Interviews · Movies

The Curious Girl With The Punk Haircut

By  · Published on May 3rd, 2016

Discussing Acting, Costume Designing, and Cameron Crowe with Green Room Star Imogen Poots.

I definitely get really excited about opening up a can of magic worms when it comes to educating myself on cinema and music. ‐ Imogen Poots

Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room is a lean and mean siege film. The writer and director behind the excellent 2013 dramatic thriller, Blue Ruin, tells a slightly more aggressive story this time around. Up until this point in Saulnier’s career, by his own admission, he’s been making “aggressive male movies,” but the director wanted to make a transition in that regard with Green Room.

One of the female protagonists in this bloody “punk rockers vs. Neo-Nazis” tale is Amber, a silent and ferocious force in the film. She joins the band in their fight for survival, and she’s by far the most capable character in the film. Amber is played by actress Imogen Poots, who’s having quite a year, with Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups, Green Room, and the upcoming Showtime series, Roadies.

Imogen Poots took the time to discuss Amber with us, in addition to working with Jeremy Saulnier, the importance of getting a character’s costume right, working with Cameron Crowe, and her massive Woody Allen phase.

Here’s what Ms. Poots had to say:

How was the experience of mostly shooting in one location?

It’s ironic because watching this film… and it’s so heavy, but it was such an incredible experience, it thoroughly impressed me to be in that space and there was no, I mean, I think about conversations they were having in past projects that had to do with vanity or the way you have to look.

It was just such a release from that and to be around all those people, too, like Anton. He actually is one of my best friends any way, in real life, so that was pretty groovy. And then Alia [Shawkat] and Callum [Turner] and Joe [Cole], they’re just such great actors and everyone had such good, awesome material, it felt like it was extremely comforting because there was not a moment where you would ever feel embarrassed, or weird about the fact that you were walking back and forth in the corner of a room.

Everyone was doing it, you know? There were so many people who were doing it. It was totally acceptable.

Both Blue Ruin and Green Room show who the characters are more through action than exposition or backstory. Do you need to know who Amber is before the movie, or do you just focus on what’s on the page?

I’m the type of actor, up to nowadays, that it’s something you kind of develop in your taste of what you like to act, if it’s on the page. Unless it’s entirely ridiculous or it doesn’t fit on the tongue in a way that an alternative could be found, I think you have to do service to what is on the page.

This script was a very wonderful kind of foundation to start from. And, it was more that I saw that as a kind of weapon, kind of extra weapon, that I find is actually quite rare to meet people like that who don’t immediately have to explain their identity to you in life. You find yourself being drawn in to someone who is slightly monosyllabic because it might be shyness or it might just be because they’re deep in thought.

I think Amber finds she’s trying to figure out what to do in a great kind of calm way, in a sort of animalistic manner.

You can see that “animalistic manner” in how quick she is to react to a situation or even her attitude in her introduction. How did you want her to carry herself and move through the story?

I realized how it’s a fine line, because you don’t want it to seem like you’ve lost your mind or you’re like trying to be Willem Dafoe, or something. Or just a monstrous movement.

I certainly found that it did affect the movement. The costumes are so, so integral to the character. It enhances any decision you make, and body language in general, because it’s just going on the fact that they’re just ordinary people in a very, very exceptional scenario.

I imagine your distinct costume helped. Do you ever have much input on a character’s look? Is it a case by case basis?

It’s case by case, for sure. I mean, if you’re dealing with a studio, then good luck. It’s pretty ridiculous, actually. And, it’s unfortunate because I don’t think enough attention is often paid to how integral that is. Because if you’re dressed in clothes that seem mainly artificial or just fundamentally wrong, it’s very confusing because you’re portraying someone who has made that decision.

It’s certainly case by case and the costume fitting is so, so important to the extent that I found that earlier in the year I was like, I really want to work with this amazing costume designer called Kameron Lennox again because, it’s just a specific person you meet who is able to see that… well, anyway, I am going off on a tangent … That’s really not that important [Laughs].

[Laughs] I imagine it was a different experience working with Jeremy Saulnier, in that regard, compared to working with a studio.

With Jeremy in this, there was never even a notion of… I was actually nervous because of how many times that’s happened where someone will say, “We think your hair should be this way” and it’s like “no, no, no, what are you doing? Why?” People don’t go see … We’re watching real people up there on the screen because that’s why we’re so drawn in to understanding what any of us is doing here on earth. And, it’s actually extremely boring to look at perfection. It’s very boring and so … You don’t want to have, like, a completely flawless complexion, which is like ten layers of makeup. You want to see sweat and you want to see reality. And, that’s what Jeremy was all about from the get-go.

Even, actually, right now I’m shooting a thing called Roadies with Cameron Crowe. He’s amazing. So, I keep being like, “Can my hair just be messier?” Because, she’s like running around and he’s like “Yeah, yeah. It needs to be messier!” It’s so nice having the partner in crime who gets that.

How has your experience been working with Cameron Crowe so far?

He’s something else, that man. I’ve never encountered someone like him. He’s just… He’s so authentic. That is just his shield, forevermore, because nothing can penetrate that. I mean, he’s just so generous. It’s quite extraordinary and it makes you just … I want to protect him forever, you know?

Because this industry can be so frenzied in this day and age where you have to live in. It’s just absurd. And he just sort of rises above it. I don’t know. He’s something else.

Yeah, it’s always nice to see someone who’s maybe not so cut-throat in this business get to that level of success.

No, exactly. It’s like everyone else is doing that. He just takes a backseat and then just slowly, quietly creates this incredible universe and it seems to me, every single actor I’ve ever met who’s worked with him has just been like, “Oh, incredible!” You know. He creates an experience.

This year you have Green Room, Knight of Cups, and Roadies, which all have distinct storytellers behind them. I’m just curious, based on the choices you tend to make, what kind of films informed your taste or interests as an actor?

Well, it’s funny how it takes time to kind of find those films. I always remember my dad bought me The 400 Blows and he was like watch this and Bicycle Thieves. I watched them both and I was just like, “Whoa.”

It’s almost like you don’t understand what a masterpiece is. Obviously, until you recognize one in front of you. And the bicycle scene is quite … It was just very simple, and that’s what I found astounding about it.

And, then I firmly have a, it’s just kind of like a way of passage… like I had a massive Woody Allen phase. Like Hannah and Her Sisters and films like that.

But, it’s really from filmmakers you learn about other things. You learn about literature from books or essays discussing a Woody Allen film in the way that… In a Coen brothers film I was watching, and they mentioned Ruggles of Red Gap, this brilliant Charles Laughton screwball comedy. And, so then you go off and watch something like that and you start to watch Sullivan’s Travels and Preston Sturges.

I definitely get really excited about opening up a can of magic worms [Laughs] when it comes to educating myself on cinema and music. Because, there are certainly things that I’ve done where, I don’t know, like haven’t been entirely comfortable and you sort of question what exactly it is that is fulfilling about that. And, what is it that is challenging about that. As long as you’re seeking that ‐ and it’s really because you want to, not because other people want you to do it ‐ then it’s a whole different universe. It really is.

Green Room is now in theaters.

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Longtime FSR contributor Jack Giroux likes movies. He thinks they're swell.