So you didn’t have to audition for Kathryn? That's pretty astonishing, considering that last year was dubbed your 'Breakout Year.'
My movies have only been out for a year and a half!
What do you make of that trajectory?
It feels overnight, doesn’t it? But I’ve wanted to be an actor for so long. I’m not 17 years old. I didn’t take the quick path, so it doesn’t feel overnight to me. The very strange way that my life has changed is that I get a call from Kathryn Bigelow on my cell phone. The idea of that happening two years ago, I would’ve never imagined. That’s how my life has changed, and that’s all for the better. But I’ve worked really, really hard.
Someone said to me -- we were talking about luck in the business, and, yes, luck has a lot to do with it -- but I had a great teacher that said: “Success is when luck meets preparation.” I believe that everyone gets lucky at some point; you just don’t know when it’s going to happen. Melissa Leo got lucky. It probably happened later than she thought it would. Mark Ruffalo did; he was bartending for 19 years before he was discovered. You just have to be prepared when your luck meets you. And that’s how I’ve always been; I’ve always been a workhorse. I love being an actor. No matter what I’m working on, whether it’s a play or a guest spot on a television show, I give it my all. I think, because of that, when certain things would happen and I’d get lucky, I was prepared. I was ready for it.
Does getting a call from Kathryn Bigelow and getting an Academy Award nomination make you supremely confident about your craft, or do you still have insecurities?
I think if I ever start to feel really confident about my craft, then I might need to be doing something else. For me, being an actor is about overcoming something. It’s about going beyond what you thought you could do. When I look at people like Isabelle Huppert, who is a great role model for me, her career – she’s constantly challenging herself, and doing theater. She puts herself in situations where: okay, we all know she’s a genius and a brilliant actress, she could take the easy road right now. But she doesn’t. She’s always putting herself in a situation where she goes: “I’ve never done this before. Let’s see what happens.” And that’s what I really respect. So if I ever start to feel like “Oh, I know what I’m doing, I’ve got this,” I’m probably not doing what I should be doing.
How much did this role scare you, in particular? It's no doubt a daunting task to embody this woman.
Every possible way, this role scared me. I’ve never carried a film like this. I was in a movie called “Jolene,” but I’ve never done anything like this. This is a major motion picture, a lot of attention, Kathryn Bigelow, a very large budget, I’m playing a real woman in a very important historical event -- there’s no room to fail. I can’t just show up and go, “Okay, I’ll just play myself as a CIA agent.” That’s not what I’m doing. So, yes, every part of it scared me. It scared me to think that I was going to be away from my friends and family for four months. The idea of all the research I was going to be doing for this film scared me. I wasn’t interested in reading about Osama bin Laden. But when I got the part, I realized that I needed to learn everything I could. I had to get interested right now. There’s a book called "The Looming Towers," which is a brilliant book. So it was daunting on all sides, but just like everything I do, I try to make it.