Interview: Juliette Lewis Talks "Kelly & Cal", Her Films, Her Music, and More

Photo Credit: © 2014 - IFC Films
September 2nd, 2014

Juliette Lewis has been one of the best talents in Hollywood for 25 years. She has done some of the most iconic films the industry has to offer including: “Cape Fear”, “Christmas Vacation”, “What's Eating Gilbert Grape”, “Natural Born Killers”, and many, many more. On top of all that she is a brilliant musician and performer. This woman has it all and shows off her talent once again in her new film “Kelly & Cal”. The film will be released on September 5th and revolves around her character, Kelly, trying to find herself again after she has a baby and moves to the suburbs. Juliette was kind enough to sit with us here at The Movie Network and tell us all about her new film, her music, and some of her favorite roles.

Nick Leyland from The Movie Network: Congratulations on your new film! I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me.

Juliette Lewis: Yes, I appreciate you spreading the word about "Kelly & Cal".

TMN: Yeah, I actually just got to watch the movie, and I loved it. What are you up to at the moment?

Juliette Lewis: I’m in Wilmington. I'm here shooting this TV Show called, Secrets & Lies, for ABC that will be on next year.

TMN: You're also on another TV show too right now, aren't you?

Juliette Lewis: Yeah, I did three episodes in this show called "Wayward Pines" with Matt Dillon and Melissa Leo, it's kind of amazing and crazy, and an M. Night Shyamalan project. But, yeah, I did three episodes and then this came along. This in the series, I'm the lead, and I play a detective and it's so interesting and suspenseful and it's 10 episodes, and it airs next year.

TMN: Is it like one long story kind of like what "The Killing" does?

Juliette Lewis: Yeah. Yeah, exactly, and in the "True Detective" thing. It's like one murder mystery over ten episodes, and I'm the lead detective. Ryan Phillipe, who I worked with 15 years ago in this movie called "The Way of The Gun", he's like my prime suspect. It's so good 'cause each episode she starts shedding a light on different neighbors. And it's called "Secrets & Lies" so it's like revealing everybody's secrets and lies.

TMN: Every time a series comes out like that, I have to spend 10 straight hours watching it.


Juliette Lewis: Yeah, yeah, it's for you. That's what the viewer is for.


Juliette Lewis: It's cable-modeled, that's why I love it 'cause I just work 3 months and it's not 22 episodes and I'm free to make music or do movies so I'm loving it.

TMN: You are amazing. You are one of the coolest people I've ever talked to and I was so happy that I got to see you’re film and that you were the lead role in it.

Juliette Lewis: Thank you.

TMN: Now, it comes out September 5 in theaters and VOD. It's called "Kelly & Cal" and you play Kelly, and what's funny is the story is almost kinda like "The Graduate" or something a little bit reversed, I guess.

Juliette Lewis: Yeah. Even though I'm not a new mother, it's sort of a person at this time in their life, this junction or juncture, it's a crossroad. She's mid-life and she's discontent, she feels kind of lost, I love that she perpetually has insomnia through the whole movie, and then she'd befriends with this kid from across the street, and he sort of exemplifies all the things she thinks she needs or has lost in her own spirit. And I just felt that was so beautiful, but she's not completely likeable the whole film. When I read the script, I was like, "Wake up". I thought she was irresponsible but that's the thing I love about it. As an actor, I want to do things that are challenging and daring. I didn't get into film just to be likeable and straight down the middle.

I thought this was a fresh story, it's a beautiful, little independent movie and Jen, the director, did a fantastic job. Jen McGowan.

TMN: You're right because you don't like her through the whole film and it's one of those things where you could almost do the entire film in the point of view of Cal also.

Juliette Lewis: Yeah, isn't that beautiful?


