FLIGHTPLAN - Q&A with Erika Christensen
There are, of course, many reasons one of Hollywood's up and coming young actresses could list for taking a role in a blockbuster thriller. But ask Erika Christensen to sum up why she chose to work on FLIGHTPLAN and she smiles and says simply: "Jodie Foster.
If Ms Foster's stellar career has captured the imagination of millions of cinema goers over the years, we shouldn't forget that she also represents an iconic figure to those who work in the same field.
"I did this movie because I wanted to work with Jodie Foster," says Christensen. "Absolutely. I mean, come on, the chance to work with Jodie Foster! You don't pass that one by. She's just amazing."
Ms Foster is also rather endearingly free from diva like airs and graces, adds her co-star. "Oh we all joined in the joking and laughing that goes on," says Christensen. "And that included Jodie. She's one of the team in the nicest possible way. She was fantastic and I learnt so much from working with her."
Christensen was also able to swap stories with Foster - both have grown up in and around film sets. Foster started working when she was a toddler and Christensen, by the age of 12, knew that she wanted to be an actress, too. Before long, she was putting that plan into action - making a commercial for a well known burger chain and appearing in a Michael Jackson video. At the tender age of 13 she was winning critical acclaim for her performance in the Disney movie LEAVE IT TO BEAVER.
Since then, she's hardly looked back. She was excellent as Michael Douglas' drug addicted daughter in Stephen Soderbergh's ground breaking TRAFFIC and was the star of the chilling thriller, SWIMFAN.
Her other notable credits include THE PERFECT SCORE with Scarlett Johansson and THE BANGER SISTERS with Susan Sarandon and Goldie Hawn. More recently, she appeared in THE UPSIDE OF ANGER with Kevin Costner and Joan Allen.
You play a flight attendant in FLIGHTPLAN. I understand that there's a family connection with flying.
You know it's funny, I had a fairly limited view point of aviation from my family. I heard about how fun it was to travel and that kind of thing, which of course is true, but I've learned so much more about the enormous responsibly that they have for the safety of everyone on board. I have even more respect for them now than I did before.
Did you have to do much research?
Not so much. I mainly consulted the people that were working on the flights that I flew on. And they were very nice. Everyone wants to be represented accurately and they were very willing to have a chat and give a viewpoint on their job. I think you've got to love people to do that job.
Without giving too much of the plot away, your character represents the audience in a way. One minute she is sympathetic to Jodie Foster's character and then she becomes more sceptical and wonders if she is telling the truth.
Actually yeah, she's kind of a red herring in that way, she's a little bit suspicious and kind of meant to arouse like curiosity which is, I think, and that's a lot of fun. And she also just had the purpose of being someone that represented the audience's view point a little bit more so that they had someone to go through the story with that sympathises with Jodie's character. And you know, I did this movie because I wanted to work with Jodie Foster (laughs).
Is that true?
Yeah, oh absolutely. I mean, come on, she's Jodie Foster! And you don't pass that one by. She's really amazing, obviously, and she is amazing in this role as well. I think it's one of those ones that is perfect for her, I can see it very easily, and so can you now.
How was working with Peter Sarsgaard?
It was great. I had a silly thought, which I regret even admitting, but there's a possibility that someone who is such a great actor would be a brooding personality and so in the back of my mind I kind of expected that from Peter but he is so silly. I was absolutely overjoyed to spend some time with him and I just admire him so much as an actor as well.
What about Jodie? I mean you can expect Jody to be very serious as well but is she?
She does have a good sense of humour and she's really laid back. You know when you admire someone that much there's a way of letting them know that's a little bit round about. And it's a big cast and we'd find ourselves going no, 'that one, she's in my light...' You know, 'get on your mark over there...' and that kind of thing and I think she really understood that was because we were still in awe of her and she got it and she laughed along with us, and I think that says a lot about her. She had her kids there, but for her to spend time with them, not to like parade them around the set. And I'm sure I have no idea of that kind of love, that this movie is centred on, is entirely centred on. And it is so powerful. And so she knows.
Have you started another film?
