Alicia Silverstone may look just as she did at the start of her career, but the Golden Globe-nominated star has certainly grown when it comes to her acting. With past work that ranges from independent cinema to big-budget studio films, from television series to the Broadway stage, from playing a bubble-headed teen to playing a struggling single mother, Silverstone’s career has taken her to surprising depths.
Her latest film “Angels in Stardust” has her playing the role of Tammy, a single mother in rural Oklahoma raising two children (newcomers AJ Michalka and Adam Taylor) while trying to dig herself out of the dumps. The film comes out in select theaters and on VOD on February 21.
We called up Silverstone to discuss working with A-list talent, her life of activism and the most defining role of her career.
How do you generally go about choosing your projects?
There’s a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s just for fun. Sometimes it’s just a fun opportunity that comes along. But mostly, it’s something that makes it interesting. A really good director, really good writing, other great actors to play with.
What specifically attracted you to the role of Tammy in “Angels in Stardust?”
Well, with Tammy, it was definitely the first time for me to do something like that, something very different. That was the main draw. Tammy’s so complicated and so interesting. And it was up to me not to make her a bad mom, but to make her more compelling and more complicated with a struggle between her love for her own children and her own needs.
With a wide range of roles throughout your career, what do you
consider gave you the necessary chops to pull off your character in “Angels in Stardust?”
I don’t know if it’s a specific role, because each role you play allows you to bring to it as much as you can, based on the circumstances of the character. I’ve done a lot of theater, I’ve worked in a play with Kenneth Branagh where he was directing me and I’ve worked with Laura Linney in “Time Stands Still,” and doing things like that really allowed me to feel like I’m exactly where I need to be and that I know what I’m doing. So then you just wait for a great role to come and you get to play it, and this was one of them that I could just really play.
How much input do you typically give in regards to how your character should be portrayed?
Well, when I’m working with a director that I absolutely trust and that I really respect, you know right away if you can let go and just follow their lead. Usually, the best directors I’ve worked with have very little to say, I mean the reason they hired you is because they know you’re right for the part. And it’s really good because they just let you go and they give you a little input here and there, a little tweak here and there. It’s the most incredible experience, I mean that’s a primo experience for me. It happened with Amy Heckerling on “Clueless,” it happened with David Mamet when I did plays with him, it happened with Daniel Sullivan on Broadway. And the more they allow you to let go, because of how much trust they have in you, the harder and stronger you push yourself. It’s amazing. Sometimes directors are not that way, sometimes they’re more nervous or whatever, and you have to try not to mess up your work. And that can happen too. And then you just have to play the part and you just do the best you can, and you have to try to protect yourself and to protect the film.
You’ve worked with a
number of established actors in the past on a number of films. How did
you feel working on “Angels in Stardust” considering some of your
co-stars were still emerging?
Oh it was so wonderful! Adam Taylor, who plays my little son, was so delicious, I got to kiss him all day long. He was just an adorable little monkey, I loved him. And AJ was just so talented and so sweet. And just so easy. Easy to be around, easy to work with and just so interesting and delightful. I couldn’t have asked for better people to be around.
You’ve come a long way since your breakthrough role in “Clueless.” How have you seen the industry change since then?
I don’t know because I also have a little girl, so it’s kind of hard to tell. I mean, I know it has changed, but I’ve also grown so much and my point of view from when I was a 19-year-old or a 16-year-old as a woman has changed, so it’s hard for me to say.
How has working in the indie film industry fared for you as opposed to big-budget studio films?
Well, with independent film, they’re always taking a lot of risks. I mean, you never go in any movie thinking ‘this is gonna be a good movie.’ You do it thinking that it’s gonna be really interesting and fun, and for a variety of things, like ‘will I have a really good time?’ or ‘is this project really interesting?’ and you never really know what’s gonna come of it. I think the thing with independent film is that there’s less pressure. You know, you just do your work and at this point, in film, you never know what you’re gonna get, you never know how it’s gonna turn out. All you can be responsible for is doing the best work you can.
Do you feel like the riskier it is the more appealing it is?
What I’m drawn to is the role, the actors, the director and the script. Like when I did “Time Stands Still” with Laura Linney and Daniel Sullivan, that was a slam dunk. A great role, amazing actors, amazing director, amazing writer. And that experience will forever be in my heart. Or when I worked with David Mamet where I got to work with an amazing director in an amazing role in an amazing script. You know, sometimes it’s all there. And sometimes you have a great character and you kind of go where your intuition and where your gut tells you to go.
Having received great reviews for your performances on
Broadway, do you still find yourself more inclined towards acting for
No, I love both, I love it all. I definitely love theater, I definitely want to do another play. Not right this second, but soon. I hope to do theater for the rest of my life, or at least until it’s not fun anymore. But I really love film as well. I want to work in all mediums.
Now that people are saying we’ve entered “the golden age of
television,” do you feel you might be making a return to TV anytime
I don’t know, but I’m totally open.
One of the things you’re noted for is your
activism for animal rights and environmental causes. Do you ever try to incorporate that into your career somehow?
There are movies that I’ve had to say no to that I’ve loved dearly but that had too much cruelty. That’s just the way it is sometimes, you know. But at the same time, you’re able to make choices where you can make a set more green, that’s very acceptable nowadays. For example, I try to make sure the clothes were made with cruelty-free fabrics. But the biggest part of my activism is really just writing books. I wrote a book called “The Kind Diet” and I have another one coming out in April as well. And that’s really the best way that I can give out information that I’ve been lucky enough to find to help people so that they can make the best choices for themselves.
With your book “The Kind Diet” topping the New York Times
Best-Seller list, how much do you see writing as becoming a more
prevalent part of your career?
Well it’s definitely taken over, so I need to put it on the back shelf! I get so inspired and so passionate and I get so many ideas that I kind of can’t stop. But I also want to be the best mom I could possibly be and still be an actress, and balance is really key. So I know that there’s a lot of books in my future, but I have to hold back and restrain myself, just calm myself down and take it slow because books are hard and they take a long time.
Which of your past roles do you feel has come to define you the most?
I don’t think my roles define me…I don’t think. That’s a really deep question. I know that “Clueless” is the one that people really identify me with. People love it. No one knew what a phenomenon that movie would be, but I’m thrilled that it really resonated so much with people.
And finally, which of your past roles would you say is your favorite?
That’s hard. I love “The Crush,” I love “Clueless,” I loved doing
“Love’s Labor’s Lost,” that one’s amazing. And I loved my role as Tammy