Still just breaking out into the Hollywood game, Kodi Smit-McPhee takes on one of the meatiest roles in Carlo Carlei's Romeo and Juliet: Benvolio, a kinsman of Romeo who looks to keep peace in the volatile Verona where we find our story. Despite his casting in the film, Smit-McPhee admits to having limited experience with the works of William Shakespeare, really coming to a new appreciation for the playwright through his work in Carlei's movie. We spoke to Smit-McPhee about his part in the film, his thoughts on bringing Shakespeare to a new generation, and what the future has in store for the young actor.
Compared to a bunch of the other movies you’ve been in, like The Road and Let Me In, Romeo and Juliet is a little bit more lighthearted. If, you know, you take away the whole killing people thing. How was it filming a movie like that?It was a really amazing experience to do something different and out of the box from what I usually do. I really got to take home some cool memories, like sword fighting and the dancing and everything and the costumes. So like I said, it was really just something that was out of the box for anyone. And I’m glad to have had that experience.
I was watching an interview with your director, and he was saying that he was very into making sure that all of the costumes worked.Oh, yeah, the costumes were a huge [priority] for everyone, and the hair and everything. I loved getting into that costume every day. It just really puts you in the mode and puts you in that moment. That was so awesome.
Yeah, the hair. Damian Lewis had quite a haircut.Actually, when I started going in, they tried to do some crazy fringe cut like that and I just told them to split it down the middle.
Good call, good call. Because Damian Lewis can just go and shave it off for Homeland.Exactly.
So before this film, did you have any experience with Shakespeare at all?No, not at all. Coming from Australia, for some reason, we don't even get into that whole side of it ... our system in school isn't really as up to date as it is around the globe. So this was kind of my first time getting to experiment with it. Before this, I wouldn't really read it, I didn't really have an interest in Shakespeare. But then when it came to doing this, something like this, I read it and grew a huge appreciation for this story and Shakespeare, and I actually read Hamlet after it. I really love it.
So because you didn't really have experience with it, what were the keys things for getting into your role?I think it was actually ... good that I didn't have any knowledge of it before because I really got to start fresh with it. and I saw the Franco Zeffirelli version of it and I really fell in love with that. But not trying to take anything from it, I just wanted to create a new character from my heart. That's what I focused on, and it was really a lot of fun.
How do you think this version is different from other Shakespeare adaptations?I think, technically, we went a little deeper with the characters. In everyone's performance you could individually go deeper with each character, and the story itself was a little deeper and closer to the original [play]. So it was really cool to do something that I guess Shakespeare would have wanted. And as Julian [Fellowes] was saying, that it's about the story that everyone always wants to just come back around forever, so I think it was really good to refresh it for this generation and people of our age and give them their own kind of Romeo and Juliet.
So if you hadn't been cast in your role, what other role would you have liked? Like your dream one.To tell the truth, that's two questions. If I was to be anyone else, for some reason, I think I would be Friar Laurence, because that's a cool character to be when I get older. But I really did fall in love with Benvolio's character. He's kind of like my personality, peacemaker, humble and just a really loving character, and I really enjoyed playing that character.
How was it working with such a talented cast? Did you have someone you really got along with on set?Yes, it was amazing. When we went to shoot, we had three weeks of prep before and we just all got to really know each other and we all got extremely close. Douglas [Booth] is like a brother to me now, and I'm really close with Hailee [Steinfeld] and everyone, it was kind of like a family by the end of it. I really enjoyed working with everyone, it was such a good experience.
And you were talking about the sword fighting scenes before, what was the training like for that?The training was really fun. The sword fighting stuff, and then the horse riding, was a bit of a challenge at the start, but then I got a hang of it and I really loved it. And that was another thing that I picked up on. I really love horse riding, and the horses we got to mess around with, it was really fun. And then we did some dancing lessons and that was kind of hard because it was a really old, historical type dance that they wanted to be correct so that was actually most of the challenge.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you’re excited about?Yes, I just did [Dawn of the] Planet of the Apes and… I’m not sure when that’s coming out, but it was extremely fun to work on. We did it in New Orleans and Vancouver. In a few weeks I'm going to New Zealand and Scotland for a little while to shoot with [Michael] Fassbender.
