Move aside now, Oprah. It might be time to crown Evan Rachel Wood the new Queen of All Media. The actress best known for edgy roles in Thirteen, Across the Universe and The Wrestler is expanding her realm.
Fans of Prime TV's neckbiter drama True Blood have already seen her in its second-season run as 400-year-old bisexual vampire queen Sophie-Anne. And beginning next month, Wood will portray Mary-Jane in a musical production of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark on Broadway, which Lion King director Julie Taymor and members of U2 have adapted from the Marvel comics.
And, if that wasn't enough to keep her profile high, she's starring as Curb Your Enthusiasm star Larry David's decades-younger girlfriend in Woody Allen's latest, Whatever Works, out in cinemas on Thursday.
For a self-described “weird girl'', Wood is doing okay. “Everybody says I'm weird,'' she explains. “But I don't think I am. I'm normal and I hang out with people like me, but apparently by other people's standards ...''
Wood might have developed the “weird girl'' label for dating goth-rocker Marilyn Manson, 18 years her senior, but when that relationship soured after two years, the 22-year-old actress turned her attention back to her booming career.
Landing Whatever Works was a major accomplishment for Wood, who was eager to work with Woody Allen and to play a character far removed from herself. In the comedy, Wood embodies a sunny Southern runaway who finds shelter in the apartment - and then the arms - of a cranky scientific genius (David).
Working with Allen was “unpredictable'', Wood says. She was surprised at how quickly he raced through scenes, often doing only one take and rarely offering feedback to his actors. A bigger challenge for Wood was making sure her IQ-challenged character was sweet but not simple, chipper but not unbearable.
“Luckily I'm from the South too, so I kind of based her on my stepmother, slightly,'' says Wood. “This character just sees the good in everything. But it was hard. I didn't want her to be annoying; I wanted her to be endearing. And I wanted my accent to be right because it drives us [Southerners] crazy, when Southern accents are wrong.'' Wood recalls that Allen continually pushed her performance broader and her accent twangier.
“The main direction I got from Woody was, ‘more Southern’. He'd say, ‘You should be in a potato sack in bare feet.' Whatever that means. So I did the best I could. Once you get that hair going and the nails, it's hard not be a different person. And, by the way, those boobs weren't mine.''
Whatever Works was written in the 1970s when the film-maker was routinely turning out classics like Manhattan and Annie Hall. Once Allen decided to revive Whatever Works, he returned to New York for the first time in four years since shooting a string of films (Match Point, Cassandra's Dream, Vicky Cristina Barcelona) in Europe.
“I felt like the script was total old school Woody Allen,'' says Wood. “Woody just owns Manhattan. We could film wherever we wanted to, whenever we wanted to. So I felt like I was with the King of New York.'' As for playing the wife of a much older man, Wood compares the film's vibe to the oddball Bud Cort/Ruth Gordon classic Harold and Maude.
But, she adds, “even Harold and Maude was more romantic. But when else would I have a chance to be married to Larry David? So it was cool. I enjoyed it.''
Wood got another shot at unconventional romance on TV's True Blood, which recently racked up HBO's highest ratings since The Sopranos finale. The actress admits she was already a fan of the feverish bite-a-thon when series creator Alan Ball (Six Feet Under) asked her to bring on the blood.
“It's just so romantic, the whole deal with vampires. They're sexy and scary at the same time. And teenage vampires are [really sexy.] True Blood is like The Lost Boys, which I liked even more. I've been waiting to play a vampire since I was 5.''
Acting is in, ahem, Wood's blood. The daughter of performers Sara Lynn Moore and Ira David Wood III, the North Carolina-raised actress began her career at age 7 with a handful of made-for-TV movies.
Following her parents' divorce, she moved to Los Angeles with her mother, and landed regular gigs on the television shows Profiler and Once and Again. Wood worked steadily for the next several years before popping up in Thirteen as a high-schooler beginning a flirtation with sex, drugs and petty crime. The film, directed by Twilight's Catherine Hardwicke, earned Wood a Golden Globe nomination and a spot on the cover of Vanity Fair as one of the “It Girls of Hollywood''.
Four years later, Wood connected with another career-defining role when she played the female lead in Julie Taymor's Beatles musical Across The Universe. The working relationship with Taymor was so enjoyable that Wood opted to follow the director into a Broadway production of Spider-Man, which will feature songs penned by U2's Bono and The Edge.
For one of the musical's early workshops, Taymor and Wood ``persuaded'' Across the Universe's Jim Sturgess to take on the title role of Spidey.
“Jim is such a huge, huge U2 fan,'' recalls Wood. “I remember taking Jim aside and going, ‘Bono and The Edge were just our back-up singers, Jim. We're never going to forget this.' The show is awesome.'' Wood has already agreed to stay with Spider-Man for a full year.
“I'm never going to get another opportunity to originate a role on Broadway with Julie and with so many people that I worked with on Across the Universe,'' says Wood. “That movie was the most fun I've ever had and we spent eight months making it. So Spider-Man is not that much longer a commitment. I can't wait to get it up and running.'' - Herald on Sunday