Juno Temple’s star is definitely on the rise. The daughter of punk filmmaker Julien Temple, the 22-year-old English-born actress began her career with supporting roles in movies like Notes on a Scandal, Atonement, and St. Trinian’s — and later delivered a lead performance in Jordan Scott’s excellent, unfairly maligned boarding school drama, Cracks. She’ll soon headline several films including William Friedkin’s Killer Joe, Jonas Akerlund’s Small Apartments and the long-percolating lesbian werewolf project Jack and Diane, in addition to starring as a “street smart Gotham girl” in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises — a role that has fans speculating could be anything from Selina Kyle’s sidekick Holly Robinson to Harley Quinn to a female Robin.
In the meantime, Temple appears in this week’s Dirty Girl, an autobiographical comedy-drama from debut director Abe Sylvia. Set in the strange world of Oklahoma in 1987, the film follows the unlikely adventure of two misfit high schoolers — Temple’s trashy, promiscuous Danielle and Jeremy Dozier’s overweight, closeted Clarke — as they bust out of town and head for the Californian coast, a posse of angry and/or confused parents desperately on their trail. Which means Temple gets to wear anachronistic hot pants, flip the bird to religious zealots and strip to Sheena Easton’s “Strut” — things we’re pretty sure won’t be called upon for her employment in Gotham City. We caught up with Temple recently to chat about Dirty Girl, but first, she took a few moments to run through her all-time five favorite films.
Badlands (Terrence Malick, 1973; 98% Tomatometer)
Badlands, I think is one of the best love stories of all time. I think it’s beautifully shot and I think Sissy Spacek’s flawless in it. I watched that movie and — you know when your hair stands up on your body and you can’t control it? — that movie really affected me quite deeply, and I cried at the end. I based a character that I did last year in this movie called Killer Joe on Sissy Spacek in that movie. It’s a big inspiration for me. I think it’s a flawless movie.
Heathers — again, a kind of weird romance story and a dark tale. I love the dialogue in that movie. I probably shouldn’t quote it.
“F–k me gently with a chainsaw.” [Laughs] But my favorite is, “You’re such a pillow case.” It’s so good — it’s like the worst insult ever but so funny. It’s just so funny and so gritty and I love the performances in it, and I think it has one of the best endings of all time.
Because I think it’s one of my dad’s masterpieces, and Joe Strummer was someone who was a big part of my upbringing and was one of my dad’s best friends. I have such great memories of hanging out with the two of them. It’s something that means a lot to me. I really think my dad put his heart and soul into that film and that’s the kind of film-making I wanna do. No, I don’t wanna direct. I wanna act.
Did you learn from your dad, growing up around sets?
Yeah. I did. I mean, I learned a lot. He helped me with a lot of tough decisions at times and, you know, he’s helped me with a lot of auditions, too. I really hope I get to do a movie with him one day, and he gets to direct me in a film. I would love that beyond words.
I’d love to see him do another narrative feature. Absolute Beginners is kind of great.
I agree. Earth Girls Are Easy is probably my number six on this list. [Laughs]
La belle et la bête by Jean Cocteau. It’s the movie that made me want to be an actress. I was four-years-old and my dad had it on laser disc. I was being annoying and bratty or whatever, I was a child, and my dad said, “Hey, watch this movie.” This is when we lived in LA and we had this great giant striped couch and I was wearing — I remember this so well — this corduroy dress with red trim, and I lay there and started watching it. I had a really vivid imagination as a child but I had never seen anything like this in my life. Do you remember the scene where she faints and the Beast carries her and he has that incredible cloak that looks like it is actually the night sky? It’s insane. And he carries her and all the arms — we had these arms in our house, these giant arms that hold the candles — all the arms move and he’s carrying her and walks into her bedroom, and as he goes through the door with her, her clothes go from rags to riches. I remember that being the specific scene where I was like, “I wanna do that. How does that happen? I wanna be a part of that.” That was the day I knew I wanted to be an actress. Also, the way that the Beast smokes, when he looks at her and his skin smokes; and when he takes off the glove and his hand’s just smoking. The whole ending… it’s this weird, twisted ending.
