Category: Articles

Marguerite Moreau – Into the Ashes

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Q) What are the recent projects that you have been working on?
A) I just got back from Portland where I filmed a really cool show for Facebook Watch. It’s a horror show called “The Birch” and it has to do with bullying. Be careful if you’re a bully! Something is going to getcha!

Q) How was your character Tara Brenner from the film Into the Ashes originally described to you?
A) As a rose among thorns. I was intrigued. Then, they were like, “Alabama.” I was like, “Yes!” My friend Brady Smith has a wonderful role in the movie actually called me and asked me if I wanted to be a part of it because he’s really good friends with the director, Aaron Harvey. I got to act on screen with one of my buddies and that’s something you don’t always get to do, but it was one of the best things ever! I have always been trying to get to that since Wet Hot American Summer since all of them were old friends and I was watching all of them and thinking, “That looks so much fun!” You can make friends on movies and they are your new friends and you have a lot of fun, but when you have an old friendship with someone and then you get to be on set with them – it just feels different and it’s amazing.

Q) Was there anything you added to the role that wasn’t in the initial breakdown for her?
A) Oh! That’s a fun question. I’m sure. Inevitably you are going to bring yourself to it, which is a little bit of a different flavor than what is on the page. But I think that’s a better question for the director than me. I honestly can’t remember. Tara and I are one now, girl!

Q) What did you find challenging about the role?
A) She’s definitely a girl from another area of the country and Birmingham has a whole other vibe than Southern California. So, I called my friend Megan who is from the town that we shot in and had some good long talks. She told me, “Go sit at this counter and have a cherry limeade. You’ll soak up all that Birmingham has to offer.”

Q) Is that how you found the accent as well?
A) Absolutely! Listening. Trying to assimilate as fast as possible anywhere I am. Also, I recorded my friend Megan doing some of the material, which was also super fun. [laughs] She’s not an actress so she was a really good sport.

Q) Talk about building chemistry with costar Luke Grimes.
A) The second I touched down in Alabama I called Luke and he was like, “Meet met at this address.” We got together and spent as much time together as we could, but we kind of had to jump into pretty quickly. We spent a lot of time texting music back and forth to each other to try to build up some sort of a vibe.

Q) Was there something that director Aaron Harvey mentioned while filming that you took to heart?
A) He gave me a list of reference films that were pertinent to the overall tone of the movie like A History of Violence, Deer Hunter and Foxcatcher (which I was hoping was more for tone).

Q) How did you shake off a long day of filming?
A) Well, my buddy Brady and I were staying at the same hotel so we’d just go out. The whole city of Birmingham has a beautiful record of the journey of civil rights. We went for ribs. We went for our cherry limeade. We went all over town just soaking up everything that Birmingham is about.

Q) What do you think it is about Into the Ashes that stands out to you?
A) I think what I liked most about the movie is that it tells the tale of how hard it is to avoid our base human impulses. It does it in a great genre. It seems like Goodfellas, but from a different part of the country. I like films that kind of explore what makes us human, what makes us vulnerable and what are strengths and weaknesses. But I also love a beautifully shot movie piece to kind of give an overall complexity to the stuff that we all see.

Q) You’ve an incredible and lengthy career as an actress. What were some of your favorite projects to work on?
A) Well, I just saw the rough cut of a movie I finished at Christmas called Monuments, which I’m super excited about. It’s got a real camp feel to it. I did it with Jack C. Newell who is an awesome director out of Chicago and he runs the film department at Second City. One of my favorite characters is definitely Linda from “Shameless,” Katie from “Wet Hot,” Connie from Mighty Ducks and absolutely Dr. Emma Marling from “Grey’s Anatomy.” That was so fun to be on that show because I was a fan. I was like, “Uh…I just walked into one of my favorite shows. And now Christina Yang (Sandra Oh) is yelling at me. This is amazing!” She was like, “I’m so sorry I’m yelling at you on your first day!” I said, “Are you kidding me?! I just got ‘Yang’d!’ I’m in heaven!” She was like, “Yang’d! That’s amazing!” [laughs] I was like, “Later I get to say “Derek” and “Meredith” on camera!” That was crazy to me and so cool! Also, it was just fun to play that role. I wish that her and Owen (Kevin McKidd) had figured it out, but they didn’t. She always saw the best in him.

