Over the past few years, Brit Marling has established herself as a reliable presence in the world of independent film, with a string of projects that wow Sundance audiences before making their way into art-house screens across the country. There was 2011’s Another Earth, 2012’s Sound of My Voice and 2013’s The East. Add to that list this year’s I Origins, Mike Cahill’s clever follow-up to Earth that pairs Marling with Michael Pitt playing molecular biologists on the cusp of a game-changing evolutionary discovery.
Though Marling’s resume skews indie, she insists she’s not resisting the higher(-budgeted) calling of Hollywood: “I think a big-budget movie made at a studio can be as moving and as poetic and as interesting as an indie film like Once, really handmade for very little money,” she told Yahoo Movies at the LA press day for Origins. “I was really moved by Avatar. I thought it had a lot of amazing ideas in it.”
Marling, 30, who co-wrote Another Earth, Sound of My Voice and The East, is clearly both a fan and student of film, so we asked her about some of the movies that defined different points of her life.
What’s the first movie that you remember seeing?
The Princess Bride. I was so young, I don’t even remember [how old]. But my sister and I had matching posters above our beds. Like, we couldn’t just have one, we each had to have one. This was when we were really little, still sharing a room because we were both afraid of the dark at night, and we had twin beds next to each other with matching Princess Bride posters over the bed.
Still, if you watch that movie now, you’re, like, ‘This is a damn masterpiece’… And she, of all the princess characters I’ve ever seen, is the most strong-willed and self-possessed. I mean, mostly because of Robin Wright, who’s a fantastic actress, really moving.
As you got older, what VHS tape did you wear out from watching so much?
I watched Jurassic Park a lot of times. I loved Jurassic Park, it’s amazing. I mean, come on, that scene where they look at the cup and it starts rippling out from the center… And [imitates dinosaur stomping] you can hear something coming. It’s an amazing scene.
What was the first movie that you snuck into?
I snuck into Boogie Nights, sort of. I was [at a theater] with my parents, and I was young enough that my parents were like, ‘You shouldn’t be watching Boogie Nights.’ And then I just left the theater that they were in and went into Boogie Nights and watched it. And loved it.
What was your first date movie?
[Laughs] City of God. Great movie. It was the first movie I remember where it was, like, ‘We’re on a date and this is a great movie. And we’re going to have a great night because this movie’s so great.’ That movie came out of nowhere and it wasn’t like anything anyone had seen before.
What film made you want to become an actor?
Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Red. And Irène Jacob’s performance in that.She’s not even performing, she’s not even acting, there wasn’t a false note in that. You never catch her acting. She’s being. She’s in the story, and everything is intuitive and instinctual. And it’s so lovely to watch. She’s mesmerizing.
What film have you seen more than any other?
What would the real answer to that be? It would have to be something I studied. I think that I’ve seen The Silence of the Lambs a couple times, because I’ve read the script so many times. I think I’ve watched that quite a few times. That’s probably the scariest movie I can tolerate to watch. I can’t watch horror movies, really, and that one really skirts close to something that is the kind of thing that would keep me up for nights on end. [Jodie Foster] is so awesome in it. She’s brave, so it makes you less afraid. It’s such a great script.
Is there a film you’ll watch as you’re looking for inspiration to write?
I watched La Jetée again recently, Chris Marker’s short. And every time I watch that, I think, This guy was just using black-and-white stills and voiceover and he told this simple story with so much feeling and depth and complexity… When I watch that I always feel inspired, because he can do that with that, you gotta man up a bit. It makes you less afraid. You should woman up.
What movie is your guilty pleasure?
I have to tell you, there aren’t any movies I feel guilty about. I just like them. Like I love Clueless, but I wouldn’t consider it a guilty pleasure. I think Clueless is a f—king great film. Incredible chemistry, incredible cast, funny, free-spirited. Some people may call that a guilty pleasure but I just call that pleasure.
What was the last movie you saw recently that blew you away?
I just watched Underground. It was amazing, I was having a heart attack. It’s a Serbian film by Emir Kusturica, it was at Cannes. That guy has a point of view on the world, and every image of the film has something to say. There’s not a single frame of that film that he’s not thinking about and not communicating a whole story within each frame. It’s stunning.
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Photo: Fox Searchlight