On Movies: Pill can't wait to see herself in 'Midnight in Paris'

Rutger Hauer in "Hobo with a Shotgun," one of seven films he will appear in this year.
Rutger Hauer in "Hobo with a Shotgun," one of seven films he will appear in this year.
Posted: May 29, 2011

'Just remember that you have to be the most fabulous life of the party that ever existed."

Those were Woody Allen's instructions to Alison Pill when she went to work on his latest endeavor, Midnight in Paris, last year - in, yes, Paris. Pill plays Zelda Fitzgerald, Jazz Age muse and spouse of F. Scott. What exactly the Roaring '20s flapper is doing in Allen's movie is something that should be left for moviegoers to discover on their own.

In fact, Pill, the 25-year-old Canadian actress of TV (In Treatment), film (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), and stage (Tony-nominated for The Lieutenant of Inishmore), needs to discover what her Zelda is doing in Midnight in Paris, as well. Allen, as is his wont, typically gives actors only the script pages for their scenes.

"I missed the premiere in New York," explains Pill, who was on Broadway that night in the new production of The House of Blue Leaves. "And I just can't imagine anything weirder than going to a movie theater and sitting alone and watching a movie I'm in."

Pill is waiting until her fiance, actor and writer Jay Baruchel, returns to New York next week - then she'll finally learn what Midnight in Paris is all about. Allen's comedy debuted last weekend in New York and Los Angeles, to the highest opening per-screen average of the year - and the highest ever of any Allen movie. It opens Friday at the Ritz Five and Rave Motion Pictures at the Ritz Center/NJ.

"I'm so curious," she says, laughing. "I've never been in a film for which I've never read the entire script. So it's literally like I have no idea what I'm about to see."

She did learn, once she was in France for the production and saw leading man Owen Wilson, that something was amiss. Wilson, playing a Hollywood screenwriter who comes to Paris to revel in the history of great expat artists such as Fitzgerald and Hemingway, was anachronistically attired.

"From only reading my scenes, I assumed the entire movie was set in the 1920s," she says. "When I got to Paris I was so confused as to why Owen was in, you know, what I thought was not very good costuming. I thought, this doesn't seem very '20s . . . maybe I just don't know my '20s costuming very well.

"But I get to wear original '20s flapper dresses, and I was like, If I'm in these clothes, looking this way, then why is he . . . and then somebody explained it to me."

Midnight in Paris also stars Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, and France's first lady, Carla Bruni.

"It was like a working vacation," Pill says of her 21/2 weeks on set. "Corey Stoll - who plays Hemingway - and I did a literary tour of Paris and saw where Gertrude Stein lived, where Man Ray was, and I bought books, too many books, in the kiosks along the Seine."

Next up for Pill: Aaron Sorkin's HBO pilot about a fictional cable news network. She hopes to be given the entire script.

Hauer with a shotgun. By the time 2011 is done, Rutger Hauer will have appeared in seven films someplace in the world. One, The Rite, a stormy brew of mumbo jumbo with Anthony Hopkins as an exorcist, has already come and gone. At the Ritz at the Bourse right now: Hobo with a Shotgun. Coming soon: The Mill and the Cross, a festival hit in which the Dutch actor assays the role of 16th-century painter Peter Brueghel. And then there's Black Butterflies, and Portable Life, and All for One, and more.

"Over the past few years I did all kinds of movies, funny enough, and they're all coming out now," says Hauer, on the horn from New York recently. "They're all extremely different tonally."

That's for sure.

In Hobo with a Shotgun, Hauer - 67 now, and still stopped on the street by fans of his work in Blade Runner, Blind Fury, The Hitcher, Ladyhawke, and Wanted: Dead or Alive - plays a homeless man who hops off a freight train in a city where crime and anarchy run wild. He goes to a pawnshop, purchases a weapon, and proceeds to clean the place up.

"Its roots are certainly exploitation movies, grind-house movies," says Hauer of the decidedly cheap and cheesy-looking picture, directed by Jason Eisener. Wearing thrift-store rags and a look of worn-out rage, Hauer befriends a hooker (Molly Dunsworth) and squares off against a sadistic crime lord and his twisted sons. Decapitations, dismemberments, and disaster ensue.

"I read the script and thought, Ooof, this is rough, and very naughty, maybe, and all the things one must not do in a movie . . .. I thought we were making a movie that there was not a whole lot of hope for, actually, because we were being so rough and crazy."

And then Hobo with a Shotgun played the Sundance Film Festival in January and the crowds ate it up.

"It was wonderful to see how crazy people went," says Hauer, who walks through the madness of Hobo with his dignity intact. No small feat in a film that's over-the-top and gory and just downright nuts.

"The hobo is the only sane character, if you can say that, and he needs to play it straight and not play for cute, for fun or favors - just be deeply concerned and stay that way," Hauer explains. "During the shooting, we did try a few things where I allowed myself to get a little out of character, and it didn't work.

"For some reason, you cannot really make fun of this completely. You have to find a center of sanity in the film."

Hauer, who lives in Los Angeles when he's not working (ergo, he doesn't really live in Los Angeles), has more jobs lined up, including a couple of shorts he'll be codirecting. He's teaming with the Italian horrormeister Dario Argento (and daughter Asia Argento) for Dracula 3-D (Hauer is Van Helsing).

"I enjoy walking in new shoes," he says. "And as an actor, to have all this happen, to be this busy, and then to live to tell the story - it's a good thing."


Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/onmovies/.

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