JENA MALONE GETS SAVED EXCLUSIVE Interview by Paul Fischer in Los Angeles.
Jena Malone is not your typical 19-year old. There is nothing remotelyHollywood about this actress who punctuates her sentences with 'man', andloosely reclines on her hotel room sofa nearing the end of a day's publicityfor her latest film Saved. And even then, she retains an upbeat energy. "Ilove talking about movies that mean something to me," Malone says. Saved isone of those films, in which the actress stars as "Good girl" Mary, who,with her popular, influential best friend, Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore), arestarting their senior year at the top of the social structure at AmericanChristian High School. But when Mary finds out she's pregnant, Hilary Fayeand her devoted "disciples" turn against Mary and the school labels her anoutcast. It's as an outsider, however, that Mary finds true friends - otherstudents the school doesn't quite know what to do with.
Saved is a darkly satiric portrait of parochial high school life, religiousobsession and rebellion, but it is its exploration of religious educationthat may get some tongues wagging. But Malone doesn't seem concerned by anylikely controversy. "From our point of view, having screened the film for avast majority of religious groups, the response has been overwhelminglypositive. I think these young boys and girls, who are going to thesereligious schools, are happy to see a film about them. That's beingportrayed accurately. If we could all just laugh at ourselves, in hard timesor good times, it would be an incredible world. But sometimes that's not theeasiest thing." Malone was aware that shooting the film on location in someestablished Christian schools was problematic for the producers, but arguesthat "People who haven't seen the film are more weary and vying controversy,than the ones who've actually seen it and know that this film is very muchpro-Christian and has a pro-faith message to talk about. It's those basicteachings of Jesus Christ, which are love and acceptance in many forms,"Malone says.
Like her co-star Macaulay Culkin, Malone has grown up on the screen, butunlike her famous co-star, she was able to survive the experience andcontinue to become older, gracefully. She skirts the subject of Culkindirectly, denying that the pair discussed the lessons each derived fromgrowing up on camera, merely saying "that we're both very supportive of eachother and we talked about a whole range of things." There remains, withMalone, an uncanny intellect, a desire to be taken seriously as an act4ressand not stumble into a Hollywood trap. Jena says that this sense of maturitythat is in inherent in her, comes from her insistence that not live anywherenear Hollywood. "I have a wonderful house in Lake Tahoe, a supportive familyand a boyfriend I love, all of which keeps me real."
What else keeps it real is her career choices, choosing to pick challengingroles in often tough, Indie films from Bastard out of Carolina, to JohnnyDarko and The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys. "A lot of it comes from makingthose choices and seeking out these types of films. I tell my agent that Iwant to read everything. I want to read everything from Mean Girls to shortfilms that are coming in. Just to see what different type of roles youngpeople are being offered or written about these days. For me it's abouttruth, it sounds really gross and cheesy, but if it's an honest depiction ofyouth then I'm stoked about it. I'm very excited about trying to work on it,get the film made, or be a part of it to some degree."
Asked what kinds of obstacles face today's teenagers, Malone pauses. "Ithink it's an individual thing. Your mountains are my molehills. I feel likea lot of the drama we deal with in high school, in those environments, isself-created. We're dealing with drama and how it affects people. How itbrings people together and pulls them apart. For me, looking back, thehardest times in my high school was all bullshit. I was completelytraumatized by that. It was nothing. I could have easily thought about itfrom a different perspective and it would have been a perfectly healthysituation. I think we have more of a limited perspective when we're young.We're not given the opportunity to search out different types ofexperiences. If all we're seeing is this high school environment, then it'sdetrimental to our mental health. It has nothing to do with reality, Ithink."