Kate Mara is really starting to come into her own lately. After appearing in a string of guest-starring roles, her stock started to rise after playing the 19-year-old version of Michelle Williams' Alma in Brokeback Mountain. That led to a five-episode arc on 24, which led to roles in Zoom, We Are Marshall and the wonderful and underrated Shooter. Her next film is one of the best films I've seen all year, Transsiberian (CLICK HERE for my full review), which opened in just two theaters on the same weekend The Dark Knight opened and still scored massive per-screen averages. The film expands to Los Angeles starting today, August 8, and I had a chance to chat with the actress over the phone. Here's what she had to say.
I watched the movie last night and I have to say it was just amazing. I just loved it.
Kate Mara: Oh, cool. I'm glad you liked it so much.
So, what was your first reaction when you first read the script? Was this something that you wanted to get on board with right away?
Kate Mara: Yeah. Obviously, I can't say much about the end, but it's such a cool kind of twist. Brad Anderson, I think he makes such cool movies. They're so different and so specific. He's so good at creating different worlds and all his movies are so diverse. He put such a cool cast together, so that definitely made me want to read the script. Then yeah, I thought it was really well-written and just the fact that, at the time, it was Woody Harrelson attached and Eduardo (Noriega) and Ben Kingsley. I just love working with great actors and the three of them are so different as well. Then Emily (Mortimer) got attached a little bit later on, but I love working with actors who I respecct. I was really excited about it.
So you're in some pretty bad shape in parts of the movie. What was that whole process like with the prosthetics and everything?
Kate Mara: Oh, it was torture. I mean, it's kind of annoying because I can never talk about it, because people who haven't seen the movie have no idea what I'm talking about it, but since you saw it, we only shot that scene for a couple of days, but I think it was probably five or six hours in makeup to get the whole situation (Laughs) put on me. Being in it all day was so much more difficult that I thought it would be. It just was not comfortable at all, but it was actually pretty funny because all the other actors, Woody kept coming over to me and making sure I'm all right, like I was actually injured or something. People kept coming over to me to see if I wanted soup. It was so funny. I'm not really injured, I'm OK, guys. But, obviously, at the end, it was really tiring and just uncomfortable to be sitting like that all day. When you see the movie, it looks incredibly real. Totally disturbing.
Yeah. It's almost like that's the one little horror part of the movie, like Eli Roth stepped into the movie for a bit.
Kate Mara: Yeah. It was short, but it definitely stays with you because it's so painful to watch.
You're basically the young gun of the movie. Can you tell us what kinds of things you learned from Ben Kingsley, Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer or anyone else in this cast?
Kate Mara: I mean, I think anytime you get to work with a great actor... Emily Mortimer is so good in the film. I have always loved her and she plays something really different than I've ever seen her play. Her American accent, I think is so brilliant. When I was acting with her, I completely forgot that she wasn't American and she turns it off and on so easily, it was really impressive. Obviously, Ben Kingsley is one of the greatest actors of all time. Unfortunately, I didn't really get a chance to work with him. That scene did not count, for me anyway. Acting, for me, is all about listening to the other person and reacting to them and that scene we had together, I was doing everything but that because of the circumstances. So, it's hard for me to really get anything from that because we didn't have any real interaction. I was really bummed about that. Woody Harrelson has no fear, or at least he certainly acts like he has no fear. He'll do anything, he'll try anything in front of the camera. He's so cool.
Yeah. I haven't really seen Woody in a role where he plays such a naive kind of character. Just to see him play this dumb American was just amazing to me.
Kate Mara: I know. I thought he was so brilliant.
I read that you filmed this in Lithuania. Can you tell us anything about filming in that location?
Kate Mara: One of my favorite things about being an actor is we get to go to places like Lithuania. I shot a movie in Scotland, in Glasgow. It's an amazing thing to be able to travel and really live in a place for months at a time. I was really excited to go there, to see it and experience it. It was really hard. We were there in the dead of winter. I think we got there in December and it was just so cold. We were shooting most of the day in the studio and when we left the set it was really dark. It was really hard being there. At one point my mom came out to visit me and we explored a little bit, but for the most part, the time I was there I was by myself, so it wasn't the easiest to shoot for those reasons, but, now looking back, it totally helped with the role and creating that world. I think Brad did such an amazing job.
