Abigail Breslin on Janie Jones, Her Band and Flashing Her Bra in New Year's Eve
Fifteen-year-old Abigail Breslin, America's erstwhile Little Miss Sunshine, is growing up -- not too fast, like some of her Hollywood peers and predecessors seem to be, but in her own time. Still: In the upcoming New Year's Eve, she'll share her first movie kiss; next year, she takes on the role of a real life teen killer. To kick off this new phase in her career, Breslin plays her first official teenage role in this week's music-themed Janie Jones, starring (and performing her own vocals) as a capable young girl forced on a road trip with the rock star father she never knew.
Abandoned by her ex-groupie mother (a trembling Elisabeth Shue) to be cared for by her father (Alessandro Nivola), the narcissistic lead singer of a fading rock band, Breslin's Janie channels her fears and frustrations into song -- bonding with her reluctant dad in the process. The story is loosely based on the experiences of writer-director David M. Rosenthal (See This Movie), who met his own daughter when she was 11 years old. The music, written for the film by Irish singer-songwriter Gemma Hayes (for Janie) and Clem Snide's Eef Barzelay (for Nivola's Ethan), is performed by its stars and required Breslin to take up the guitar and sing; now, she co-fronts her own band, Cabb (with Cassidy Reiff), whose first song was released last week.
Movieline spoke with Breslin last week in Los Angeles about Janie Jones, how it sparked her own musical interests, her love for Glee (and desire to guest star on the show), having her first movie kiss and flashing her bra in New Year's Eve, and the maturity of the roles she's got coming up on the horizon.
Janie Jones is a very sweet film.
It's also not necessarily a light story, considering that your character's forced to grow up really early, put on a brave face, and be strong in the face of abandonment and rejection. What struck you about it when the script first came to you?
When I first got the script, I really liked it because I liked how strong of a girl Janie is, and the fact that she doesn't really let her bad circumstances that she's in define her. She doesn't become bitter, which she could easily become and would, you know, have a right to. She stays who she is and I like that about her. She kind of channels her negativity into her music.
Did you always know there was such a heavy element of singing and even guitar work involved? How much of a challenge was that?
Yeah! I mean, that's why I was so nervous, because I'd never really sung before. And then I went in, and I knew that Alessandro [Nivola] was so experienced and was such an amazing singer and guitar player, that it was really nerve-wracking. Then I got to the recording studio and everyone was like, "Alessandro is so great, Abbie!" So I went in and was even more terrified, and I was nervous that once I started singing they were going to fire me on the spot! But no, it turned out to be a really good thing. It was really fun.
And now you're in a band.
Exactly! It inspired me to start my own band in real life. I kind of taught myself guitar and took more vocal lessons, and me and my friend are in a band called Cabb and we write all the songs and sing and play guitar.
How far along are things with that band? Have you recorded songs, are you working toward an album?
Yeah, right now we're just working on our album and our first song comes out today - it's called "Well Wishes." I'm really excited for it! It's on our YouTube page.
Nice! The musical element in Janie Jones is integral because the story's set against the backdrop of this on the road rock and roll lifestyle. It even starts in this seedy, dingy club. Did you feel like you were immediately thrust into this world, filming in these backstage hallways and such?
Yeah, it was great -- we were in all these little rock and roll clubs in Des Moines, Iowa, and they were actual real clubs that were actually really cool. We saw that Fall Out Boy had played at them, and all these bands... It was kind of cool to be there and we were kind of choosing our favorite club in Des Moines. It was a lot of fun.
Is that world familiar to you in real life, being a music fan? Do you go to many live shows yourself?
I don't go to that many shows, unfortunately. I would like to go to more. A lot of clubs are 21 and over, so that's kind of an issue. [Laughs] But the last concert I went to, I went to with my friend Noelle and we went to a concert for the band Carney, that Reeve Carney from Spider-Man is in. I love Spider-Man the musical. I love it. And I love his band, I think his band is great. So we went to that show, which was awesome. But I do like to go to the big concerts, like the Glee concert I went to.
