It's hard to define it — but we know it when we see it. We knew Jennifer Lawrence had it, way back in "Winter's Bone." Emma Stone had it in spades in "Superbad," small part or no. And when we saw Analeigh Tipton as the lovelorn babysitter in last year's "Crazy Stupid Love," there it was.
Tipton appears next in Whit Stillman's latest film, "Damsels in Distress" — his first since "The Last Days of Disco" in 1998 — and it's clear that our gut instinct was dead on: This girl has enough it to spare, and "Damsels" won't be her last starring role.
When we met Tipton in New York City, the 23-year-old actress tipped us off to the linguistic benefits of working with Stillman, what we can expect from her upcoming zombie movie, "Warm Bodies" and how much of a total nerdface she is, deep down. (Hint: It's a lot.)
Please take this as the high compliment it’s intended to be: "Damsels in Distress" is an aggressively weird movie.
Thanks! I wasn't familiar with Whit Stillman's work when I got the script. I went and did the proper homework and fell in love with his style completely… then, you know, went back and re-read "Damsels" and got the image of what it could be in my head.
I was sitting in the trailer — we were shooting "Crazy Stupid Love" — and Julianne Moore asked me what my next project would be. I was still kind of learning who Whit was. I knew that my agent was really excited – but I feel like the young generation in Hollywood that I was surrounded with didn't really know much about him. And Julianne was like, "Whit Stillman is making another film? Oh my God," and she went crazy.
This script must seem so unusual, on paper, without the context of his other movies.
[Laughs] I think that if I hadn't ever seen the Stillman films, I would be very confused about what I was shooting.
When I was reading this, I would see a joke at face value, then I'd read a few pages in and I would read something that would bring you back to that other joke, and it'd be thrown in there so casually, but it would completely change the meaning of the first joke. That's what's so great about Whit's films... you can just watch them over and over and every time, you can laugh at something different.
His movies have such peculiar dialogue; even your "normal" character speaks like no human teenager has ever spoken. After the screening, two critics who talked perfectly normally walking in were suddenly having the Stillman-est conversation imaginable. Did that happen to you? You spent a long time with that script.
Adam [Brody] and I had this discussion just last night, how intimidating it is to write Whit an email. Instead of just writing a regular email… I indent. Who indents in emails? Who makes paragraphs? I'm sitting there and I'm like ... [in a British accent] "It was quite lovely to see you this afternoon at the bungalow. How kind of you..." Whatever. [Laughs] So I become fixated on correcting my punctuation. I hope people kind of take that away from the film, I hope people start incorporating a little bit of that language into their everyday lives.
You started on "America's Next Top Model," and so often, reality TV personalities get cameos or stunt casting gigs. Your career is exploding. What are you doing differently?
I moved out to L.A. for writing and directing. I had done acting my whole life, I did theater – but we're a very structured family, and acting wasn't going to be... an option. Writing and directing was more "sell-able" for my family. The modeling show came up, it was six years ago that we filmed it. Reality TV was still kind of new in a way, so we were just like, "Cool, this is going to be a fun experience," and that's what it was. I loved being on the show. I'm really grateful for it.
My entire life, I've just been wanting to create storytelling in any form and, thankfully, acting allows me to do both, I've gotten to meet very inspiring actresses and actors who are writing their own things, Greta [Gerwig] being one of them – this cast was actually full of them. And then getting to meet a lot of producers and directors that are all ready to help me in that process and develop it – I get the best of both worlds right now.
And you have a pretty exciting, high-profile project up next – "Warm Bodies." However, it's being described as a post-apocalyptic horror movie… and the book wasn't really horror.
No, I think [author] Isaac Marion agrees. He's totally a supporter of going into different bookstores and putting it in the right place. [Laughs] Because, I mean ... it's fiction. It's just fiction. You put zombies in the book and people think it's going to be some gruesome thing and then you put in romance and people are like ... great, what is it?
In the film, at least, I can point to a cast that sets more of what it's maybe going to be: You have Nicholas Hoult playing the zombie – he's just fun to work with. Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, who's a brilliant comedian, and then John Malkovich. When you put that together, it's going to be a very beautiful, unique, exciting film.
Does it look like a zombie movie?
I think it looks post-apocalyptic, certainly. It's got some hardcore guts in there.
It's sufficiently gooey?
It's sufficiently gooey.
Check out the first photos from "Warm Bodies"
Speaking of young adult novels ... "Harry Potter," "Twilight" or "Hunger Games?"
Wow. "Harry Potter," but I love "The Lord of the Rings." I really loved "The Hobbit" and that was actually one of my first introductions to falling in love with a really, really, really long story and having that time to indulge. But then "Potter" again. But "Ender's Game!" "Ender's Game!!"
What else do you nerd out over?
There's a lot of things I nerd out over. Quantum Mechanics. I also love Dungeons and Dragons. I want to be an astronaut.
My favorite band is probably The Cure. We can throw Talking Heads in there too, I listen to them a lot. But The Cure.
Do you have a nickname?
I have two: My one from the skating world — no one can ever pronounce my name, it's Ahh-ni-lee — it's just Ani, very sweet and simple. Then my sister calls me Ani-flea.
Mac or PC?
[Whispers] My dad works for Intel. [Laughs]
We'll skip that one!
No, you know what, the new Mac, because it has an Intel Processor.
Twitter or Facebook?
Neither. Notebook. Pen and pencil. Letters!
Check out more photos of Analeigh Tipton
"Damsels in Distress," also starring Greta Gerwig and Adam Brody, hits theaters April 6.