Was there a funny or memorable thing that happened on set?I think just overall, the whole experience was extremely memorable. But funny things, they were always happening, because like I said, just such a youthful kind of cast got together in Italy, it was just like a holiday. We were always joking around and having fun and one of the funniest things happened when we were all on the horses because no matter how much you trained them, around 300 people they're still going to be a little bit shy and scared, so they would never do what they were told, so that was a little bit of a challenge and that could be a little funny sometimes.
What is your favorite movie of all time?I know this answer. It's actually the hardest question ever. I think, obviously, everyone has a lot of favorite movies, but I really for some reason, just love Quentin Tarantino's writing and directing style. I just really appreciate… I really love Pulp Fiction and Resevoir Dogs, and what’s the other one? I can't remember the film, it's about the girl, and Samuel L. Jackson is in it… Jackie Brown, that’s it. Jackie Brown's a good one.
If you could be in any movie that’s already come out, is there a character or movie that you would like to play or be in?That's a good question. Who would I like to play? It's such a deep question. I think I would play Batman. I love Batman.
Go big or go home.I would do Batman. I would do one Batman, I wouldn’t do a lot of them. Just one.
What is it about a Housewife on vacation? It's like you get them outside of their native land, the savannah on which they film this glorious nature show for all of us, and they just lose their damn minds. It's like pulling a big fish out of a small pond and then putting it on the wharf and they just fitz and flail all about, coating the wood with their slimy scales. It's inexplicable the things they do when they get away. I guess that's what we all do. That is what everyone is doing this last week of August when there is nothing to do in the office and everyone shuffles off to the beach. "Oh, I'll just eat this third donut. Who cares? I'm on vacation!" "I'm not going to bother showering which means that I won't shave. Whatever. I'm on vacation. Screw you." "Holy crap, I drank three bottles of wine last night, did two tequila shots, and made out with some boy who I don't remember. I freaking hate vacation."
Yes, the Real Mardi Gras Beads of Show Us Your Tits University are on vacation which means they are all going to go absolutely bats**t insane. Carole is taking them to St. Bart's, ostensibly to meet her boyfriend and go to some blues festival that they will never make it to because Ramona is too drunk, LuAnn will want to go hang around with her "Italian friends" instead, and Sonja says she didn't pack anything blue so she has nothing to wear. They are just there to get in fights, cause drama, and otherwise behave like they they are a bunch of lab rats who were given a very virulent strain of psilocybin.
So, the gaggle flies down to St. Barts in a V formation like they're going south for the winter and they all land at this very beautiful villa. It is completely isolated, which is perfect because at any moment this vacation could turn into a slasher movie and there would be no one there to help any of these ladies from some crazed killer wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a mask made out of a boar's head. Who would be the one to survive until the end of the movie? I hope it's Carole. Or Sonja. The rest, well, sorry to see you go, but these things happen in slasher movies. "In St. Barts, no one can hear you scream."
Actually, it's a gorgeous house with multiple pools, a giant deck, a huge open floor plan that spills out into the surrounding mountains covered in green trees rising up from soil that is so, so fertile (unlike LuAnn and her withered up fallopian tubes). It's really a gorgeous house, but something about it is tugging at Carole's neurons, like a finger nail picking at a scab. She has been there before. Has she been there before? She swears she has. While taking a tour of the grounds (Carole and Heather are in the "pool house" away from the other ladies because they're not dummies) she tells the Realtor that she's been to St. Bart's before with her late husband and his mother Lee (Radziwill, who is Jackie O's sister, in case you didn't know this about Princess Carole, the most discrete royal in the land). Yes, the Realtor says, the house was much different back then. It was simpler and the owners liked to keep it that way, just a modest house in paradise with a maintenance shed. But now, it's all this.
