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This new poster was created by Jeff Harrison and Carson Ting (AKA Chairman Ting) both of Rethink, started by director Michael Goldbach. Daydream Nation is currently playing in Canadian theatres, it’s out on May 6th in the US, the NTSC DVD and Blu-ray release is set for May 17th, and the PAL will be released August 1!
The tracklist for the Daydream Nation soundtrack has been released. The soundtrack itself will be released on the same day as the DVD and Blu-ray for the film; May 17th.
1. Ohad—Caroline’s Theme
2. Stars—Your Ex-Lover Is Dead
3. Devendra Banhart—Korean Dogwood
4. Emily Haines—Rowboat
5. Great Lake Swimmers—Backstage With The Modern Dancers
6. Ohad – Town Waltz
8. Emily Haines—Telethon
9. Bishop Morocco—Last Year’s Disco Guitars
10. Devendra Banhart—Carmensita
11. Ohad—Pink Flag
12. Silver Starling—Caught In Your Glow
13. Sebadoh—Just Gimme Indie Rock
14. Constantines—Shine A Light
15. Ohad—Daydream Anthem
16. Emily Haines—Expecting To Fly
She grew up amid the perfectly fertilized lawns of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania – one of the ritziest neighbourhoods in the United States, and namesake of the women’s college that once hosted Katharine Hepburn’s colourful scholastic interlude.
A hint of Hepburn rattles around behind the big eyes and unspoken strength of Kat Dennings: She’s smart with a hint of playful mischief. It’s a compelling blend, and it’s on full display in the new movie Daydream Nation – the first feature film from Childstar co-writer Michael Goldbach.
The story of a high-school siren who seduces teachers and students with equal skill, the Vancouver-shot feature stars Dennings as Caroline Wexler, a junior version of Madame Bovary.
“I found her really fascinating,” says Dennings of her character. “She’s mysterious and seems really mature, but she’s deeply complicated and doesn’t know who she is at all. She’s trying to figure it out, but she’s not doing it in a very smart way.”
As Caroline spins her sexual wheels in all kinds of masculine mud, things start to get very messy in this frequently surreal little coming-of-age movie that also stars Vancouver’s Reece Thompson and the resurging Josh Lucas.
“The whole high-school genre has typically been focused on the male coming-of-age experience, to the point where they were almost a genre unto themselves. I think in the male mind, those rites of passage are just so huge that they eclipse the female experience,” she says.
“What I liked about Michael’s script and his approach is that it was very much a story about both sexes moving through a very confusing time. Caroline actually has a real role in this story.”
Dennings says as a 24-year-old actress, it’s hard finding parts with any dimension or depth. “There are so many things actresses my age can do, but being the age we are, we’re never really given the opportunity to be interesting. Most of it comes down to a physical presence.”
Despite the overall shallow quality to Hollywood casting, Dennings has been able to land some of the prize roles of her demographic in such films as Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and House Bunny.
“Look, I just want a job that’s interesting. That’s the most you can really hope for, and so far, I’ve been lucky.”
Dennings says she’s got a soft spot for Canadian projects, because they often offer a longer creative leash, and so she has played the hooker with the heart of gold in the Hamilton-shot Defendor, as well as her latest turn in Daydream Nation.
“I really look at the quality of writing first, not the location. And as far as the Canadian thing goes, I think Michael (Goldbach) is a very Canadian guy. But I don’t see this movie as essentially Canadian. For me, the most important thing is that the movie finds the universal, and doesn’t alienate anyone. There were a few more Canadian elements in Caroline, but I toned them down, because I wanted to make her more for everyone.”
Dennings says she even learned a few things from Caroline after living in her mind for months, and creating a whole backstory, as well as an iPod playlist for her alter ego.
“I had a great time on this movie. The group was fun, and we’d all go into the city on the weekends and go dancing. We celebrated a birthday – one where you turn legal – and that was a blast.”
Dennings says she’s never had much of a problem walking around town, regardless of where she is. “When I’m not working, I don’t really dress up or anything. I don’t get noticed and I don’t need to get noticed.”
In fact, Dennings says while she’s entirely comfortable losing control on camera while in character, she finds it painfully awkward to be herself in front of the mechanical eye.
“You know what I was telling my manager on the plane here? I said that I could be on-set, half-naked, covered in cocaine and screaming at someone, and never have an ounce of nervousness, but being myself in front of a camera makes me insane.”
