20 Questions: Jena Malone

2008-04-04 (General release)

Jena Malone has worked with modern-day legends such as Jodie Foster in Contact and Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys, Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts in Stepmom, Kevin Costner in For Love of the Game, and Kevin Kline in Life as a House. She also starred in Saved opposite Mandy Moore, as well as the cult classic Donnie Darko with Jake Gyllenhaal, The United States of Leland with Kevin Spacey, and she was part of the all-star ensemble in Anthony Minghella’s Cold Mountain.

Jena is currently starring in The Ruins, which just opened. Shot in Australia, the thriller is about a group of friends whose leisurely Mexican holiday takes a turn for the worse when they, along with a fellow tourist, embark on a remote archaeological dig in the jungle, where something evil lives. In June, Jena will be seen starring opposite Zooey Deschanel and Lou Taylor Pucci in the independent film The Go-Getter.

In-between all these going ons, Jena paused to address PopMatters‘ 20 Questions.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy made me weep. But mostly internally…with little outbursts of tears. He is such an amazing author. I also just finished his newest novel The Road, which is a masterpiece.

2. The fictional character most like


Right now the character of Mouchette, from the Robert Bresson film Mouchette. I feel a kinship to her wet little heart and her mouth full of dry hopes. But maybe also Little Orphan Annie, singing her life into bloom. I guess I’m going through an orphan kick – it’s even affecting my style — bloomers and torn cardigans for us all!

3. The greatest album, ever?

This moment…the greatest ever…is…completely impossible. But I guess Neil Young’s On the Beach, because I listen to it the most. But I am part of the IPod generation. I make my own playlists. Having control of how you listen to music is an amazing thing.

Today I picked up friends while singing Joni Mitchell’s “Blue”, feeling entirely connected to an older, wiser part of womanhood that isn’t always represented in my day-to-day life. I love that kind of song which reminds me of my collective resonance.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Gosh…never really been into either…but I love the word trek… trekking…star-trekers…I like the way it sounds.


5. Your ideal brain food?

Well. I think you are what you eat. So when I am creating I try and eat really healthy, raw fruits and vegetables, and keep the stimulis down. But I guess the best brain food would be the outdoors. The wind. Lake Tahoe, my home, is ideal that way. An open window instantly connects me to something so much bigger than myself. In the winter we are surrounded by berms of snow, of reflected light and ice.

6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?

Being an older sister. It’s a gift I didn’t deserve, I didn’t make. It was given to me, and it’s an immense blessing everyday. When Madison Mae Malone was born my mom actually let me name her and cut her umbilical cord. I secretly told myself when she was born that she was mine! Almost 11, now, she is my inspiration for everything. I couldn’t be more proud of her and her silly wisdom and infinite coolness.

7. You want to be remembered for…?

I want to be remembered with a smile. By a friend, a lover, a family member — remembering a silly moment with me that brought them to laughter.

8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?

I believe in the caveman instinct — the ability to feel a connection to every living thing that has lived and died before me. So I can’t help but love every woman before me, for adding to me, and surviving for me. My mom is wonderful. She’s a part-time seamstress, full-time mother, and moon-bent nude sculpture model. She is the most present and real inspiration in my life.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Falling House”.

10. Your hidden talents…?

I am an excellent organizer. I bake a mean pie. I’m also a fantastic thrift store shopper. I collect piles of clothes and books and paper goods and suitcases and wooden boxes and old toy instruments for my mom, for my sister, for my friends, for futures to come.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

Never follow any advice spoken, only that which is felt.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

Others’ love.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?

Levis! But those I wear are probably not originally mine. I never really did any shopping as a teenager (contrary to my adulthood love for thrift stores). I remember taking all of my characters’ clothes from films and just wearing them in new ways. As a matter of fact I still have the two pairs of jeans I wore for the film Life as a House, which I did when I was 16 — one pair has extreme holes and one is a still nice-looking. But as of right now I am in love with what Linda Loudermilk does for women’s’ jeans. She is a pioneer in eco/sustainable fashion and makes a mean pair of organic bamboo jeans that I think I could live in for years.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Madison Mae Malone, the fanciest ragamuffin I ever did meet. I imagine walking down the stairs from our room with our rags and tags and toys and bonnets and cars and hats and jewels and turning the table into a picnic, where everything is shared and we are not afraid to be messy. Maybe we’ll raise eyebrows as we tuck the ends of the table cloth under our chins. The ordering process could take a full hour, for she would ask for every kind of soda available and would like to know the details of desert – before we even discussed dinner. We would order two of everything and invite anyone to join. And if we should grow bored with the fancy scene we’d crawl under the table on our sticky fingers and whisper stories to each other.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

Now. Always. Because just close your eyes. And you can be wherever you want to be. I close mine now, and I am no longer in a rented hotel room on a press tour but in my garage about to start my snowblower.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

Spa vacation. But maybe Hitman the video game could help if I had a strange urge to off someone…he he.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or…?

Coffee and cigarettes and chocolate. A girl couldn’t ask for more.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

My house, in the mountains of Lake Tahoe. Always. Where my mailbox is scooped away by snowplows every winter, and the wind sings to me. So for me, the Sierra mountains. It’s where my heart thrives.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

I have nothing to say to him. He has proven himself deaf to words, deaf to reactions, and deaf to his heart. Good riddance!!!

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

Resting! The Ruins really took a lot out of me. But there is also The Go-Getter that is finished and will be out June 6th. It is a beautiful road trip film written and directed by Martin Hynes, and I got to work with two of my favorite fellow actors, Lou Taylor Pucci and Zooey Deschanel.

You can also check out Jena’s music on MySpace