Amazing Grace and the Maestro

An interview with "The Twilight Saga - Breaking Dawn Part 2" cast members Maggie Grace and Mia Maestro

Let's be honest: my knowledge of and appreciation for the Twilight series is negligible at best. I love Taken and wanted to meet Maggie Grace and get my picture taken with her.

It was hinted by a colleague that I should come prepared with a list of questions for Mia Maestro because Maggie was getting the lion’s share of the attention. Within five minutes I was working off script. Who needs a list of prepared questions when the interview subjects are these two articulate, cultured, and very talented professionals?

Talking with Mia and Maggie turned out to be a career high point. Never in my life has there been an interview where the subject changed from foot fetishism to Bertolt Brecht in the blink of an eye.

Since meeting Maggie and Mia I am now switch-hitting for both Team Irina and Team Carmen. In honor of the occasion, I vow to rent * The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1* and see The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 when it opens this weekend.

Scott Marks: While researching this interview I ran both your names through Google. They have a screen that drops down...

Maggie Grace: And it gives you search suggestions?

Scott: Right. What was the first word Google suggested when I typed in both of your names?

Maggie: I have no idea.

Mia Maestro: Dating?

Scott: Boyfriend made both lists.

Maggie: Let me guess. Running?

Scott: No, but I did see that video on YouTube. What was the first word that came up?

(Silence.)

Scott: This should be easy. It’s rosacea. I’m kidding! It’s not as though I’m interviewing both of you because of your stellar work as zombies in a George Romero Living Dead sequel. You’re appearing in a Hollywood franchise that boasts some of the most perfect looking human specimens on the planet. I’m going to have to turn over all the cards. The word I was looking for is hot.

Maggie: Really? That’s the suggestion?

Scott: Twilight made both lists. The Taken films were on Maggie’s screen and the song Llovera ranked high on Mia’s.

Mia: Great! It’s encouraging that it’s high.

Scott: The weirdest suggestion for Maggie was feet.

Maggie: Wow. I don’t want to think about that too long.

Scott: It’s not as if they’re saying you have Herman Munster feet. There are hundreds of pictures of your feet on the internet.

Maggie: Well, to each his own I guess.

Scott: Let’s change the subject. Mia, I read that you studied Brechtian acting technique.

Mia: I did. After I finished high school I went to Berlin on a Goethe Institute scholarship.

Maggie: I didn’t know that. This is amazing. I get foot fetish questions and she gets Brecht. We need to stage an all female version of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui.

Mia: Have you ever seen it?

Maggie: Yes I have. I saw Al Pacino do it in a really tiny theatre in New York.

Mia: I saw it too!

Maggie: You saw the same production? We have so much in common.

Mia: The best rendition of Arturo Ui I’ve ever seen was by Heiner Müller, one of my favorite writers. He died in the the 1990’s in Berlin and he was the head of the Berlin Ensemble. And Martin Wuttke -- who actually plays Hitler in Tarantino’s film...

Maggie: Inglorious Basterds.

Mia: ...he played Arturo Ui. It was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen in my life.

Maggie: That’s actor candy.

Scott: I never read Brecht on account of an English teacher I had in high school who told me that his theory and practice of "epic theatre" played best on the stage, not the page.

Maggie: No. The plays are beautiful on the page.

Mia: Some plays, like the work of Harold Pinter, are better when they get up on their feet.

Scott: I eventually saw a production of Mother Courage at the La Jolla Playhouse. It was worth the wait. So here’s the big question: how do you apply Brechtian technique to the Twilight films?

Mia (Smiling): I didn’t!

(Everybody laughs.)

Mia: I’m not going to fall into that one.

Scott: Thank you. That’s the answer I was hoping for. Being a member of the Twilight brigade is the current equivalent of being cast as a Corleone...sort of, right? You’re a member of contemporary movie royalty. How did you both find out that you got the call and what was it like?

Maggie: It was pretty amazing, actually. The audition process is really simple.

Mia: For both of us.

Maggie: We basically read one scene. Bill Condon is such an actor’s director. He knows what he wants and has some ideas on how to play each character. We were super excited to work with him.

Mia: I was really pleased to be working with Bill. That was the first thing that crossed my mind.

Scott: Since you brought it around to Bill Condon, Mia has been fortunate to work with a lot of high profile directors.

