The ''Way of the Gun'' star tells why she's no psychopath or Barbie doll

By Liane Bonin
Updated September 14, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT
Lewis: Armando Gallo/Retna

The Way of the Gun

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As a kidnapped surrogate mother in ”The Way of the Gun” (in theaters now), Juliette Lewis brings wily spunk to what might otherwise be a typical damsel in distress role. That’s probably because the 27 year old actress has never liked playing the victim, on screen or off. After scoring a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nod at the age of 18 (for 1991’s ”Cape Fear”), Lewis became gossip column fodder because of her teenage relationship with Brad Pitt and a depression fueled drug problem.

After a stint in rehab, she took an 18 month sabbatical from acting before making her comeback in last year’s ”The Other Sister.” She hasn’t slowed down since. The clean and sober star sat down with to talk about her recent marriage to pro skateboarder Steve Berra, grossing out her brother, and why she doesn’t mind if you think she’s a serial killer.

In this movie you’re sweaty, dirty, bloody, and nine months pregnant. Glamour isn’t very important to you, is it?
It’s never been my goal to be idolized or be the Barbie doll. As soon as I’m being talked about as one of the best dressed in Hollywood or whatever, I’m not doing the right work. I look for complicated parts. I just did a comedy, playing a bisexual woman in ”Gaudi Afternoon” [a thriller due in theaters next year], and that was very girly girl. I showed my midsection in these Indian skirts and had these ringlet curls. I was in hair and makeup for a while for that one.

Not only did you get married during filming, so did your costar, Nicky Katt, and your director Chris McQuarrie wed ”Gun”’s costume designer, Heather Neely. Was there something in the drinking water or what?
I joked with Chris that this was the Love Set. I’ve never been on a set where so much commitment was going on. It was kind of special. Cosmic, really. The reason I got married [during filming] was because we were actually supposed to be done with shooting by that point, but I had picked our wedding date as 9-9-99, which is very special because it only happens once, and I didn’t want to change it. So I went, got married, and flew right back.

You’re probably best known for your role as psycho killer Mallory Knox in 1994’s ”Natural Born Killers.” Do people ever look at you funny in the grocery store?
No, because it was a caricature. It was a joke for me. But I’m glad I was so convincing. I was 19 and worried that no one would believe I could kill someone with my bare hands. So if anyone thinks I’m really a psychopath, that just means I did a good job.

Do people often confuse you with your roles?
The big misconception people have about me is that my childhood is all involved with movies. But as a kid, I was horseback riding, going to summer camp. People probably think I’m overly intense just judging from my movies. But I’m really very practical, and I like to see the positive in others. That’s a change from when I was growing up. Some people are positive and then become pessimistic, and I’m the opposite.

Your dad Geoffrey Lewis [best known for costarring in 1978’s ”Every Which Way but Loose”] plays a hitman in ”Way of the Gun.” Was it rough for him watching you in that gory birthing scene?
It was actually my brother who was most upset. My mom, who’s had six kids by natural childbirth was, like, ”Whatever.” She’s a bit of a warrior. My dad praised how rich and authentic the film is. But my brother was really disturbed for about three days.

What kind of research did you do for this role? Any pickles and ice cream?
Ryan Phillippe actually said I could call Reese Witherspoon [the couple has a young child] anytime I wanted for tips, but I opted to go with my sister because she’d had two kids and one labor was induced. So I would be laying there in the scene, putting more blood on, talking to my sister on the cell phone to get technical tips. I wanted to do a good job by all mothers, to represent that pressure you feel in the ninth month, and show the tremendous amount of strength it takes to endure it.

What’s with the tattoo on the inside of your wrist? That isn’t a Pokémon, is it?
No! It’s a cartoon, a Japanese thing, but not a Pokémon. It’s a symbol of youth. But I think I might get it removed. I’ve had it for six years. I’m done now.

Because you’re all grown up now?
Totally. I felt like such the Lolita age for so long. Most people as they get older look back on the teenage years as this neat time because you had no responsibilities, but the truth is those years are horrible to go through. Now I can focus on creating my relationships with my friends and family, and then there’s my creative goals, too. Now I’m 27, mama. I’m officially a woman.

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The Way of the Gun

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  • 119 minutes