I recently got the chance to talk to Misty Mills about her role in ‘Machine Gun Preacher’. Here, Misty talks about how she got involved in the project and what it was like working with Gerard Butler and director Marc Forster…
Hey Misty. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘Machine Gun Preacher’.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film? I understand it’s based on a true story?
Yes, it is. It’s based on the life of Sam Childers, a former member of a biker gang who became addicted to drugs and alcohol. After a horrific incident, he realizes he has to change his life and begins to attend church with his family. From there, he becomes a missionary in Africa and embarks on a crusade to save children. It’s a story with a very powerful message.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play a friend of Sam (Gerard Butler) and Donnie (Michael Shannon). I’m sort of a local barfly who is also one of their hook-ups for meth.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I first did a video audition that was sent to the casting offices in LA. About a week and a half later I had an in-person callback. To my surprise, it was with Marc Forster, the director, himself. I came in and read for that role, then was given another role to read. A few days later I had another callback for the role I ended up getting. I was surprised to get called back for a biker drug dealer because the other roles I read for were completely different types and I went in dressed nicely. For the biker role, I came in wearing a t-shirt and combat boots with my hair done entirely differently which helped me get into the proper state of mind.
An interesting tidbit is that I rode to the callbacks with my best friend, actress Mary Lynne Gibbs who also had a callback for the movie. It shows how tight-knit and great the acting and filmmaking community is here when you can ride to a callback with someone who is also up for the same role and you both survive the trip and have a great time with it!
How would you say this film is different and unique?
They weren’t afraid to show the violence and pain that the people endure in that region. It’s definitely not an easy film to watch. My mother said it was a hard movie to watch because it’s much easier to just pretend the atrocities shown in the film don’t really exist in this day and age. But they do and it brings to light things that a lot of people never think about. Plus I was blown away by it on many levels, from the amazing acting and even down to the way some of the shots were set up.
The film stars Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan, Kathy Baker, Michael Shannon and Madeline Carroll – with Marc Forster onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
I only had scenes with Gerard Butler and Michael Shannon, but I was lucky enough to meet Michelle Monaghan on set one day. Everyone was great to work with. I had seen some of Michael Shannon’s work before filming and he was absolutely nothing like I thought he would be. He always plays these intimidating characters that sort of loom darkly over everything and in person he was very sweet and pleasant. I think he’s underestimated as an actor because he is so completely different from the characters he plays.
The first time I met Gerard Butler was in make-up. He came in, cranked up the radio to some Doors music and started belting out the songs. From the second he came in the whole trailer seemed to fill up with his energy. There wasn’t a single second the entire time I was on set where he looked down on anyone at all. He also took out time for the fans, which was amazing of him. He signed autographs and took pictures with people even when we were all exhausted from filming for hours, and he did it with a smile.
Marc Forster is a great director. He directed one of my favorite films (‘Stranger Than Fiction’) and just does amazing work. He was great to work with because he knew exactly what he wanted and how to verbalize it, which makes the job of an actor so much easier and also very efficient. There’s no guessing with what he thinks of your performance, he’ll outright say what works and what doesn’t, but always puts it in a way that doesn’t hurt your feelings if he has a different interpretation than you had. It was just a pleasure to work with him and any of my usual on-set anxiety was gone in moments.
My role was entirely improv, which would usually come with some trepidation, especially when up against some seriously talented actors, but the whole thing went very smoothly and comfortably and I owe it all to everyone involved, especially the crew who took such great care of me!
Let’s talk a bit about you Misty. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
It’s kind of a silly story, but when I was in first grade the class got to watch a tape of the first ‘Star Wars’ movie. I was the only one who hadn’t seen it and I kept shushing my friends so I could hear the dialogue. I was utterly transfixed by the scope of it all and when I went home, I announced to my mother that I wanted to be a Jedi when I grew up. She explained to me that Jedi aren’t real, they’re a bunch of people called actors who get paid to play pretend. I was blown away by that idea and told her that fine, when I grew up, I’d be an actor instead and maybe someday I’d get to be a Jedi. I’m still working on that part of the goal, but I’ve gotten to play a wide scope of amazing characters while on the journey!
In the process, I’ve also found that what I fell in love with that day in first grade wasn’t just acting, it was filmmaking in general. In the past few years, I’ve produced, started to direct, helped with casting, made props, done SFX make-up and I even started a production company called Fangirl Films.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the industry?
The most important thing is to know yourself. Know what it is that draws you to the life of a filmmaker, writer or actor. That knowledge will help you get through the hard times when you feel like it might just be easier and less heartbreaking to just give up. I’ve been lucky in that I’m stubborn and just don’t care if I get rejections because I’ve been on both sides of the table and I know that sometimes there are factors you as an actor can’t control. If I don’t get a part, I try not to dwell on it, I try to focus on what else I have coming up.
Also, do your research on everything! Production companies, directors, investors, fellow actors, photographers… everything! It’s not just about scams, you need to be aware of so many factors so you can make informed choices that won’t come back to bite you in the rear later on. I won’t ever do a project I wouldn’t want my parents to see. I want them to be proud of me and most importantly, I want to be proud of myself when I look back on my career.
The last bit of advice I have is to make sure you have a supportive spouse or partner. There are times when I hardly see my husband for a week or more at a time, but I think it’s very important to always let him know that even when I’m off pretending to be someone else for days on end, I’m always thinking about him and wishing he was there to experience it all with me.
What is currently on your I-Pod right now?
Lately I’ve been doing a lot of writing, so I have quite a few original movie scores I’ve been cycling through. The first few things that come up when I hit shuffle are some Asking Alexandria, Mumford And Sons, Sisters Of Mercy and Duffy. I have a bit of an eclectic taste in music.
If you could have dinner with three guests (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
Grahamcracker, which is what we called my late maternal grandmother, Mae. I’d love to ask her things I never got the chance to when I was younger and tell her about all the great things I’ve gotten to do in my life. I’d hope she’d be proud. Also Samuel Johnson who created the dictionary, just because it changed so much about how we communicate. Lastly, probably Joss Whedon because I’m a huge fangirl. If he’s not available, I’ll gladly take James Marsters because I have a huge crush on him. Or Russell T. Davies. I have some comments about the latest installment of ‘Torchwood’ I’d like to tell him.
If you were stranded on a desert island – what three things could you not live without?
Sunscreen, a Kindle (or similar device) that is solar-powered and my husband. Or I’d trade the first two things in for a way off the island!
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
We’ll have two episodes of ‘Star Trek: Osiris’ coming out in 2012. I produce and play the ship’s doctor in the series. Also we’re starting production soon on ‘Arielden’, which is a feature-length fantasy film that sort of reminds me of ‘Labyrinth’, ‘The Princess Bride’ and ‘The Neverending Story’ all rolled into one. I’ll also be appearing at the Motor City Comic Con in May. Fangirl Films will also be working on its first feature and we hope to start filming in fall of 2012. I’ll also be doing a whole lot of roller derby!
Thanks for the interview!