When you win an Oscar at age 11, it’s easy to think that you’ve reached the peak of your career. But Anna Paquin begs to differ. Having stunned the world with her Best Supporting Actress Award back in 1993 for The Piano, Paquin now credits her acceptance in the New York theatre scene as one of her biggest accomplishments. And although she appreciates her Oscar win, she feels that if she wins one again in the future, it will mean so much more. After all, according to Paquin, she was just “reacting” off of her Piano co-star, Holly Hunter, who won the Best Actress Award.
These days, Paquin is very much in control of her destiny. She shuns the party scene that befalls many young actresses, works steadily at earning much- deserved respect in her theatre performances and chooses film roles that appeal to her nature, rather than having a big paycheck. That isn’t to say Paquin doesn’t take big studio films (just look at her role as Rogue in the X-men trilogy) but rather she tends to follow her instinct and go after edgier, more creative roles. And as it is in the film industry, most of those films are independently made, making her a true “Indie Darling.” But even with her acting presence firmly established on the Indie scene, Paquin is now moving onto her next phase in life: Producer.
Paquin and her brother Andrew, have recently formed “Paquin Films” and their first project, Blue State, is a quirky independent romantic-comedy about a disgruntled Democrat who has to live up to his promise that he will relocate to Canada if George W. Bush gets reelected. The film was shot in Paquin’s hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba and stars herself and Breckin Meyer.
I recently got a the opportunity to talk with Paquin about her love of acting in Indie films and her experience as a first-time film producer.
IFA: I notice that you tend to do a lot of Indie films. What makes you gravitate towards those types of roles?
Paquin: For starters, I have a great fondness for independent films. But I’m actress though, so to a large degree, you go to where the work is interesting, where there are interesting parts. It’s not like I don’t do or don’t choose to do big films for any particular reason, it’s just that you’re allowed to do things that are more creatively-driven if they are independently produced. You don’t have as many people telling you what you have to do, or what you can’t do, so the material tends to be a little more interesting and a little grittier. It doesn’t have to appeal to such a wide audience because there is not so much need to make an enormous amount of money. You can really make art for art’s sake, as opposed to art as commercial enterprise, which has its value too, but there are obviously limitations. I just love working with interesting, creative and talented people who are being allowed to really do their job.
IFA: Would you say it’s almost like you can get away with a lot more?
Paquin: Well, yeah on a bigger film, you may have an amazing, talented director who has 23 executives breathing down his neck – not really being able to make the film he or she wants to make. It obviously doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen. It’s nice for the director to really be in charge.
IFA: So what made you want to do Blue State as your first production?
Paquin: The material was really interesting to me for various reasons. I think it’s really smart, I think it’s really funny but also sweet and moving and it sort of pokes fun at this whole kind of political mess that’s come upon us in the last however many years. And it handles it in a really interesting way. It doesn’t beat anyone over the head with any particular message, per say. It’s just an interesting way of looking at that particular topic.
IFA: Do you feel that this film might cause a bit of controversy, considering the subject matter?
Paquin: You know, controversy happens around films that remain completely uncontroversial. I’ve been involved in certain films that people have gotten all hot and bothered about and really I just think they kind of missed the point. You know, that wasn’t what was being said with the film, that wasn’t the intention, you know, just reading a little more into something that really isn’t there. But, you know if people are buzzing and talking about your movie, that’s never a bad thing.
IFA: What was it like working with your brother, Andrew?
Paquin: My brother is awesome. I mean, he is incredibly intelligent and creatively inclined and good on the business end as well, because the finance world is his background. He’s just awesome, I can’t imagine a more ideal person to work with.
IFA: What made you want to start up “Paquin Films?”
Paquin: You know, I’ve been acting for 15 years, it’s time to branch out a bit.
IFA: Would you like to direct one day?
Paquin: Yes. Not now though.
IFA: What types of films and projects do you think Paquin Films will be interested in producing?
Paquin: I think we would want to start with interesting material, and actors, directors and other creative people and just telling stories that we find meaningful.
IFA: You aren’t going to just stick to one type of genre?
Paquin: Absolutely not. I think that diversity is way more fun and way more challenging. It’s not fun to do the same thing over and over again.
IFA: What do you find the most challenging part of being on the production side was?
Paquin: (Laughs) Actually, seeing some of the editing stuff was hard. Something about your own objective and about seeing your own face. You have to concentrate on the finer points of editing, but it’s your face and your performance. It’s almost like I had to be forcibly restrained so I wouldn’t sit in my seat with my hands covering my eyes. It happens to be a very Goddamn interesting experience. But you know, it’s probably pretty good for me.
IFA: What was the most enjoyable part of being behind the camera?
Paquin: Knowing what was going on all of the time. I feel like people try and keep actors in the dark for some reason, like they think we are either really emotional or really stupid or something and wouldn’t handle it well if they were told what was really going on. It’s just really nice being involved in all the decisions. Casting is fun, in a really long, abstract, tedious kind of way, but ultimately fun. You know, figuring who you want to work with in various types of departments. I mean, all of those decisions are really, really important. There is not one single crew member on a film that is not really important. It all matters and it was really nice being a part of the decision making.
IFA: What was it like shooting in Winnipeg?
Paquin: It was so great. Everybody was so unbelievably welcoming and supportive. I think we got more than a couple of favours from everyone. Just lots of open doors and arms and all kinds of graciousness. Everyone that we encountered has made things so easy and the crew that we hired were all locals. They were amazing.
IFA: Do you consider yourself more of a Canadian, New Zealander or American?
Paquin: You know, the closest I can come up with is that I am a New Yorker. Which is anything and nothing; there are so many people who live here that are not from here. I’ve lived in New York now for almost seven years and this is the place that feels most like a home to me.
Whatever nationality Paquin considers herself, one thing is for sure: we haven’t seen anything yet. With her unlimited talent, her winning personality (not to mention stunning good looks) and her willingness to challenge herself, winning another Oscar looks like it will be another one of her effortless achievements.