Let’s Get Political With Melanie Lynskey And Elijah Wood At Sundance

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To set the scene: It’s a snowy Saturday in Park City, Utah and I’m making my way up a large, icy hill to try and reach a small cottage in which I’m supposed to meet Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood to talk about their new Sundance movie, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore. While this is going on, just a few feet away, the Park City version of the Women’s March is happening, which is very audible during our upcoming conversation – to the point it’s impossible not to talk about it and the political motivation that surrounded the marches that happened here, Washington D.C., and around the country. Let’s just say it was a very unique interview atmosphere for all of us.

Macon Blair’s I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is a hard movie to sum up in just a few sentences, but here’s my best try: Lynskey plays Ruth, a women who had her house burglarized and feels violated and doesn’t necessarily want “revenge,” but would like it if people stopped being assholes. She enlists her eccentric neighbor Tony (Wood), and the two go on a rampage through town in an effort to get her stuff back. The film starts as a slow burn, but the audacity and violence keeps ramping up as we go along. It’s something to behold. Throwing stars are involved.

Ahead, we talk about a lot of things. Somehow Two and a Half Men, Back to the Future Part II and The Good Son are all discussed. And we also debate if dentists get yelled at on Twitter for having political opinions.

I’ve never done an interview with a protest march going on right outside.

Lynskey: I keep hearing it and feeling very invigorated.

Wood: Yeah, Chelsea Handler was just speaking. You could hear her. It feels weird to be doing interviews and not being part of it.

I agree.

Wood: Or just standing in solidarity.

Being from New Zealand, how invested can you get in this?

Lynskey: But I’ve lived here for 16 years. I mean, I care about New Zealand politics as well and I’m curious about what’s happened, but I don’t live there. So this feels more sort of, it’s affecting me. And this is where I pay taxes. There are a lot of people on Twitter being like, “Shut the fuck up. You don’t get to say anything about it.” And I was like, “Um, I pay taxes here. I’ve lived here for a long time.”

Wood: Are you a citizen?

Lynskey: I’m not.

Wood: Oh, funny. I thought you would have been a citizen by now.

Lynskey: I get called for jury duty all the time. Like twice a year, I get a thing in the mail. You have to call a number and you say, “I’m not a citizen.” But I don’t know, there’s part of me that’s like, because when Hillary was the nominee, I thought she was a great nominee and I really wished I could vote for her and as really being like, “Shit, I really wish I was a citizen.” I wish I could have voted for Obama, too.

Does something like this election inspire you to be a citizen? So you can vote against it?

Lynskey: Yeah. I mean, if I lived in Texas or if I lived in North Carolina I would have been a citizen years ago. I feel irresponsible. I’m going to do it.

Wood: You should.

Lynskey: Yeah.

I grew up in Missouri, but live in New York now and it does feel like my vote doesn’t count as much now, which doesn’t seem fair.

Lynskey: That’s how I feel. Everyone’s like, “You’re fine, you’re in California.” But…

Wood: I voted in Texas, because I’m actually a Texas resident, technically, so that felt good. Not that it helped…

Lynskey: I feel bad. I do also want to do jury duty. I’m very curious.

I was on a murder trial once in New York.

Wood: Were you really?

Lynskey: How long?

Three weeks.

Wood: Wow. Not to sound morbid, but isn’t that kind of what you hope for if you do jury duty?

That’s the way I looked at it, if I’m putting in the time I want to decide something important.

Wood: Was it cut and dried? Was it obvious?

It was not obvious. It was very complicated.

Lynskey: Oh, I would hate that.

Wood: That responsibility?

Lynskey: It would give me so much anxiety. Yeah.

After I saw I Don’t Feel At Home In This Word Anymore I think I felt inspired. And woman cut in front of me in line and I confronted her by saying, “That’s rude.” She said, “Is it going to kill you?” And I quoted the movie, “I want people to stop being assholes.”

Wood: You said, “That was rude,” and that was her reaction? “Is it going to kill you?,” was her reaction.

Lynskey: That’s an asshole.

Wood: That’s so shitty.

Yeah, I know.

Wood: Fuck.

There is an underlying tone in the movie that people are dicks.

Lynskey: Oh, sure.

Wood: Yeah. Especially online. It’s really awful.

How do you guys put up with it?

Wood: I just ignore it. I don’t have a ton of negativity in my feed. It tends to happen if you say something, if you go on a limb and say something political or humanist or whatever it is. if you make some kind of statement or stance, then you’re going to get attacked. That’s how it’s happened to me in the past. And it’s really shitty, but it’s also to be expected. So it doesn’t get to my core. Like I don’t give a fuck what people have to say. What I find interesting is when people are upset by it and try and combat, which ultimately is a lose-lose because you’re not really dealing with a genuine sort of intelligent discourse. You’re just dealing with people shouting.

Lynskey: People saying you’re a snowflake or you should keep your mouth shut. The thing I always wonder is if someone is a dentist and the dentist was like, “Oh, I don’t feel great about this election,” would they be like, “Shut the fuck up. Just do what you know.”

