Carrie Coon on her 'diametrically opposed' summer releases Infinity War and Izzy
You may have already seen Carrie Coon on the big screen this summer as Infinity War’s Proxima Midnight, but the actress has much more up her sleeve than beating the crap out of assorted Avengers.
Coon appears this month in Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town, a film that is so defiantly indie it sticks a bleeped-out expletive right there in its title. Written and directed by Christian Papierniak, the film stars Mackenzie Davis as the title character, a riot grrrl rocker who wakes up one morning, brutally hungover, in a stranger’s bed in Santa Monica. From there, she embarks on a daylong quest to crash her ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend’s engagement party in the Los Feliz hills (for non-Angelenos, that’s way the f*ck across town), seeking the assistance of friends and strangers alike on her chaotic passage.
Coon plays Izzy’s estranged sister Virginia, who quit their band — thus derailing Izzy’s musical dreams — to settle down and start a family. Virginia’s episode in Izzy’s journey is a complex and memorable one, albeit brief.
“I think they shot me out in two days. That’s the way these films go,” the Leftovers actress says. “It just felt like guerrilla filmmaking in the best way.” Coon was in L.A. in early 2016 shooting The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter (which will hit Netflix July 6) when the Izzy team called and asked her to “pop in for the weekend,” she says. “And because I was in LA, and had nothing better to do on the weekend, I guess, I said I would love to!”
The scenes shot over that January weekend appear toward the end of the film, as an increasingly desperate Izzy begs the disapproving Virginia to drive her the rest of the way across the city. The tension is thick as the layers of their fraught relationship slowly reveal themselves, and the sequence culminates in an impromptu duet when the sisters are persuaded to break out their guitars and sing one of their old songs, a cover of Heavens to Betsy’s “Axemen.”
“I’m not tone-deaf, but I can’t walk and sing at the same time,” Coon says of her musical capabilities going into the performance, which you can check out in the exclusive clip above. “You’re never going to see me doing musical theatre, because it would be like watching a post.” She and Davis rehearsed the song one night in Coon’s L.A. apartment before shooting the scene, of which they did “maybe four or five” takes.
“We ran through it a few times [that evening] and tried to find the right octave, and of course it never goes the way you think it’s going to go on the actual day — all the conditions are different,” Coon recalls. “I was nervous about it! Especially because we rehearsed standing up and then we were sitting down in the scene, which you wouldn’t think would make a big difference, but it does to your diaphragm.”
In regards to her singing partner, Coon has nothing but the highest praise. “I think Mackenzie is an extraordinary actor. She’s really the real thing. She’s incredibly smart, she’s very present, she’s fiercely dedicated to being an artist,” she says of Davis, who also produced the film. “She has astonishing range. She’s emotionally so accessible and transparent, and yet still manages to maintain an enigmatic quality that makes her mysterious in the parts she’s playing, from tiny little indies to the big blockbusters.”
Of course, Coon has had to stretch like that herself. Looking at Izzy and Avengers: Infinity War side by side, “you couldn’t have two more diametrically opposed experiences,” she says. “We shot Izzy in a little house with our own costumes with bad breakfast sandwiches for no money, and then you fly to Atlanta and there’s literally an entire studio system devoted to the Marvel franchise.”
Coon was cast as Proxima Midnight after what she thought was just a voiceover audition. She was in a play in New York when it came time to shoot her motion-capture scenes, so Marvel flew her to Atlanta to shoot for six hours, then flew her to San Francisco to get her face scanned at Industrial Light & Magic, then flew her back to New York in time to rehearse and perform in her play. “So it was actually this whirlwind two days where I got all the work done,” she says — just like she did on Izzy.
They were a very different two days, though: “The Avengers franchise is so enormous, it’s actually much lonelier, because you’re never acting with the actors in the room,” Coon says. “Robert Downey Jr.’s come in six weeks ago and done this scene and now you’re coming in and putting yourself into it and he’s not there… You have to imagine the whole thing, as opposed to having a flesh-and-blood human being like Mackenzie Davis in front of you, in all of her beautiful emotional transparency.”
“I always felt, [as a stage actress] before I started doing TV and film, if you’re not being affected by the person across from you, then what are you even doing this for? That’s the exchange of energy that’s really happening, and that’s the thrill of the theatre, that every night you get to go out there and kind of try again and be present with someone,” Coon says. And while she was glad to experience the technological wizardry of MCU filmmaking, because “I’ll always seek out the thing that I’ve never done before” (including, for instance, singing on-camera), it’s the smaller-scale passion projects that speak to her most.
“Making a movie like Izzy feels like scrappy storefront theatre,” she says. “And I love scrappy storefront theatre.”
Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town hits theaters June 22.