Evan Rachel Wood Steps Through the Looking Glass

Posted on 01. May, 2008 by Administrator in hCovers, Profiles

Evan Rachel Wood, photo by Robert Todd Williamson

words by Jason Dean, photos by Robert Todd Williamson

Evan Rachel Wood remembers wearing the bunny ears with the “Alice in Wonderland” dress.  It seemed completely normal at the time. “If I think about it now it’s kind of twisted that I played the White Rabbit dressed as Alice,” she says. Wood was only four-years-old, but the young actress was taking her first innocent steps down the rabbit hole away from convention. 

There was a time when she would walk around the house pretending to be blind – even when company was over – hoping for the chance to play Helen Keller in a production of The Miracle Worker

Wood, you see, had strong industry connections in her hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina. Her father, Ira David Wood III, is an established actor, director, and playwright. He also owns and operates Theatre in the Park, which has become a local institution in Raleigh. After some persistent lobbying, the eight-year-old Wood was playing her dream role opposite her mom, Sara Lynn Moore, who portrayed Annie Sullivan. “It was the equivalent of asking for a pony and getting it,” she recalls of the experience. Within the next few years, she accumulated a decent list of TV (American Gothic, Once and Again) and film (Practical Magic, S1m0ne) credits. In 2003, Wood’s highly acclaimed performance in the coming-of-age film Thirteen propelled her into the national spotlight and earned her a Golden Globe nomination. To this day, the role sticks with her. “That whole experience changed my life,” she readily acknowledges. “Not just my career, but my life. I was the same age as my character. The scenes were shot [in sequence] and I went through the same arc without even realizing it at the time.” The film shaped Wood as an actress, freeing her to expose an inner intensity that few young performers have the ability to tap into. “It was the first time I’d gone so personal and it was nice ’cause no one was expecting it, including people who knew me,” she laughs. “I was so much happier after that movie. It was like closing a chapter on the darkest period of my life.” 

dress by Black Halo; lady cameo necklace with ruby by Gara Danielle Fine Jewelry, 22k gold ring with citrine center stone by Arman

Since Thirteen, Wood’s talent for playing the promiscuous rebel has resurfaced in films like Pretty Persuasion and Down in the Valley. But being the bad girl isn’t necessarily the objective when considering a role, says Wood. “I have a checklist I go by. Most important is the character. And the dialogue has to be good.” 

Her latest film, The Life Before Her Eyes (directed by Vadim Perelman; House of Sand and Fog), fulfills both of those requirements. The film, which also stars Uma Thurman, examines the random, life-altering consequences that result from a school shooting. And Wood does get to play the bad girl. “It’s an incredibly emotional, important film,” she says. When she first read the script, Wood said she was not prepared for the bizarre conclusion. “I immediately read it again. I warn people after they see the film that they’ll be just about to fall asleep then they’ll sit right up in bed and have some revelation.” 

Wood also appreciated the fact that the script wasn’t preachy and didn’t pass judgment on the issues addressed. “It’s about how even the smallest decision can affect you in a big way,” she continues. “Some of the major events in my life happened that way.” 

(bikini by Jets by Jessica Allen; black leather neckpiece with chains and studs by Phillipe and David Blonde; shoes by Michel Perry; black diamonds and 18k gold kaleidescope earrings by Moritz Glik; rmone studded leather buckle cuff by Hayden-Hartnett; black wrist band  Evan’s Own; dome ring with black diamond by Gara Danielle Fine Jewelry)

As for her own school experience, Wood opted for home schooling as soon as she was able. She also studied dance and earned her black belt in Tae Kwon Do when she was 12. I ask her if she feels she missed out on anything. “I stayed in school long enough to get a feel for it,” she says with a wisdom that belies her youth. “As long as you have activities with people your own age, you get the experience.” She did realize one goal, however. “I got to go to a prom – that’s the one thing I didn’t want to miss,” she reveals. “I got my really corny prom pictures, and, you know, you go to the prom with someone you don’t really like.” 

Now 20, Wood is beginning to look for projects that provide a bridge from adolescent angst to young adult characters. “I’m lucky in that a lot of my roles have been ‘adult’,” she points out. “It makes the transition easier.” 

She just started filming an untitled Woody Allen project, about which her excitement is obvious. “I’m playing a teenager, but she’s out of high school and becomes an adult during the movie.” On top of that, she plays Larry David’s wife in the film, whom Wood admits to having a crush on. For her indoctrination into comedy, she realizes she is in the presence of a couple heavyweights and admits she needs to overcome her sense of awe. “Comedy is so complicated,” she says. “It’s a different way of acting. It’s so calculated. It’s really mathematically precise.” 

The last time Wood admits to feeling this nervous was during her audition for the Beatles-inspired  film, Across the Universe. “I perked up when I heard about it,” she remembers. “I’m such a huge fan of the Beatles. I thought it was a very daring idea, and I was looking for a musical to do.” At the audition though, she was so terrified she didn’t think she could talk, let alone sing, because the role was so important to her. She overcame her nerves, landed the leading role of Lucy Carrigan, and got to work with another of her comedy idols: Eddie Izzard. 

Music holds a very special place in Wood’s heart. In fact, she doesn’t deny it when I ask if she’d be inclined to pursue a singing career rather than continue acting exclusively. “Music is a soundtrack to life,” she states. “My favorite feeling in the whole world is being able to hear a song and have it sound exactly how you feel. Like emotional songs that for some reason make me cry. Music helped me through a lot. It still does. Movies sort of do the same thing for me,” she adds. “I cried when I watched Life Before Her Eyes. That’s when I know a character really affects me.” 

This self-described “geek” for musical theatre counts Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee, and Judy Garland among her vocal influences. In fact, she got to sing a Holiday song on Once and Again. “I’m glad I found her,” she says of Holiday. “I’ve been told one of my problems was having too much vibrato, but she’s all vibrato!” Wood is also writing songs and learning to play piano. “I eventually want to attempt guitar, but my fingers don’t bend that way.” 

The subject turns to living in the fishbowl that is Hollywood and the general public’s fascination with the private lives of public figures. Wood pauses, taking a genuine self-inventory. “It doesn’t affect me like it used to,” she says of the unwelcome attention on her personal life. “It hasn’t stopped me from doing anything. I’d rather have everybody say, ‘What the hell is wrong with her?’ than to think everything’s fine when it’s not.” She laughs. “I can say no one’s got the right idea yet.” 

Another thing she doesn’t “get” is how the bar has been lowered for what qualifies as entertainment in today’s culture. “There must be a real rise in insecurity,” she says, referring to the relentless judging and magnifying-glass criticism that goes along with the so-called reality shows. “I’m in the game, I’m not just heckling on the sidelines,” she responds. “I’d much rather be heckled than not doing anything.” 

Wood is very excited about her upcoming project Phantasmagoria: The Visions of Lewis Carroll, in which she plays Alice’s alter ego (though presumably without the bunny ears this time). The film is written and directed by her boyfriend Marilyn Manson, who also stars as the author who popularized hookah-smoking caterpillars. “It’s a great script,” she confirms, adding that Manson’s artistic diversity impresses her to no end. 

The rabbit hole of nonconformity Wood has been following just got a little deeper, a little darker, and even more intriguing.

Evan Rachel Wood, dress by Blugirl; cincher corset by Phillipe and David Blonde; white diamonds and 18k gold eternity bangle by Moritz Glik; white coral with 14k gold and diamond charm necklace worn as bracelet by Mizuki; white diamonds and 18k gold ring by Moritz Glik; shoes by Phillipe and David Blonde


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