When you hit the halls of the fancy hotels to line up with your fellow journalists, you can only feel the potential for the movies you are about to talk about with the stars and the filmmakers hanging in the air. Going into this roundtable, when the off the cuff question of are you a gambler turns into a quick story of an illegal poker ring that you ran while in grade 3, you know things are going to get interesting.
Mississippi Grind is the tale of two wayward gamblers, Gerry who is always down on his luck (Ben Mendelsohn) and Curtis (Ryan Reynolds) the guy who knows when to walk away from the table and their trip down south together to try and reverse Gerry’s fortune’s and get him on the right track.
We sat down with co-star Analeigh Tipton about her adventures with these veteran character actors but on her entire career as she tries to establish herself further and further away from the her modeling days which ultimately helped her break into this business of show, where she has always wanted to be anyway.
Dave Voigt: When it comes to gambles that you take in your life, is their anytime that you can think of when you’ve put it all on the line?
Analeigh Tipton: During the Mississippi Grind shoot one night I went out and played Blackjack, I was up big, then I lost it all down to zero which I suppose is kind of the point, didn’t lose any money didn’t gain anything other than the experience.
DV: But has there been any moment in particular in your life that you can think of where you’ve put yourself on the line?
AT: Again it probably hinges on your definition of succeed. Like something I didn’t die through? I backpacked Iceland on my own, and I feel like that was one of those moments of feeling like okay, I need to do this. It’s probably the best time of my life.
DV: Would doing this movie be a gamble for you? As it is a bit of departure from things that we have seen you in previously?
AT: Oh for sure, and they’re two directors that I’ve dreamed about working with for a long time, but the gamble with them was just not fucking up. (Laughs) On that end of it, there was quite a bit of pressure because it was one of the very first times I had taken on such a ‘still’ performance.
DV: You perform a magic trick in the movie, do you know many?
AT: She does the remove the thumb trick (we all laugh)
Oh my god, my dad used to do that all of the time and it freaked me out, he was so good at it and he would do this thing with a knife. I’m pretty sure that his actually does disconnect because I’m pretty sure I was floored all the time. However I did work with a professional magician on the trick I did in the film, not because the scene called for a professional magician, but it was something that she needed, it needed to be good enough that it made sense that she was proud of it, so I wanted it to feel authentic. It was a vulnerable moment in sharing this with someone and so they had the little foam ball to disappear and rigged my jacket to pull the kitten out. I took that very seriously; I liked to play with the kitten too.
DV: It’s a nice tender moment and it really is your introduction to Ben’s character?
AT: So much of my character was shaped with how Ben and I interacted. He’s so gentle and it was so personal, I think. The more films you do, often it becomes a job that you go in for and come out of and it can be an incredible short experience. And on this one I am sure that Ben and Ryan felt a lot of pressure, because Sienna and I were there for the first two weeks and then the guys were hitting the road to shoot this adventure but Ben was just so there and in the moment. Even when they yelled cut, he would stay intimate and stay right there with me, he wouldn’t go off. I think that really set the tone, especially for the scene between us. Everyone kind of did that and no one had that type of personality.
DV: What kind of lessons do you learn as an actor from such an incredibly top heavy character driven cast like this one?
AT: Good Question…It’s almost hard to pinpoint because when I admire someone I just tend watch how they behave. I’ve learned kindness from numerous actors that I’ve worked with, and they were definitely amongst that kind. Sienna is an incredible woman. The fact she’s a hard worker, and it’s nice to see someone with so much going on be able to focus and be so clear in that moment too. I’m trying to learn from as many women as I can right now working and especially as I continue with my career, which I hope ages with me, I think that’s the most important thing that I take from situations like this, and I haven’t worked with a lot of women actually.
DV: And how about from your directors?
AT: Ryan and Anna, the way that they work together is really interesting. Ryan will do one scene, Anna will have another and they both very much respect their opinions. They work so much out beforehand. And I’ve worked with director pairs before and I think that’s usually the best dynamic. They’ve always worked. I don’t know how they do it. I feel like once you find that person with a similar vision and it works, and then it does. Lots of people ask me questions about whether they fight on set all the time. No, no that’s why they’re doing well, I think.
DV: You were in this very specific world of modeling and now having transitioned over to acting, I am curious how one ultimately informs the other. In modeling where you have to create a specific mood versus building a character which I imagine can come a little more organically.
AT: Well, that’s probably why I failed at modeling. Epically and thankfully it was never actually on the plan, I was terrible at it.
DV: What makes one terrible at modeling? Because it’s obviously not looks.
AT: Um, wishing to not do it. I had a very difficult time with it, I was raised in a very academic family, and I couldn’t rationalize why I was doing it, which sat very uncomfortably for me. It also took me a while to rationalize why I wanted to act. I moved on to L.A. for writing and directing, and I had to understand that I loved being in people’s imagination. If my time now is spent getting to live out someone else’s thing then that’s exciting and fantastic to me. It’s getting closer to someone’s mind that’s so curious. And eventually, hopefully, I get to do more of the creative stuff.
But with modeling, I really, I couldn’t. I didn’t need it, and I didn’t really like the lessons that I was learning.
