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Mistress America

  • Movie

As many on the internet are more than happy to explain, Lola Kirke is having a bit of a moment. The 24-year-old actress — sister to Girls star Jemima Kirke and singer Domino Kirke, daughter of Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke — made a splash last year in a brief supporting role alongside Rosamund Pike in David Fincher’s Gone Girl and comes into her own this weekend opposite Greta Gerwig in Noah Baumbach’s Mistress America.

“David Fincher, I’m not even sure he knows my name,” Kirke, who will next star with Tom Cruise in Doug Liman’s Mena says. “Doug Liman, it felt like I went to school with him — I didn’t feel intimidated by him, but I really respected him. He’s really salt of the earth. Noah, I love. But Noah can be scary. He’s really smart. You see it in his movies.”

That includes Mistress America. The new comedy, which made its debut at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and is out now in limited release, stars Kirke as a college freshman wowed by her soon-to-be stepsister (Gerwig), a blast of energy out of the kind of movie Jonathan Demme or Martin Scorsese might have made in the 1980s. (Indeed, both Demme’s Something Wild and Scorsese’s After Hours have been cited as influences by Gerwig and Baumbach, who co-wrote the script.)

“I definitely connected to the character,” Kirke says, while revealing she didn’t even see the script before agreeing to star. “I went to college and I was a lost college freshman myself. I got that it was about that. I think it was one of those things where you hear those people are making a project and you don’t necessarily care what it is.”

Kirke spent 60 days shooting Mistress America in New York and Connecticut, and said she learned a lot from her co-conspirators. But what should audiences know about Kirke before she blows up further? Ahead, six things we learned about August’s breakout young star.

Credit: Jeff Vespa/WireImage

She was almost a child star until Julianne Moore set her straight. Kirke said she was a “child-actor wannabe” at age 11, but a conversation with Julianne Moore set her straight.

“My mom is good friends with Julianne Moore. I was with her and she was like, ‘Don’t do this,'” Kirke says. “I was like, ‘Why?’ She was like, ‘Just don’t. Wait until you graduate college.’ So if Gore Vidal said to you, ‘Don’t pursue something,’ you’d say no. So I didn’t, and I am really grateful for it. I got to continue to act and make theater and films in high school, but with myself and my friends.”

She’s good at pretending it’s warm outside. Mistress America takes place over the first semester of college in the fall, but Baumbach actually shot the movie in the dead of New York winter.

“There was definitely one day where we were faking early September or late August in December,” Kirke says. “I thought, ‘If this isn’t in the movie I’m going to f—king flip out.’ It was me walking around uptown in a tank top while Noah sat in a minivan and shot the whole thing in negative 10 degree temperatures. He said, ‘If you look cold, then you have to do it longer.’ They did use it, I didn’t look cold, and I’m stronger for it.”

She didn’t do a lot of improvising on the set. “It’s really wonderful dialogue,” Kirke says of the screenplay for Mistress America, which has the bouncy rhythms of a stage play or 1930s screwball comedy. “They care about their dialogue. They want you to say it the way it’s written. That’s something that’s pretty unique to stage a lot of the time. With film and television, you often hear people asking to make it your own or make it more human. ‘Add the pauses, add the likes, add the ums.’ It was really cool who understand behavior and language and the way humans use language.”

She also didn’t have a makeup artist. “It was a really small crew. There weren’t a lot of things you might find on another movie set,” Kirke says. “There was no hair and makeup. The D.P. did my makeup — and that was just for shine. He would powder me and cover my pimples. And cover them by prodding me with a makeup wand that he did not know how to use.”

Her own college roommate story is probably a lot like yours. In Mistress America, Kirke and her college roommate are often out of step with each other. That’s not far off from what happened to the actress herself. “My actual roommate experience was pretty ridiculous,” she says. “My freshman year roommate was a lovely person, but we were very different. The housing form asks, ‘What are your five favorite kinds of music, and what are your five least favorite kinds of music?’ I wrote musical theater as my least favorite kind across all five spaces. When I got there, my roommate was pasting a ‘Cabaret’ poster above her bed. She would have conversations with her dad on the phone that lasted an hour every day, where she would use words like curmudgeonly. She had this incredible vocabulary with words I had never thought to use in a sentence. And she was writing a comparative study of the bible and the Koran for fun. She was super smart. We barely spoke ever. I was also never really in the room, so she got a sweet deal out of it.”

But despite the differences, Kirke did recall one moment of connection between the pair.

“One time I was having a really hard time and I was crying, and I asked her to give me a hug. And she did,” Kirke says. “That was nice. She was lovely, we were just different.”

Her favorite Noah Baumbach movie not named Mistress America is… “I love Frances Ha,” she says. “I absolutely love it.”

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Mistress America
2015 movie
  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 84 minutes
  • Noah Baumbach