Next, Temple chats about her role in this week’s Dirty Girl, and how an English private school girl gets into character as a mid-West American teen.
RT: It’s a curious character, this one. How did you end up being cast for the movie?
Juno Temple: I got sent the script by my agent and I read it and of course I wanted to audition for it — I wanted the part immediately. I arrived at my audition and I was wearing cut-off denim hot pants, biker boots, ripped band t-shirt, a biker jacket that I’d sliced the sleeves off of, had a nose piercing and my dreadlocked hair that I hadn’t brushed in three weeks and I had a sh-tload of jewelry.
This was all for character?
No, it’s kind of the way I dress. I’m a big fan of ’90s grunge — the grungier the better. So I went in and did my thing, then got a phone call from my agent saying “They loved your audition, but they want you to come back in and take out the nose ring and brush your hair.” So I went back in looking slightly tidier.
[Laughs] I remember I was furious ’cause I had a 45-minute audition and I came out and my nose had closed. My ex boyfriend had to re-pierce my nose on the way home, and my nose was bleeding. [Laughs] It got re-pierced and it was back in for a while. Then I got a call back to come in and chemistry read with Jeremy [Dozier] and it was like an instant click. We just got on immediately in a way that was quite overwhelming.
The film immediately establishes that your character’s in control — at least in the sexual sense. Was that something that appealed to you?
Yeah, what attracted me was the journey she goes on, what she goes through — because she has this crazy arc. I liked the fiery, outrageous personality that she has in the beginning. She has attitude and she doesn’t care what people think. She’s gonna speak her mind and sometimes it pisses people off. But she’s very misunderstood, too — she’s misunderstood by her family, by her school; boys use her for sex and that’s all they care about. She doesn’t have any friends. Then Clarke comes into her life and I think fate brings them together. I’m a strong believer in that fate is real, but it only gets you so far — then you have to make the choice to do something. And so they do: they continue this incredible friendship and they really bring each other out of their shells. They really open each others’ eyes. I think that’s a great example of a true friendship, when you see the world through somebody else’s eyes and you like looking at the world that way. They do that for one another. I think the moral of the story is don’t judge a book by its cover, which I think is great when you look at all the sh-t that’s going on in schools — with the bullying and stuff. You know, what better than to say, “Some people aren’t gonna like you or take you for what you are, but some people will — and they’re gonna change your life.” They’re the people you should be hanging out with.
I’m guessing high school in Oklahoma is not the way you grew up–
[Laughs] Oh, I went to an English boarding school!
So how do you become this teenager in the mid West in 1987?
I talked to the director a lot about the kids in his school — ’cause it’s his story and nobody knows it better than him. We talked a lot about it and figured out how she’s gonna be. She’s an ’80s character but she also looks very ’70s, so she doesn’t quite fit into the world — she’s got hand-me-downs from her mom, because they can’t afford new clothes. So that makes her even more of a misfit. I love that she’s this kind of Cherie Currie character in this uptight Oklahoma high school — she really looks like she sticks out like a sore thumb. I loved that, the make-up and everything and the Farrah Fawcett bangs. I thought that was cool having her different to everyone else, because everyone notices her and are like, “Who the f–k is that?” So that was another thing, the costumes. And getting into the music — because like I said, I’m a ’90s grunge fan, so that really wasn’t my music scene, but once you listen to it and get into the idea of playing that character, it was brilliant.
So now you’re a fan of Melissa Manchester?
How was it singing her song while she played behind you on piano?
I’ve never been so nervous in my entire life. Singing A cappella with her playing piano behind me. I was so nervous. I’m shaking [Laughs] You can totally see it. She was so kind afterwards. She was so lovely to me and Jeremy. It was pretty cool to be singing Melissa Manchester’s power ballad that just blew a bunch of peoples’ minds in the ’80s and she’s there playing piano while you do it… it was a trip.
Last question. I’m sure nobody’s asked you about this–
The Dark Knight? Oh no, you’re not gonna ask about it. Okay. Because everyone’s been asking and I’m not allowed to talk about it.
I just have one question: Is it true that you’re playing The Penguin?
Obviously! I mean — look at me. [Laughs]
Dirty Girl is in select theaters this week.