Winona as Donna

March 6, 2004

The one-time megastar climbs back from her very public fall from grace with Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly, which sees the former Girl, Interrupted turned into a Girl, Animated via Linklater’s impressive rotoscoping process. As junkie slackette Donna, she’s reteamed with her Dracula co-star Keanu Reeves, something she’s very happy about.

Like Richard Linklater’s Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly was shot live-action then animated by the Rotoscoping process. Did knowing it was going to be Rotoscoped affect your performance?

I didn’t even think about it. Waking Life really is one of my top five favourite movies of all time, and with that I felt like the performances came through so vividly; it really captured the subtlety. So I knew this was going to be that times a thousand. And if I’d thought about it, it would probably have been distracting. I just did things the same as always.

Was it strange seeing yourself Rotoscoped?

Not really. I love it, I think it adds so much emotion; I certainly felt that with Waking Life. I don’t really know what Rotoscoping means, but it just moves me in some strange way.

We don’t see as much of you as we used to. What does it take too get you to work these days?

Well, Richard Linklater for one. I’d do anything for him. And I find the movies I do for a lot less money are the ones I enjoy most. I’m working now; I just came from the set. I haven’t even slept.

Are you still in costume?

No, I changed very quickly.

Well, you look great! What set have you just come from?

It’s called Sex And Death 101. I’m Death. I literally do play Death.

That’s with Heathers writer-director Daniel Waters. What was it like working with him again?

Amazing. It’s a dream for me. I love him very much as a person and I think he’s a phenomenal writer. We’ve been trying for a long time to do the sequel to Heathers too, which hopefully will happen at some point. I can’t tell you anything about the script but it’s so Dan, it’s so twisted and great. He’s a great director and it’s wonderful to be working with him again.

And how was it teaming up with Keanu again, your Dracula co-star?

It was fun, wonderful. And we didn’t have to do the accents or wear the costumes this time. I remember on Dracula having to lay down on the floor with someone’s foot in my back while they pulled the strings on my corset. Keanu helped me so much with the A Scanner Darkly material too, which I found and still find very challenging. I feel if we were making this movie forever we’d never get to the end of it, it’s so complex, scary.

You’ve worked with Robert Downey Jr. before, too.

Yeah, I worked with Downey when I was 15. He played my brother (in 1988′s Vietnam-era melodrama 1969) so it was great to be around him again. They both made me feel very safe. And Keanu knows I have a huge crush on him, I tell him all the time. My character cares very much about Keanu’s character, and with Keanu it’s very easy to care about him. I was frustrated because we didn’t get to make out properly.

A Scanner Darkly is based on the novel by Philip K. Dick. You have a fairly close connection to Dick, don’t you?

Well, my godfather (acid guru Timothy Leary) was his roommate for a while.

That must have been one far out pad.

I know. I still have the note he left on the refrigerator when he moved out. It’s very simple, it says: “Tim, I’m gone. You won’t see me for a long time. Phil”

Did you ever meet him?

When I was little I met a lot of really interesting, amazing people. I wish I could remember them all. But at the time they were just grown-ups to me. [Dick] was always part of the crowd that my Mom and Dad were in, a kind of literary circle. I read his books early on and always hoped there’d be an adaptation of A Scanner Darkly one day. My dream was that I’d have the chance to be in a really great adaptation of it. I’m not sure if I ever met him, but my dad has a jacket of his in his closet. My Dad was very close to him. My Dad gets very misty when he talks about Philip K. Dick.

What do you think of Dick’s powers as a prognosticator? There are clear parallels between the themes of A Scanner Darkly societal control, covert surveillance, misinformation and what’s going on in the world today.

It was really weird watching the news while we were making the movie because it’s happening right now, the whole Haliburton thing. It’s eerie how relevant A Scanner Darkly is politically and socially. And I’m very happy to be part of a movie like that, aside from just loving it as a personal story. I think Dick was really on the money when he wrote it; it’s amazing what he predicted. I think it’s a terrifying time right now in this country and the world. But Richard Linklater said something very perceptive to me about how the more terrifying the world gets, the more people find humour in the situation, how people don’t just become sheep, how humanity asserts itself.

Interview: Simon Braund

Script developed by Never Enough Design