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Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor
for Radio Free Entertainment

June 21, 2005

In the slice-of-everyday-life drama Nine Lives, writer/director Rodrigo Garcia spins a web of stories concerning nine women, examining their struggles, hopes, and fears. The compiled vignettes (some of which directly intersect with others) are each shot in a single take, offering a certain cinematic hook and the chance for the actors to be a part of an atypical film process. The varied ensemble cast includes Holly Hunter, Robin Wright Penn, Jason Isaacs, Molly Parker, Kathy Baker, Joe Mantegna, William Fichtner, Glenn Close, and Dakota Fanning.

In her segment of the film, Mean Girls star Amanda Seyfried plays a teenager who is forced to be the adult of the family, putting aside her future to care for her disabled father (Ian McShane) and act as his bridge to her alienated mother (Sissy Spacek). In this interview, Amanda talks about being involved in a project with so many accomplished actors, as well as some of her own plans for the future.

The Interview

MEDIA: Just so we don't continue to verbally mutilate it: how do you pronounce your last name?

AMANDA: Oh, it's "Cy-Fred"...I'm definitely getting rid of that last name. No offense to my family. But maybe I should just get a stage name.

So...Rodrigo wrote your part specifically with you in mind?

Yeah, apparently...Which is amazing. I'm really lucky for that. I guess he just decided he needed a piece with somebody younger.

Has any screenwriter done that for you before?

No. It's such an honor. Gosh, and I just worked with him, and so it was even cooler because I was working with him on a totally different level and totally different rhythm, and it was his own project.

Your scene is not only shot in a single take, but it also requires you to move between different locations and interact with two actors in different rooms. Was that process difficult?

No. It was a little bit complicated at first...The choreography of it and stuff like that. But I'm completely open to the idea. I really wish that was the way things are made more [often]. It's like theatre. You have more of a chance to get more into the scene, more involved. And you just lose yourself in it, and you become the character, and you just get deeper into it than I think I normally get a chance to do. I hate when you're really involved and you're just completely in the moment, and then it's just, "Cut!" And I think it just gave me a chance to really just go for it. And I really hope that I can do something like that again, because it definitely helps.

How often do abrupt interruptions in a scene break your acting rhythm?

A lot. Very often. You know..."this sounds wrong," and technical things, and if I get a line wrong or something. It happens a lot...You just have to do what you can with what you have, in the time that you have. This gave me a lot of time.

How many takes did your scene require?

Seven. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's the number that sticks out. It was a lot. But I feel like I wanted to keep doing it.

Have you previously done a lot of theatre?

No. I did theatre when I was nine, I think. Nine and ten, and that was just the beginning of my whole involvement in acting, my whole interest. I don't really remember it that well. But it was really fun. I mean, it was exciting just to be on stage in front of an audience. It gives you a different kind of rush.

Was it daunting to work with Sissy Spacek?

I was intimidated at first...but she's not intimidating at all. She lives on a farm in Virginia. She's so grounded and she's such a good mother. It was amazing. I'm so glad I've worked with her.

Can you personally relate to your character having so many responsibilities in her family?

Ummm...Not really with her responsibilities. The whole relationship between her parents...that's not the way my parents are. I'm definitely not in the same kind of circumstance at all. At that age, I was definitely the child [of my family]. But sometimes I feel like I'm the adult when my parents fight over little stupid things, and then I'll be proud of myself for actually being able to see a kind of realistic perspective, just being the outsider of whatever they're fighting about. But otherwise, I can relate to the awkwardness of her age. But I never had very many responsibilities. I was never the caretaker in my family, especially at that age.

Her academic future is an important aspect of the character. Are you currently attending college yourself?

No, I'm not. I was. I missed my first class. I was in the lobby of the college--I was going to go to Fordham--and I was scared, and I was on the phone with my mom, and I'm like, "I'm kind of late. I don't really know where I'm going." And then the elevators closed, and that was the moment I walked away. It was kind of a surreal experience, actually, but that's exactly how it went. And I haven't looked back.

Any plans on taking another shot at it?

Yes. Definitely.

In the immediate future?

Not in the immediate future. Maybe I'll take some side classes. My friend, who plays my brother on the show that I'm doing now...he takes night classes. And I think that I might do that slowly. I know a few friends that actually have been doing it over the years, and they've accumulated a certain amount of credits. But I think I want to go full time at some point. Just not any time soon.

What would you like to study?

Something having to do with earth science. I've been interested in meteorology for a really long time, since I was really young. [jokes] Since Twister came out, pretty much. And now I'm kind of interested in earthquakes. So I think I'm just going to be vague about it.

Do you feel the order in which the Nine Lives stories are told is important?

Yeah, I do. The intensity is different for each one. And you don't want to put two of them that intense and so heartbreaking next to each other.

There are so many actors in this movie, and you didn't get to work with all of them. Is today the first day that you're meeting some of them, up close and personal?

Yeah! I just met Kathy. Which is my favorite story, Kathy's and Joe's. I mean, I love all the stories, but that one is my favorite one. I didn't actually formally meet Joe, but I just saw them pass. There's still a few people that I haven't met. Hopefully I will tonight.

Is it overwhelming to suddenly meet all of these accomplished actors?

I was sitting on the stage at Sundance with most of the people in the film. How weird was that? What a turning point in my own life! And my mom has pictures. It's just amazing! And I just felt so little. I'm like, "Are we really all standing in the same line?" [laughs] But yeah, that was cool.

Were you nervous about being the youngest principal cast member? Well, except for Dakota Fanning, I guess...

Well...[laughs] She's older than me, I can tell you that much! But yeah, I was nervous, of course.

Can you enjoy your own segment like any other viewer? Or do you have a problem watching yourself?

Ummm...I do. I've only seen it once, and usually the first time I see something that I know that I'm in, I'm very, very critical. Very critical. And then after, if I've seen it a bunch of times, I look at it from an audience perspective, and I just forget that it's me. But I've only seen it once, so it was really kind of scary. I think I'm...what? The fifth [story]? And the first couple stories, I was watching, and it was like there was something buzzing in my mind, like, "You're next! You haven't gone yet! It's going to be in front of a thousand people, and it's the first time you're seeing it." But then after that, I was able to just relax and really involve myself in these other characters.

Thanks for your time.

Thank you very much!

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