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Jena Malone Talks 'The Rusted', 'Neon Demon', Admits She Doesn't Have TV

The 'Hunger Games' actress does things her own way.

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Everyone knows Jena Malone from something. She's one of the great character actors of her generation and an artist who's always appeared in independent and smaller movies despite how famous she was at the time. I remember seeing her first big film, Contact, when it came out in 1997 and she's been in my life ever since. Younger audiences know her right away as Johanna Mason in the Hunger Games films.

But studio films are exceptions for Malone. You're much more likely to find her in the odd indie. Her latest is a short film directed by Kat Candler (Hellion) and co-starring her Hunger Games buddy Josh Hutcherson, called The Rusted.

The short film is the result of a Project Imagination collaboration between director Ron Howard and Canon: The Trailer. The Rusted is the result of a contest that saw thousands of video submissions from filmmakers around the globe. A college student named Mark Mukherjee was named the winner and his trailer, "Tainted Water," is the inspiration behind The Rusted. We were excited to speak with Malone about the project, her process as an actress, and how she chooses her films.

Zimbio: This is exciting for me, Jena, because I'm a few years older than you and I grew up with your films, especially Contact, Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, and Donnie Darko, of course...

Jena Malone: I'm really glad. That's amazing.

So let's talk The Rusted. You're no stranger to short films. You've done a number of them in the past few years. Could you compare the work to features and how it affects your preparation?

Well, it's fast and furious you know? I don't think it's an actors' format. It's a directors' format. You get to do some fun things, but it's a very short time to work in. In that way, it's interesting because you can pack a lot into a little bit of time. But basically the short is an important part of a director's process. All up and coming directors need to create a short or some kind of film to show people they can make movies. Steven Spielberg, Richard Kelly, before he made Donnie Darko, they all have to make shorts in order to get their first films financed. So it's important for young filmmakers.

Josh Hutcherson and Malone in The Rusted. (Getty Images)
Josh Hutcherson and Malone in The Rusted. (Getty Images)

So is that what drew you to this film—supporting the project?

Yeah it was. I was really interested in working with Kat and, obviously, I wanted to work with Josh again, but I also thought the idea of what Project Imagination was doing with Canon and Ron Howard was a really interesting thing. It's really cool they're allowing such a democratic way of making content and allowing filmmakers to bring that content to life. Everyone's got a voice. There are so many stories out there that need to be told. I think it's an empowering concept.

Do you watch Project Greenlight on HBO?

I don't. I haven't had TV since I was 16.


I'm kind of a big dork. I'll occasionally get a DVD or something, but I don't really watch much of anything. 

Do you watch your own films?

I do in the theater. I don't really watch them myself, like, alone at night. I just don't really watch television. Maybe I should check in. I don't have anything against TV, I just never really liked it when I was younger. Maybe I should reevaluate.

Maybe. There are a lot of good things out there. You've been acting almost your entire life. Do you get nervous on set?

I always get nervous. I feel like if it's important to you you should always get nervous. If it's stops, you might want to consider why you're doing it. It feels like the first day of high school a lot of the time. 

(L-R) Hutcherson, Ron Howard, Malone, Kat Candler and Mark Mukherjee attend the Premiere of The Rusted at AOL Build on October 22, 2015 in New York City. (Getty Images)
(L-R) Hutcherson, Ron Howard, Malone, Kat Candler and Mark Mukherjee attend the Premiere of The Rusted at AOL Build on October 22, 2015 in New York City. (Getty Images)

What recent role have you been most nervous for?

The Neon Demon.

Why, because of (director Nicholas Winding) Refn or (co-star Keanu) Reeves?

No, he (Refn) makes you feel very calm. I just feel like it was a very intense role and project and I wanted it to be right. It was something I've never really done before. It felt new in every way. And I'm also such a big fan of Nick, I had to get over my fanboy stuff...

(Laughs) So what can you tell me about it?

Not one thing. It's going to be amazing that's all I can say.

Okay, fine. Well, I'm excited. Which one of your characters is your favorite?

It's always just the last thing I did. Sometimes it's the first thing, but I think it's Neon Demon just because it's the most recent.

When you're choosing scripts, what are you looking for?

I don't really choose by script. I choose more by director. The older I get, that's all I'm really interested in: working with great directors. The script is just something you work through. And, no matter how great a script is, it's not going to dictate a great film. A great part in a script can be cut down, changed, and, in the wrong hands, become a horrible part. It really depends on the director.

How was working with Kat Candler? How does she stack up against other directors?

She's great. I think she hit the ground running. A lot of times of shorts there's a stigma of it not feeling real. But she really made us all feel like we were a part of something and added weight to it. She's a really interesting filmmaker.

Great, thank you so much, Jena.

Thank you too

You can watch The Rusted here:

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