Mia: I’ve been so lucky to work with some of my favorite directors. I started my career with Tango for Carlos Saura. He was Luis Buñuel’s pupil. As of today, he is still the director that has won the most awards at the Cannes FIlm Festival.

Scott: And always a big draw at the San Diego Latino Film Festival. So what did you take from directors like Mike Figgis or Oliver Stone?

Mia: It’s such a joy to work with a director who always knows what he or she wants, people who are comfortable with themselves. There’s an ease to a director that has already had recognition and knows that he or she is a master of storytelling. There is also an ease on the part of the actor where you can actually relax and let a director guide you anywhere they want to take you because you have full trust. You just allow yourself to be completely vulnerable because you trust the aesthetic and the eye and every thought that comes through this director’s mind.

Maggie: There is something to it when it’s a “made man” or a “made woman” behind the camera. People that are that secure must have already made their mark in some creative ways.

Scott: Working with Carlos Saura right out of the gate must have been something.

Mia: Yes. My first movie. And normally a wonderful director comes with a wonderful director of photography in that case, Vittorio Storaro.

Scott: A master of color! One of my favorite quotes, and I forgot who it came from...maybe David Thompson, is “Can a bad film be beautifully photographed?” You can’t separate one from the other.

Mia: It’s like a marriage. When a great director finds a great D.P. it’s magic when they work together.

Scott: What did you both learn after working with Bill Condon on the Twilight films?

Maggie: He’s a very kind person at heart who truly cares about people and loves working with actors. For him to maintain that integrity in the middle of what was sometimes inevitable chaos -- there are a lot of expectations and a bigger budget to navigate and all those things -- I never once saw him lose his center. He kept his cool and was absolutely lovely. And that is really saying something.

Mia: Warm. He was just so warm to work with. He treated the extra who stood furthest away from the camera to the people who were #1 and #2 on the call-sheet exactly the same.

Maggie: He knew everyone by name.

Mia: It’s really hard to do that when you have 300 people on set. He really made an effort in a very effortless way to be the director to everyone. He also does something beautiful at the end that wraps the whole saga up.

Maggie: He really left his thumbprint on that.

Mia: It was a surprise to me when I saw it and it was quite moving. I knew that had to be Bill’s idea and of course it was.

Scott: Does starring in a series as big as this force you to give up a lot of personal freedom when going to the supermarket or out to dinner?

Maggie and Mia: No, no!

Scott: People don’t recognize the two of you?

Maggie: It depends.

Mia: Maggie has had this amazing success with Taken 2 and it’s been so lovely to see people who are so excited come up to her. I don’t think we get fans like that. We never get interrupted during the normal course of the day.

Maggie: I think we look really different, too.

Scott: I’d spot the two of you walking through the Gaslamp in a second.

Mia: We were saying the other day that when we did Lost and Alias -- we both worked with J.J. Abrams -- when you’re on prime time TV it’s a different animal.

Maggie: It’s different when you’re in people’s living rooms.

Mia: And we have secondary roles in Twilight.

Maggie: I am slightly convinced that a certain number of young girls might think that I’m evil.

Scott: Nobody expected Taken to do as well as it did.

Maggie: I know!

Scott: It’s one of the most entertaining action rides I’ve been on in a long time. So how do you go from playing a victim -- and I must add that you played the part to perfection -- to a vampire?

Maggie: This is the kind of movie you take because you know it’s going to be a fun ride. You’ll meet certain people along the way that you really connect with because it’s going to be quite a long filming process even if you’re not in it very much. It certainly fulfilled all of that for me.

Scott: What’s the one Twilight question that you are sick of being asked.

Maggie: Bring it up and we’ll tell you.

Scott: Why you, I oughta'! I’m having a great time talking with both of you. Why would I want to spoil things by tossing out a lame question?

Maggie: People have a hard time separating people’s personal lives from the mythology of the film. I think there is a distinction that deserves to be made. I’m not saying this as a press junket line, but I really enjoyed working with everybody there. It was a unique, fun, and extremely warm group of people.

Scott: Did the two of you have a history together before working together on Twilight*?

(Maggie and Mia begin talking over each other.)

Scott: This is going to be so easy to transcribe.

(Everybody laughs.)

Maggie: I know. I’m so sorry.

Scott: What directors would you like to work with? You can pretty much write your own tickets now, right?

Mia (Laughing): I wish.

Scott: Scorsese won’t take your calls?