Oh, Carole, this is your life. This is what you traded in. That Christmas she came downstairs in the little house and found Lee sitting up bolt straight (she has the most perfect posture) and totally coiffed in a casual outfit. She wrapped her robe around herself and said good morning and poured some coffee and she and Lee just sat there on the porch staring out at the jungle and all the rustles and rumbles that emanated from it, somehow both threatening and comforting at the same time. Eventually Anthony would come down and the conversation would pick up, but it would never go above a civilized rumble as they chatted and laughed and exchanged presents. Lee bought her a scarf, a beautiful light cashmere black scarf that she still wears sometimes with her leather jacket. Anthony bought her a first edition of Elizabeth Bishop's Geography III, her favorite book of poetry. She's never opened it, ever, and it sits under the night stand in her bedroom on the top of the pile so she can look at it every day.
Now, here she is, that house torn down and a new house built on top of it. A large and vulgar house informed by a standard ideal of luxury. It's so nice, it is almost devoid of character, like so many hotel lobbies smooshed together near the forest canopy. And the beasts have crawled out of the jungles and are living in the house now, howling, cavorting, and mating under her very roof. It's almost like Carole took a trip to the zoo and decided to move in and every day that old house, that fading phantasm that is lodged in her skull and feels like a knot whenever Ramona and Sonja get really really drunk, dims further and further.
Because, of course, that is what these two do, Ramona and Sonja. Ramona, of course, loves this house. She loves everything about it, the big closet, the fancy shower, the noodles in the pool, the staff she can abuse. But her favorite, the one feature of the house she wants for her home, is the wine dispenser. This is like when they got the soda fountain at Burger King and they decided it was time to trust the public with operating it themselves. You would just get a cup and go absolutely crazy, taking as much or as little soda as you wanted. You could mix Orange Slice and Mountain Dew if you really wanted (and were under the age of 12, becuase only someone would think that brackish sweetness worth ingesting). It is just like that but with wine. There are like 20 different bottles of wine and you can just "squirt" it out right into your glass. The butler (who Sonja is trying to buttle, because he is hot and bald) teaches Ramona how to use it. Somehow I feel like this is showing a lab monkey how the reward box works. You press a lever the treat comes out. You press a lever the treat comes out. This Ramona at the wine machine.
Everyone sits down for dinner and Somonja is already drunk (that is the symbiotic creature known as Sonja and Ramona and, when they have been drinking, they combine like a bleach blond Voltron and attack everything that is near them) and sitting at the table and Jean-Baptiste, their chef is cooking them dinner. "Know what I want to eat for dinner?" Sonja asks. "Jean-Baptiste. Hey, JB, baby, come to momma. Bring over that butler, because I'm going to show you my servant's quarters." She then kneels in her chair and bends over the back, smacking her rump repeatedly while giggling up a storm. Everyone else laughs too, but after dinner, she'll walk right up to Jean-Baptiste and put her arm around him, saying too loudly in his ear, her wine-stained breath dragging across his stubble, "I wasn't kidding earlier. You can go in my hind quarters if you like. I love it back there. Whatever you want to do. I'm all yours. You know where I'm sleeping. Just let yourself in and surprise me." She swatted his ass and waddled away.
But before we can get to that Sonja and Heather have to have another round of silly fighting about the toaster oven photo shoot. I don't even know what the fight is about anymore. Just let it die. Just let this fight turn into a bunch of ashes and just fly away on the wind to never come back. Heather, you're not going to win. Just throw your hands up and walk away. Go over to the wine dispenser and squirt, squirt, squirt yourself some consolation. That's what you need to do.
Carole, because she is a wise woman still dancing with the ghosts that inhabit this house, lures Ramona away from the table and drags LuAnn with her. "Just let them fight," she says. She figures they can just scream themselves hoarse and once their voices sound like sandpaper on a toilet bowl the three of them can amble back and just start their own conversation about something normal and rational. As they're away from dinner, Carole tells Ramona that she's nervous about Russ, her Aerosmith boyfriend, meeting the girls, mostly because they are all Insane Hellcats in Heat (which is the name of the first movie I ever watched on Skinemax). Let us ponder this exchange she has with Ramona:
Carole: Just don't say anything crazy.