Juliette Lewis: So here's the thing. It's called "Kelly & Cal" and this is another amazing thing that I got. I was really involved in the casting process because this whole movie doesn't succeed unless my costar is as good or can hold his own. And we discovered Johnny Weston, and he was so spectacular. And he has that X factor and he has this enthusiasm in his approach for acting. He's so passionate and open and it was immediate. The second I met him, I knew that we could go toe-to-toe and he would do such a beautiful job with Cal.

TMN: He did. I thought it was funny because I couldn't imagine how hard it would be to look like you're sad for however long you gotta shoot this movie.


Juliette Lewis: Yeah. It wasn't like sad, It was like be in that state of she doesn't know what to do, she doesn't know how she feels. It's contemplative and more than sad, it's like contemplative in retrospect all the time and discontentment. I've been there, so I know that feeling. It's a tough shoot for me 'cause I just... I'm always striving to be so honest and so believable and make you feel everything I'm feeling and so I sort of won't be there on a cellular level and really feel it. So it's tough to go back there and that's where your director comes in, she tells you you're doing it, you're doing it right and where to go and how emotional to get in places. We worked 16-hours-a-day. I'll tell you it was tough, I really didn't sleep the whole movie.


Juliette Lewis: I was barely sleeping. I worked 16 hours a day, I was in every single shot, every single frame. In my 20 something career, I don't think I ever was in every single frame. I've played the lead girl before and worked my ass off, but I think this is a different. The whole thing was so amazing and rewarding. I don't like if it's easy. And nothing worth anything that comes easy. You know what I mean?

TMN: Yeah.

Juliette Lewis: I really like doing things for the experience. The fact that IFC is gonna put this movie out, that was just the cherry on top. That doesn't happen so much anymore these days. Especially, with little independent movies they don't always get released. So for us, we were all just making a film we believed in and we loved. And for me, I love new challenge, I love good roles. To find them and see that what I see in people and that Jen McGowan, the director, all I want for her that she continue to make films. I think she is really unique and special and fearless. And then Johnny has a great career ahead of him too, that's gonna be exciting.

TMN: Right, and Cybill Shepherd, her character was great because you just wanted to put her in her place the entire time.


Juliette Lewis: Yeah. She was a perfect. She is just wonderful. Great. I liked her a lot.

TMN: You know that they're doing good when you just can't stand it when they are even on the screen, you're so mad at 'em.


Juliette Lewis: Yeah, totally.


TMN: You looked really great in the film. How did you like pretending to be a suburban mom?


Juliette Lewis: I know we wanted it to be be believable. I was about 18 lbs heavier than my normal self, even though, I know I'm little and skinny. But I have a lot of small, you know, and petite girlfriends who had babies and I just want everything to be realistic and so I can't wait to get feedback from people who see the film and who get to relate to Cal's journey as well as my character, but yeah this is something fresh and interesting for me to play.

TMN: Now, one of the cool things in the scene that I liked was when you play the tape, was that you singing on that tape?

Juliette Lewis: Yeah. This is the other thing that happened organically that I wrote... I always wanted to write music for movies, but this is not my music. You know, I make music that's what I was doing for seven years, scoring and all that. But this isn't a Juliet Lewis song, this is specifically in a character for the movie and I submitted my song just like a normal. I wrote this and submitted it to Jen, the director. I wrote the first song. I just thought it's funny to write these '90s influence, you know, kind of low-fi PJ Harvey type style I wrote with my guitar player named Clint Walsh. And then the last song just came out of me, came out of nowhere and it was a it's called "Change" And it's really pretty, and I just wanted to give the audience a feeling of hope that the character Kelly ultimately arrived that. And it's a really just a sweet simple little song that me and my guitar player, Clint, produced together and Jen loved it. She cried when she first heard it.

TMN: I thought it was you and I was like, "I don't know!" Then I was listening to some of your stuff today and man, it's heavy! You rip it up.

Juliette Lewis: Yeah. The rock n'roll that I do is really muscular, base guitar driven, but these songs, this is written for the film so that's what I love about it. You know as a song writer, just like as an actress I wanna write in different characters and different styles. Hopefully I'll be doing more of that.

