Evan Rachel Wood is truly one of the best performers of our time. From her roles on television (one of which, the earliest depiction of a questioning teen on Once and Again) to her diverse film career (including queer roles in Thirteen, Pretty Persuasion, and The Wrestler), the out actress has proven that she can make any character own, stealing every scene with her captivating ability to be both recognizable while also becoming the fully-realized person she is playing on screen.
Evan’s role in Into the Forest is no exception. Written and directed by out filmmaker Patricia Rozema, the thriller follows sisters Eva (Evan) and Nell (Ellen Page) as they find themselves alone in their house in the forest, 30 miles from the nearest town. A slightly futuristic story adapted from the 1997 Jean Hegland novel of the same name, Into the Forest details how the women survive after a mass power outage leaves them fending for themselves as food becomes scarce and danger comes knocking at their door.
As Eva, Evan is a focused dancer, intense in her connection to their late mother, and not incredibly close with her Harvard-bound younger sister. But as their world becomes smaller and smaller and they are forced to make life and death decisions, Eva and Nell form a bond that is not only necessary for them to survive, but for them to believe they can.
We spoke with Evan Rachel Wood about working with Ellen and Patricia, as well as her new role in the upcoming film Westworld and her new musical duo, Rebel and a Basket Case.
[Caution: Slight spoilers ahead.]
Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic
AfterEllen.com: So what did you know about the story before Ellen sent you the script?
Evan Rachel Wood: I knew nothing about it. The only disclaimer I got was “It’s intense; some intense things happen to your character, just be ready.” I was like “OK.” And there were even some things that didn’t end up in the final film. I was just blown away and just flattered that Ellen thought of me and trusted me to do this role. I was already, before I even read this script, kind of ready to say yes because I admire her and her taste and I knew it was going to be amazing, but it exceeded my expectations. And I was just so happy that I connected so deeply with this character and I haven’t really felt so–it just didn’t even feel like we were playing characters. The movie’s hard for me to watch now because it’s like I miss them, because we just got so deep in it, and we didn’t have a lot of time to film it, so there wasn’t a lot of down time. We just stayed in it. Even though Ellen and I still see each other all the time, and we’re still friends, we still sobbed uncontrollably at the end because it was in this capacity, in this world, as these people, it was it and it was so special. It was just an experience I’ll never forget for sure.
AE: How did you originally meet Ellen? I assume this brought you so much closer.
ERW: Yeah, it’s funny, and it’s a shame. As a woman, you don’t normally get to work with your peers. There’s usually like one kind of lead female role in movies, and I always make a joke that I’m the Wendy to the Lost Boys because I’m the one girl in this sea of dudes. So it was like “Wait, I actually get to work with one of my peers and somebody that I’ve admired for so long.” She was just always one of those people that I was like, “If I’m not doing it, I’m glad she’s doing it.”
She’s incredible. But it was so satisfying because it was like having the best tennis partner and you could serve it up, and they were just going to serve it right back. We just got in this flow. I signed on a year before we started shooting and we knew that it was going to be important for that relationship to seem very real and there are certain things you can’t fake—familiarities and inside jokes, little looks we give each other. The subtleties are what really sell it.
But it was a real treat to get to know Ellen as Ellen, my friend, and then after a year of that, walking onto that set and seeing Ellen Page in action and being like “Oh my god!” Already thinking the world of her but then seeing her work and seeing the transformation and seeing this power was really, really cool. It was cool to watch. I’d have to make a point of staying in the scene because I’d get caught up watching her.
AE: Nell and Eva start off not being so tight because they are so different; they kind of co-exist. How was it shooting those days versus toward the end when they are all each other has?
ERW: When people ask me the hardest thing about this film, I say it was either seeing Ellen cry or in any kind of trouble–it was just awful. I felt so Mama Bear with her. But yeah, and then having to fight with her! But the director from the start always said, “Spend as much time with each other as you can to the point where you are annoying each other; you’re like sisters. Fight! Cry! Do whatever you need to do.” We didn’t, it was very hard. I don’t think we ever got to that point. I couldn’t get enough of her, so that was difficult.
But what I love about the film is that the core—they begin the film with a deep love for each other, but it’s just another one of those things that we kind of take for granted and when you are faced with the impermanence of life, and when you see how fragile it is. And you see in this film everything being taken away from them, at the end of the day they’re left with each other, and they’re left with this love, and that’s what gets them through. I’m going through that in my life right now, you know, just after the past couple weeks. I felt a shift, and I’ve reached out to so many people and just told them that I love them and didn’t want to let one more day go by without telling people how I felt about them. I think that’s what happens in times of trauma and loss and despair, and it can either break you or it can open you up. I think that’s kind of what these girls go through. Which is why this film is sad and intense but there’s so much beauty and hope and rebirth.