Alexis Dziena Interview, Fool's Gold

Posted by: Sheila Roberts

MoviesOnline had the pleasure of interviewing Alexis Dziena at the Los Angeles press day for her new movie, "Fool’s Gold," directed by Andy Tennant ("Hitch"). The movie also stars Matthew McConaughey, Kate Hudson, Donald Sutherland, Ewen Bremner, Kevin Hart, and Ray Winstone.

Ben "Finn" Finnegan (McConaughey) is an affable, modern-day treasure hunter who is obsessed with finding the legendary 18th century Queen’s Dowry – 40 chests of priceless treasure that was lost at sea in 1715. In his quest, Finn has everything he has, including his marriage to Tess (Kate Hudson). Just as Tess has begun to rebuild her life, working aboard a mega-yacht owned by billionaire Nigel Honeycutt (Donald Sutherland), Finn discovers a vital clue to the treasure's whereabouts. Much to Tess' consternation, Finn maneuvers himself aboard Nigel's yacht and, using his roguish charm, convinces the tycoon and his celebutante daughter, Gemma (Alexis Dziena), to join him in the pursuit of the Spanish riches.

Alexis Dziena has portrayed an eclectic collection of roles in such films as Jim Jarmusch's "Broken Flowers," opposite Bill Murray and Sharon Stone; "Sex and Breakfast," opposite Macaulay Culkin; "Havoc" with Anne Hathaway; and "Strangers with Candy," starring Amy Sedaris. On television, she has co-starred in the ABC series "Invasion," as well as in the CBS television movie "Stone Cold," with Tom Selleck, and Lifetime's "She's Too Young," opposite Marcia Gay Harden. A graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Dziena is an accomplished singer, pianist and cellist, and is currently honing her skills on drums and guitar.

She will next be seen in the dramatic features "Tenderness," starring Russell Crowe, and "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist," opposite Michael Cera. Here’s what she had to tell us about her recent adventures making "Fool’s Gold" and what it was like sharing the water with cool red jellyfish called Irukandji that can deliver a pretty nasty sting:

Q: Your director was telling us that you were all in the water with the little jellyfish…

Alexis: Irukandji, yes.

Q: He says he didn’t tell you why they were getting out of the water.

Alexis: You know what? I was so scared about the Irukandji because we had already found one at a previous location and that was why we had moved and I had to do a scene where I was supposed to be topless and I was so nervous about going in without having my skin covered because that’s supposed to keep you safe from these things. So, Andy got in the water with me to make me feel comfortable and we’re in the water, we’re shooting the scene and everything was going good. I’m not thinking about it and, all of a sudden we hear ‘Everyone get out of the water!’ I was like, they’re not gonna tell me but I know what it is and I kind of threw Andy out of the way and he went flyin’. They hadn’t even got the ladder down and I’m like ‘Get me out of the water!’ People were pulling me up by my arms. It was all fine. Nobody got hurt or anything but those little things the size of a pinkie nail, they’ll kill ya. They’re scary.

Q: Your character is endearing but a little dense. Was it fun to play her?

Alexis: Totally. What I think is so great about her is that she doesn’t care too much about what’s happening as long as she’s in the middle of the action. I think it’s a symptom of growing up in the spotlight always performing and I think probably somewhat uncomfortable in real life because all she knows how to do is walk fabulous and look great and smile for the camera. She’s larger than life which is always really fun to play.

Q: You didn’t base her on Paris Hilton?

Alexis. There’s definitely aspects that are common among anyone who grows up in the spotlight but I would say I didn’t draw specifically from any one celebrity but common themes, definitely and I did my research reading US Weekly and all of that [laughter].

Q: What was it like working with Donald Sutherland as your dad?

Alexis: What an honor. I’ve been really fortunate to work with Bill Murray, Sharon Stone and Donald Sutherland and you always get a little bit like ‘Oh my God, they’re just so amazing.’ It’s a little intimidating to be working with these people. But, you get on the set and they’re just like so sweet, so willing to help. Donald and his wife Francine pretty much adopted me while we were in Australia and took care of me totally. It’s was very parental and nurturing and very sweet. He always gives great advice without a doubt.

