Why is it important to you to have other outlets like writing or drawing?
I don’t know what it is. I’ve always kept and collected things, and I’ve always been interested in the idea of diaries. I must have 10 different personal diaries: I keep a dream diary, I keep a yoga diary, I keep diaries on people that I’ve met and things that they’ve said to me, advice that they’ve given me. I keep an acting journal. I keep collage books. They’ve given me a place where I can try to figure myself out, because those kinds of ideas feel too personal to put out into the public or even discuss with anyone else. It allows me to get things out of my head and work them out in a way that feels safe, which is really helpful. I can kind of play around with things.
That’s been a big part of what school has meant to me. I got famous very young, and [college] gave me a safe zone where I could figure things out without people projecting onto me their ideas of what they wanted me to be, or thought I should be.
Journaling is nice because no matter how hard something is to go through, you at least MADE something out of it, which is really satisfying.
Also, I think your thoughts are so much less frightening when they’re tangible, when you can see them on a page in front of you. And it’s less narcissistic and egotistical than releasing your own autobiography, which would be my worst nightmare. [Laughs] Maybe one day I would write some things out, but not for a while. Not for a while.
Though even when it is a private thing and there are no judgments, a blank page is still so intimidating. It makes me scared to even start.
I had an art teacher who said that there is nothing scarier than a blank canvas. Before he gave us our canvases he’d scribble or splash paint on them so that we didn’t have to work off this intimidating white space. I think there’s something to be said for that.
Richard Burton’s diaries came out [in December], and Elizabeth Taylor used to go through them and would write things in them—so he obviously wrote his diaries with the idea that people would read them, that they would be public. My diaries are very much written as if no one would ever read them. I have, actually… [She gets up and goes to another room, and returns with a stack of books and journals.] This is what college does to you. You’re terrified of reading a book without a pen in your hand, because time is so much of the essence that the first time you read something, if you have an idea, you have to write it down, because there’s gonna be no time for you to read it again. So all of my books look like this. [Leafs through a book—every page is filled with notes and marginalia.] This is a really nice book that my dad got me in Venice. Everyone I’ve ever met who said anything interesting, everything is in here. Just so I remember these things.
Oh my god! You are so smart to keep all this!
Thank you! [Turning pages] So, I have Helena Bonham Carter, and this is Karl Lagerfeld—this is when he shot me for Crash magazine and I went to his studio in Paris. His studio is covered in books. He gave me two books which he illustrated, and he suggested that I should do that one day. He said so many funny things. This is Tim Burton. This is one of my acting teachers from RADA [the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art]…Jean Shrimpton…this is David Yates. Rupert [Grint] has a page. [Laughs] James Franco has a page. My mother has a page. I just get terrified I’ll forget things! [Finding a card in the stack of books] Oh, this is so cool—this is from the president!
[Laughs] Yeah! That’s their dog! Isn’t that insane?
Totally! Is acting like journaling for you, like you’re figuring yourself out through a role?
Absolutely. But it’s actually through the characters are are the least like me I figure out the most about myself. Playing Nicki in The Bling Ring gave me such insight into myself—parts of me that I’m uncomfortable with, or that I don’t like. I realized through playing her that I can be so judgmental in a way that I wish I wasn’t. And I found things that I had in common with her, which was difficult as well.
The fact that you experience that feeling of insecurity that we talked about before, no matter how successful you may seem to be—that probably helped you show us the insecurity in Sam [in the movie]. Like, there’s this thing Jodie Foster wrote where she said that as an actor you’re supposed to expose your vulnerabilities and the parts of yourself that you don’t like… I’m sorry, I just did my least favorite interview thing, where someone just says something instead of asking a question.
No, no! It’s so much nicer when it’s a conversation. If you just do the whole question/answer thing I end up repeating myself so much. When the other person offers new angles on things, you can hopefully say something new. But yeah, it’s funny: The day that I shot the scene where I had my first kiss with Logan, I just wasn’t feeling good—I was feeling really tired at that point, and that was my most important scene in the movie. I remember begging Stephen, “Please could we do it another day, I just don’t feel like I can do it today.” And he did this really cool thing where he drew a line outside my trailer and was like, “When you step over that line, that’s when you have to let go of everything, let go of you—you have to just go and be present as Sam, and leave everything else that you’re worrying about behind.”
Stephen has been such a great mentor to me. He was actually here last night, helping me with my homework. He came over and I made him dinner, and he helped me figure out what I was gonna write my thesis on. He’s just the best. He’s someone who walked into my life and just got me. I remember when I first met him—he came to my hotel, and within 20 minutes he had insights about me that I don’t even know if my family has. That was what made me believe that I could play Sam. Because I get worried sometimes—I get crazy. After Harry Potter I didn’t feel very confident in myself as an actor. It’s lucky that I’ve improved that now, but back then I needed someone to believe in me, and Stephen really did.