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The star of American Beauty and American Pie Mena Suvari talks about her passion for budget sausages, what it’s like working with Vinnie Jones and why she has to wear horses’ blinkers during the sales.
Hi Mena, when in your life have you been most broke?
I fell into the movie business pretty early so I haven’t been too broke – I started modelling when I was about 12. I worked on American Pie and American Beauty back to back, and then they came out back to back, and then I went to work, again with Jason Biggs, on a movie with Amy Heckerling called Loser.
Did you ever think about quitting Hollywood and leaving behind the financial comforts it offers?
There was point in my life when I had graduated from high school and wanted to take a year off to really figure out what I wanted to pursue in college, and during that time I worked on American Pie and American Beauty. But I really wanted to pursue school again and was trying to understand my place in the industry because I was really motivated by the creative aspect of movies but not so much the business side of things.
As well as money, everybody craves fame these days. Is it all it’s cracked up to be?
It was pretty tough for me, hard for me to come to terms with the pressure. And so there was a point I thought I was just going to stop acting and go back to school and really focus on what I wanted to do. There's a huge part of being in the industry where, for me, many times I've felt like you're kind of a pawn, you're just kind of waiting for somebody to give you an opportunity or to validate you in a sense, and I wanted to feel much more in control of my life.
What advice would you give anyone who wants to get into acting?
If you’re going to be successful, you need to develop a persona and learn how to be that person whenever needed. You either quit the game or learn how to play it. That was the biggest lesson I learned.
What was the worst job you've ever had to do?
I try not to look at thing as being “the worst” I've ever done. I feel so grateful to be given all of these opportunities but I've worked on projects that were definitely more challenging than others. The first commercial I worked on was a Rice-A-Roni when I moved to Los Angeles. I was 14 and my agent and my manager at the time were telling my family: “You should move out to Los Angeles because there are people that wait for five years to get an opportunity like this.”
What's the best job you've ever had?
I worked on this movie called Hemingway's Garden of Eden that we shot four years ago, and it premiered in Rome. It was definitely an art house, indie film, but it was based on a beautiful Ernest Hemingway novel and that was – as far as a story and a character to play – the most challenging thing I've ever worked on in my life and it really changed me.
You recently worked on a movie with hardman Vinnie Jones. That must have been a life-changing experience…
Yeah, we worked together on a film called You May Not Kiss The Bride – a romantic comedy that we shot in Hawaii with Rob Schneider. That was a lot of fun. Vinny's great, a lot of laughs, we had a great time. He was always so, so sweet with me… but he would take the piss out of me a lot.
Surely even successful Hollywood stars have to tighten the purse strings sometimes. What's you favourite budget meal?
I love shopping for fresh food and farmer's markets and things like that. My husband is Italian and I cook sausage really, really well. I guess that's something you could do on a budget.
I guess. Got any killer money saving tips?
You know the things horses wear them on the side of their eyes so they don’t get distracted. I'll put my hands up over my eyes as I'm walking by a store so I don’t get tempted. That's the hardest thing because you want all of it.
What's the one piece of advice you'd give young people who have ambitions to be successful in a movie career?
Really get in touch with what you want and stay true to who you are. There 's going to be a lot of people who are going to push you in many directions and try and influence you to do things you might not want to do. It's a really, really tough industry and I think if you're able to you should focus on the fact that you are unique and an individual and should bring your own ideas into something, and not try and be like everyone else. I think a lot of people get lost because they are always trying to fit this mould of what they think people want. You can't do that. It's something that's going to break you in the end. You have to be persistent and be comfortable and know who you are and give thanks everyday, really.
Thanks Mena. And finally, what's the best thing about cash?
It can be duplicated?
“Mena Suvari is helping Captain Morgan search for buccaneering crew mates for The Captain's Island challenge, a legendary Caribbean adventure where crews can challenge for a share of a $15,000 bounty. To join up, visit the Captain Morgan Facebook page.”
Tuesday, 20th September 2011