Q: Such as?

Alexis: I remember one thing he was saying was to make sure that when you’re doing off camera lines, sometimes, in the past, I’ve made the mistake of wanting to do something that I think is easier for them, whereas he reminded me ‘Make sure you do exactly whatever you did on your side so you don’t look bad when they react’ and I’m like ‘You’re right.’ That’s true. Because if I do something all different, it’s gonna make me look silly. Here I think I’m being generous. Basically, he said something that I’ve always thought myself but he kind of validated it, ‘If it’s funny, it’s funny. Don’t ever try to be funny because that’s kind of the kiss of death.’ While I always knew that, it’s a different thing to see it in practice and he’s such an artist in that way, and really the best experience was just being with him and being with wonderful actors more than exactly what they say.

Q: Was that you on the jet ski?

Alexis: Part of the time, yeah. We had a few scares. I lost Matthew once or twice [laughs]. I’m like ‘Wow, this is light all of a sudden.’ I turned around and Matthew’s back there goin’ like this [she waves her arms in the air]. But, he was a nice sport about it. There was only one time when they had a camera arm out like this [indicates across her path] and they wanted us to trail the boat. I was doing my best and that was the only time that Matthew was like [whispering] ‘I think we need the stunt doubles’.. for him and for me. It’s one thing to be on a jet ski with nothing in front of you but if you go too fast, you could be decapitated, that was a little scary but it was really fun.

Q: Were there any injuries?

Alexis: No. We got pretty lucky in that way. They made sure we practiced a whole lot being comfortable on the jet skis. They always had safety people there and stunt divers and anything that you didn’t want to do, they didn’t push. It was actually really fun. I had been on a jet ski once before and I was really excited to do it. I hadn’t calculated how hard it would be to have another person on it and pick him up and all that but I only lost him a few times.

Q: Was that the most difficult scene you had to do in the water?

Alexis: Yeah, I think what was hard about that too was trying to get a lot of action done and still try to keep something intimate and us talking and figuring out what’s happening. There’s a lot to think about, a lot of noise, a lot of challenges shooting on the water. But, I think, probably the biggest challenge was wearing heels on a boat [laughter]. That was tough, keeping my balance.

Q: What were the dynamics on that boat working with Kate and Matthew?

Alexis: I think there is a degree of going a little crazy on a boat just by the circumstance of having like a hundred people in a tiny little space. But, it was really fun. Everyone had a really great attitude about it and Matthew was able to do his push-ups even in a small space [laughter]. It was really fun, especially with people like Matthew and Kate. I think the most wonderful thing about Matthew is that he’s just so free-spirited and so carefree and he really knows how to make anything a good time. You couldn’t find anyone less jaded or less spoiled by being so successful. So, he really kept the energy up and kept everyone laughing. Then Kate is so smart and such a wonderful role model of being a really prolific actress while having a family and doing it so young and so gracefully. So, it was fun. We tried not to let the pressures of shooting on the ocean get to us. It was all good.

Q: Are you prepared for your profile to rise, to be recognized on the street after this film?

Alexis: I guess we’ll see. I hope so. I don’t really get recognized all that often but it’s always really flattering when it happens so I think it will be fun.

Q: You steal a lot of scenes in this movie. A lot of people are going to see it so your life will probably change.

Alexis: I hope so and thank you for saying so. I think it will be good. Hopefully, I won’t get caught doing any weird things like tripping over my face or with a burger in my hands. But I’m sure that happens to everyone and you get over it, so whatever they throw at me, I’ll take.

Q: Did playing this character prepare you for the glare of the spotlight?

Alexis: Yeah, I think getting to play Gemma I got to see what the pitfalls of it [are] and the glamorous aspect of it to a degree. I hadn’t thought about it but I guess it does prepare me a little bit for it if it ever happens to me.

Q: Did you grow up near water?

Alexis: I grew up in New York City, in Manhattan, yeah. I went to school there and then I went to NYU for a while and I’ve been out here since a TV show I did called "Invasion" in 2005 and I thought I’d go back to New York after but it’s so much easier to get work out here so I never made it back.

