Figuring out what role to assume in life, especially during the emotionally intriguing and confusing transition from adolescence into adulthood, can be a difficult process for many young women. Young actress Mia Wasikowska completely understood her complex, mysterious character, India Stoker, who feels disconnected after the unexpected death of her father. While she’s still a young girl, she’s thrust into adulthood, and is determined to fulfill her new dreams and aspirations.
‘Stoker’ opens in the immediate aftermath of the death of India’s beloved father and best friend, Richard (Dermot Mulroney), in a tragic auto accident on her 18th birthday. Her quiet life on her father’s secluded estate is suddenly shattered, but she refuses to connect with any other members of her family, including her emotionally unstable mother, Evie (Nicole Kidman). India further masks her feelings, which only her father understood, after his long-lost brother, Charlie (Matthew Goode), unexpectedly arrives for Richard’s funeral.
Charlie also surprises everyone when he decides to move in with India and Evie. While India is initially hesitant to trust her uncle, she increasingly becomes infatuated with her charismatic relative. She comes to realize, however, that his arrival is no coincidence. With her uncle by her side, India decides to finally fulfill her unusual destiny.
Wasikowska generously took the time recently to sit down during a roundtable interview in New York City to talk about filming ‘Stoker.’ Among other things, the actress discussed her initial thoughts on her character and the script, which marks the feature film writing debut of actor Wentworth Miller; what kind of acting advice she received from Kidman; and what the challenges of playing a silent teenager were.
Question (Q): What was your take on India and her whole relationship with Charlie when you first read the script?
Mia Wasikowska (MW): Well, there’s a part of India I understand, such as her feelings of loneliness and desire that’s more common to teenagers. Then there’s a part of her that’s still a mystery to me. I just went back to the basics of acting and imagining and pretending and thinking.
But the thing I liked the most about reading the script was that she’s walking on this thin line, and you’re not sure which way she’s going to go. You don’t know if she’s going to be a hero or anti-hero. That was cool for me, because you don’t quite know who she is until the end.
With Charlie, I think it was the first time as a very isolated person that she’s ever had an experience of somebody knowing her, and in turn, her knowing someone. There’s a real connection there that’s very foreign for her. It’s something I think she’s excited by, but also fearful of. You don’t quite know who’s in control of the dynamic between the two of them, and who’s the hunted and who’s the hunter.
Q: Do you think her bloodline has something to do with the way she acted?
MW: That question’s definitely been raised. Director Park put it in a way that instead of it necessarily being about bad blood or pre-desposition in the bloodline, maybe it’s more that violence is contagious. That was really interesting, because we don’t know what would have happened to India if Uncle Charlie hadn’t turned up. I always thought that was a good way of looking at it.
Q: India was such a quiet character. Was it hard to mainly rely on your facial expressions to really convey everything?
MW: It’s possibly a little riskier, and harder to be sure of yourself when there isn’t a whole lot of dialogue. You really have to know what they’re thinking at any given moment, and how they’re feeling, because there aren’t words to express that for you.
Q: What was the challenge of playing a teenager?
MW: The teen years still seem relatively close, but I never really thought of it in terms of age. I thought of her more in character, and she always seems like someone who’s very physically held together. There were indications, in terms of the design of the character. Her clothes were always symmetrical; if she had a pocket on one side, she had a pocket on the other side, and everything was really ordered. So it made sense that she’s a tightly held together person.
Q: Had you seen Director Park’s work before you signed on for ‘Stoker?’
MW: No. I had heard of him and I had heard of ‘Oldboy,’ but I hadn’t seen it. When I signed on, I did a marathon of his films.
Q: What was it like working with Nicole Kidman on the film?
MW: Luckily, our relationship was the polar opposite in real life. She was warm and kind and nice to me, which was just wonderful. Coming from Australia, I’ve always looked up to her. She was one of the first Australian actors to transcend into America, and having the whole international career.
Q: Did you get any acting tips from her while on the set?
MW: I think the best advice she gave me was to really go for it, and not be self-conscious. It’s easy to be intimidated when you’re on a set with a whole crew watching you. She would say to me, the moment passes, but what goes on film will be around for awhile.
Q: The film also delves into bullying. Was that a problem when you were going to school?
MW: I guess that’s a problem everywhere, in different ways. There are all different forms of bullying. But it’s definitely a problem for India. That’s probably part of the reason why she’s disconnected with people. I never really experienced it myself, to this extreme extent.
Q: Were you surprised by any of the sexual scenes in the film? Do you think it will give you more opportunities in the future?
MW: In terms of opportunity, I don’t know, maybe. Maybe I’ll get to play a vixen.
Q: You were wearing contacts during the film. Was that difficult?
MW: Yeah, it was great for the character. Director Park wanted me to have a strong link, physically, to Nicole and Matthew. They both had blue eyes, so we decided that I’d have blue as well. When Matthew was cast as Uncle Charlie, it was decided that I’d have dark hair, like him. But I’m bad with eye stuff, so every morning it would be like a half-hour process.
Q: What do the shoes mean? Why does she always get shoes on her birthday?
MW: I think it’s explained that Matthew’s character has an obsession to send her shoes that are the right size for her every year on her birthday. It’s also symbolic when he brings her high heels on her 18th birthday, instead of saddle shoes. It symbolizes she’s going from girl to woman.
There’s a saying in Korea that Director Park told me. It translates into, don’t give someone you love shoes, or they’ll run away. I think that’s quite nice, especially for this film.
Q: You have several movies coming out. Can you talk about one of them, the biography ‘Tracks?’
MW: Yeah, I think that should be out towards the end of the year. I shot that at the end of last year. It’s a great, classic Australian story. So it was nice to go home and work for a long time in Australia. But we were in the desert for two months. So it was a long time to be in the desert in the summer.
Written by: Karen Benardello