I may be doing an Independent film called THE GARDEN OF EDEN, which I'll be shooting in New York and it's a story about a young man's transformation. It's kind of, you could make a comparison to TAXI DRIVER actually, and I'm sure it will be somewhat controversial, but I'm really looking forward to doing it, I think it's going to be very good.
Ever had any bad experiences flying?
You know, the worst one I can say about my flying record is that every once in a while it's been annoying. But beyond that it's actually been quite pleasant. I'm a really good flyer I just enjoy it. For one, when you're up in the air it's like free time, you know it kind of doesn't exist somehow, so I don't mind wasting it. Just hanging out and reading magazines or whatever. And also it's kind of this non-existent time where you can use it to sneakily catch up, or read the extra script or whatever. Watch that extra movie. And I'm generally really excited to get wherever I'm going.
Is it because you grew up with family who worked on aircraft?
I think maybe that's a factor in it, yeah. I also just tend to be very peaceful, optimistic person and I just don't think, I think we're going to make it to the other side, you know. I also have faith in our pilots and everything else.
What was it like working in such a confined space?
Well fortunately you feel it more watching the movie than we did making it. At least we could leave. The airplane set was raised off the ground but you could walk out, down the stairs and outside, out of the soundstage and there's sun gloriously shining and people hanging out and walking around and playing cards and eating snacks. It's an interesting place, a film set, it's just a very diverse group of people there, and a large one at that, in something like this where it's the same background actors every day. It must have been something like 300 people or something that were there everyday. It was a real community. May be that just distracted me, I don't know, but I enjoyed it (laughs).
And what about working with a European director like Robert Schwentke? Have you worked with European directors before?
I don't think that I have, and actually if I didn't know that he was German I wouldn't have guessed because he, his English is impeccable. But I think you can see in his style something very unique, visually, in the film. And other than that I was very happy to work with someone who understands actors so well. He really could speak to me in a way that was working for me.
It was Robert's first time directing a big budget movie like this. Did he seem overwhelmed at all?
He may have hidden it very well (laughs). No, he was great. He didn't lose his temper and we were bang on schedule. Everything was good.
You started acting pretty early yourself, right?
Jodie also acted as a child. Did you have interesting conversations about that with her?
We did. You know what we did talk about was, you have to have your parents with you or someone, a legal guardian with you when you're working and when you're travelling certainly, up to the age of 18. So we talked about that first one, being a teen, being free, being on your own, going, 'what kind of trouble can I get in here?' (Laughs) And 'how little sleep can I get?' And how that wears off and you come back to reality and go 'OK...' Then go back to work.
So what happened on that first one when you were off the leash?
I really didn't get much sleep! (Laughs). I love to dance, so I went to some clubs. But I went out of control for a little bit in my perspective, but I don't think I caused much damage, fortunately!
Were your parents worried when you started going off to work by yourself?
I don't think so. We've always had a really, really open relationship, and very logical. So any rules there were I understood why they were and I understood that they were actually honestly for my own good and everything. So I think they were fine.
But you were home schooled, right?
So wasn't that a big contrast, to be suddenly out there on your own?
Well no, actually because when I was home schooling I was also working, which is, it's like the same thing, you're tutoring at home, you're tutoring at work, you're tutoring at home, you're tutoring at work, and you go back and forth. And all of a sudden you're at work and then and you don't have to go to school and it's fine. And I've always had a very socially interactive life because of working so young, and I took a lot of classes, singing classes and dancing classes and acting classes and I performed with, at one point I was performing like four different groups at the same time, and so I always had a lot of people around.
Did you miss the traditional school experience?
I don't think so. I'm sure it was very different but even working on a film that's shooting on location is like being in a high school, or like being in college in a dorm with everybody on the same floor. And it's kind of that microcosm where everybody knows what's going on about everybody else and you have to be really nice because you know you're going to see that person every day for the next however long (laughs). And I think that's got to be somehow similar to school.
How was working with Peter Sarsgaard and Sean Bean?
They are great guys, really fun to work with. Sean is very gentle and quietly honest, you know. Boy that man works so hard, it's just, he has to travel so much and he is constantly going from one film to the next.
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