EXCLUSIVE: Amy Smart Talks Dead Awake
Dead Awake star Amy Smart discusses the new thriller, Crank 3 possibilities, the intriguing plight of Columbus Circle and more.
Amy Smart is an actress that you definitely won't see as typecast at all. She has explored practically every genre from sci-fi (Starship Troopers), comedy (Road Trip), action (Crank and Crank High Voltage) with even an underrated indie drama (The Battle of Shaker Heights) as well. She has also appeared in a psychological thriller or two and her latest movie falls into this genre with Dead Awake, which will be released in theaters today, December 3. I recently had the chance to speak with Amy Smart over the phone and here's what she had to say:
You've starred in a few psychological thrillers before, but what was it about Dead Awake that first stood out to you and made you want to be a part of this?
Amy Smart: Well, I saw (director) Omar Naim's movie The Final Cut, and I loved it so much. It's so smart and original and well thought out. When I was reading this script, I could feel his style of directing on the script and I just really trusted him as a filmmaker. I liked the dramatic parts, I liked the romantic parts, but it was more of an original screenplay.
When you do step into these darker movies, are there certain things you do to prepare for a role like Natalie?
Amy Smart: I played a nurse, so I learned some basic training as far as becoming a nurse, as far as research. And then I was fortunate that Nick (Stahl) and I worked together worked together on my very first job ever, and we haven't worked together since, but we've stayed friendly throughout the years. It was nice to come onto this film and already have a connection with him.
Amy Smart: Well, we shot in Des Moines, Iowa and everybody was really excited to be there, to be a part of it. Again, I really loved working with Omar and trust him. We would always shoot until it felt right. We would shoot until we got what we needed in the scene and moved on. It was pretty great.
I've seen there are more movies being shot in Iowa now, like The Experiment. It's not your more traditional choice, but it seems these movies get more out of a city like Des Moines. What kinds of things does shooting in Iowa bring to the movie that you wouldn't get anywhere else?
Amy Smart: You get to have amazing big fields of wildflowers and grassy lawns and rolling hills. I really liked Des Moines because, even though it was like a smaller city, it definitely had a progressive feel to it. I felt like you got a city life but you also got a good neighborhood life.
Kind of like the best of both worlds.
Amy Smart: Yeah, and there's definitely history there. We filmed in this funeral parlor and there are these great little locations there that we found.
You were praising Omar Naim's work before. When you got on the set and started working with him, could you compare his style and his work to anyone else you've worked with in the past, or what might be the best way to describe his directorial style?
Amy Smart: He definitely knows what he wants, what he wants to convey in a scene and wants to feel. When he feels it, he knows it's working. he's such a creative artist that I kind of just really trusted him as a filmmaker and, as a communicator, he's passionate about what he wants. He gets really excited when he finds something that works. It's nice to have that, to have somebody that's on the journey with you.
In looking at your filmography, it seems that you like taking on vastly different roles from one movie to the next. Can you talk about the process you go through when it comes to choosing your next project? Is it a conscious choice that you want to do something so different from what you just did?
Amy Smart: I would say that there is the ideal of the stuff I want to do and then there's the stuff I get offered and then there's the stuff I audition for. There are a wide variety of different things, but, for me, it usually starts off with a good script. That's the basis. You could take a good script and make it a good movie or you can take a good script and make it a bad movie. There are many different interpretations, but you can't really take a bad script and make it a good movie. That's, to me, the foundation and then is the character interesting? Have I played her before? Do I feel challenged by it? It could be a great script, but then I might not know anybody involved or people who are involved who have a record of making B movies that haven't really done anything. So it's really weeding through these different elements of is it worth taking a risk on this movie?
I've interviewed Clifton Collins Jr. a number of times and he's talked about how he has a specific process, looking for very different roles for each thing he does. He has quite an amazing career.
Speaking of Crank, we heard awhile ago about possibilities for Crank 3. I know Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are off shooting Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance right now, but have you heard anything more about the possibility of Crank 3?
Amy Smart: I heard it awhile back, but I haven't heard it for awhile. I have no idea. They haven't clued me into anything.
But you'd definitely come back if it was happening?
Amy Smart: I think so, yeah. I couldn't imagine being replaced.
I've interviewed those guys before and those movies just seem like they would be a ton of fun to shoot.
Amy Smart: They're a ton of fun, so over the top (Laughs). They're so driven.
I remember watching B-roll of those guys for Gamer and they were shooting while they were on rollerblades.
There's another movie you have called Columbus Circle and I'm not sure if that's been slated for release yet, but there is a really amazing cast in that. Is there anything you can say about that movie, or your role in it?
Amy Smart: Yeah, that's another movie I really loved working on, with Giovanni Ribisi, Jason Lee, Selma Blair, Beau Bridges and Kevin Pollak. That's a really interesting movie because, originally, it was on the CBS Radford lot, they were going to shoot this other movie that they had already built $2 million worth of sets for. At the last minute, it fell apart because the person who owned the rights, who was either in Japan or Korea, basically said they weren't going to give the rights to make the movie and they would sue. They had to collapse the movie, with everyone set and the whole crew ready to shoot. The producer, Christopher Mallick, instead of eating the $2 million, had Giovanni Ribisi, Kevin Pollak and (director) George Gallo and they basically wrote Columbus Circle for this stage that was already built.
Amy Smart: Yeah. It basically takes place in two apartments and it was so much fun to shoot because they had written it a month before. It felt like a workshop because we were flushing out all the kinks a day before, a week before, just really trying to find this movie. It's basically about these con artists who con this billionaire and befriend her and try to take her money (Laughs).
Is there distribution set for that or a release date?
Amy Smart: The producers said they are going to release it, but they just don't have a date yet.
I also see you're involved in a documentary called Spill. I know you do a lot of activist work as well. Is there anything you can say about that?
Amy Smart: Yeah, now it's going to be called The Cover-Up. It's from the filmmakers who did a documentary called Fuel. I went down to New Orleans when it was still spilling and it's really about how the spill has really hurt people's lives and all the cover-ups that have happened by BP and what the media wants you to believe and what's really going on. These two filmmakers, Joshua Tickell and Rebecca Harrell, they're incredible, passionate and so dedicated. Josh is from Louisiana and the message is don't let the spill be in vain, because it's caused so much havoc on people's lives. I went down to be a part of the documentary with Peter Fonda and Jason Mraz.
Is that going to be hitting the festival circuit then?
Amy Smart: Yeah. They're trying to do it at Cannes this May.
To wrap up, what would you like to say to any fans of the thriller genre in particular about why they should check out Dead Awake in theaters on December 3?
Amy Smart: I really liked it because I felt like Omar Naim put his style all over it and he keeps you guessing until the very end about what's happening and what's really going on. It's just a really interesting story about this guy who is trying to figure out his traumatic past and it's unraveling in ways that he can't tell what's real and what's not. It's almost like he's hallucinating through half the movie, but he's not quite sure what's true. It's got a lot of different cool elements and Rose McGowan is great in it and Nick Stahl is amazing in it.
Excellent. Well, that's all I have for you Amy. Thanks so much for your time and best of luck with all your new projects.
Amy Smart: Thank you, Brian. Nice talking to you.