Brit Marling on Another Earth, Arbitrage, and Learning from Your Doppelganger


Traditionally, doppelganger stories are somewhat frightening, but here with Rhoda, the idea of a double is actually hopeful for her.

Yeah! It's so true. For whatever reason in most science fiction, the doppelganger is, like, only one can survive! They're chasing each other and one has to die. But this is kind of the opposite of that. I think there's more room for the audience's imagination, because I think the audience puts themselves into the story, and they're thinking, "What would that be like, if there were really alternate universes, parallel universes, which multiverse theory, on the cutting edge of theoretical physics right now, suggests that there are -- multiple universes with duplicate planets. There's room in this story for the audience to plug themselves in, and you're sort of thinking, "What if I had taken that job?" "What if I had moved to Rome when I had that offer?" "What if I hadn't broken up with that person?" The collection of major what ifs, and also the minor ones -- all these small decisions that happen in a day, where your life begins to go onto one trajectory and move away from another. I think we all think about that.

With Rhoda it is one of those small decisions.

Completely -- and that's an interesting moment, too, because it hinges on the real question of, chaos or destiny? Are we just these charged particles randomly bumping into each other in the night? Is it meaningless, and a mess, or is there something ordered -- and is there a mask that is so divine that we cannot perceive it, that we cannot articulate it? That is what is really behind the workings of the universe, even, and that things are actually coming together in some meant way.

One might look at the last year or so of your life, and if you think of that question in regards to what your life might have been like if you hadn't made the decision to leave your office job.

Yeah. I've been thinking about that a lot, actually. I had thought in high school about going to drama school, and then decided not to. So I have to wonder, if I had studied drama and gone to drama school for four years, would I then have gone, "No -- I want to get into geology!" Lives are so weird, in that they can shift course so radically, and I sometimes wonder, "Do all roads lead to acting?" Or is this a particular thread that I'm following right now?

Speaking of this life, right now -- when we spoke last you were about to go into filming on Arbitrage with Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon. What was that experience like, and how different did it feel from working on Sound of My Voice and Another Earth?

There are of course differences, and yet at the end of the day it's always the same. You're still with a group of people, this tribe of people, no matter what size the tribe is, you're still there every day. Everyone has the script, and you're every day trying to figure out how to tell the best story. How do you be the most honest and true to the script? I feel like no matter how many times you do that, it never gets easier. The challenges are always different and if at any moment you fall, you're back at zero. It was very much that way on Arbitrage. And I think everybody who came onto the project was really there because the story was so thrilling and original, and interesting, and prescient.

How would you describe your character?

She's... interesting. She works at a hedge fund, and her father runs the hedge fund. She's his protégé, and she's fierce. That's not a space that has many women in it, so I shadowed some people for a while and it was fascinating to see how that all works, what women are like in that environment. She's very moral. She has this really strong belief system, and it's a weird dichotomy that there are some compromises they're making on the business side, and yet she's also very morally grounded. She was a fascinating character to spend some time with.

What was it like sharing scenes with Susan Sarandon and Richard Gere?

I was her daughter in the story; Richard and her are a married couple, and he's running this hedge fund. She's his wife, they're living this sort of perfect existence in New York and they have the perfect family, and it all starts to unravel from there. But it was a wonderful experience to work with both of them. Sarandon's just so incredibly generous and talented and present, I feel like I learned a lot.

What's the status of your next film with Zal, The East?

Zal and I are working on re-writing that right now, and we don't exactly know, we're not exactly sure of the way in which that will come together. But it's a fun story and it's nice to be thinking about the next thing and getting excited about it.

How do you feel about the fact that Fox Searchlight has embraced your films so much?

There's nobody like them. They're such an incredible group of people, and you really feel like the movies they take on are movies they really connect with on a visceral level. That's why they're so successful at reaching wider audiences than they maybe normally could. They understand, and I just think in terms of editing the Another Earth trailer. Another Earth is such a... Mike and I always had a hard time pitching the story, it's a hard story to tell. You're like, "Well, there's this duplicate Earth. And then there's this girl," and people are like, "What?" But they really feel the film and understand it. The trailer, the one-sheet, the way it all enters the world is an extension of how deeply they feel these things, and it's amazing. It's been an amazing thing to get to work with them.

As an independent filmmaker who was so invested in your work, it must have been a great relief to have a studio "get" your movie.

Yeah - and I guess part of it is, when you're making these independent movies there's so much sweat equity in it. You can't pay for anything, so it's just blood, sweat, tears, working insane hours, breaking all the rules just trying to make something. And when someone takes it and puts the same energy into it that you were, but they're doing something that you cannot do, it's an amazing feeling to see their commitment to it and to watch it enter the world. Especially when you were just setting out to make it, and had no idea of where it could go.

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  • terebi says:

    Unfortunately, she lost me when she said there are THREE billion people on earth. Maybe an excited slip of the tongue, but that's not a difficult fact to get right. Oh well; it's not as though scientific accuracy is demanded of our starlets (or our screenwriters for that matter).

  • Jen Yamato says:

    Actually that was a publishing error. Apologies, and fixed above.

  • lifts shoe says:

    I came to the exact theory as well not too long ago. Excellent read and I shall be sure to look back later for additional postings.

  • K. says:

    The "Brit-Mike-Zal" trio is the best thing to hit indie edges of hollywood in a long time. I'm such of fan of all three films...I recommend you see them in order made, so you get a sense of just how awesome these people are on a shoestring budget: Sound of My Voice, Another Earth, The East. Brit commands the screen, and holds the lead role in all three films! Plus, she co-wrote & produced. She's amazing. I've had a personal alchemical reaction to Another Earth. It's literally changed my life.