In Columbus Circle, an agoraphobic heiress (Selma Blair) becomes entangled in the domestic disputes of her new neighbors - but it turns out to be more than just alcoholism and spousal abuse. Amy Smart (Mirrors, The Butterfly Effect) plays the new neighbor and punching bag who befriends the heiress. Smart chatted with us about playing a role with such duality and working in confined spaces.
How did you get involved in Columbus Circle?
Well, I was offered the role [laughs]. I read the script and I loved it. The film came together rather quickly... I don't know if you know the backstory.
The producers and director of Columbus Circle were actually in the midst of making a different film. They had built these two sets, but the project fell through. They decided that, instead of scrapping the whole production, they would write a new film around these two sets. I don't know exactly, but I think it was five or six weeks from turning it over from one film and creating this film. So what I liked about it was that it was a real work in progress. It almost felt like an acting workshop because we were in constant creation of our characters, and working on them during filming.
There wasn't much time for the writers to add backstory to the characters?
Yeah, we were making up our own backstory. It was really fun because part of it was really on-the-fly, which kept the creative process constantly moving, and we were constantly trying to make it better and better.
Let's talk about your character, Lillian.
I loved my character because I loved how deceiving she is. It is so fun to play that dual character.
Was it more fun to play Lillian as deceitful, or as this hysterical, abused woman with a dark secret?
What was the most difficult part of the shoot?
I would have to say some of the really emotional scenes. It's fun to be in a dramatic film but it is also really draining.
Did you do anything between takes to lighten the mood, or did you mostly just try to stay in character?
I have a real jokester personality, so I'm always cracking jokes or laughing at random things. But moments where it is really intense, you kind of want to stay in that space for your performance. When you're acting and there is a really intense scene, you kind of jump down that rabbit hole and go with it.
Columbus Circle takes place in the one apartment building - in the one apartment, really. Was there any sense of claustrophobia?
For her character, yes, but not for filming.
I know you recently shot 7500 with Takashi Shimizu, and that was shot entirely in an airplane set. Do you fear you will develop agoraphobia as a result to getting used to being in these confined spaces?
No. Definitely not. I mean, I'm not a huge fan of tight, confined spaces. Both these films were interesting because [each were] basically all on one stage, all on one set. Columbus Circle definitely had some slightly more varied sets but for the most part it was all in the one apartment. It was a great group of people to work with, actor-wise. Jason Lee is powerful and so talented; Giovanni Ribisi is so talented. I don't tend to work with actresses as much as I do with actors - I feel like I've been in more male-driven projects, so it was nice for Selma Blair and I to have so many scenes together.
Why do you think you end up in a lot of the male-driven projects?
I think the majority of films are male-driven. Nowadays, I think it is becoming more balanced. I've played that "girl next door" role and love interest role. But for example, on Shameless, I have most of my scenes with Emmy Rossum. It's nice to work with female actresses.
Columbus Circle has a fairly prestigious cast and very high production value, but it didn't get a theatrical release. Do you think direct-to-DVD has lost a lot of the stigma it once had?
I do. I think that, ultimately, there are a good amount of people who like to go to theaters to see films. I know I do. But it costs a lot of money, and a lot of money [for the studios to spend] on publicity. Tons of people will now rent videos, buy them... I think that the majority of people now watch their films that way. I think it has lost that stigma because everything is accessible online now. People don't have to leave their homes anymore to see a movie.