Q: When people recognize you now, is it for "Invasion" and do they ask about the show?

Alexis: Sometimes. But, surprisingly enough, people recognize me most from this Lifetime movie I did called "She’s Too Young" which I always find very funny because I played a 14-year-old with syphilis [laughter]. They’ll come up to me and I almost feel like ‘Should I shake your hand? I don’t want to [give you anything].’

Q: Do creepy guys ever come up to you and say ‘I really liked you in Broken Flowers’?

Alexis: I’ve gotten a few letters from jail. [laughter] The worst was somebody sent me a computer print-out of myself naked and wanted me to sign it and I’m like ‘Oh, I think I’ll pass.’

Q: But you write back all the other inmates?

Alexis: [Laughs] Oh yeah, of course. Inmates are a major top priority.

Q: Are you Norah in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist?

Alexis: I’m not. Norah is played by Kat Dennings and Michael Cera’s playing Nick and I play Tris, his ex-girlfriend who is kind of crazy and runs after them the whole night. It’s really fun because it all happens in one night going from club to club. We had a really fantastic time because we actually shot in New York, night shoots. So, we’d come out for a break or whatever and some drunk would be going by yelling something and we were like ‘This is just what we need’ That’s what the energy’s really like.

Q: Was getting home when the sun came up freaky?

Alexis: Oh, it’s terrible. Some people are fine with it. I always feel like a vampire. I’m okay as long as the sun’s not up when I’m going to sleep but sleeping during the day is rough.

Q: Who do you play in Tenderness with Russell Crowe?

Alexis: The movie’s about a young kid who is a serial killer basically and Russell plays a detective who is trying to entrap him so he uses me as bait. I meet the young kid in a juvenile detention center, leave him a note and he drives across country to meet me and, on the way, he meets another young girl who is kind of like a fan and obsessive. It’s pretty dark. Then, when he gets to meet me, there’s Russell and we’ve entrapped him. But I haven’t seen it yet. I don’t know when it’s coming out. I think it’s sometime soon, hopefully.

Q: You have a very exotic look. What are the origins of your family?

Alexis: I’m Italian, Irish and Polish.

Q: What kind of music are you into?

Alexis: I have pretty eclectic tastes but I feel like indie rock is kind of my go to genre but I’m actually getting really into hip hop recently.

Q: Any special artists?

Alexis: Yeah, I really like T.I. and that’s sort of new for me because growing up in New York you never really listen to the radio because you’re never in your car so my musical taste was always about ten years behind the times. So, I’m happy to say I now know a current artist and I like him.

Q: Have you met him?

Alexis: No. I’d love to meet him.

Q: He’s nice.

Alexis: I’m sure. He looks nice.

Q:You’re quite the musician; you’re a cellist and what else do you play?

Alexis: Piano and drums.

Q: So why did you go into acting and not stay with music?

Alexis: Well, basically, I think acting has always been much more of a passion for me than music. I started playing piano when I was three so it’s kind of my parents’ doing and I continued it just because I love it as a hobby and then the other instruments and the singing… I went to a very artistic school, so a lot of it was ingrained in me as a child. But, none of the instruments I play or singing are really anything that I have the drive to do professionally as much as acting. You never know, I may end up pursuing one of them. I’m just not sure I’m good enough at any of them to really make a career out of it.

Q: You can just use it in a movie.

Alexis: I have actually. I played cello in a movie and it was crazy because it was a song that I could have actually played, but for financial reasons it was cheaper to have someone else record it [laughter] so they got a teacher for me to learn how to sync my movement to this recording. I’m like ‘I don’t need a teacher to play it’ and they’re like ‘No, we need a teacher to show you how to fake it.’ So they do it and then they used a different recording in the movie. I watched the movie and the whole thing’s off. [laughs]

Q: Are we going to see an album from you one of these days?

Alexis: Maybe. It’s hard to say. Not in the next year or two at least for sure but you never know. I’m still playing, still practicing, trying to learn drums without getting evicted [laughter].

"Fool’s Gold" opens in theaters on February 8th.

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