How was it?
It was so amazing! Then I went to the Glee 3D movie, too, with my friends. I love all those.
Big Glee fan, eh?
Why don't they get you on the show already?
Ah -- I would love to, one day.
We'll put that on the record that you're down to guest star.
Yes! I'd be super down.
Going back to singing, it's nice to watch Janie Jones and hear you really performing your character's songs. Music is second nature to Janie; did that part come easily to you?
I'd always loved music, so it was something that I was excited to do. But at the same time it was really nerve-wracking. But I think the more you do it, the more comfortable you get at it. But I love it, it's fun.
This story of a father and daughter discovering each other is based on David's real-life experience, which must have added an interesting layer to the project. How much was he able to help you understand the characters?
It's definitely inspired by his life and meeting his daughter for the first time. It was great: We had his daughter Julia on the set, and she kind of told us that she had this immediate kinship with him when they first met, because she's very creative and she didn't know where she got it from. That, I kind of think, we tried to apply to Janie and Ethan in the fact that she meets him from the first time and doesn't really know where she's getting this songwriting, musical ability from. And it turns out it's from him. That was kind of interesting.
In the first scene you two have together, Janie and Ethan are so awkward with each other but there's something there.
Yeah, exactly! It's definitely an awkward meeting, because you've just found out that you're related to somebody and in such a close way. It's not like finding out that you're cousins with somebody. They're father and daughter. So the first meeting is definitely awkward. That scene in particular was actually filmed at the end, which is interesting. The middle-to-end of filming. And the actual first scene that Alessandro and I did one on one was another awkward scene, in the motel room, when they're sitting across from each other on the beds. That was the first scene we did together.
You're 15 now; this seems like an interesting time to be watching the kinds of roles you're taking on. Do you feel like you have to be much more deliberate now, as you get older and move into teenage roles?
Well, you know, I never want to feel like I have a set plan of what I'm supposed to do. I kind of like to go script by script, and if I like the character and like the story that's why I want to do a movie. But also, at the same time, I never want to play the same character twice. I like to do different roles. I have fun with that. So I'll hopefully be lucky enough to keep doing that.
New Year's Eve, for example, seems like a milestone in terms of seeing you grow up on screen.
Maybe it's strange for you to think about or talk about now, because you're in it, in this period of transition. But we'll see you have what's maybe your first kiss on screen -- is it your first?
I guess it's the first on-screen kiss I've ever had, yeah. [Laughs]
Also in the trailer, you flash your bra.
Do you feel like other people maybe have a harder time watching you grow up than you actually have doing it?
Well, how I feel about it is that in that particular movie I'm playing 15, and I was 15 when I filmed it. So I wasn't playing, like, 25 or something like that. That scene in particular where I do that, that's kind of meant to be a very comical moment. Yeah, that movie was a lot of fun to film. But I guess this [Janie Jones] was the first teenage role I've played, because I was playing 13.
It sounds like we'll get to see you explore even more mature and darker material in your upcoming films, like in The Class Project.
Yeah, I just finished filming that and it's a really heavy, kind of dark movie.
Much different than what you've done before?
Yeah, and it's very different than anything I've ever played. I'm really excited for that one, I just finished it and I got to work with some really great people. Mira Sorvino is in it, Georgie Henley, James Russo... a lot of great people, and my brother Spencer's actually in it.
It's based on a really, really dark true story.
It's based on a true story of two sisters in Mississauga, Ontario, and they are these two girls who have had this horrible time growing up, where their mom is this alcoholic and she has boyfriends who come and go in their lives and abuse the girls. They've reached out to child services and their father and aunt and everybody, and it's kind of an act of desperation in a lot of ways. It's a really heavy movie.
Janie Jones is in limited release this Friday.
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