Dennings says acting helps her make sense of her own life, and every time she works on a project, she learns a little something new about her deeper self.
“I asked my parents to do this since I was two,” she says. “There’s a part of me that seems to need this. One of my best friends is an actor, too, and it seems we really need it. It satisfies a part of us nothing else can, and when I’m not doing a movie, I actually get antsy,” she says.
“On this movie, I isolated myself on purpose. I looked at a lot of photography and latched on to themes that felt like Caroline. I wanted to see the world through her eyes – and that’s how the playlist with Billie Holiday and Radiohead came together.”
When the voyage finally wrapped, Dennings realized she’d taken a little bit of Caroline home – but only so she could appreciate her own life more.
“Look, my reality is very different from hers. I still have both parents, thank god. I couldn’t really relate to her sense of isolation, but I did understand being alone, and that’s where I stayed in my head,” she says.
“That wasteland of relationships (in Daydream Nation) is an interesting place to visit,” she says. “But really, you don’t want to live there.”
Daydream Nation opens theatrically in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver April 15.
Slouched in a hotel chair, in a low-cut red dress with matching nail polish and lipstick, actress Kat Dennings looks as though she’s just returned from an arduous Valentine’s date. The outfit may say “come hither” but her posture conveys total exhaustion — understandable, seeing as she’s been doing back-to-back interviews for her new film, Daydream Nation.
Still, the 24-year-old is disarmingly witty and candid, not to mention self-deprecating, which is hard to find in most successful young stars, especially ones who wear tight red dresses.
It’s easy to see why director Michael Goldbach wrote this script with Dennings in mind — it requires an actress who can play smart and sultry while also conveying the abundance of dark humour in the subtext. (Anticipating a rejection, Goldbach initially asked Hayden Panettiere to take the role, but her Heroes schedule kept getting in the way; eventually, he took a deep breath and approached Dennings, who surprised him by saying yes.)
When asked what it feels like to have a part written specifically with her in mind, Dennings tilts her chin up and flips her hair over her shoulder in mock-narcissism.
“Well, of course, there are worse things,” she says. “But I actually don’t think the part was written for me — I think he just meant that I happened to be a good fit … and to tell the truth, if someone offers you a part without an audition, it almost always turns out to be bad. But I loved this script, so I just did my best and crossed my fingers that it wouldn’t suck.”
That Dennings is satisfied with the final result comes as a big relief to Goldbach, a Canadian screenwriter who divides his time between Toronto and Los Angeles and spent six years working on this feature. It’s his directorial debut, one that he’s incredibly nervous about.
He needn’t be, though: Daydream Nation premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this past September, opening the Canada First! program, and has earned mostly strong reviews, one of which endorsed it as “a funnier, sunnier Donnie Darko.” Its central plot involves a teenage girl named Caroline Wexler (Dennings) who moves to a small town where an industrial fire has been burning for as long as everyone can remember and the entire student body at the local high school is either stoned or trying to get stoned. Unable to identify with her peers, Caroline pursues her teacher instead.
Mr. Anderson is played by Josh Lucas (The Lincoln Lawyer), another big casting score for Goldbach, and Dennings says there isn’t another actor with whom she’d rather engage in an awkwardly inappropriate, on-screen love affair. “With Josh, I knew it was going to be fine,” she says. “He’s incredibly talented, and he just completely forgoes vanity in this film; he ends up looking like Jim Jarmusch’s slutty nephew. It’s amazing to watch his character slowly crash and burn.”
But it’s Dennings who carries the film — and this isn’t surprising, considering her experience playing rebellious girls in teenage indie dramas such as Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Charlie Bartlett. When it came to Caroline Wexler, however, Dennings felt she’d have to work a little harder to portray the many conflicting layers in the character.
“She’s really enigmatic,” she says. “Women can sometimes be enigmatic on purpose because — well, we’re just bastards like that. But it often ties into loneliness and feeling like an outsider. To get it right, I did way more preparation than I usually do … I would put together music I thought she might listen to, I read the Claudine books by [Sidonie-Gabrielle] Colette, which were all about a sassy French girl stuck in a rural community.”
It’s this clever, slightly more nuanced version of the classic enigmatic female that drew Dennings toward Daydream Nation, despite how difficult she knew the part would be.