Q) You were a part of the iconic film The Mighty Ducks. What did you personally take way from your time on these films?
A) It was so incredibly special to get to be a part of something that took up pretty much my entire high school year. I kind of got to have two high school experiences – one in my normal high school and then kind of one with the Ducks. We all kind of went through that time together. That was in addition to get to make these movies that were so much fun! We kind of didn’t know at the beginning what it was going to turn out like. Just celebrating recently with everybody at the actual arena in Anaheim and getting to show my son, “This is what your mom is about. You might not understand it now.” But it was incredibly special and I feel very lucky and privileged to have been a part of that. Thank you to Disney, Jordan Kerner (the producer) and all the directors. It was incredibly special for a kid!

Q) Have all of you kept in touch much?
A) Oh yeah! We all keep in touch. We see each other from time to time and I hear how some of the others are doing whom I see more regularly. It’s nice! We have a plan to get together in New York at one of their houses and we all just really recognize it was this special thing that brought us together.

Q) What would you like to say to everyone who is a fan and supporter of you and the work you do?
A) Thank you very much! Let me know what else you want to see and I’ll work on it. But thank you. It’s an honor and privilege to get to do what I do and I love it when I hear from people and have that back and forth about what they are going through or what they responded to. It’s really nice.


Wine Country Rendezvous: The Making of You Can’t Say No, Starring Peter Fonda and Friends

By that standard one would think that the majority of independent filmmakers would be “lucky.” After all, we’re notoriously hard workers, and when we do indeed reach that hallowed ground called principal photography, then the gods have obviously granted us opportunity. And yet, for decades the pages of MovieMaker have been filled with interviews of indie directors and producers who tell interesting but almost exclusively bloody production “war stories.” The trenches are filled with accounts of lost financing, DPs who quit for more lucrative jobs at the last moment, bricks thrown through the wrong car windows that almost kill actresses (yes, I saw that happen) and the like.

This is not one of those articles. Lady luck smiled on Paul Kramer and Hus Miller’s You Can’t Say No virtually from the moment Hus finished the script. The story follows a couple, Hank and Alex Murphy, who are on the verge of divorce who decide to play a “game” designed to either bring them closer through better communication and trust—or to provide a more graceful, humane break than most couples in their situation allow themselves. The rules of the game are simple—no matter what one of them asks the other to do, the other must not refuse.

While YCSN is a romantic comedy, its origins were serious and close to the heart for screenwriter, producer and star Miller, who had himself gone through a rough patch personally just prior to writing the script. As in the movies, Miller’s personal story had a happy ending, but it was the writing that provided a real catharsis.

The concept came about because I’d been thinking of how to re-energize my own relationship,” he says. “As soon as I came up with the idea, I knew I had to write it. It was something I needed to get out.” Miller stresses that while the story is not an exact account of his own 14-year marriage, he was writing about things that were very personal for him and his wife.

And was she good with that?” I asked.

To an extent. But when I started sharing it with her she’d say, ‘Well, it didn’t happen like that,’ and I’d say, ‘Yeah, because it’s a story.’”

Some of the comedic situations did indeed happen to Miller and his wife, some happened to friends of his who were going through similar periods in their marriages. When he thought about it becoming a movie and he was able to nail down the very specific location where it takes place (a 46-acre Sonoma area winery whose owner became an executive producer on the film) it all came together very quickly.

I was about two months into the writing when I knew it was going to be a movie.” Talk about motivation.

Miller says he didn’t initially have himself in mind to play the lead, even though he’s been acting since he was four years old.