Maggie: I don’t think he knows I’m alive.

Scott: He will after this interview.

Maggie: I’ve always been a big fan of Darren Aronofsky’s work. Requiem for a Dream came out the week I moved to L.A. and I was just so blown away by it. That would really be fun.

Mia: I’d love to work with Michael Haneke and Olivier Assayas. I would love also to work with Leos Carax.

Scott: He has a new film opening here in a few weeks.

Mia: I know. Holy Motors. I’m dying to see it.

Maggie: What’s it called?

Mia: Holy Motors. Paul Thomas Anderson would be another one.

Maggie: I’m going to second some of these. Definitely Paul Thomas Anderson. He’s so much fun.

Scott: What is a saltbox house?

Maggie: Wow! You have done your research. It’s a colonial typology in architecture that was very efficiently done. My childhood home that I grew up in (in Worthington, Ohio) was the first saltbox. It was a couple hundred years old and had the historical plaque. It was part of the underground railroad.

Mia: I never knew that.

Maggie: See! We’re learning about each other. My family are history geeks in some respects, so it was a lot of fun.

Scott: Is the house still in your family?

Maggie: No. We moved when I was 13 or 14.

Mia: I’d like to see one.

Scott: They’re really cool looking.

Maggie: It was really special but haunted.

Scott: Haunted?

Mia: Was it?

Maggie: It was supposed to be. My mother is convinced.

Scott: Did you ever see any spooks?

Maggie: I heard things as a kid, but it may have been because I was so impressionable.

Scott: It was research for Twilight.

Maggie: I think so.

Scott: So what has Twilight done for your music career, Mia?

Mia: It’s been wonderful. Last year in Breaking Down...

Maggie: Breaking Down?!

Scott: What would Freud say?

Mia (Laughing): Breaking Down 2 -- The Finale! I really love all the soundtracks to the movies. The music supervisor has done such a great job of putting amazing artists together. From Radiohead to Bon Iver, Feist...these are some of my favorite artists. Just to be part of that group was great. And the reach that the soundtrack has is incredible. The song is 5 minutes long. It’s a very abstract Spanish poem that I wrote for piano, trombone, and a violin quartet. It’s such an unusual choice.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEAzgwP3tac

There is place for music that is out of the box. There is a place to create a six minute song that will be featured on a commercial soundtrack. That’s very rare. Bill really loved the music and the song and really wanted to include it. I’m releasing an album in two weeks called Blue-Eyed Sailor and I did a video with Guillermo Navarro the D.P. of Twilight, so that’s another Twilight connection. We created this music-art video that is quite special.

Maggie: It’s so beautiful.

Mia: So many good things have come out of these movies.

Scott: Will there be a Taken 3?

Maggie: I’m game. Those movies are a lot of fun to make. Everyone’s asking for it.

Scott: Who will they kidnap next?

Maggie: The pets are next. I survive with my own musical in Taken 3. I’m about to move to New York to begin work on a play.

Scott: Aren’t you in the revival of Picnic?

Maggie: You know everything. This is the best interview we’ve had.

Mia: By far. You’re lovely.

Scott: Knock it off!

Maggie: Seriously. Everyone else would have been, “Brecht, who?”

Scott: C’mon! A member of the Twilight cast who studied Brechtian technique? How could I resist? Admittedly, the mean-spirited jerk inside me did intend to use it to catch you a bit off guard. But you won me over with the honest way in which you handled the question. Getting back to Picnic, what part do you play and please don’t tell me the frumpy Rosalind Russell role.

Maggie (Smiling) Kim Novak.

Scott: Of course!

Maggie: I’m still like 12-years-old and virginal in Taken and I can extend it even further on the stage, right? I can get away with playing 19 on stage.

Scott: The audience is far enough away and there is not a camera in your face.

Mia: You guys are opening when?

Maggie: In mid-December.

Epilogue:

Do not think for one second that I did not try and get a shot of Ms. Grace’s lovely tootsies for you, my loyal and degenerate readers. After the ladies were gracious enough to pose for a picture, I had to get a gander at Maggie’s feet. She was wearing a pair of black velvet Del Toro loafers featuring an embroidered fox head. I have a similar pair in my closet.

As I discreetly dip the lens of my camera, a sudden air of disquietude filled the room. Even I can only be a dick for so long. I pocket the camera out of respect for the fine time these two women showed me.

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