Even though she has since moved on to tackling everything from blockbusters (co-starring with Natalie Portman in Thor) to comedies (voicing Tanqueray the stripper in American Dad!), the actress hopes she’ll encounter more roles like Caroline Wexler in the future.
“She’s pretty emotionally messed up and I knew it would be a hard place to go, but that made me want to play her more,” she says. “If I read a character and say, ‘I don’t think I can do this,’ I try to anyway because I think it helps to be scared a bit.”
Kat Dennings has a thing for fiercely intelligent young women. Over the course of her career, the 24-year-old actress has been drawn to characters who are smarter, more self-assured and wiser than their peers.
“I do seem to like smart girls – I just do,” Dennings said during a recent interview. “They’re inspiring, and I enjoy it.”
At first glance, her character in Canadian Michael Goldbach’s directorial debut, Daydream Nation, may seem like one more brainy girl with beauty to match. Caroline Wexler has moved with her widowed father to a small town where her isolation only amplifies her teenage angst and ennui. Seeing in her high school English teacher the one person she might connect with, Caroline seduces him and finds herself in a love triangle with an awkward young classmate. Dennings’s performance drives the film thanks not only to her character’s world-weary smarts, but the vulnerability lurking beneath her veneer of self-confidence.
Getting inside the head of such a character is what attracted Dennings to the movie, which was shot in Vancouver.
“She’s kind of an enigma. She’s all these different things and she plays these different roles with the people in her life. So the question is, which one is really her?” the Philadelphia native says. “I was just really intrigued by the story and by her, and really just wanted to see what makes her tick.”
Goldbach, who also wrote the film, was similarly inspired by that enigma. After co-writing Childstar with Don McKellar, Goldbach moved back to the small town he grew up in near London, Ont., to figure out his next project.
“I just thought, no one has really done a film about these small towns, about just what crazy places they are and what high school is like in these towns,” he says. But that wasn’t the question that got Goldblach writing the script. Instead, he says, the one he set out to answer was this: “What was going on with that girl in my class who’s, like, really beautiful and always seemed to be involved with older men and always seemed to be trouble?”
Answering that was no easy task for Dennings. As someone who was home-schooled, she couldn’t draw on her own experiences of life in high school. But that didn’t stop her from delving in to the character. To do so, she says she listened to as much of the type of music she imagined Caroline would listen to and also read plenty of Colette, figuring Caroline would be drawn to the French author who mined the conflicts between love and independence in her novels.
While the role adds to the list of strong young women Dennings has already played, it is also a much more complex one, a challenge she sees as helping her to mature as an actor. Here, she finds herself on much more adult turf than in, say, Nick and Norah’s Infinfite Playlist.
“The point of being an actor is to do different things,” Dennings says.
Indeed, Daydream Nation may help her move from kid-friendly fare such as Shorts and the teen flicks she’s starred in to more serious films, a move she began alongside Woody Harrelson as an underage prostitute in Defendor.
An indie darling, Dennings has been in her share of light-hearted movies, whether it’s Big Momma’s House 2 or The House Bunny. But as she gets older, she is increasingly attracted to darker material such as Daydream Nation.
“I really enjoyed the tone of the script. It was very ethereal and very dark and very mysterious, which I love,” she says.
The movie is set largely in a high school, but it’s hardly a teen movie. And though it may be courting controversy by having a high school girl in an affair with a teacher, Dennings says she is ready for it.
“Bring it on,” she says. “That’s just the way she wants to do things. This girl sees an opportunity to escape from her life right in front of her, and I don’t think she thinks it through – she just does it.”
While Dennings says she feels the pull of darker, more mature projects, she couldn’t pass up the chance to play Natalie Portman’s lab assistant in Kenneth Branagh’s upcoming comic book adaptation, Thor.
“I would have done anything to be in Thor. I would have played anybody. I would have been the craft service guy,” she says. “Besides the cast being so incredible, Kenneth Branagh is one of my favourite writer-directors. Getting to work with him was a privilege.”
With a billowing mane, full lips and a curvy physique, the actress – known for her witty characters in The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist could pass for Scarlett Johansson’s younger sister. Yet, as the Philadelphia native, who appears in Thor this May, tells it, “People … wanted me to get a tan, fix my teeth, and get a breast reduction. No joke!”