I’m going to say I think people do do that to dentists.

Lynskey: Do you really?

I think they do.

Lynskey: To dentists?

If someone has in their Twitter profile, “I’m a dentist,” and they’re like, “Trump sucks,” they’re going to get, “What do you know, dentist?”

Lynskey: You are really funny. I think you’re right. Yeah, and people are like, “Oh, Hollywood.”

Wood: We’re all human.

Lynskey: Like this big umbrella that they’re putting over so many people.

If you put in your Twitter profile, “Hello, I’m an actuary,” and said, “I don’t like this Trump guy,” I guarantee people are tweeting at them, “Oh, stick to your numbers, actuary.”

Wood: I think you’re right.

“Do the math: You’re wrong.”

Lynskey: They wouldn’t be that funny, though. They wouldn’t be able to make that joke. I just want to sit here all day and have you do that with different people.

Did you have to learn to throw a throwing star? That looks hard. Also, what a segue.

Wood: That was amazing.

But I heard it’s not easy.

Wood: Tony’s not very good at it. It’s not easy, no.

It’s not like throwing a pencil or a knife or anything.

Wood: In Tony’s backyard, where it’s like his training grounds, they set up a target sort of thing just for throwing stars. And so, with like clay pieces. So we did it a bunch, and I couldn’t hit any of them. It was really fucking hard.

But you looked like you kind of knew what you were doing when the one hit the wall.

Wood: Right. I can hit a wall.

Lynskey: Yeah, you did great.

Wood: Thank you.

Lynskey: You really did.

Wood: Thanks.

Lynskey: Yeah, that scene is very funny, right?

That scene is the funniest thing.

Wood: Oh, I love it so much.

Did you guys know each other before you did this?

Lynskey: Yeah, a little bit. But then we also knew each other through Peter Jackson.

Of course.

Wood: Like alumni. The Peter University, a little bit.

What roles of hers did you like?

Wood: Oh, I’ve been such a huge fan of hers for so long. You know that.

Lynskey: And you know how I feel about you.

Wood: Yeah, I’ve loved her for so long, everything that she’s done since Heavenly Creatures.

I know you from movies, so it’s always weird to be flipping through stations and see you on Two and a Half Men.

Wood: That must have been a weird experience.

Lynskey: Very weird.

I can imagine.

Lynskey: But it’s everything, though. It was a very different time in my life and I had just gotten my green card so I could do TV. And so I just did my first pilot season. And I got like a guest star on a sitcom, and I was like, “How weird, I’ll do a sitcom! What’s that like?” Then they asked me to be a regular and I was like: I’m not doing anything else. And then I managed for two years, I was a regular for two years, and then I was like: I’m going to kill myself. Is there another option? Just because it’s repetitive.


Lynskey: Charlie Sheen, actually, is one of the kindest, most respectful people I’ve ever worked with and it was fun and easy. But just like showing up and saying something crazy every week and being the wacky neighbor? But they were so kind. They let me out of my contract and then I could just sort of…

Wood: That’s pretty amazing.

Lynskey: Yeah, so for 11 years, I just got to come when I was free and make some money, pay my mortgage.

Wood: That’s a total gift.

Lynskey: That’s the only reason I’ve been able to build this career.

Do you still get recognized from the show?

Lynskey: I do, but the people who recognize me from that are very concerned for me. Like they don’t think I have worked since. And they’re like, “What’s happened? Are you okay? Do you ever think about acting again?”

How do you respond to that?

Lynskey: I’m like, “Oh, yeah. No, I’m okay.”

The one with Elijah I always forget, even though I’m so aware you’re in it, is Back to the Future Part II.

Lynskey: I didn’t know you were in that!

Wood: Yeah. The first job in a film.

Lynskey: As a baby?

He’s playing the video games in the future.

Wood: I was eight years old. In the Café ’80s, in the back trying to work a video game.

Lynskey: That’s so cute. Now I want to see it. You were such a good little child actor. I mean, you’re an amazing grownup actor, but like so sensitive and soulful.

Wood: Thank you.

You know what he was really good in as a child? The Good Son.

Lynskey: Oh, amazing.

Wood: Good memories.

Oh that’s good, you never know…

Lynskey: I saw some of it recently, too, and it kind of holds up.

Me, too. it’s really dark.

Wood: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know, it’s kind of wild.

I have to leave soon. This was all over the place.

Wood: Shit. Do you have any other questions for us?

Lynskey: Yeah, do you want to ask us questions? We’ll answer them quickly.

We covered so much ground.

Lynskey: I know. Now I feel like the whole story is going to be about how I’m a terrible member of American society, though.

I promise that’s not true.

Lynskey: But do you have questions?

Did I not have any?

Lynskey: Uou had a bunch, but I feel bad. I feel like I’ve been rambling on.

No, I think rambling is good. I ramble.

Lynskey: It was fun for us.

Wood: Super fun.

You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.