Interview: Carla Gugino Talks Criticism, Every Day, and Sucker Punch

By  · Published on January 17th, 2011

Interview: Carla Gugino Talks Criticism, Every Day, and Sucker Punch

Carla Gugino’s latest film, Every Day, says a lot about the writing and creative process. The story follows a screenwriter (played by Liev Schreiber). It’s one of those films where nearly everything seems to be going wrong for the lead, and a part of one of those falling pieces is working on a terrible seeming television series. The film explores ideas of being unfulfilled by the creative process, how difficult criticism is to take, and how the idea of making films for an audience in mind.

These were things I wanted to ask Carla Gugino about in our quick 8-minute phoner, as well as the upcoming (and ultra-cool looking, Sucker Punch). Gugino has a small role in Every Day so talking about the themes seemed to the best topic to explore. And for those of you who are just as excited for Sucker Punch as I am, Gugino says it’ll be a little bit more emotional than you’re probably expecting it to be and will definitely feature Snyder’s stamp of kick-ass action.

One of the main aspects of the film is the idea of being unfulfilled by working on something that’s all about commerce, and not art. Do you sympathize with Ted, in that way?

Well, I have to say, I’ve been really blessed that I don’t relate to that too much [Laughs]. I have certainly been in circumstances where I have had jobs that I thought I didn’t have the capacity… it’s probably a weakness, and not a good thing, to work on something that I don’t love and don’t know how to be good in it. That’s probably one of the reasons why I’ve chosen to do a lot of theater, and my pocketbook has been affected by it [Laughs]. It’s a variety of things. I guess, I really sympathize with that as opposed to empathize. The few experiences that I have had [like that] I just think, “I cant do that.” I think it’s a very relatable thing. As we know, a lot of people end up in situations where you have to have a job to support people. Sometimes it’s not at all what you’d hope it to be.

How do you work in those types of environments, where the project aren’t the most ambitious?

I just sort of create my own challenge for myself, in regards to what I want to do within that, what I want to create, and what I want to for my role. If it’s for something that I realized it wasn’t what I hoped it would be, it’s sort of thinking about what I can do in my life and at this time that will be really… since I’m clearly not being able to give that much of myself to a project, what will I do in my life after that to balance that out? I gotta use that time wisely [Laughs]. Thankfully, I haven’t had that experience too often. I really feel, honestly, that I don’t have a lot of those [films] in my career. I’m really grateful for that.

The film itself is really a lot about the creative process. Brian Dennehy has a line about criticism where he says it’s always hard to take, no matter what. Do you see criticism as something that can be difficult?

For sure. You know, my friend and an amazing actor, Alan Rickman, was once talking about whether or not you read reviews in theater, which I don’t. I just don’t like to have that outer-view while in the process. It’s different for film, because you can look back on it. His thing was that: the good reviews are never as good as you want them to be. And the bad reviews you never forget [Laughs]. I think there is something to be said about criticism. I actually really love criticism, if I find that it’s somebody that actually cares as much about the piece that I do. I’m always open to learning new things or getting a new perspective.

There’s certain critics of everything where their criticism comes from a place that makes you think, “Do you even like books? Do you even like movies? Do you even like what you’re criticizing?” I can have a great, long debate about the virtues or problems of a movie, but it’s always because I’m having it with people who are as passionate about movies as I am. I don’t have a problem with criticism, per se. I think people who throw opinions out that are somehow in print are taken as fact. I think that can be the more hurtful thing, because if they’re not given with care, then it can sometimes be an unfortunate situation.

And basically anyone with a computer and blogspot can be labeled as a critic.

Exactly. That’s definitely been a shift that I realize, as well. Also, like I said, I have certainly received really helpful criticism from people that I really trust, like look at Pauline Kael. There are certain people that you’ll look at and go, “That person is so smart. That’s an interesting insight.” Also, they were champions of filmmakers who they believed in. That’s exciting and good, which the Internet can do. For me, if my mindset is coming from that place, then I will be less fearless in terms of creating. I think as soon as you jump to a place of who will like a movie or respond to it, or doing a play and figuring out what you’re audience is going to do… All you can do is be true to yourself and your creative ideas, and the rest of it is kind of out your hands.

Do you make films with an audience in mind?

Sometimes there are people who make movies for other people, and sometimes people make movies for themselves. Usually, I think if you’re a director, you got to be making a movie for yourself in addition to others [Laughs], because it’s so hard to get a movie made.

I talked to Zack Snyder a couple of months ago, and one of the things I told him was that I loved how unrelenting Sucker Punch looks. He said how it’s a little more emotional than it looks, is that the case?

Yeah, absolutely. There is no doubt that there’s going to be some kick-ass action sequences in that movie, but it is incredibly emotional. I think that’s also representative because the leads are women, and women are innately emotional creatures. Baby Doll, the lead character’s journey is a young girl delving into a fantasy world in order to save her life and her sanity. It’s cool because what Zack created is reflective of a woman’s mind. A woman’s mind is deeper, not deeper than a man’s, but I’m saying that there is a depth and complexity and emotionality to it that I think you certainly wouldn’t have if this was a movie about six guys.

It’s also cool how he’s not making it about, pardon my phrasing, men with tits. He’s embracing their sexuality.

Yeah, absolutely. Needless to say, that’s an element of the genre, but also it’s the same thing I feel about women who play strong women on film: unless the character specifically calls for that, I’m much more interested in being a fully realized woman that is strong, as opposed to playing someone with the worst characteristics of a man to be strong [Laughs]. I think they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I certainly think Sucker Punch has a lot of those elements to it, and I’m sure people will respond to it in a variety of ways.

Every Day is now in limited release.

Longtime FSR contributor Jack Giroux likes movies. He thinks they're swell.