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Daniel Day-Lewis spoke with poet, Eileen Myles in this 2002 interview. Photography by Terry Richardson.
 

Read Bjork's2001 interview with Juergen Teller from the index archives.



Kathleen Hanna discusses writing and making music in this interview from 2000 with Laurie Weeks.


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Alexander McQueen's 2003 interview with Bjork.
 
  JERRY HALL
STEPHANIE SEYMORE
MARC JACOBS
  ASIA ARGENTO
DENNIS HOPPER
ABEL FERRARA
BRIAN WILSON
WILL OLDHAM
DJ SPOOKY

Jena Malone, 2003

WITH RICHARD KERN
PHOTOGRAPHED BY RICHARD KERN





In thoughtful filims such as Donnie Darko and The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, actress Jena Malone knowingly inhabits the moody and emotional world of adolescence. Onscreen, Malone's presence is arresting - she looks refreshingly average yet you can't take your eyes off her.
Photographer/film buff Richard Kern interviewed and photographed Malone at her "bachelor pad", an unapologetic jumble of books, photographs, clothes, and DVD's in LA's Little Armenia neighborhood. "Whatever you want, dude," Malone remained the picture of California skate-punk hospitality despite the early hour.





RICHARD: You just had a birthday the other day.
JENA: Yeah, I turned eighteen.

RICHARD: So now you're legal for certain things.
JENA: I can buy cigarettes and lottery tickets. But I've been emancipated for awhile so it's sort of strange. My friends took me to a strip club for my birthday. That's another thing you can do legally when you're eighteen — see naked women and men.

RICHARD: Is that an uncomfortable feeling?
JENA: It was awkward. I got a lap dance. I was asking the dancer how long she had worked there, and I got a nipple in the eye.

RICHARD: I always feel like everyone is staring at me when I go to one of those places.
JENA: It felt as if they were looking at me like, "Are you going to perform next?"

RICHARD: You said you were emancipated, legally recognized as an adult.
JENA: Financially I had come to a sink or swim situation. I ran into some strange tax problems, and the only way out of them was to get to my trust fund.

RICHARD: As a child actor, everything is held in a trust until you reach a certain age.
JENA: Not everything. Agents take some, managers take some, lawyers take some, and then the government takes some. And twenty-five to thirty-five percent goes into a trust fund. So we ended up spending more money then we had. To get out of my financial problems, I petitioned the courts to become emancipated.

RICHARD: That's pretty major.
JENA: Well, I wanted to be legally responsible for myself. I wanted to sign my own contracts. If a mistake was made, I would be accountable, and I would learn from it. Unfortunately it's not as easy as it sounds. It was a nine-month process of proving my mental and financial stability.

RICHARD: Are you still on good terms with your family?
JENA: Yeah, it's just me and my mom. Actually, we have a better relationship now than ever before. As with any change, you learn a lot. You see things more truthfully.

RICHARD: Do people think it's strange when they find out?
JENA: Yeah. I go to a Ralph's and try to get a coupon value card, and they're like, "You're fourteen, what do you want that for?" I'm a responsible adult — I want the savings. And getting electric, power, and gas is a whole process. As soon as I give them my social security number and date of birth, they're like, "Ahh, you're sixteen and you want to put the power in your name? I'm sorry, you're ridiculous."

RICHARD: How old were you when you started acting?
JENA: I was nine and a half when I moved to L.A.

RICHARD: And you immediately got work?
JENA: I moved out here because I had auditioned for a UCLA student film called Seventies Child that I ended up getting. At the time we were living in Las Vegas where my mom was in a dead-end job. It was like, "Let's move to L.A., land of opportunity." She found a great job right away. I shot that film for four weeks, and then I just started auditioning. I did some random commercials and a Michael Jackson video. Then I started reading scripts. One of the first was Bastard out of Carolina. I immediately fell in love with the world of the film.

RICHARD: You ended up being in that movie. Did anyone give you guidance?
JENA: No. I had a pretty strong idea of what I wanted. I wanted to find fun, interesting stories that affected me. I did a string of television films, which was a great experience. It's a small production environment, you shoot from twenty-one days to twenty-eight days. There is less pressure than on a feature film.

RICHARD: Why were you interested in acting originally?
JENA: When I was four I made a list of things that I wanted to do or learn. I thought I wanted to be a singer, because my mom did a lot of musical theater. She was always either acting, writing, teaching, or dancing. I grew up in the Lake Tahoe region, moving around to a lot of different towns. We had only lived in Vegas nine months when I asked my mom if I could go to an acting class for my birthday. It cost twenty-five dollars.

RICHARD: What was it like?
JENA: I asked a lot of questions and the teacher told me that I could be an actor. He ended up being a huge fraud. But he got me that first audition for the student film, and from there I met more legitimate people.

RICHARD: Did he try to con you?
JENA: Oh yeah, he asked for fifteen hundred dollars for the classes and these weird headshots. That's a pretty common experience for people first coming into this business. It's been almost eight years since then. It's kind of crazy how well it has worked out.

RICHARD: How long have you lived here in Little Armenia? It's kind of unusual for a young actress to live in such an unglamorous part of town.
JENA: I've lived here for a year and a half. This is my first bachelor pad. I lived with a bunch of roommates for two years, to sort of ease into the whole experience of living on my own.

RICHARD: Do you ever think about moving to a better neighborhood?
JENA: I'm actually moving to Tahoe.

RICHARD: Oh really, you're leaving L.A?
JENA: Yeah, I'm going to a community college there this winter. It offers a program in photography that teaches you to run a lab. I'll also be taking a welding class. When I get there I want to buy a place — something really cheap and small — that has an acre or two.