Ramona: What would I say that's crazy? I'll just be me.
Carole: No, don't be you.
That, right there is the problem. Ramona is a screech monkey who doesn't know the sound of her own voice causes eardrums to rupture and parts of the brain to swell and expand in a way that often causes headaches and can cause death at certain altitudes. There is nothing Carole can do. Ramona is just crazy and that is it. She can not mitigate her, but she doesn't want to accept her either. Russ is like the old house, funky and familiar, like a down comforter you can curl into for the entire winter. Ramona is the new house, a plaster palace with shiny lights that will blink so fast it will give you a seizure.
OK, now we have to talk about the Countess boinking Johnny Depp.
Are you suffering from the effects of June Gloom? It's the worst when it rains in the summertime, right? Oh, you're actually enjoying a warm, sunny summer? Well then, you're in need of some ammunition for a few summer cocktails, my friend.
Luckily, Hollywood has been busy giving us plenty of reasons to pop open a tall boy or get the blender going (hey, we have to find money for all that AC somewhere, right?). Here are the worst things that happened in Tinseltown this week:
Charlize Theron Just Made Us Painfully Aware of How Much More Fabulous She Is Than Everyone Else
The woman is rocking a buzzcut. A BUZZCUT. We put up with it when Demi Moore shave her head and still looked like a fox. We even made peace with the fact that Natalie Portman was even more beautiful without hair. But here's where we draw the line. How are we normal people supposed to live like this? Oh. We could not shave our heads? I guess that'll do.
We Actually Liked the Dallas Reboot... and So Did Most of America
Don't tell our moms. Then we'll have to explain how much Jesse Metcalfe's shirtlessness had to do with it.
You Cannot Afford the Fabulous Clothes From The Great Gatsby
You want to know the number? Are you sure? I don't think you do. It's out of your price range. I guarantee it. But if you must, click and reveal the number at your own risk.
Homemade Blended Fruit Beverage With Vodka
Emily VanCamp and Josh Bowman Are Clearly Trying to Make Us Jealous
The Revenge real-life couple made out in public. On a beach. Looking svelt in their swimwear. You were probably in an office. Under fluorescent lights. When you saw the photo. Life is unfair.
True Blood is Going to Be Even More Like The Vampire Diaries Because TV is Testing Us
How do we make America smarter? Force them to play a never ending game of whatever you call trying to decide what's different between two photos in the back of a Highlights magazine.
We Spent Two Weeks Agonizing Over the Fate of Glass House and Everything is Going to Be Fine
Some of us (ahem) even read lengthy legal docs for (ahem) some other people. CBS, couldn't we have just accepted that TV audiences love reality shows and just got along in the first place?
Four Loko (If You Can Find It)
Lindsay Lohan Just Scared the S**t Out of Us
For approximately 15 minutes, the internet worried that Miss Lohan had seriously harmed herself. Luckily, it turns out she was just suffering from "exhaustion." Don't you do that to us again, Miss Lohan. Our little hearts can't handle it.
One Mini-Sarah Palin, Comin' Right Up!
Apparently, Bristol Palin (Teen Mom: Politics Edition) wants to get into politics... just like her mother. Get ready to endure some serious parody, little lady. The only question is, who will Tina Fey appoint to play Bristol on SNL?
Game of Thrones Made Us Very Uncomfortable This Week
When it was revealed on a DVD commentary that they did, in fact, use a prosthetic head resembling former President George W. Bush to put on a spike next to Ned Stark's former cerebral center.
There Still Isn't Enough... Exposure in The New Magic Mike Trailer
How are we supposed to get a real idea for the film if the cuts are so speedy? Oh, we have to actually see it? Well, let us prepare the Jackie O sunglasses, headscarves, and lengthy excuses for purchasing our matinee tickets like "I hear it's Matthew McConaughey's best acting in years" or "It's Joe Manganiello's breakout role!"
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler.
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