you need.
We got a chance to speak to the L.A.-based English actress about her latest project, what makes her so bold on screen, and what it's like to be a 23-year-old girl trying to earn respect in Hollywood.
Interview by Tara Aquino (@t_akino)
What initially drew you to The Brass Teapot?
I am such a strong believer in the idea of magic in the wild. I find that really invigorating. Also, I was intrigued by how different these two incredibly ordinary people react to this object that comes into their life after witnessing bad luck. My character is very vulnerable and gets manipulated by it, while Michael [Angarano]'s character is very afraid of it and ends up being the one who stands up to it. That was a really great dynamic.
The movie puts into question the idea greed as part of human nature.
Yeah, I think so too. And I think that was something that I was excited about—to put a movie out there where the audience questions which one they’d be.
Did you think about how you would personally react if the teapot fell into your hands?
Yeah, for sure, who wouldn’t? And I think my only response is it depends on the day, doesn’t it? Depends on what has been happening in the past month of your life. I would like to believe that I would be able to say no, but I think depending on how life is going, I would think you’d be challenged to treat the luck you get responsibly.
With your father being director Julien Temple, did he have any influence on you wanting to break in to the industry?
You know what’s funny? When I was 14, I told my parents that I wanted to act and they both literally went, “Fuck, no really?” And then they said to me, “If you want to do this, you know how many people want to act?” And crazy things happened and I ended up booking my first job I auditioned for, which was Notes on a Scandal, and my parents were like “Wow, that wasn’t the way that things were supposed to go.” And then I ended up booking my second job, which was Atonement. My mother was like, “Great, OK then, Good luck, congratulations."
I think they didn’t want me to think that it was going to be easy, because it is not and you get your heart broken on an everyday basis. When you get a job that you want to go your way, you have to learn to really understand why you don't get it. I think my parents are my support mechanism. They are so amazing and so inspiring to me. It is so great because my dad is shooting a film right now [the Marvin Gaye biopic, Sexual Healing] and it is so cool to be able to text him and tell him that I am thinking about him, too. And it’s also cool because my dad is someone who I so admire and I really hope at some point I get to do a great project with.
Do you have any early memories of watching your dad work?
Oh my god, yeah, I have loads of them. It was so cool, you know? It is such a great thing seeing anybody in their element, but when it is your parents, it’s a whole other level of joy watching it.
What was the most surprising aspect for you about the process when you first started watching your dad?
Imagination and his own understanding of his own imagination. I find with directors it is being able to organize your imagination and being able to channel it in a way anyone can understand. It’s crazy. Also when I was as a kid, he would shoot these music videos. One time, he had these amazing ice skaters painted silver in a video [Enigma's "Beyond the Invisible"] and I was like, "Where did that come from?!" All these wild and crazy horses that would be controlled somehow—it just had all these beautiful things.
It seems like since you booked your first job you haven’t stopped working, do you make it a point to constantly keep working or is it just a matter of coincidence?
Well, I have some down time now, which is nice. But I think it is something that I have been very lucky about. These parts I have really been attracted to have been coming my way, so I don’t want to say no to that. And I think I have been really lucky with the characters or creatures or those different things that I have gotten to play—they've been interesting to me. Playing a part is like learning and studying people. It's great because the only research you can do is really live your life, and meet people, and listen to people’s stories, and make your own stories so you can draw from that knowledge to create a character.
I've noticed that each one of the characters you've played has a dark side to them.
That is what I like about them. I have been really attracted to these young women who are learning and growing up—some of them who are having a really tough time with it, and some of them are really enjoying themselves with it. I think it is a really interesting time period in one's life. Also, I can keep playing them because even though I am 23, people still believe I’m 17. I get ID’d for matches in Los Angeles! [Laughs.] I’d say they the characters I'm drawn to are going through something to ultimately become what that they are going to be. It is almost like chrysalis or something—a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.
Do you ever feel apprehensive about putting yourself out there the way that you do? You don't seem to be afraid of exposing yourself not just physically, but also emotionally.