You see so many movies that are shot in Vancouver these days and for the stuff in this, you can't get the big castles or the whole look from Vancouver.
Kate Mara: No. It wouldn't have worked anywhere else. It was so hard to shoot there. That whole broken-down church, in the middle of nowhere, literally in the middle of nowhere. We built that church, but we were literally in the middle of nowhere. It was incredible, it was incredible to shoot on a location like that.
I've seen the term "Hitchcockian" thrown around a lot with this movie and it's one of the movies that I've seen recently that really lives up to that title.
Kate Mara: Wow.
Was that something that Brad Anderson was going for, as an homage, because it really has that feel to it.
Kate Mara: I never really heard, maybe I'm the only one, but before we were shooting and while we were shooting, I never heard that. I never heard that reference before, but I guess that's because no one's ever seen anything from it. But it's so incredibly flattering towards Brad and I think he did an amazing job with it.
What was your reaction when you first saw the completed film?
Kate Mara: (Laughs) I saw it for the first time when we were in Sundance for it. I really liked it. I had forgotten a lot about it, a lot about what happens in the story, little things here and there. We shot it a year before so it was nice to watch it and still be surprised.
Kate Mara: Oh god. No, I haven't heard a thing. I had such a good time making that movie, though. I would love to do another one, but no, and I also don't think there are plans to do another one, but that was such a fun movie. That was such a fun movie to make. Such a fun cast, also, but I loved that role.
Is there anything you can tell us about The Open Road or Stone of Destiny?
Kate Mara: Oh, yeah. Stone of Destiny is a film I shot in Scotland last year. We went to the Edinburgh Film Festival with it last year and we're going to the Toronto Film Festival with it in about a month or so, so I'm really excited for people to see it. The Open Road, I think, who knows, but I think they're going to try to go the festival route with that as well. I'm not sure, exactly, but that's the last that I heard. That's sort of all I heard about that movie but we shot the whole thing in Louisiana, in New Orleans. It was really cool. I'd never been there before so it was a fun place to shoot.
It was rumored that you were attached to a movie called Deal as well. Is there anything you can tell us about that?
Kate Mara: Wait, which film?
It was called Deal.
Kate Mara: Oh, yeah. I don't know why it said that. I don't even know what that is. It's been on IMDB for about a year now. It was a film that I had been talking to the producers about awhile ago but I haven't heard anything about it. I don't even know if they have plans to make it, as of now, so that's really funny that's on there. I don't know what that's about.
I think nothing gets taken off there unless someone asks them to take it off.
Kate Mara: Yeah. I like to keep people guessing though, so maybe I'll leave it on there, stay as "rumored" (Laughs).
(Quick Note: I looked on Kate's IMDB page today, before I started writing this piece up and her "rumored" name was taken off. It was on there yesterday before I did the interview. Weird.)
Finally, Transsiberian opened in very limited release, the same weekend as The Dark Knight and it still pulled off some really solid numbers in the two theaters it opened in. It's starting to expand now and when this film starts to be seen by more audiences, how do you think they'll react to it?
Kate Mara: I think people will really like it. It's definitely one of those movies that, because it is smaller, and it's summer and there's so many huge blockbuster films out, it's kind of one of those movies that really relies on word-of-mouth. It feels like it's getting a good response. Hopefully people will tell their friends about it and that's how a lot of independent films get seen, at the end of the day, by word-of-mouth. It's definitely possible. Also, you know, people don't always want to go see a huge movie. I'm not always in the mood to see the next big film that's out. Last week I wanted to go to the movies but I wanted to see something small that I didn't know much about and I went and saw American Teen and I left the theater and I was so happy that I went to see it. It's charming and left me with such a great feeling, and you don't always get that with huge huge films.
I was just going to add that I saw Transsiberian on Rotten Tomatoes and it was at 85% right now, and I gave it five stars, so hopefully it will start to catch on.
Kate Mara: Oh, cool! Thank you so much.
Well, that's about all I have for you, Kate. Thank you so much for your time today.
Kate Mara: All right. Take care.
New Yorkers can see Transsiberian in theaters now and the film expands to Los Angeles today, August 8. It will expand to 10 major markets by the end of the month, coming to Chicago, Washington D.C. and San Francisco on August 15, San Diego, Atlanta, Denver, Houston, Dallas and Seattle on August 22 and Minneapolis on August 27. This is seriously one that shouldn't be missed.