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Jena Malone reveals when she knew Donnie Darko was a cult classic

Jena Malone dicussed her two new movies, Adopting Audrey and Consecration, playing at Glasgow Film Festival, the cult legacy of Donnie Darko, and Rebel Moon.

Jena Malone proves her range in the two movies she’s brought to this year’s Glasgow Film Festival. First, you have Adopting Audrey, a cute comedy about choosing your family, and then FrightFest is hosting Consecration, a religious horror filmed in the Isle of Skye.

Two very different new movies, but both putting Malone’s talents front and center. Chatting to The Digital Fix, she discusses why Adopting Audrey appealed to her as a comedy movie that tackles a very specific subject, and the intimate filmmaking process.

She goes on to tell us how Scotland has come to hold a special place in her heart, even though the horror movie Consecration wasn’t the easiest thing to make. To cap it off, she explains when she knew Donnie Darko had become a cult classic – and how the film changed what that term even means to her.

The Digital Fix: I was completely new to the concept of adult adoption before watching Adopting Audrey. What was your first impression when you learned about this concept?

Jena Malone: It was a new concept for me in the sense of the legal aspect, but the other way of seeing it, as a chosen family, is one that I’ve known for a very long time. And I think it’s something that humans have engaged in for thousands of years. I always find it a good indicator that we’re on the right track when legislature starts speaking for those very ancient, real human needs.

So in that way, I was like, ‘Amen, I’m so glad that we’re starting to legally finalize this’. But adult adoption is just a little different than saying ‘This is my chosen family’. So what was new to me was understanding that process, and getting to know the people involved in that world.

Jena Malone in Adopting Audrey

The film is quite lonely. We spend a lot of time with Audrey on her own, and she spends a lot of time in the film in her car, or just on her phone. How do you approach scenes like that? Was it kind of isolating? Or did you enjoy it just being  yourself and the crew?

I like that, but I don’t prefer it. But whether you’re in a scene with ten people, or you’re in a scene with yourself, you’re still developing a world of that character. Sometimes, it’s easier to dive deeply into the world that you’re creating, when there’s no one else around. You just get to witness who that human is without seeing them masking or interacting with certain people.

We all interact differently with every different type of human whether you’re at the DMV, or you’re talking to your best friend. It’s always, for me, very delicious to get to witness characters on their own. Just doing very mundane normal things. I think I get to know who that person is almost better than seeing them interact with other humans.

Something that I really liked was the amount of these YouTube videos that Audrey watches, which are remarkably accurate to actual internet videos. What did you have to work with for those? I’m guessing they were shot afterwards.

We had some found footage that we used, but a lot of it was just me watching an empty screen. I was just telling Mike to just let the camera roll, and it’s easier for me to just give you the full spectrum. I’m just going to give you zoned out to laughing hysterically, to a little bit disgusted, I just wanted to give him a lot of choices so that in the editing room, he could figure out what made the most sense.

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Because I know that for me when I’m watching things sometimes, I don’t even know what my face is doing. You know what I mean? When you’re so deep in it, it’s almost like a non-reacting space. So I wanted to try to capture that.

One of your co stars who very nearly runs away with the whole film is Robert Hunger-Bühler. I found him hilarious. I especially enjoyed the very deadpan comedy, which he seemed great at. How was it acting opposite him?

He is absolutely a gift of an actor. He’s so kind and so funny and so easy to work with. I’m glad that he wasn’t just like a curmudgeonly old man, that was hard to get to know him because we didn’t have that much time to form the little bit of trust to be like, ‘OK, let’s go there’. I looked forward to every single scene we had and sometimes had a hard time keeping a straight face, just because I think that his performance is just so delicious. He did a great job.

You’re bringing two films to the Glasgow Film Festival this year, the other being Consecration, which is in the FrightFest strand. You filmed that on location in the Isle of Skye. I’ve never been, but from what I can tell it is a stunning part of the world.

It’s so beautiful. I didn’t want to leave. What’s so sad is that we had like a week worth of work to do up there, just five days or whatever, and we got there and shot one day and the second day, one of the actresses got Covid-19 and everyone had to go home. So we didn’t get to shoot everything that we wanted, but they ended up going back at the end of the shoot with a skeleton crew, but they didn’t have enough money to bring any of the actors.

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I enjoyed my three days there, four days or something. I think I came on a weekend. I definitely want to go back. I want to bring my son it’s so beautiful. I love Scotland, though. I mean, I’ve definitely explored. I went up to the Orkney Islands, and I love Edinburgh. I went to Glasgow for a music festival once, they flew me out to be a presenter. I feel like I always go to Scotland in the winter or when it’s cold, so I’m ready to visit in the summer or the fall or something.

Yeah, Scotland’s beautiful all year round, but it’s particularly beautiful when you have an actual stretch of day rather than 16 hours of night. You worked with Christopher Smith on Consecration. He did one of my favorite horror films of the last 20 or so years in Triangle. What was it like to to work with him?

He’s a joy. I loved collaborating with him. I would do it again in a second. I loved working with him. He’s very on top of his game and kind and collaborative and takes risks and works fast and doesn’t dawdle. Yeah, I think he’s a brilliant.

If I could take step back in your career, two of my colleagues have Donnie Darko tattoos, and I have a small collection of Donnie merch, so we’re big fans. That film has a very big cult following, especially if you’re of a certain generation. Is there a point where you knew the film had garnered a particular following?

I didn’t know when we were making it. I also didn’t even really know what that type of film was. When I was a teenager, the cult films were like the, the exploitation films that you had to hunt them down like Vidiots and the ones that were not in Blockbuster and you had to find them in these weird DVD or VHS rental stores.

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They weren’t necessarily American films about teenagers, you know what I mean? They were more European films or films from Africa, those were the cult understanding of what I knew. So when I was making it, I didn’t think that that’s what we were making. But I knew that it was something really, really special when I found out that they had been playing it to sold out audiences.

There’s this amazing midnight cinema in the West Village of New York, and they always play Rocky Horror Picture Show and they’re sold out and everyone knows the words and people come dressed up. And I had heard that they were had started playing Donnie Darko to a sold out crowd, right? I remember going to go see Rocky Horror and being like, ‘Oh, this is so cool’, like, getting to be a part of this as a teenager. So that’s when I knew I was like, ‘Oh, wow, I think that this has actually moved from just being like a cool indie into submitting itself into like the cult sphere’, you know?

I had the pleasure of seeing it on the big screen. It was just before the 20th anniversary, and it looks beautiful. It’s a film people show up for. You’re working on Rebel Moon with Zack Snyder, and I’m guessing you can’t tell me much, but given you worked on The Hunger Games, how does this compare in terms of blockbusters?

I can’t tell you anything. I just love working with Zack, I would do anything with Zack. I love getting to collaborate with him. He says, come out next Tuesday, and I show up on Tuesday. I just love working with him.

Jena Malone in Consecration

I’ve talked to a couple of actors who’ve worked with him, and everyone says the same thing. He sounds like a joy behind the scenes.

He’s such a pleasure on set. He makes it really fun. He’s really smart, nobody knows what he’s doing. He always creates something really cool that no one’s ever seen.

With two different films coming to the festival, we’re seeing you operate in two different levels. What would you say they represent about you as a filmmaker?

Oh, two films. I don’t know. I just keep trying to  find characters and stories that I want to watch as an audience member. So it just speaks more to my cinematic taste than anything else, I guess.

Adopting Audrey and Consecration are available on digital now.