Who is Mary?
Mary is a 16 year old Goth and Cheyenne’s best friend. She’s a dark old soul from a broken family – her brother has left and her mother has lost her mind and kind of forgotten about her. Cheyenne takes her in and takes care of her. They’re friends and form a sort of tribe together. She’s a huge fan of his. They confide in each other. He’s the one who knows all her secrets.
What was your reaction to the character? How much work did you have to do to find her?
The script was so detailed and precise. To create the character was the easy part; there were so many layers right there on the page. But Mary is so dark and has really heavy scenes. I knew that it would take a lot of work to get under the skin and understand where all that pain came from. The music that I listened to helped with that. I listened to The Cure, Talking Heads. All of their lyrics gave me an insight into what Mary was feeling and what was going on in her head.
I assume you don’t look like this in real life?
No - they dyed my hair and extensions, gave me rings and ripped tights – though I do wear ripped tights in real life! The costume and the hair and make-up helped a lot with finding the character. I feel darker and closed off which is obviously what she’s trying to do, putting up a barrier. I couldn’t feel like Mary if I was wearing my own clothes.
How have you found working with Director Paolo Sorrentino?
I watched Il Divo and it’s pretty heavy and intense. Everything is really controlled and precise and you’d think working with Paolo would be really scary. But he’s the most gentle human being I’ve ever met. Everything’s so calm on set, he knows exactly what he wants and he takes his time. There’s no fuss or tension. He knows exactly what he’s doing. It’s kind of a gift.
And with Sean Penn?
He’s been fantastic and very friendly. It was great and working with him was an education in itself.
Can you tell us about Frances McDormand and the character she plays?
Frances plays Jane, Cheyenne’s wife. They nurture Mary and Jane is a positive female influence in her life. She adores their relationship, she supports their friendship and takes care of Mary in her own way. Frances and Sean work very differently, so it was interesting to see how they work in a scene together.
Did you know how to skateboard before this film?
I’d never skateboarded before. I told a little white lie in my audition – Paolo asked ‘can you skateboard?’ and I said ‘yeah sure, it’s easy,’ which is completely untrue! So they had to get me a coach, who worked with me for a couple of weeks, trying to get some tricks down and get me comfortable on the board. I was a bit wobbly at the start. I was wearing helmets – I looked like a turtle riding around Central Park, it was very embarrassing. But I was eventually weaned off the pads and I can properly skateboard now.
How would you describe the film?
I don’t think you can categorise it easily. It’s a drama but has a lot of comedy in it too. It’s unique and extraordinary.