TMN: That wasn't your fender was it?

Juliette Lewis: No.

TMN: What kind of guitar do you play?

Juliette Lewis: I have a few instruments, I don't really like guitar to tell you the truth. I write on piano or bass. I bought a bass during the movie but I don't... I just get cheap busted things from a used store. But I mainly write with people, I'm not so much a player when I perform live, but I do write. I tend to write on keyboards. Ultimately I'm gonna get with good musicians, I'm not a player but I just love rhythm and melody and lyrics.

TMN: What do you get out of acting that you don't get out of music and vice versa?

Juliette Lewis: Acting is more insular, it's more internal and you're getting something out and it's much more of a solo experience even though you're collaborating, and I'm helping to tell this story of my writer and film maker. So I'm like a piece of the puzzle. With music I'm the everything, it's much more my spirit in song. It's what I'm feeling at that time and I oversee, even though I don't play drums, I oversee every aspect of the music. So I guess with music you could say I was the director, writer and performer and with acting I'm working stuff out internally and like that completely different medium. But music is more spiritual and instantaneous 'cause I could write a song in my living room and perform it that weekend, which I have done. You know what I mean?

TMN: Wow. That's pretty amazing that you can do both. You've got so much going on, how do you manage it all?

Juliette Lewis: Well I haven't done both of late. I haven't been on the road in four years, I miss it like crazy and there was a time I couldn't manage it at all, I did only music for seven years and established myself like that and found an audience and went all over the world and it was incredible. And then now I'm sort of on my acting kick and evolving. And so next year I hope to release more music and get it going again, I miss it like crazy. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram and I'll update!


TMN: I will, 'cause you know I listen to that song Terra Incognita and it’s awesome. What other songs should I check out by you?

Juliette Lewis: Oh my god, I'm always into what I'm doing now. But I guess you could say... I wrote a song called 'Hard Lovin' Woman' and that's my blues song and I wrote it in ten minutes and that was off the last record, Terra Incognita but that'll tell you a lot about myself. It's a declaration and it's called 'I'm a Hard Lovin' Woman'. So that's a good song, some oldies but goodies, there's a song called 'Hot Kiss' it's very rootsy guitar, a garage rock kinda vibe. That was in my old band The Licks. 'Sticky Honey' and 'Hot Kiss' are pretty good. But 'Hard Lovin' Woman', that's my jam.

TMN: I'm gonna check that out today.

Juliette Lewis: Cool.

TMN: Now I have to ask you this, I know you've probably been asked this several times but, you're in some of my favorite films. What roles do you look back on as your best work?

Juliette Lewis: Well I'm not a really good judge externally of the outcome, but I can tell you the best experiences in hindsight like 'Cape Fear', well actually 'Cape Fear' I'm really proud about 'cause it's the whole naturalism, because that's what I do, try to make things look really real and natural and that's what that is 'Cape Fear' playing that young girl. That was a really important movie for me because Scorsese just validated my instincts, he didn't direct me a lot, but he made me feel that I knew what I was doing. 'Cause I'm not trained in acting, I learned on the job and I consider my directors my teachers. And then I really liked, 'The Other Sister' was a huge role for me in that I was scared to death of the character, I didn't know how I could do it, how I could pull it off. And it was a really beautiful experience and then 'Natural Born Killers' is so awesome because it was like going to boot camp. 'Cause we did everything, I had shot guns, I learned street fighting, I walked through rattle snakes, I worked in a prison, a live running prison with prisoners and lived to tell about it.

TMN: You are so awesome, it's been such a nice pleasure talking with you.

Juliette Lewis: Thanks a lot!

TMN: So the film, Kelly & Cal, comes out September 5th, and all our audience should go check it out. Thank you so much Juliette, I really appreciate it.

Juliette Lewis: Thank you so much. I'll see to you later.