EXCLUSIVE: Melanie Lynskey Takes Us Up in the Air
The actress who plays Julie Bingham discusses working with Jason Reitman, the Two and a Half Men shutdown, future projects and more
Melanie Lynskey was just a normal 16 year old girl in New Zealand when she was spotted by writer Fran Walsh for a role in Peter Jackson's film Heavenly Creatures. After taking a hiatus from the business to finish her schooling and move out to Los Angeles, she landed a string of roles in high-profile movies such as Ever After, Coyote Ugly, Sweet Home Alabama along with a recurring role as Rose, Charlie Sheen's stalker on the hit TV series Two and a Half Men. 2009 was quite a year for the actress as she appeared in three films from three of the best directors working today: Steven Soderbergh's The Informant, Sam Mendes' Away We Go and her most recent film, Jason Reitman's Best Picture nominee Up In the Air, which arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on March 9. I had the chance to speak with Lynskey over the phone and here's what she had to say.
I was curious about what your initial reaction was when you got a hold of the script and then when you got to actually play this character.
Melanie Lynskey: I just thought it was so beautifully written. The thing that appealed to me the most was my character was very honest and very interesting. There's a complicated history there and I was interested in playing that.
Now was everybody attached at the point when you first read it?
Melanie Lynskey: I knew that George (Clooney) was doing it and I knew that Vera (Farmiga) was doing it. Vera is one of my absolute favorite actresses and George is amazing, so I was really excited.
What did you think when Danny McBride came aboard to play your husband-to-be?
Melanie Lynskey: Oh, it was great! I was so excited about that because I think he's such a good actor. He's hilarious and wonderful, but he's just really really good on his HBO show. What he's doing is really interesting and he's dark and it was really good casting. He was just wonderful.
It was great to see that side of him here too, because on film, he's always the goofball. It's nice to see a more restrained side to him in this film.
Melanie Lynskey: Yeah, definitely.
Most of your scenes are with Danny or George. What's a day like on the set with George?
Melanie Lynskey: He's just really really kind. He's just lovely to everybody, lovely to the crew. He has no entourage at all, which is just insane to me. He's a lot of fun. It was funny because the first time I met him, it was like looking at a cardboard cutout. He was so famous I almost couldn't process it.
Kind of like the cutout you give him in the movie?
Melanie Lynskey: Yeah exactly (Laughs). He just makes you feel really really comfortable and he's just such a normal guy, it's really astounding.
Do you have maybe a favorite moment on the set or a favorite scene you filmed with Danny or George?
Melanie Lynskey: Every moment I was working with all of them. Sometimes you just feel so fortunate to be in the company that you're in and you just want to soak it all up. It was like I didn't care if this ended up being the worst movie ever made, just these people working, every minute of it was a great learning experience for me. There was this funny time, though, when we were filming the rehearsal dinner scene, and I had brought this book that I just bought and hadn't really looked through it yet. I realized this book was incredibly graphic and I was sitting there reading this book and I was super embarrassed about it. George came over and he started to read passages out of it, this beautiful George Clooney reading this graphic things.
That sounds like it would be great for the DVD.
Melanie Lynskey: (Laughs) Yeah, I know! I was thinking that too. I wondered if anyone captured it.
You've had quite a year in 2009, working with directors like Jason (Reitman), Steven (Soderbergh), Sam (Mendes) and Tim Blake Nelson. How would you compare Jason to those directors, or other directors you've worked with in the past?
Melanie Lynskey: It's so funny. One of my favorite things is just showing up and learning what somebody's process is like. I love just being in the hands of a really wonderful director. Everybody is really really different. It's so tricky what Jason does. It gives you a lot of freedom, he doesn't really rehearse it a whole lot and you just sort of feel spontaneous and he'll come in with little tweaks. He gets the tone so well, obviously he wrote the script, he'll just come in and work with it. Sam was very very much about the rehearsal. We would come in and do a lot of coverage, which is also wonderful because you've done it every which way you can and you're exhausted in a wonderful way. Steven is sort of the other extreme where he'll do it once or twice and that's it. I guess Tim is more like Sam, in a way.
That sounds like quite a year.
Melanie Lynskey: It was really so interesting and I was so fortunate.
Jason is sort of known to recycle past cast members, like J.K. Simmons has been in all of his movies. Would you be willing to hop on whatever he's doing next, or has he talked to you about what he's doing next?
Melanie Lynskey: Oh my God. He could give me the worst script I've ever read and I'd just be like, 'Sure, let's do it.' I loved working with him so much and I just think there's something magical about him. He can make such beautiful movies and he really has something to say. He hasn't talked to me about anything yet, but if he did, I'd be delighted.
You have a movie coming out called Helena at the Wedding and that's debuting at South by Southwest. Are you going to be going down there for the premiere?
Melanie Lynskey: I don't know. I'm trying to work it out in my schedule. There are a couple of things, but I hope to. I haven't seen the movie yet.
Can you tell us about the character you play in that?
Melanie Lynskey: I play a woman who is recently married to a character played by Lee Tergesen. We're just sort of trying to work out what it means to be married and we go away with a group of friends and all kinds of things happen, as they do.
Have you heard any talk about picking it up even before South by Southwest?
Melanie Lynskey: I don't know, honestly. I don't know what's going on with it. I liked the script a lot. It was just an honest little movie and they made it for nothing, so I think someone could pick it up pretty easily and do something good. It's got so many good actors in it and it was a really nice film to work on.
Is there anything that you're looking to sign on for or develop that you can talk about?
Melanie Lynskey: There are a couple of things that are kind of in the works, but I can't talk about them. I feel so lucky to have done so many things that I love in the past few years so I'm just going to keep trying to do them.
We heard that Two and a Half Men was shut down over the Charlie Sheen thing. Have you heard anything more about that, or have you heard when they might be starting up again?
Melanie Lynskey: I haven't. I don't know anything about it. I was supposed to go and do an episode in a couple of weeks and now it's on hold, so I don't know.
I'm a huge fan of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and I saw that you were on an episode last year. Any chance you'd come back for the new season?
Melanie Lynskey: Oh, me too. I've been wanting to do it for so long because it's made by one of our best friends and my husband is on the show sometimes. He's one of the McPoyle brothers. Yeah, I'm married to a McPoyle. He's better looking in real life.
(Laughs) Yeah, it looks like they powder those guys up a lot
Melanie Lynskey: Oh my God. He's all greased up with all kinds of things. I had been wanting to do it for a long time and this part came along that was kind of right. I wish it was something that could be recurring, but it's not, really.
Finally, what would you like to say to those who might not have seen Up In the Air about why they should pick up this new DVD?
Melanie Lynskey: If you haven't seen it, it seems to really really move people, which is a really nice thing. It's something I miss in a lot of movies. I want to go and have a real experience and it's just lovely to sit and watch a movie and just be really transported by a story and care about the characters. That's always what I'm looking for, so that's why I'd recommend it.
Well, that's about all I have for you, Melanie. Thanks so much for your time and best of luck with whatever comes your way next.
Melanie Lynskey: Thank you so much. It was nice to talk to you.