Living Multiple Outcomes: Brit Marling Is A Hyphenate On 'Another Earth' : Monkey See Brit Marling is the star of the new film Another Earth, but she's also the co-producer and co-writer. She talks to Robert Siegel about multiple roles and low-budget filmmaking.
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Living Multiple Outcomes: Brit Marling Is A Hyphenate On 'Another Earth'

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Living Multiple Outcomes: Brit Marling Is A Hyphenate On 'Another Earth'

Living Multiple Outcomes: Brit Marling Is A Hyphenate On 'Another Earth'

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The movie "Another Earth," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year, works on two levels. It's the story of a young woman named Rhoda, a promising high school senior who causes a fatal car crash, does time for drunk driving and then tries to find redemption in an affair with the man whose family she killed. That would be the terrestrial level of the movie.

In addition, there's an extraterrestrial level. The accident occurs on the day that another planet is discovered, an alternate planet Earth, where we all have doppelgangers.

On the other Earth, our lives have taken different courses. Perhaps Rhoda's life there has been one whose promise has been fulfilled.

The film was written by 27-year-old Brit Marling and director Mike Cahill. Brit Marling is also the star of the movie, a very convincing one. And for being co-writer, co-producer and star, she is evidently, in movie talk, a multi-hyphenate.

And she's our guest right now. Welcome to the program.

Ms. BRIT MARLING (Writer, Producer, Actress): Thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: Is it a good thing to be a multi-hyphenate?

Ms. MARLING: I'm still figuring that out. I feel like I'm just working on the first part of the hyphenate.

SIEGEL: Well, first, "Another Earth" could probably have worked without there being another planet in it. It could have just been the story of a young woman who causes an accident, goes to jail. Was it from the beginning, for you, did it have the science-fiction dimension or did it ever stand alone? It's just an earthly story.

Ms. MARLING: It always had the sci-fi element. We always wanted to do a sci-fi story in which if you stripped away the high concept, it would still hold weight, like it...

SIEGEL: It'll still be a story.

Ms. MARLING: It will still be a story, yeah, even if you took out the sort of imaginative high-concept part of it.

SIEGEL: I want you talk about a scene in the movie in which your character Rhoda tells a story about the first man to go into space, a cosmonaut, a Russian cosmonaut, and while orbiting the Earth, the Russian hears a strange unexplainable ticking that he fears might drive him crazy, and your character, Rhoda, bangs on a table with a knife in this scene.

(Soundbite of movie, "Another Earth")

Ms. MARLING: (as Rhoda) You've got 25 days left to go with this sound.

(Soundbite of tapping)

Ms. MARLING: (as Rhoda) The cosmonaut decides the only way to save his sanity is to fall in love with this sound.

(Soundbite of tapping)

Ms. MARLING: (as Rhoda) He closed his eyes...

(Soundbite of tapping)

Ms. MARLING: (as Rhoda) ...and he goes into his imagination.

(Soundbite of tapping)

Ms. MARLING: (as Rhoda) And then he opens them.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. MARLING: (as Rhoda) He doesn't hear ticking anymore.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. MARLING: (as Rhoda) He hears music.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: It's quite a scene, which you wrote.

Ms. MARLING: Yeah. Mike and I wrote together.

SIEGEL: As the challenge of writing a film and acting a film come together for you, is one more challenging than the other, one more interesting than the other?

Ms. MARLING: For me, acting is the most challenging thing, I guess, because you're constantly doing your work in front of other people. So it's so exposed. Like if you're a painter, you retreat into your studio and you work and you work and you make some great work and some not so great work, and nobody ever sees the not so great work, but there's something about acting that is really you're asking yourself to be open and vulnerable for a profession, which is beautiful and also terrifying. I think that's why I'm attracted to it.

SIEGEL: I want to ask you about one of your other hyphenated roles here as co-producer of the movie. This is a fairly low budget film. This must have been a big studio job and you needed another planet to be up in the sky...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: ...needed to build another planet or rent another planet from someplace. I assume it was something of a constraint to work cheap.

Ms. MARLING: Oh, absolutely. But I think, in this case, the constraint really bred the creativity. Like there are things all over the movie, there's a shot where Rhoda is released from prison, and we couldn't afford a prison. We couldn't even afford, like, a uniform to dress up a fake prison guard.

So Mike and I drove around in his mom's car until we found a prison we could get close enough to the front entrance, and he parked the car across the street and rolled down the driver side window and left the key in the ignition and was shooting at the driver side window, and he's like, OK, you just go in that prison and walk out.

So I, like, put on my uniform in the passenger seat and took a yoga mat out of the back of the car and walked into the prison. And I was, like, hey, I'm here to teach yoga, and they all just kind of looked at each other like what? And while they were busy figuring out, like, who's this girl that's here to teach yoga, I just dropped the mat and turned around and walked out, and that is the release-from-prison shot in the film.

When I got back to the car, Mike was like, can you do that again? But by then, the police were like onto us.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MARLING: And so it was like, no, we've got to get out of here.

SIEGEL: Does Mike's mom get a credit for her car being used in the scene?

Ms. MARLING: Mike's mom gets credit for everything. She's in the film. It was her house. It was her car. She loves shooting her school. She made Mike.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MARLING: Mike's mom did a lot of things on this movie.

SIEGEL: You told me that you grew up in - both in the Chicago suburbs but also moving a lot.

Ms. MARLING: Yeah.

SIEGEL: And moving a lot, you think, may have something to do with becoming an actor.

Ms. MARLING: I think so. I think you realize when you're a kid and you're -every time you move, you're - you realize identity is really ephemeral, and you keep reinventing yourself to like make friends easily. It's like a survival mechanism, really, and you keep - I mean, I would go so far as to take new nicknames, you know, like now I'm Zoe, and now I'm Fannie. Now I'm this, now I'm that. And I would...

SIEGEL: Were you actually Zoe and Fannie at the same time?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MARLING: I was both of those, yeah. I think that's sort of how you get along is you make a game of it.

SIEGEL: In the category of things about you that probably everyone who's come to the casting couch does not have in common. You're a valedictorian at Georgetown, and you were an intern at Goldman Sachs, and you were weighing a career in investment banking.

Ms. MARLING: All true.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: You think there's another planet where you're an investment banker and life worked out completely differently?

Ms. MARLING: Probably. That's actually the amazing thing about being an actor is it's like not deciding on one version of your life. You basically spend the rest of your life living multiple outcomes of what you could have done. I think that's something that's really appealing about it. You never have to settle on one human experience. You get, like, every human experience.

SIEGEL: So somewhere in your mind you're making your way up the ladder on Wall Street right now.

Ms. MARLING: Somewhere, yeah. I could access that if I had to.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: Well, Brit Marling, thank you very much for talking with us.

Ms. MARLING: Oh, thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: Brit Marling is the star and she also co-wrote and co-produced the new film "Another Earth."

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