Radha Mitchell talks about her starring role in Woody Allen's latest, Melinda and Melinda
Australian beauty Radha Mitchell has taken Hollywood by storm in recent years. Her breakout performance was the memorable “Pitch Black” opposite Vin Diesel. She would go on to star alongside Denzel Washington in “Man on Fire” and Johnny Depp in “Finding Neverland”. Radha plays the title character of Melinda in Woody Allen’s “Melinda Melinda”. Allen was so impressed by her work, she got the part without auditioning. Radha often plays American or European characters, so it was intriguing to hear her native Australian accent. She’s fantastic as Melinda and it wouldn’t surprise me if she became Woody Allen’s latest muse.
You're Australian, but usually have an American accent in your films. Do you have problems going back and forth?
Radha Mitchell: I rely on dialogue coaches and tapes. When I first got to the States, I had to pretend I was American, so I would do all my meetings with my faux American accent and try to get by. Now I can admit I use a dialect coach. For this movie, it was pretty low budget, so I didn't have a dialect coach. But this woman in LA, Joyce Ellis, I recorded all my scenes with her, and she'd just read them straight. It's a good way to drum it into your head and learn your lines.
Was it difficult?
Radha Mitchell: I think it's something that you're always conscious of. And what's good, when you start working with accents, is you can alter them slightly. I did this part in "Man on Fire" which was slightly Texan, so it's not just an accent. You can add bits and pieces to it, which is always fun and helps you define a character.
Did you prefer the comic or tragic "Melinda Melinda" storyline?
Radha Mitchell: I liked preparing for the tragic one, because there were lots of things to think about, but in execution I preferred the other one, because it was with Will Ferrell. It was a comedy; it was light in a way, while the other side of the story, it felt like we were shooting two different movies. That side of the story was very serious. And as much as there's some cynical humor in the telling of the story, we were playing it really straight. It was just confusing to me because (my lines) would be exaggerated, and I would play it straight, say it full of emotion. That was just challenging because it took me a while to understand that that was just part of the story. I think that's what makes it interesting as well, but it is unusual. It's an unusual part.
Did the other actors know what was going on in both stories? Woody Allen is famous for not sharing the entire script.
Radha Mitchell: I guess a lot of the other actors hadn't read the story, so they wouldn't know what it was about. They just knew their storyline. It was interesting to actually know what was happening throughout the thing. Initially they wanted to know what was going on, what happens to my character and so on, but I think people like not knowing, because it's an unusual experience to be in a movie and not know what it's about. It's kind of like life...you don't know what I'm going to do next, I don't know what you're
going to do next.
Did you tell them?
Radha Mitchell: I told them if they wanted to know. I wasn't supposed to, but they didn't really want to know. They would just joke about how much they wanted to know. It was a bit intimidating, especially if you're playing two characters. You want to know what's going on and have control. It's an interesting experience, not having control over it. I would recommend it actually.
You got the part without actually reading for Woody Allen?
Radha Mitchell: I'm sure he had a few different Melindas in mind, but at a certain point it became me and I was quite happy with that. (Laughs) We didn't meet. He'd seen a movie that I'd made called "Ten Tiny Love Stories", which is a series of monologues where ten different women talk about love. Something about that seemed relevant.
Which character did you identify most with in "Melinda Melinda"?
Radha Mitchell: I think most. There's something very New York about all of Woody Allen's characters, and I think the city itself is essentially a character in the movie. Living in New York wears you down after a while; you end up becoming a Woody Allen character. So I think you can always identify with it.
What's your take on relationships?
Radha Mitchell: What I've noticed in general, it seems to me that it doesn't really matter if the relationship is working or not. If the relationship is working, it's the right thing, and if its not, get out of it. What's going to make you happy isn't the relationship. I think there's too much emphasis on relationships. When people are out of them they want to be in them, when they're in them, they want to be out of them, you know. You always want what you don't have, so you should just focus on yourself and what comes out of that is the right thing.
How was working with Will Ferrell?
Radha Mitchell: I was really impressed with Will Farrell. He has very little ego about himself, and he was just very sweet and a good person. That comes across in watching him.
This film has a big ensemble cast. Did you all get together before shooting?
Radha Mitchell: I don't think we were supposed to have any, but Chewie [Chiwetal Ejiofor] had called everybody. He'd just come in from London and wanted to make some friends I guess. (Laughs). He rang everybody and we all met for brunch. The day went on, we went further and further downtown until we ended up at some weird club at three in the morning. I went home at a certain point, but they continued to stay out.
But Woody wouldn't have encouraged it?
Radha Mitchell: I think he didn't mind that we were going to do that, but he didn't encourage it. I think that's part of his thing, to keep people uneasy, not know each other too well. You definitely get a sense of that when you watch his films, everyone's uneasy,
uncomfortable. (Laughs) But I'm glad that we did that.
Did Woody Allen allow any improvisation to the script?
Radha Mitchell: We all expected to ad lib a lot more than we did. We didn't ad lib at all, at least I didn't. In general it was pretty much how it was in the script.
Would you work with him again?
Radha Mitchell: Definitely. I think his films are really engaging, and they leave you with something to say, something you want to talk about. I'd like to be involved in more movies like that.
What's your favorite Woody Allen film?
Radha Mitchell: I would say "Bullets Over Broadway". Something I really appreciate about his films, is he's introduced all these interesting actresses to us, and I enjoyed watching Mia Farrow in his films. You don't see as much of her work in other people's movies. And then, of course, Judy Davis. There are so many interesting people who have come out of his films; I think that's what makes them special. He's described them as having different flavors but being similar dishes, you know, if you like Chinese food you like Chinese food, and I guess I do.
What's next for you?
Radha Mitchell: Mozart and the Whale
You're acting with a gorilla?
Radha Mitchell: I get to act with a monkey in that film. In that movie I'm playing opposite Josh Hartnett, and we're both playing people who are autistic or who have mild versions of autism. It's a love story/romance. It's about communication, people who are autistic have trouble reading each other's feelings and emotions and its two people struggling to be in a relationship. They have that handicap, but once we got into the characters; it didn't feel any different from any other relationship. That was really a beautiful movie to make.
Dont't forget to also check out: Melinda and Melinda