DV: Are any of those lessons a barrier to some of the roles that you think you’re getting now, and barriers you’re looking to overcome? In other words, are people, if they’re casting you, giving you scripts, are thinking of you as this and not necessarily having the imagination?
AT: Oh of course, of course. Doing Top Model, I was 19, and that was just an adventure of who knows where it would end up. It was a fantastic fun game to play, but I wanted to be a filmmaker. I was never thinking, this is going to affect something in the future, just didn’t think like that.
I’ve met journalists since and other people who have this thing, thinking ill that I was on reality TV and now I’m an actress and giving me the eye. I could explain myself but I’m not sure if they would listen fully. It has been a little bit challenging sometimes, but I think, I hope my work speaks for itself enough. At least, I’ve done enough work, and I have enough of a talented team around me that that can be overcome nowadays.
Sometimes I’m too tall, but I just worked with Emile Hirsch and that wasn’t a problem. (Laughs)
DV: Is that the balance as well, because obviously you want to take these kinds of jobs that challenge you but at the same time we all need those jobs to pay the rent as well?
AT: (Laughs) Yeah, I’m doing a lot of indie films right now, so I’ve got some roommates. (laughs) I live off of my boyfriend’s leftovers basically, which is good. He orders nice food. (smiles) But I did television for a brief stint and that was fantastic. I went out and bought myself a camera and that was my one like here I have this amount of money and I’m going to invest in something that I’ve always wanted and can have forever, so I have my baby.
DV: What did you buy and what have you shot?
AT: A Laika MT40 and a few lenses. I have a 35mm, a 28mm and a 75mm and I love it. It usually goes everywhere with me. I didn’t take it today because I knew I’d be here.
I shoot street photography mostly, which is why my Instagram is so boring. For a lot of people, it kind of annoys them because it’s limited on selfies because no one knows how to use a Laika, because generally it’s all manual. I’m glad that it doesn’t have a lot of selfies on it, so it’s like pictures of fences.
DV: In terms of creative side of things, where you’d like to go, do you have projects in mind that you want to make, an idea that you want to grow on or things like that already?
AT: I do. I mean, I have things that I’m working on developing and I have characters that my team and I are working on going forward. The next thing I’m doing is Sadie, which is a psychological thriller which will be a very exhausting, intense experience and this year has kind of been about putting myself in those uncomfortable situations, whether or not I like it.
DV: More gambles.
AT: More gambles. I think you kind of have to in this business.
DV: When you ultimately want to get behind the lens do you have an idea for yourself and what you’d like to do?
AT: That one’s hard because now it’s been whittled down to what’s practical and where to start with that. And what is the right film to start with directing?
DV: Because it sends a message?
AT: If it’s good it does. Otherwise, hopefully, it just won’t be seen. (Laughs)
DV: You may end up with more roommates. Maybe a reality show about your roommates!
AT: Please god, No more!
DV: As you are finding your way through these roles you end up meeting a guy like a Ben Mendelsohn who is just stalwart in this business and while he may not be the Tom Cruise type of actor, he is the type of actor that the Tom Cruises of the world totally respect. When you are looking at film and looking at character is that the kind of approach you try to bring or is it even something a little more diverse and finding the fun moments in something like the Transformers movies as an example?
AT: I love a lot of different films. I think I’ve been on so many planes this year (laughs) and I fully use that time to watch things like Cinderella movies that make me happy. I was homeschooled with my mom and we’d watch films like that. Ultimately something that I do pride my career on a little bit is that I have worked with really fantastic directors where they’ve had really excellent actors and sometimes they’re very famous and sometimes they’re just the ones that you see in every film, but without fail they are always amazing at their job. . When I first started out, I was like, oh, I have to get to this point in my career. You just learn that that’s kind of bullshit if you really want any longevity or sanity. I think the actors that I respect are the ones that continue to work because they show up and are so incredible and good at what they do every day. And they’re nice people and you want to be around them.
DV: A guy like Ben really does some that up, in this film he is so meek, in another he is kicking someone’s ass and now he’s going to be in a Star Wars movie, is that ultimately the kind of diversity that you want to establish in your career?
AT: Yeah, and I think especially now having gone and done a good amount of indie films and exploring different sides of me. I screamed a lot this year – not screamed in a horror way, but I did a lot of strong, forward things, which is something that I wasn’t incredibly sure that I could definitely do.
I would love a really meaty independent film to do. I think every actress loves that. I’m not afraid anymore because I was of going into the superhero, bigger world. I was very afraid of being cast for one reason and not having the talent to back it and I think I feel I’ve worked with enough people that have approved me in that sense. I think an actor would love to approve himself, but you can’t really build a career unless other people do approve you in the work sense, that I’m confident that I would do a good performance in those pieces.
DV: Charlize is the obvious example of someone who’s lived your trajectory whose been the model but also been able to find the roles that would work for her and find great character in them as she ultimately makes them her own.
AT: I don’t think I was fully ready for it before. But the conversations I’ve been having with the people around me are that’s hopefully the trajectory of this next coming year.
DV: We look forward to it.
AT: Thank you, me too.
Mississippi Grind is in select theaters and available on VOD now.
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