Vera Farmiga may be one of the few true artistes working in Hollywood today. She dabbles in a little bit of everything, starring in big Hollywood productions, small indies and directing her own films (her debut "Higher Ground" premiered at this year's Sundance).
In "Source Code," the new sci-fi thriller from "Moon" director Duncan Jones, she delivers a performance with the same gravitas she'd tackle any picture with, big or small. She takes her work seriously and it shows -- her role as Colleen Goodwin, the military officer in constant contact with Jake Gyllenhaal's time traveling solider, full of life, even though she spends most of the movie staring at a computer monitor.
We talked to Vera about the challenges of making the twisted sci-fi thriller and how she kept things interesting on set.
How did you get involved with "Source Code?"
The script came to me, Duncan sent it to me with me in mind. I hadn't seen "Moon," but he sent me the DVD and I popped it in... and watched it seven more times. I peddled it to everyone I knew [laughs]. I thought it was such a good forum for Sam [Rockwell] to do his thing. I think he's one of the best actors of our generation. He was in rare form -- so shafted at awards season. But it's a genre I'm not often compelled by and it was just one of the most character driven films I've ever seen.
What is it about sci-fi films that leaves you hanging?
It's because they're plot-driven. And Duncan... he has a way of polishing an old turd. It's an age-old genre, but he has a way of working...his films work on so many different levels. You an experience them viscerally, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually... a psychic level. Really, he has some big concepts he's putting out there.
Your character spends most of the film confined to one space -- was that particularly difficult from a performance standpoint?
I almost didn't take the role because of it. Duncan doesn't allow for...it's very tricky. You know, my character is on a mission. We have these eight minute increments and very little time in between because they're on this mission of utmost importance to save lives. There's no dilly-dallying.
What's important to me as an actress isn't just the lines, but what happens in between the lines. I would be like, "Oh, we could infuse a lot of character and nuance there," but we often don't have the time to explore that. There's a staccato to the rhythm of this film.
Without diving too far into spoiler territory, you spend most of the film separated from Jake Gyllenhaal's character whose in the Source Code pod. How did that work?
It's difficult to talk about this film without revealing too much, because you want an audience to experience it in the way you did and not be spoon fed the ideas and notions of the film and to decipher them themselves. But it's tricky -- we had a week-and-a-half rehearsal to gauge ideas. I lucked out because Jake shot his segment first, so I could watch the footage and react accordingly. The frustrations of the actor are very much the frustrations of the character, in terms of the barriers of communication.
Are there specific movies, or even music and books, that inspire you, maybe even for this film?
Well, it's really everyday people that I meet that are the biggest influences and the biggest inspirations for me. The people you sit next to on the bus, in the subway, or the people you meet in the elevator -- we have these eight-minute increments that we have with strangers that are probably most influencing.
You don't do it consciously. It's all part of your psyche, influences your psyche. I can say my children probably now are the biggest sources of inspiration and joy. Seeing the world through the eyes of a child, with their innocence. It's a fresh perspective. One that I'm probably not operating from [laughs].