Ashley here. Wow, what a doll Melanie Lynskey is! One of the sweetest, most down-to-earth actresses I’ve ever sat across from. I’ve seen her in a few flicks – “Ever After” with Drew Barrymore, “The Informant”, and of course, Peter Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures” – but I don’t think she’s made as quite a big as impression as she does as George Clooney’s upbeat sister in the phenomenal â€˜’Up in The Air”. It really is a tour-de-force performance. And I was as pleased as punch to discover the New Zealand-born actress was just as sweet in real life as she is in the film. I arranged to have a bit of a chat with Melanie this week. We talk about the film, prankster George Clooney, how she’s settled into Los Angeles (having moved from New Zealand), and why she left London.
How did you get involved in “Up in the Air”?
I just got involved by auditioning – I’m an auditioning actor – for Jason [Reitman], and I got the part from that. I was very, very excited!
Could you relate to your character?
I could, the thing I really related to was the depictions of the relationships with the family. I moved away from my home country of New Zealand when I was eighteen…
…Moviehole’s an Australian website, so not too far away….
Really!? I didn’t know Moviehole was Australian!? That’s great!Â … But yeah, I moved away when I was eighteen, and I have a little sister – who was four at the time – and we’ve since become wonderful friends, but the distance, when someone is growing up and you’re not there to see it… I related to that aspect of it.
Now, there are two types of women in this movie – the career-oriented woman and the family-first woman. Which are you?
I always thought I’d be a person who put their career first – because I enjoyed my job so much, but also because I was never very good at holding a relationship together. Even back in New Zealand I’d be in-and-out of relationships rather quickly – within a couple of months. But when I met my husband it made me believe that there are people out there who can change your life – be â€˜the one’. And I will now put him before anything. We talk everything through together – for instance, I got offered something where I’d have to move to a different town for a few months; before I would’ve just made the decision on my own, but it’s nice to have someone to go over it with.
As an actor do you identify with the â€˜’Up in the Air” mentality – that you’re always jetting off somewhere?
Yeah. Definitely. And I hate packing my bag – I hate it so much; I’m really bad at it. Where do you live? Are you a traveller?
I’m from Seattle, but I live here [in Los Angeles] now.
Oh we were talking about Seattle before, and the weather there. I’m from New Zealand and it’s like the exact same weather.
It’s that rainy there?
Yeah, a-ha. But I love Seattle.
I’m a San Francisco girl – because it’s less wet, and you can walk everywhere!
That’s true. We go there just to eat sometimes – just to have like a weekend of food.
How do you like L.A?
I like it, but it took me a while – it took me about three years to settle in to it.
Yeah, I’ve been here for three years too. It does take you a while.
And it’s funny, you’re so isolated here – everyone is in their own cars and their own houses and there’s not a lot of interaction, and that can be kind of alienating at first.
And that’s something I liked about “Up in the Air” – the electronic generation, which L.A seems to be mostly populated by, vs. the face-to-face generation.
I hate the telephone – I can’t have a conversation on it; I have like a phobia – but I text and email all the time. I can’t even order something from a restaurant over the phone – my husband does it. And I also have a fear that I’m going to interrupt someone when they’re busy.
That’s very considerate!
Yeah… but strange, right?
When did you first move to L.A?
I moved to L.A nine years ago. Before that I was in London for two years. I’ve been away a long time.
How was London?
It was kind of depressing.
I thought you liked the rain!?
Yeah, but it was freezing there! Truth is, I fell in love with someone and moved there for him. So that was, well… you need a bit more going on than just a boyfriend.
Did you make it work there – career-wise?
I was always coming over here. I worked in London a couple of times but it was mostly here. So when I broke up with the guy I just moved here permanently.
It’s great that so much is going on in your home country of New Zealand film wise – the Peter Jackson projects, and so on…
Yeah, and I did Heavenly Creatures with Peter so it’s great to see him doing so well… he’s like a Super Star now!
Have you kept in touch with Peter?
Yeah, we have actually. My husband and I went to Vegas with him and his wife a couple of months ago. It was so much fun… we went to Cirque de Soleil! It was awesome!
You know they have one at Santa Monica beach now?
No!, I didn’t know that! I so want to see it! Peter and his partner Fran [Walsh] saw every single [Cirque de Soleil] show in Vegas – every one!
I’d love to see [Cirque de Soleil’s] Love
That was his favourite one – he’s a huge Beatles fan.
Have you talked about collaborating with Peter again on anything?
I think that would be more his decision [Laughs]. Maybe I should call him and say, â€˜Hey Peter, I have an idea, why don’t I star in one of your movies?’ I loved working with him – I didn’t know at the time how lucky I was; I was just a kid, it was my first film ever – and I’d love to repeat that experience.
Do you have a favourite type of director?
A year ago I worked with Steven Soderbergh [on “The Informant”] and I love the way he works – I think maybe he’s my dream director now. He just sets the camera up, has minimal lighting, and just lets it be… it’s very spontaneous. He only does like one or two takes. He loves accidents. He loves it when little weird things happen.
Seems very organic
It’s very organic – and it’s just fun, just fun.
What was your process of getting into this character?
I usually make a little playlist of music for the character – music the character would listen to. My playlist for Julie was just all pop songs – sweet pop songs, because she’s so hopeful and optimistic and upbeat. So even in those few scenes where she had to be quite melancholy I tried to keep my energy pretty happy most of the time.
I love that playlist idea! Great way to get you into the mindset!
Yeah! It’s interesting to listen to them like a year or two later.
Did Danny [McBride] and George [Clooney] crack you up on set? They’re both funny fellows!
Oh my god, they’re both so funny! George especially would just go off on some random tangent… he’s so funny! And Danny’s hilarious – obviously. And both of those guys are so sweet.
Any practical jokes?
No, not on the set [Laughs] I missed out!
What have you got coming up next?
I have two movies that I hope come out soon – one is a little independent movie, and the other is called Leaves of Grass with Edward Norton.
How was it working with Edward?
He was amazing. He’s very serious at work – very businesslike – but after work, when you go and have dinner or something, he’s very fun.