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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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So well spoken

By Mark Mitchell

The conference call with Evan Rachel Wood goes something like this:

She is somewhere on her cell phone, patched through a switchboard in Los Angeles and another one in New York. Sometimes, we can hear her, and sometimes we can’t. Sometimes we mishear her. Her laugh, transmitted across all that fiber-optic cable and atmosphere when someone asks her a question she doesn’t want to answer, is scratchy and indistinct. A couple times, we get cut off, and someone asks a complicated question into the void and we all sit there, listening only to the feedback whine of all those Scotch-tape connections.

Perhaps it’s a fitting encounter with a 19-year-old actress who doesn’t demand excessive amounts of undeserved attention from grocery-store gossip rags or drunkenly crashes her pot-filled car into the local Wendy’s. Instead, Wood has quietly built a solid repertoire and become one of Hollywood’s most sophisticated young actresses.

“I’ve been really lucky,” she said. “Part of it is being in the right place at the right time. But I think most of it is that I just take roles that I really like. I don’t read scripts and think about them furthering my career. And I don’t listen to people who say, ‘Evan, you should make this million-dollar movie. It’ll be gone in five minutes, but you’ll make a ton of money.’ I don’t know, maybe it’s stupid.”

It appears to have paid off. In 2004, Wood was nominated for a Golden Globe for her work as the troubled teenager Tracy Louise Freeland in the acclaimed film “Thirteen.”

In her new film, “Running With Scissors,” based on the bestselling memoirs of Augusten Burroughs, Wood plays Natalie Finch, the daughter of the psychiatrist Augusten is sent to live with.

Someone asks if she’s drawn to difficult teenagers. “I’m a teenager!” she laughed. “I’m going to play a teenager! So I’m not especially drawn to them, no. I’m not looking for any dark, disturbed characters.”

She hesitates before adding, “And I wouldn’t peg them all as disturbed! Some of them are just normal teenagers dealing with normal problems.”

Of course, Natalie is kind of disturbed.

“Well, yes. I mean, one of the reasons that I took the movie is that I love the idea that they (Augusten and Natalie) are both teetering on the edge of sanity. That’s why they bond. And they’re either going to break the cycle and move on with their lives away from the insanity or they’re going to fall. They’re soul mates in some ways. She’s longing for approval from her father; he’s longing for approval from his mother.”

So does one troubled teenager inspire another? “When I finish a role, it’s like burying a friend. It’s gone and I don’t think about it. I didn’t actually know what I was going to do with Natalie until I showed up on set in wardrobe. Standing there in that house, it started coming through me, right up through the platform shoes,” she said.

After a short interruption in our conversation, Wood’s assistant, another disembodied voice somewhere in North America, tells us that the actress is running late for a meeting. Someone coaxes her back on by asking if she has any words of advice to those looking to break into the business.

“You have to be so incredibly passionate about it. You have to know in your heart and soul that you really want to do it. There’s so much disappointment and so much phoniness and ass-kissing sometimes that it can be frustrating. But it is possible. It’s hard, but it is possible.”

Photo courtesy of Evan Rachel Wood

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