RICHARD: Okay, so you're in Tahoe, you're going to school ...
JENA: I want to get a fixer-upper and own it for the next ten years. It would be awesome to have that as a home base. In L.A., if you're an actor, your personal and professional lives are too intertwined. It's a constant state of reading and being and meeting. It's sort of endless. For my personal health, I need some physical separation. I want a home where I can be creatively inspired. Then I can come down here, live out of my car, shower at four different people's places, go to meetings, work. But I can come here with more purpose.

RICHARD: You worked with Jodie Foster in Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys. She was a child actor who has managed to remain a really important Hollywood presence.
JENA: She's also a beautifully well-rounded person. She doesn't fall into the stereotype of the crazy former child actor. We did a lot of press together for the film. I learned so much from just sitting in the room and seeing how she answered questions. One of the strange things about being a child actor is how many people know who you were at different phases in your life.

RICHARD: There are a few people devoting websites to you, so you have some pretty serious fans. Did that start after Donnie Darko?
JENA: At first, a lot of people liked Step Mom. Now people have responded to Donnie Darko.

RICHARD: A theater on my street plays it every weekend. It's a great movie.
JENA: Unfortunately it just came and went. It's gone much further in the DVD market than we ever expected. There's a great story behind it as well. Richard Kelly — this twenty-six year old guy right out of film school — wrote and directed it. He had complete control. The film has some holes, but I think his ambition is fully commendable.

RICHARD: When you first started making films, you were so young. How did you work out what your characters would do?
JENA: No matter who the characters are, you can strip them down and find small universal truths. We are all searching for some form of family or foundation — for a place we can feel safe and secure. Then you find the beautiful quirks that make the character unique. But you do need to feel that there is mutual respect between you and the director. Younger actors tend to get treated like their choices don't matter.

RICHARD: How conscious of all this were you when you were younger?
JENA: For a child actor, it's a matter of listening, reacting, and being able to put yourself in a new place without being scared. When the camera is off, you have to be able to turn yourself off as well. It's a tricky thing. I'm still learning. I just finished my thirteenth film. Now I know what all the equipment is for and what the set up should be. But I'm still working with the same basic instincts.

RICHARD: You have three films coming out, don't you?
JENA: Yeah. I'm really excited about The United States of Leland. It's by a first-time director, Matthew Ryan Hoge, who also wrote the script. It's a tragedy about a teenage boy who murders an autistic child. I play the autistic child's sister. The guy who murders him is my boyfriend. Then, there's Cold Mountain — I only worked two days on that. It's a Civil War epic. The cast is incredible — Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, and Renee Zellweger. I'm in one scene. I play this dirty girl who lives in the forest and runs a ferry boat. Then there is Saved, which I just finished shooting. That's a black comedy set in a Christian high school. It's about the realization that the only way you can figure out what you believe is through testing it.

RICHARD: Have you ever had your IQ tested?
JENA: No.

RICHARD: You seem very smart.
JENA: Oh really? I've only been to one year of high school.

RICHARD: I know a lot of people who haven't been to high school who are super-bright. Were you also home schooled?
JENA: From sixth to eight grade I was home-schooled. Then for nineth grade I went to a professional children's school in New York. After a year I became emancipated and just sort of quit. But I have my GED — a Good Enough Degree. [laughs]

RICHARD: What kind of background do you come from?
JENA: Poor white trailer trash. I grew up with two moms. They were lovers until I was nine. Then they split up.

RICHARD: No father figure ever?
JENA: I was the product of a one-night stand. But I met my father once when I was four. He lives somewhere in Reno. The thing is, I had two loving parents. Love in any shape or form is a beautiful thing. I didn't grow up missing my father.

RICHARD: Do you have any curiosity about your dad?
JENA: I actually know a lot about him. He was nicknamed deadbeat dad of the west by the Reno Gazette.
RICHARD: [laughs] Recently?
JENA: I think it was two years ago. He was running from the government because he had seven children and never paid child support to any of them. He was living under an alias in Texas or something. He's been in and out of prison. So he's just kind of crazy.

RICHARD: He's a pure cowboy.
JENA: Oh totally, dude. He actually wrote me a letter awhile back and said he was really proud of me.
RICHARD: I see you've got an extensive collection of DVDs.
JENA: I just started collecting DVDs. They're like film school. You can stop the film at any moment, and you get production notes and commentary. One of my favorites is Bottle Rocket — absolutely incredible. I've also started getting into the black exploitation films like Dolomite and Petey Wheatstraw. I think Dolomite is the best. Have you seen it?

RICHARD: Yeah, Dolomite is the original rapper.
JENA: Absolutely. I'm really into hip-hop, so I think he's rad. There's the scene where the white cops are busting Dolomite on some cocaine that they planted.

RICHARD: And the sex scene where the bed is vibrating and everything is falling off the walls.
JENA: Oh, it's so gross. It's one of the grossest sex scenes ever. It's like the worst '70s porn. Another film that I loved was Monsoon Wedding. It was so beautiful. I hated My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It's one of the highest-grossing independent films ever. I love what it did for independent film, but it's so heartfelt and boring.

RICHARD: It's for middle-aged housewives or something. It's hard to believe you're a teenager. Do you have any words of advice for the people who read this interview?
JENA: What sort of advice could they get from an eighteen-year-old? What motivates me in life is not being scared. We all start out wanting to know the world. We see it through unjaded eyes. I think unjaded eyes are what we should all continue to look through.


 

© index magazinegelatin1
Jena Malone by Richard Kern, 2003
© index magazinetobias
Jena Malone by Richard Kern, 2003

© index magazinetobias
Jena Malone by Richard Kern, 2003

 

Copyright © 2008 index Magazine and index Worldwide. All rights reserved.
All photos by index photographers: Leeta Harding, Richard Kern, David Ortega, Ryan McGinley, Terry Richardson, and Juergen Teller