Q. I thought that your last film “Paranoia” was going to be your breakthrough in Hollywood. The movie did not do well at the box office, so it didn’t have much of an impact on your career. Did you believe it was going to be your big break?
A.It seems that if I’m in them, they don’t do well (laughs).
Q. I don’t think you can be blamed for “Machete Kills”?
A.(Laughs) See, there’s the common denominator. It’s me.
Q. But did you think that “Paranoia” might be the breakthrough for you?
A. I didn’t. I never once in my entire life looked at any project as the one. Maybe it’s because I haven’t had a project like that in my career. I haven’t had one thing that has made such a big difference in my world. I don’t have that expectation. I’ve been in this job for 11 years. No, it’s been 10. No, it’s 11. I’m clearly an actress because I can’t count (laughs). In that time, I never had a moment that changed the way I live my life. It’s been a natural, organic climb. I started with nothing. I never had crazy luck. I’ve had to fight for every job, and that’s great.
Q. What do you hope to get out of every project besides a paycheck?
A. A little more growth. That’s why I change characters so much. I’m always trying to stay outside of the archetypal female character. It’s the romantic female. There is a very narrow, very rigid structure that I exist in, and I’m constantly trying to push outward to stretch those confines.
Q. How do you do that?
A. By imbuing my characters with some sort of edge, power or weirdness.
Q. You’re talking about the pretty-girl syndrome in Hollywood?
A. Yes, but that’s why I’m always shooting the gun and not wearing the dress. I’d much rather shoot the gun than catch the bouquet. It’s far more interesting to me to play the villain than the sweetheart. One day I will play a sweetheart, but by that time, it will feel like a departure because it’s so unusual for me. But I won’t do that until I’ve explored other interesting aspects of this job. Each character is an exploration of that character’s personalities and quirks.
Q. But the offers to play the pretty girl must come in all the time?
A.Yes, but that’s why I work only on a few movies a year rather than working non-stop on pointless, sexy characters.
Q. How did you decide that that was the route you were going to take?
A.I didn’t have to make that decision. It’s in my nature to be drawn to things that are more compelling and more interesting, and which satiate my curiosity. That’s so much more important to me than being validated by a set of superficial concepts that my society claims are important to a woman. I see the futility of that, and that makes me want to defy it. Do I have to wear the wig and red lipstick in this film? Yes, I had to, but I got to play a character that I could do something with beyond the narrow framework. I got to turn that archetype on its head.
Q. Is that how the character was presented to you?
A. That’s how I fought for the character.
Q. It wasn’t in the script that way?
A. Not exactly. There was a lot of gray in her character so I was lucky to have two imaginative collaborators – McG and Luc Besson – who are not afraid of women. I like working with men who are not afraid of working outside the structure of Hollywood. So many people in this business are afraid to upset the way things are usually done.
Q. How did you know that they’re not afraid of women?
A. Well, I have the benefit of looking at their past work. “Leon: The Professional” is one of my favorite movies. Look at McG – he made no apologies for “Charlie’s Angels.” He’s not afraid of making female characters who not only don’t apologize for their sexuality, but are not defined by it. That’s what I set out to do with this character.
Q. You have never sought attention or made apologies for anything you’ve done, so it must be odd to suddenly be in the middle of this media firestorm?
A. It’s really hard to be objective about these things. I’m a pretty realistic person, and to look at myself in the very fleeting and superficial world of tabloid journalism, it’s so uninteresting to me.
Q. Regardless, you are in the vortex of it all?
A.I don’t know about that. I don’t take ownership of that. I take no pride in it. I take no validation in it. I’m hardly aware of it. I don’t even know to what extent it supersedes my work. I can’t imagine that my personal life would be interesting to anyone. I just don’t understand that. But I’ve never been into idol worship, or to things that don’t matter.
Q. Do you have any sense that people are prying into your personal life?
A.I’ve always had the misfortune of living a life that seems to be salacious to other people. It doesn’t matter who I’m dating. People have always talked about me.
Q. Are you talking about high school?
A. Yes. People were always rolling their eyes. My parents, their friends, my friend’s parents – they just didn’t get it. There was always something I was getting into that shocked them, and nothing changed when I got here. In all my relationships, there was something to gossip about. I’ve always done exactly what I wanted to do.
Q. You left Texas for Hollywood. How has that turned out?
A.Sometimes it’s great and sometimes it’s humiliating.
Q. What's humiliating about it?
A.Many parts of my job are humiliating. Relinquishing control is part of it. You’re at the mercy of a machine. And you’re always in danger of being made into more of a commodity than you already are. There are many things that are humiliating about my job, but I’m not bored. So, it could be worse.
Q. Some people don’t understand you and Johnny as a couple but I see a lot of similarities in how you both fight Hollywood’s attempt to box you in because of your looks. Is that the key?
A.That’s an interesting theory.
Q. Although he went after one quirky character after another, he eventually wound up in a big studio franchise called “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Could you see yourself one day going in that direction?
A. Life is long, and if there is one thing that this job has taught me, it is that you can never say never. I have no interest in doing something like that right now, but you never know.