Jena Malone interview Interview

(Some questions in this interview have come from another journalist present for the Q&A.)

...continued from page one

Q: Before you started shooting, the whole cast was taken to a couple of Christian rallies. What were those like?

A: It was one of the most educational experiences and so important for understanding these characters. A Christian high school is just like any other high school in the sense of the politics and all of these levels of who's cool and what to wear. But also -- I can't say it's like a cult, but it's like a very rich culture, because they have their own sayings, they relate to each other by words that they use and Psalms that they throw out. They identify by different clothing and different music, so it's kind of a tight-knit group. I think it's hard for outsiders to penetrate. (But) these huge Christian rallies, they're like rock concerts. You have like a rollicking good time.

It's incredible, how much energy and how much power they're selling you. I couldn't help being swept off my feet. One of the most awesome experiences was (when) I got this free Bible and everyone was sectioned off with people their own age and sex, after you were saved, to talk about the first steps in having a personal relationship with Christ. I was given this girl who was 17 years old, a really, really beautiful woman who really loved her faith and loved what she found in it.

I was asking her questions about, you know, "What do you think about these people who say you see only one side of things?" and gently prodding her. She was so adamant about her beliefs that I felt kind of empty in return. There were certain things in my life that I had placed so much belief in, but not to the extremes of these kids. In that sense, I think it's a very commendable thing and I think it's a very beautiful thing.

I love meeting people like that, because it makes me question my own interior and making sure I can equally back up my own beliefs. I think it's a valuable exchange for the atheist and also the Christian.

Q: Has your own theology changed from that research?

A: It hasn't, actually. It's pretty funny. What it's done is it's strengthened a lot of things that I believe and didn't have a lot of resources to back it up. A lot of the powerful religious leaders, from Jesus to Buddha to Tibetan monks, they're really talking about the same things: love and acceptable, and the value of friendship, and respecting yourself so you can respect others. There are lot of beautiful things you can learn, but I think when you believe these abstractions -- these kind of metaphors for the spiritual world -- so much that they become reality (for you), that's kind of dangerous.

Q: This movie is coming out at an interesting time, so close to "The Passion of the Christ," which has become enormously popular for just that (factor) -- because so many people want to see that journey Christ took as the literal truth. When my concept of faith is belief in the absence of any proof. It just fascinates me that people feel the need to see "The Passion of the Christ" just to see that.

A: Yeah, because Jesus was a man. He walked along this Earth. I think people are obsessed with the idea of him making choices and making mistakes, and what it was like for him as the son of God. We say (for faith) we don't need proof, but in the Christian belief he is the proof that there is a God -- this is his son (and) he died for our sins. So I understand their interest in that. But we had no clue it was going to be such a heated time to be coming out of the gate (with a movie like "Saved!").

Q: Not to mention with the gay marriage issue under debate right now.

A: I know! It's crazy. So I think it will be good (for the movie) because there are a lot of questions already out there. So if a family goes to watch this film, or a group of teenagers goes to watch this film, they'll be able to draw from outer experience to kind of pull it all together and answer their own questions in their mind by relating it to personal experience. I think it could be a really good thing.

Q: Well, on a lighter subject, I understand you, Mandy Moore and Macaulay Culkin went out karaoke-ing from time to time?

A: [Laughs slightly.] Yeah, we did. Is this like on the internet or something?

Q: I read it somewhere -- in a Mandy Moore interview I think. I take it you've been asked this question 20 times already?

A: Yeah.

Q: Sorry. I hate when I do that.

A: Oh, no! Please. You can't know what else has happened in this room. It's not your problem. But it was like summer camp, basically. You're there with eight people of similar ages and similar interests, and people that are talented and passionate, and it was really nice. I've made a lot of movies where I'm the only kid, or there are just two other kids, and you're working with adults in a very adult world. So when you can sort of endorse the infinite goof within, it's a beautiful thing! We had a really fun time. We went karaoke-ing. We threw things out our hotel windows -- like marshmallows. Just really stupid, fun things.

Q: Now that you've worked with a couple of them, I have to ask: Who's your favorite Culkin?

A: Ummmm [laughs, again slightly], I don't have a favorite, actually. But, you know, Mac's kind of the granddaddy Culkin. He's like a wise old sage. Kieran (her costar in The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys" and I didn't get along in high school -- we went to high school together. It's only been after high school that we've been really good friends. It just shows you the crazy non-reality of high school, that you can just have enemies for the sake of having enemies.

(BACK TO PAGE ONE)

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