When most people conjure up an image of Dianna Agron, it's one of her in the halls of McKinley High, the fictitious school whose corridors she graced on five seasons of "Glee." The hit Fox musical-soap opera hybrid made her a household name playing Quinn Fabray, launching her into feature roles such as "I Am Number Four." For her latest work, Agron is again in the halls of academe, but this time with a decidedly darker bent.
In Luc Besson's "The Family," Agron plays Belle, the teenage daughter of a mob family relocated to the rural French area of Normandy while under witness protection. She may have a new name to shield her from the enemies of her father (played by Robert De Niro), but she can't suppress the clever and brutal instincts that come from years of growing up the offspring of a hitman. Belle manages to rustle up trouble both physical (steal her pencil case and you'll live to regret it with a rearranged face) and romantic (the older math tutor she has her eye on is in for a wild ride).
Out Sept. 13, "The Family" also stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones and John D'Leo. NextMovie caught up with Agron in New York City prior to the film's release, where she shared her thoughts on how similar ballet dancing is to fight scenes, her favorite mob movies and why you just might catch her attention by calling her Bambi.
This movie was really unexpectedly funny, and I got the sense that you had a lot of fun while making it.
It was so much fun to make it, yeah, yeah, yeah. It came in stages the realization that I was going to be doing what I did. At first I read the script and I knew [director] Luc [Besson] and I'm such a fan of his work so that, already, was something to grasp. I knew Bobby [De Niro] was attached, so take that and put it in your bank and Michelle [Pfeiffer] came on, and Tommy [Lee Jones] and Marty [Scorsese], and it was a really unique experience to be able to have.
You seriously call De Niro Bobby?
I call him Bob.
To his face?
What's that like? Is that just like, oh, normal Tuesday?
Yeah, I know, it's so strange. It's so strange, but then you form your own relationships with these people and it becomes a little less strange, but even still, it's like "Oh, yeah, my movie dad. Bob."
This is a very physical role with a lot of stunt work. Did you do your own stunts?
I did all of them.
Did you actually get to shoot guns?
Are you good at it?
Yeah! Apparently I'm really good at it. To me, stunt training is like dance rehearsal, and I grew up a dancer. So everything has a specific hit here, punch here, kick here, and to me it's just one big dance. This is the second time I've had to do stunts in a movie, and both times I think I've really surprised the stunt coordinators. They're like, "You're actually really good at this!" Like, why thank you. But really, in my mind, it's a ballet dance and that's probably not what you want to hear.
Was learning to shoot a gun hard? Are there any specific tips you can share?
They're blanks. There really wasn't any training. It was mostly they said, "If you hold it like this, you look good, if you hold it like that, we can tell." But yeah, it is interesting because it's very heavy and you're shooting it over and over again, and every time I would start hysterically laughing as I got off of frame because it just felt so not something I would do in a normal weekday.
Your character has some really violent rage blackouts. Do you think you could convincingly take someone down, either your size or bigger?
Oh, definitely. Definitely. I would never actually exercise this, but I have been proven to be surprisingly strong. They don't see it coming. I think it's the blonde hair and the smile. I'm very strong.
Not to go too far into how you'd beat someone up, but —
"So if you were to hit someone."
Right, exactly. "If I did it…"
I don't really know! I think I'd go case by case, just using what's around.
You play a high schooler in this, but you're not in high school.
No, far from.
What advice would you give your high school self if you could talk to her now?
I would say do almost everything the same, because I made wonderful mistakes. I would change thinking that it was so important to be so adult. You fantasize being older so much and I'd say a large amount of time was spent in the moment, but there was a lot of daydreaming like, "Oh, when I'm this, when I'm that." Instead of realizing that I was becoming who I was meant to be.
Are there any aspects of your character that you wish you'd had as a high schooler? She's very tough, that's for sure.
I don't know, I mean she's kind of a loner, so I wouldn't have wished that on my high school self. I don't think I would have actually wanted any part of Belle in myself as a high schooler. She's a baddie! She's having sex with a teacher against a door! I mean, that's aggressive. That's hectic.
This is another strong addition to the category of gangster movies and mob movies. What are your favorites?
I think maybe it's a, I mean, how do you pick between "Scarface" and "The Godfather" and "A Bronx Tale"? I don't know. There are some great ones. I'm glad that we're in the dark comedy realm so that we can be our own thing. We don't have to compete with those ones!
If you were in witness protection, what would your cover story be?
My name would be...Alice? Um…I have an alias that I used to use a lot and it was really well-received.
What is it?
Bambi Montgomery. It's really well-received especially in England, I think because they have like Poppy and Rose and Lily and all those fun names. People were so charmed by it, it was very surprising. I made it up on a lark on the train, because they pick you up with the thing and then they take you wherever or to the hotel. So that became, because people would ask, like, "Oh, is it a family name?" And I'd be like, "Yes, my mom is Bambi." And they'd be like [British accent] "Oh, two Bambis! That's amazing! Bambi and Bambi!" But then I felt a little guilty for lying, but they loved it so much that then I didn't feel that guilty.
Do you still use it?
No, I've changed flavors. Whole different name. But Bambi is a pattern maker for a very charming but unsuccessful designer.
You were talking about using aliases -- do you get recognized a lot?
Yes and no. I think that I don't, when I'm not glammed up. I equate days like this where you're borrowing pretty clothes and have your hair and makeup done to the best version of yourself, and so when I'm the normal version of myself I can go under the radar pretty easily.
When people recognize you, what do they say to you?
Nice things, mostly.
Are they like, "Quinn!"?
Not so much that, I've become my own person now, which I guess is nice. But everyone's been so lovely. Weird doesn't happen so often anymore. It's really only, when we traveled in group form, that's when the weird experiences would come. You'd have moms literally grabbing onto your arm and yanking you and just behavior that is just quite odd. Once I had a guy kiss me on a plane, like grab my head in a way that I couldn't get out of this weird headlock. But yeah, when you're solo, things like that don't happen so often.
How do you even react to that? Do you just get security and call it a day?
Yeah, all that stuff happened. And it was before the flight had taken off, so it really wasn't well thought out. Then I had to go talk to the pilot, ask if I wanted him removed, it was really awkward. It was weird, it was weird.
Do you do karaoke?
What's your jam?
love a Whitney Houston number, love a Spice Girls number, love a old school R&B, whatever that might be. Mary Mary, Mary J. Blige, Boyz 2 Men, you name it.
'NSYNC or Backstreet Boys?
See, when I was asked this in middle school, I had a very similar answer that I have now, which was and is: No Doubt.
Using the formula of your first pet and the street you grew up on, what's your porn name?
That would be Caber Thornhurst.