Multi-hyphenate Miranda July on being 'just' an actress in Madeline's Madeline
The author, filmmaker and artist stars in upcoming indie film 'Madeline's Madeline'
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As a director-screenwriter-singer-songwriter-actress-writer-artist, Miranda July embodies the notion of being a multi-hyphenate. But in Madeline’s Madeline, the thrillingly experimental new film from Josephine Decker, July proves how well she can wear a single hat. July portrays Regina, the strung-out mother of Madeline (Helena Howard), who watches as her daughter descends into her work with a local theater troupe. July spoke with EW about the role and her seemingly endless list of projects.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Madeline’s Madeline is so brilliantly unique. How did you come to the project?
MIRANDA JULY: Josephine reached out — I didn’t know her — about adapting my novel, The First Bad Man, and so I looked at her first two movies and was totally blown away and intrigued by them. I didn’t want my book to be adapted, but it was nice that I had seen everything, so when I got this email about acting in her next movie, I thought, “Huh, well, I’d get to see how she makes them,” which I think was a great appeal for me as a director. They’re pretty mysterious.
Most of your previous acting experience has been in films you also wrote and directed. How was this experience, of just being an actress, different?
I had so little experience with that. I loved it. It’s kind of night and day, and it really just confirmed for me that the movie I just made, I don’t act in, and I knew that that was coming, so it was kind of a great test: Can these two things be separated, and maybe be stronger on their own? And that certainly was the case for acting. It was just a pleasure, every second of it, which was not the case when you’re directing and acting.
Do you see yourself doing more acting?
Oh, no. I mean, sure, if something like this comes along, something super-unique, but I don’t…. No. Not like a career move at all.
Why don’t you see The First Bad Man being adapted?
I think it’s a little tricky when you make movies. I think I’d be so judgy. Other writers, it’s just kind of a thrill to watch it jump to another medium, and of course, it’s not what they wrote, but it’s sort of mysterious how a movie is made, whereas I would be all over it, and I don’t want to stay involved in that. It took long enough to write that book — I don’t want to keep on doing it. I mean, if Jane Campion or someone said they wanted to do it, maybe I’d do a 180 on this, but actually, when Josephine reached out and I passed on her, I kind of realized, “Okay, if you’re not going to have this person who’s like a completely weird, creative woman do it, then probably you’re just not going to want it adapted.” Because we’ve become really good friends, and I admire her a lot.
In addition to this movie, you have an art installation at the V&A, and you have an upcoming film starring Evan Rachel Wood, Gina Rodriguez, and Richard Jenkins. What is your daily routine like? What do you put in your coffee?
Well, I don’t drink coffee. It really depends. The great thing about moving between these different mediums, it’s going to change. It’s not like a whole life doing one thing. How I start the day? Nothing special. I mean, I have a 6-year-old, so that’s usually a big part of the morning. Right now I just edit all day. Maybe part of it is I’m always overlapping, so right now I’m deep in movie world, but I’m making little notes for my next book. Movies are a long process, and you grow during them, and I think I put that growth and new ideas and everything that won’t fit into the movie into my next project, which is always in another medium, which is always exciting. The hardest medium is always the one you’re working in right now, so the future one always seems like it’s going to save you. “If I don’t get it right here, I’ll get it right there.” I always have the next five years or so of projects laid out, so it’s just steadily moving through them, very methodically.
Your art installation [in which opening and curtains represent the daily of an Uber driver July knows] has a bit of a Truman Show-like feel to it. I’m curious what your own personal relationship with social media is like.
It’s always in flux. It’s funny, I need to post today about Madeline’s Madeline and I don’t have Instagram on my phone right now, so I’ve been madly texting with my assistant and she’s trying to do it, and I’m like, “This is turning into a very expensive post! This is not efficient at all.” But it was kind of a new thing, taking it off [my phone] for the time being, because I’m editing, so I’m looking at a screen all day, and it was just getting to be too much. I just realized when you take a break by checking something on your phone, checking social media, I think it’s not registering as a break for your nervous system. So you’re essentially not getting any breaks, and you’re pretty spun out by the end of the day. So right now, honestly I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite — in a month I could be back on social media — but right now I’m not so much, and I’m also not looking at my phone after I get home from work at 6. Which has really opened up my evenings. It’s kind of like I’m in the ’90s or something. I’m just super-chatty with my husband. Like, “What should we talk about!?”
It seems sometimes as though people project things onto you, that you become a lightning rod for conversations about women or art in general. Do you feel that pressure of representing more than you are?
I do sometimes feel like sometimes in interviews, I’ll think, can we just talk about the work? There’ll be some sort of big, sweeping question, and I’m sort of nerdier than that in some ways. I really just work, and I like to talk about that process if I’m going to be doing interviews. That’s the feeling sometimes: that there’s some thesis that I have to bear out. I don’t know what it is or how it might be used against me, but it usually is pretty unrelated to the thing I made.
Last question: What is art?
Ha! That’s a for-real question that I get asked!