In “Wrong,” a movie playing through April 12 at Harkins Valley Art theater, Alexis Dziena plays a love struck pizza-shop employee who leaves her husband for Jack Plotnick’s sad-sack protagonist, whose canine's disappearance sets off a bizarre and unpredictable chain of events.
French director Quentin Dupieux’s follow up to the critically-acclaimed “Rubber,” this genre-bending indie comedy blurs the line between fantasy and reality, throwing audiences a curve with its sardonic repartee and sparkling jolts of absurdity.
We recently caught up with Dziena to discuss the film, her love of “Seinfeld” and Dupieux’s unique way of critiquing performances between takes.
Q: So to begin with, can you tell me about your audition process for “Wrong” and what appealed to you most about the project?
A: Well when I first read it, being a writer myself, I kind of looked at it as a thing that, if I could write a million times better than I do, I would write myself. [Laughs.] I connected to it immediately and connected to the character. At the time I actually had an offer on a different movie and I turned it down just to audition because I loved it so much. So, I guess I got lucky that I got the character.
Q: One of the things I found most interesting about this film is that it’s hard to decipher what’s real or what’s just a dream, and every character goes on a peculiar sort of journey. How would you describe Emma and her overall character arc?
A: I would say I kind of think of her just as a normal girl but living in a world with no limits or acting natural in an unnatural reality. She’s really just a girl that wants to be loved and she’s very loving and in the moment and obviously very accepting of whatever the world presents to her. One of the interesting things that Quentin said to me that I took to heart when I started playing Emma was that she has no past. Usually, as an actor, a lot of us put a backstory to our characters so that was the first time I kind of thought of it as every scene being a fresh, new experience, with something that had never happened or something that she couldn’t relate to – everything was new. So that really helped.
Q: Yeah, I mean not to spoil anything, but were you shocked to read the final scene with your character and the broken wine bottle? I know it’s all a dream but I definitely didn’t see that coming.
A: I don’t think that was a part of the script the very first time that I read it but when it did come about, I wasn’t totally shocked because really in that world, anything could happen. It made sense and I think it made a lot of sense for Eric Judor’s character, too. It just gave it something a little more special so I was really happy with that.
Q: Could you tell me about your experience working with Quentin and how he’s unique from other directors that you’ve worked with in the past?
A: Yeah, well first of all, he’s great. He’s definitely one of my favorites to work with and he’s extremely creative and likes to do pretty much everything himself. One of the best things about working with Quentin and being on one of his sets is that there’s absolutely no downtime. He shoots very quickly and uses only natural light, which is very different from almost every other set I’ve been on. One of the funniest things about him is every time after a take, if he said something was “sh*tty,” then it was good; if it was “sh*t,” that meant it was bad. So you never really know how you did until you heard “sh*tty” or “sh*t.” [Laughs.]
Q: How would you describe the general atmosphere on set? I imagine it must have been pretty fun with costars like Jack, Eric and Will Fichtner around.
A: Yeah, it was very fun and the actors were all very different and had different approaches, which I always love to be around, personally. The crew was great and a lot of them had worked together, I think, on “Rubber,” and it felt like a very small, collaborative community where everyone wanted to be there, which always makes it that much more enjoyable.
Q: Looking ahead in your career, have your priorities changed at all in the types of films that you’d like to do or the spectrum of roles you wish to tackle?
A: There’s always more that I want to do. I mean I’ve never gotten to play Juliet (in “Romeo and Juliet”), and I’d love to do that. I feel like before I get to be too old, I want to play her at one point. I have a background in theater so it’d be nice to do more on-stage performance. Generally, for a very long time I only did drama, that was really my background and then all of a sudden, I did just comedies for a long time. It’d be nice to get back to more dramatic work for a little while. Although, I think comedy is more challenging.
Q: Are there any films or TV shows that you’ve watched recently that you’ve especially enjoyed or would recommend?
A: I’m the kind of person that watches the same thing over and over again, like one of my favorite TV shows of all time would be “Seinfeld,” and I probably watch it almost every night [Laughs.] So I don’t know, I’m not watching a lot of new stuff because I watch the same kinds of favorites over and over again.
Q: Just to wrap things up, what do you hope audiences take away from seeing this film?
A: I think it’s the kind of movie that, you know, everyone takes something different from. I mean if you want to take a really deep meaning from it, you could. If you want to just sit there and enjoy the beautiful landscape and the story and the fun of it, you can do that. I think, really, it’s just that reality is subjective and it kind of makes sense either way, you know? Like if it doesn’t make sense, it’s “wrong” in a really great way.
“Wrong” plays at Harkins Valley Art in Tempe through April 12, and is also available on iTunes/VOD. For more information about the film, visit http://drafthousefilms.com/film/wrong.