It definitely didn’t start out as a vehicle for me. But later I I realized that this is my life, I put so much of myself into it, nobody else is going to play this role.

Though eventually he wants to direct, too, he had no desire to do it this time around. Writing, acting, and producing were plenty. So he enlisted his longtime colleague Paul Kramer to helm. Hus previously made nine shorts with Kramer, an American Zoetrope alum who worked alongside Francis Ford Coppola. This is the first feature for both of them, and though they envisioned it as a tiny film, the scope continued to grow from its initial budget of $500K to almost $1.2m. The shoot took 18 days, with five days of pickups.

Marguerite Moreau, who plays Alex Murphy, is still amazed that a first-time producer like Miller could keep it together while playing a character that’s so close to himself. “It’s super hard to play a character that’s so close to the bone. You can talk yourself into circles sometimes and get confused… Like, ‘Am I doing enough?’ It’s not even like, ‘This happened to me and maybe I’m doing something psychologically damaging to myself, it’s more like literally talking yourself out of any connection to it, because it’s too close.’

Full interview:

FLOOD Book Club, Episode One: A Conversation about Emma Cline’s “The Girls” with Marguerite Moreau


Emma Cline’s The Girls was always going to be an odd kind of summer phenomenon. The quietly sinister novel, which was published this June to outstanding reviews, may have changed the names of Manson Family members and transplanted their story up to Marin County, but it still tells the familiar story—with one telling exception: rather than focus on the group’s leader (“Russell,” in this version of things), Cline follows Evie Boyd, an unformed young woman who is seduced by the group’s eerie charisma but who now, years later, struggles to reconcile herself with her past complicity—however small her role.

The book arrived on the scene like a blockbuster—celebrity endorsements and all—and it sold like one, too, but in the end it’s a quiet book that asks more questions than it answers. It is, in other words, the perfect book club book. And who better to join us in this first FLOOD Book Club than Marguerite Moreau. In addition to a number of other roles (including Katie in Wet Hot American Summer), Marguerite played Susan Atkins in the 2004 TV adaptation of Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter. In The Girls, the Susan Atkins character has morphed into “Suzanne,” the object of Evie’s greatest affections, and although she is granted more depth and personality than Susan Atkins is in Helter Skelter, the identity is still very clear. Suzanne is Susan.

Marguerite and I chatted about The Girls, adolescence, the weird relevance of the 1960s, ISIS, and of course, book clubs. I’m not sure we ever got to the bottom of the Manson phenomenon, but it was nice to talk with someone who, like Emma Cline, seems eager to go beneath the surface.

How familiar were you with the Manson Family story prior to your work on the series, and what did you have to do by way of research?
Honestly, I was in my early twenties then, and my research for that show introduced me to that whole time period. I went as deep as I could: I read Helter Skelter, I was talking to Vincent Bugliosi whenever he was available, I read Susan Atkins’ book—which she wrote in prison, I believe—and I also went to CineFile in LA for obscure videos on the subject. I rented every single thing I could find.

You’ve spent most of your career playing fictional characters, but Susan Atkins is as real as the murders themselves. Did that fact change how you prepared for the role?

I’m always trying to find areas where my characters and I overlap. You don’t want to judge your character; you want to find out why she’s doing the things that she’s doing. A lot was changing in the late 1960s—the dynamics of the nuclear family, sexual mores, women’s rights, civil rights. There was a lot of pushing back against the old norms, and almost all of it was for the better. And I shared in the benefits of all that. So for me, it was trying to see where she was coming from, and trying to understand what she was still lacking and what it must have felt like for a very neglected young woman to have this guy come in and just sweep her off her feet. She was just looking for something to make her feel like a woman and revitalize her.

I think these themes are also in the book, too: being seen (or not seen) and being on the precipice of life, the way a fourteen-year-old feels. Girls especially. You’re ripe for the picking if the right someone comes along. You want to be part of something bigger, you want to stand for things, and when you want to live a principled life, dogma’s pretty hard to resist.

Full Interview: