IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Teresa Palmer Talks 'Wish You Were Here,' 'Knight of Cups,' 'The Ever After,' and 'Warm Bodies' Sequel

Sunday, 09 June 2013 19:59 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Teresa Palmer Talks 'Wish You Were Here,' 'Knight of Cups,' 'The Ever After,' and 'Warm Bodies' Sequel

Australian native Teresa Palmer is quickly becoming one of the most sought after young actresses in Hollywood. 

After beginning her career in Australian movies, Palmer first gained attention in Hollywood when she was cast as Batman villain Talia al Ghul in director George Miller’s DC Comics super hero film Justice League of America, which unfortunately was never made. She went on to appear in a string of American films including Bedtime Stories starring Adam Sandler, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice with Nicolas Cage, the sci-fi movie I Am Number Four, and the ‘80s comedy Take Me Home Tonight opposite Topher Grace. But the actress’ big break came earlier this year when she co-starred in the extremely popular zombie film Warm Bodies, which also featured Nicholas Hoult and Rob Corddry. Now, Palmer has returned to the Australian cinema with her latest movie Wish You Were Here, which opens in U.S. theaters on June 7th. 

The Australian film, which was written by actors Kieran Darcy-Smith (Animal Kingdom) and Felicity Price (TV’s Farscape), and directed by Smith, focuses on four friends who travel to South-East Asia for a fun-filled vacation. However, the trouble begins when one of the friends (Anthony Starr) does not return. Palmer plays Steph, a carefree young girl who reveals to her sister and brother-in-law (Price and Joel Edgerton) a nasty secret about the night her boyfriend went missing, which may only be the first of many. 

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with actress Teresa Palmer about her work on Wish You Were Here, as well as a few of her upcoming projects and the possibility of a sequel to Warm Bodies. The talented young actress discussed her new film, returning to Australian cinema, collaborating with filmmakers Kieran Darcy-Smith and Felicity Price, what attracted her to the role, the limitations of American movies, making her own films with actor Mark Webber, their upcoming project - The Ever After, what she looks for when choosing projects, working with legendary director Terrence Malick on Knight of Cups, what she learned from being on his set, and if she would be interested in returning for a possible sequel to Warm Bodies

Here is what she had to say:

IAR: To begin with, after appearing in so many American movies, was it nice to return to Australia and make Wish You Were Here?

Teresa Palmer: Yeah! I obviously started doing Australian films and it was nice for me to go back to Australia and get back into doing these great Aussie dramas. They film my favorite movies in the world. I loved Animal Kingdom. That largely inspired me to get involved and do this movie. Our director Kieran Darcy-Smith was involved with Animal Kingdom so I was excited when I got the script. I read it, it was great and gritty and suspenseful and kept me on the edge of the seat. I was so happy they wanted me to do this role.

You mentioned Animal Kingdom and there have been a lot of great movies that have come out of Australia in the last few years. What do you think are some of the major differences between Australian and American cinema?

Palmer: I guess it really depends on the filmmaker, but the Australian dramas that I’ve been gravitating towards recently have been really raw and pushing the boundaries in terms of the sorts of things that they’re showing the audience. Animal Kingdom was such an original idea and it was not like anything I’d ever seen before, and so is Wish You Were Here. Everything just feels really real and grounded in reality. These stories are so different from anything that we’ve experienced before. Australian cinema, it just goes there and it pushes the boundaries in that way.

Can you about working with Kieran Darcy-Smith as a director? Since he is also an actor, is there a lot of collaboration on set and do you have a chance to improvise and do several different takes?

Palmer: Kieran, first of all, he is such an amazing guy. He is hilarious and just very Australian. He’s super sweet and easy to deal with. He really just trusts our instincts as his actors. He makes sure you feel comfortable in the role so he really gives us the reigns to do whatever feels genuine and authentic to us. That’s very liberating as an actor, and I loved his positive vibe on set. It was so laid back and so relaxed that I felt comfortable to try different things.

Your co-star in the film is Felicity Price who is also the co-writer of the screenplay. Is that intimidating when you’re acting opposite someone who was also contributed to writing the script? Do you feel any added pressure to get your lines right?

Palmer: Not really because I actually knew Kieran and Felicity, and all the guys who worked on this film before I shot the movie. I knew Felicity as a friend first and because of that there wasn’t any sensitive nerves around portraying this role as she had written it. I knew that I really trusted my instincts and they embraced me as an actor portraying this character so it was great. I really felt that support on this film. It was hard for me because it’s actually a really challenging role because she’s not the antagonist and she’s not the protagonist. She’s just like a human being who has both good parts and bad parts and we didn’t want her to be a villain, so she still had to be likeable. It was a fine line because she does some things in the movie that aren’t so noble and she makes some irresponsible choices, It was really important to me, Felicity and Kieran to make sure she comes across as a really good person.

What were some of the aspects of your character that you really liked and got you interested in playing the role? 

Palmer: I love that Steph is so spontaneous. She just enjoys life and she’s a free spirit. She’s constantly all about having fun and she has no responsibilities. So she leads her life in that way and she makes some really bad choices, which I think as you’re growing from a teenager into a young adult you do make bad choices. It was great to explore that. For me I really didn’t get to experience a typical person’s twenties because I was out in America shooting films, so I had to grow up very quickly. It was nice to kind of live through Steph in those few weeks when I was shooting the movie. I got to experience what it was like to be a normal 25-year-old and that was really appealing to me.

This role was really different than a lot of the parts you’ve played in American films, isn’t it?

Palmer: Yes! It’s completely different. I love that she’s floored and vulnerable. She does bad things and she’s sorry for it. I think a lot of the time in Hollywood films you have these very “by the book” characters and with this one you couldn’t really guess what her experience was. She’s all over the place. She’s lost and messy. It was really interesting to think like that as an actor.

Your character is really at the heart of this film, as apposed to just being the girlfriend, or the secondary female role, which are the types of parts you have been playing in a lot of your American films lately. Was that refreshing for you as an actress?

Palmer: Yeah, she’s very much entangled in the script. I definitely have played characters where I’ve served the purpose of the guy in the story, or served the purpose of someone else’s story. I wasn’t lacking that on Wish You Were Here. I really got to have something to say. I play a character that is really integral to the story and that was really refreshing. I was really flattered to do that.

Has that been frustrating for you to continue to be cast in those secondary female types of roles in your American films?

Palmer: I feel very blessed to have the opportunities I’ve had in my life and my career. I started in Australian films and I was playing very gritty roles at the center of the story. Then I came out to America and I got cast in a lot of the girlfriend roles, but it was great because it raised my profile to the point where I can go to Australia and do a little independent film. I got Warm Bodies after John Levine and all of them saw I Am Number Four where I got to play a really flashy character. For me, if I can make some sort of impact in a movie, even if it doesn’t mean I’m the lead, even if I’m a supporting role, if there’s something interesting and dynamic about that character, then I want to jump on board and play that. Moving forward I really have a specific idea of what I want to be part of and the stories I want to tell. I’m very interested in producing and writing, and I really think that is where my path is. 

Are you working on a project now that you’re writing and developing yourself?

Palmer: Yeah. I’m just about to film a movie called The Ever After, which I wrote with Mark Weber and we’re producing it together. He’s directing it, we’re both starring in it, and it also stars Melissa Leo. It’s just been the most creatively fulfilling experience of my life. Felicity Price and Kieran Darcy-Smith and what they did with Wish You Were Here largely inspire me. They’re a married couple and they wrote it together, and she starred in it and he directed it. Mark’s my partner and we get to do this together and it very much blurs the lines between reality and fiction. My mom plays my mom and my friends are my friends in the film. It’s just a really interesting process and it’s been incredible. I really hope to continue to do these films with Mark in the future.     

What’s important to you when you’re choosing projects? Are you looking for a great script, or are you more concerned about who the director will be and the other actors that have been cast in the film?

Palmer: I think I look at all the elements. What the script is like, the people involved are, who the director is, and who are the other actors. All of that comes into play. I also don’t need to have an established director to work with. I love new, first time directors. I’m so inspired by them and if there’s a good story to tell, then I want to be a part of that. I want to be in films that really move people and can impact change in a beautiful way. That’s really what I’m looking to experience and moving forward.

Speaking of great directors, what was it like working with Terrence Malik on Knight of Cups?

Palmer: That was incredible. He’s my favorite director in the world actually. The funny story was that I’m a huge believer in manifesting. I had a vision board that I would walk into my house and look at everyday, and Terrence’s picture was in the middle of that vision board. So I looked at him everyday and I really felt I manifested that experience into my life. It was wonderful. It was all improv and I got to play a heightened version of my character. It was just very off the cuff, spontaneous, guerilla style filmmaking. They used all natural lights and Terry just wanted me to be myself, trust my instincts and just talk, be, act and induce my essence into this character. It was very, very liberating.

Since you want to become a filmmaker yourself, did you find that when you were on Terrence Malik’s set, that you were not only there as an actress, but that you were also studying him like it was your own film school?

Palmer: Completely. That’s where this idea was burst to do this film with Mark. That experience for me on Knight of Cups really invigorated my passion in this industry and making films. I realized that I want to be creatively involved, not just as an actor but also as a writer, and as a filmmaker. I love that Terry has a very loose script, but he’s really just allowing things to happen in the room with the actors and he just embraces spontaneity. That’s what I wanted to do on our film, The Ever After. That’s what we’ve been doing and we’ve been getting the most beautiful things out of authenticity, and out of raw and real moments.

Finally, I’m a big fan of Warm Bodies and I was wondering if you’ve heard any talk about doing a sequel?

Palmer: I think at the start. Loosely there were some discussion, but I haven’t heard of anything just yet. I’m not sure. I would be very down to go back and play Julie again. I’d love to see R and Julie’s story again. It would be amazing. I feel really close to that film and it’s one of the best movies I’ve been in I think. Just the message how love breathes life back into us, and love is our savior I think is something that very much resonates. If we could go and discover what R and Julie are up to after Warm Bodies that would be fantastic. Jonathan Levine’s incredible. He’s such a great director and just a cool guy. He’s so easy to work with, so I’d love to work with him again.  

Wish You Were Here opens in U.S. theaters on June 7th.

To watch an exclusive clip from Wish You Were Here, please click here

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