Everyday, everyday. Absolutely. I like the idea of being able to walk away after you've done the movie and putting it into someone else's hands to create what it is going to be. The moment you have to revisit it, when it is actually going to be seen by people, is the terrifying part. Obviously, there is a little part of you in every character that you play, so you are vulnerable. You are letting people see little bits of you—sometimes a lot of you—and that is definitely daunting.
I just hope that whenever I do a project I have people, the crew or the audience, who feel passionately about the project, and my performance in it. Either they are going to love it or they are going to hate it, but I hate the idea of people being like, “Oh yeah, that was OK.” I’d much rather people really feel something.
Considering you spend your time between London and L.A., do you notice a difference in the way that Europeans and Americans react to sexuality?
Yeah definitely, I think Americans are a little shyer about it. But I think films made in the U.S. and films made in Europe are the reason why I am doing this, so it is important to combine the two. In Europe, nudity is not as complicated or not as shocking—you go to a beach in the south of France and all the women are sun bathing topless. I think Europe is more used to it. But also, in my experience, I have done a lot of films where I have showed some skin and America has definitely been very kind to me about it.
Being a 23-year-old actress, do you ever feel a certain pressure that a lot of young Hollywood stars seem to have to maintain a certain image?
Yeah definitely. It is important to be as much of a blank canvas as you can when you are going to meetings and stuff. At this point, for me to stay true to myself and the work I want to do, I really have to do that.
Playing a part is like learning and studying people. It's great because the only research you can do is really live your life, and meet people, and listen to people’s stories, and make your own stories so you can draw from that knowledge to create a character.
And I am a girl, you know? There are days where I look in the mirror and I am like, “Shit, I should probably shower.” On days when I'm not auditioning or working, I will be exactly who I want to be, unshowered and all. But then every other day, when I am working or I am fighting to get work, I am going to do whatever I have to do to get that part. I am going to dye my hair a different color or something. But I find that process exciting. It’s constantly keeps me alive when I work. Whether it is just an audition or whether I'm going to set to shoot the scene, it's important to keep the acting constant.
Is there anything that you wont do?
Uh, I am pretty open to trying it all. We’ll see what happens in the future, but I think it is kind of important to dip your toes in everything and if it doesn’t work then you just don’t do it again.
Have you ever thought of the ideal role you'd want to play?
Well, I think a lot about directors. There are so many directors that I would love to work with, because I think I would just learn so much and have such a beautiful experience with them. But I'd love to do something like La Belle et la Bête, one of my favorite films since I was a kid. That would just be pretty extraordinary.
Speaking of directors, you are cited as a muse quite often. Who inspires you?
My family for sure, and great, great poets. I love poetry. They inspire me every day, like e.e. cummings and William Blake. And I even think Cher is incredibly inspiring. Acting-wise, I love Marilyn Monroe, I always have. My room is still covered in posters of her; that vulnerability and sexuality she managed to combine is just mind-blowing to me. As far as actresses today, Michelle Williams, Cate Blanchett, and Kate Winslet. These women transform themselves in such a way that I am amazed by. I get lost in their performances—it is magic. Directors, there are just so many. I want to work with Quentin Tarantino really bad. There so many people that are creating so many amazing things. I am completely in awe of people the same age as me, people younger than me, people that are older than me—I am just blown away by all of them. I just love doing what I do.
You mentioned you have little down time now. When you do have a moment to yourself, what do you like to do?
I have a great record collection, so I listen to some records. I read. I like vintage shopping a lot because I find it very therapeutic. I like finding stories out of things. I want to design lingerie at some point, so I do a lot of doodling. I've got a lot of great ideas of some surrealist lingerie that I want to do.
What inspired that?
I’ve wanted to do it since I was 14. There is just something about women's lingerie that is exciting [Laughs.]
You have the film adaptation of Joe Hill's Horns coming up, right?
Oh my god, yeah. It is so cool to be a part of a project that is going to be so many different genres. It’s going to be a sci-fi movie, it’s going to be a horror movie, it’s going to be a love story, it’s going to be a magical story, it is just going to be all of these things combined. Alexandre Aja [the film's director] is just brilliant, I loved him. He is so gentle and has such a vivid mind. And Danielle Radcliffe is just fantastic to work with, such a giving actor and such a great person who I hope I am friends with for a really long time. It's literally magic.