KING OF CALIFORNIA written and directed by Mike Cahill, with Evan Rachel Wood and Michael Douglas. A Maple release. 96 minutes. Opens Friday (October 12). Rating: NNNN
Evan Rachel Wood isn't a Lindsay Lohan-level nightmare, but she'd still keep a father up at night.
Mere days out of her teens, the striking blond King Of California star is the kind of Grace Kellyesque actor Hitchcock would have got a hard-on imagining in some peril.
But beneath the haute couture and exquisite composure (she poses for our photographer as though Tyra Banks were pulling her strings), she's really a rebellious rock chick.
When we're introduced, she's disappointed I'm not named after Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett and tells me, completely seriously, that she wants to name her first child Floyd. Her ex's first initial is tattooed above her left ankle (that would be Billy Elliot's Jamie Bell, with whom she starred in the Green Day video Wake Me Up When September Ends).
"He got my initial tattooed, too," she says. "People are like, "I bet you regret that,' but we both knew we wouldn't last, and that's kind of the point."
Her makeup, while Vogue perfect, approaches kabuki whiteness, not unlike that of her current boyfriend, 38-year-old pasty-faced shock rocker Marilyn Manson, with whom she starred and made very realistic-looking sex in his video Heart-Shaped Glasses. And she wants to shave her head.
"If I didn't act, I'm sure I'd just look insane," she says, tucking her legs neatly under her on a couch at the Bloor West Roots store. "I would love to have that freedom."
Freedom is relatively new to Wood, a former child star whose career kicked off with TV's Once And Again and hit the indie bad girl beat with Sundance hits Thirteen and Pretty Persuasion.
"It's really only been recently that I've felt I've been fully in control of my acting choices," she says. "Now I'm ready to figure out who the hell I am, what I want, what I want to say and what I want to be."
Just then her King Of California co-star, Michael Douglas, interrupts to give her a hug and a peck on the cheek before starting his own round of interviews on the other side of the store.
"I don't know a better young actress," Douglas tells me later. "She possesses an incredible sense of truth, such a great reactor. I got a kick out of her she'd be chatting on her cellphone with her boyfriend, chewing gum right up till roll, and then she'd put the phone down and just do the scene. She's a real treat."
Douglas and Wood play father and daughter in the quirky drama, one of four films Wood appeared in at the Toronto Film Festival. (The night before, Wood was moved to tears at the premiere of Across The Universe, the Julie Taymor-directed Beatles musical in which Wood played one-half of a star-crossed couple.) Written and directed by first-timer Mike Cahill, King casts Douglas as a bipolar suburban treasure hunter who drags his estranged daughter along on his quest for Spanish gold buried beneath a nearby Costco.
"Who doesn't like The Adventures Of Don Quixote?" says Douglas. "And this has Evan as my Sancho Panza."
"It's so hard to find good, interesting scripts when you're a teenager, especially a female teenager, and this one is so smart and sweet and funny," says Wood.
"She loves her father. Obviously, she'll do anything for him. One of the main obstacles is her accepting who her father is. It doesn't matter how much she fights it, she wants to believe her dad."
In many ways Wood's character has been forced to grow up too fast. When we meet her, she's dropped out of school to work at McDonald's, and is clearly more of an adult than her just-out-of-the-cuckoo's nest father.
I wonder if Wood ever feels she's missed out on her own childhood, having spent most of it on movie and TV sets.
"In a way. I didn't miss out on meeting kids my age. I think I missed out by having to fall on my face in front of everybody," she says. "I don't mean the movies I've done or things I've done that haven't worked out every actor has that. I just mean being able to make ordinary growing-up mistakes."
Additional Interview Audio Clips
Evan Rachel Wood
On working with Michael Douglas
On the script
On her character having missed out on a childhood
On whether she missed out on a normal childhood
On leaving a character on set when the shoot is done
On creating the character
On making sure his character didn't come across to crazy
On the biggest suprise making the film
On what attacted him to the film
On playing a crazy character
On his willingness to play flawed characters
On getting better as he gets older
KING OF CALIFORNIA (Mike Cahill) NNNN
Two distinct veins run through Michael Douglas's screen persona: dashing hero and duplicitous cad, often within the same role.
No wonder the bearded, bipolar, suburban adventurer in King Of California fits him so perfectly. He plays a grizzled Don Quixote who takes his estranged 16-year-old daughter, Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood), on a quest for 17th-century Spanish doubloons buried beneath the local Costco.
Novelist and first-time filmmaker Mike Cahill plays up the drama and humour more than the fantastique. This is essentially the story of a father's need to be reconciled with his daughter, and a daughter's attempt to accept that her father is more of a child than she is.
Cahill displays a deft touch, never treading too close to sentimentality or absurdity. And the performances by Douglas and Wood, who share almost every scene, are sincere and ring just slightly truer than true.