Amanda Seyfried’s career is skyrocketing. She became known for her starring role as Meryl Streep’s daughter, Donna, in the musical Mamma Mia! which has grossed more than $600 million internationally. Recently she starred in the drama Dear John and the erotic thriller Chloe .
She now has the leading role in this romantic comedy Letters to Juliet, playing Sophie, an American tourist in Verona, Italy, who discovers a love letter written 50 years before by Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) about her first love, Lorenzo (Franco Nero). She tracks down Claire and encourages her to come to Italy to look for Lorenzo, never imagining that she would find love too, with Claire’s grandson, Charlie (Christopher Egan).
Seyfried spoke about the movie and working with the legendary Vanessa Redgrave at the press launch for the film in New York.
What was the attraction to doing the Letters to Juliet movie?
[Director] Gary Winick was my number one reason to do this. I met with him right after I read the script that morning, it was an instant connection. He’s a love in my life. I was like, ‘I’ll go anywhere with you, I’ll do anything with you.’
So we went to Italy. It’s not the type of movie I’d normally want to do, because it’s pretty broad and light, but at the same time there was so much more to it, especially after Vanessa got cast. It became something different, the characters became deeper and the storyline meant more to me.
What expectations did you have about working with Vanessa?
I stopped having expectations when I was a teenager because it always ended in heartbreak or disappointment. I had maybe a tiny expectation working with Meryl, I was intimidated the whole time! Then I learned that you just have to be open to however anything is and I ended up not being too intimidated. But it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great experience.
With Vanessa I had just worked with Julianne Moore (in Chloe) and we were peers, equals working on such a great movie. So I just came in with that attitude. I didn’t want to be intimidated because it hinders me so much.
Having confidence takes you from being a decent actor and doing a really bad job to being a decent actor doing a really good job.
So I didn’t expect anything and she was amazing, warm and open. She shared everything and she was just so imaginative and so part of the game. I definitely think she’s the best actress I’ve ever worked with.
Your arc with Christopher Egan’s character is extensive, from hating each other to loving each other – was that hard?
My character didn’t necessarily hate him; she was kind of indifferent in the beginning. He kept throwing her a curveball by being a jerk. She just dealt with what came at her from him.
Do you really think there is that kind of tension between Brits and Americans that Sophie and Charlie experience?
Not really, I certainly don’t have any issues, but I think Sophie for some reason had assumptions about Charlie. He was really tight-assed and snooty, and probably if she had any inclinations about Brits, then he definitely proved to her right. But he was making assumptions about her being a writer, that’s just how some relationships begin, on the wrong foot.
It’s funny how our off-camera relationship developed. It was slow but we’re really great pals now, we spent a whole summer together in Italy. It’s funny getting to know somebody on set, not knowing them beforehand. It’s tricky sometimes, but it totally worked.
What kind of input did you have with your character or the script?
We kind of rewrote the script in the room with Vanessa, Chris and Gary. We just sat around a table for six hours a day for two weeks and rewrote it. Anything that we didn’t feel worked, and it was really helpful.
Meryl did that in Mamma Mia! with some of the scenes, she kind of edited things and made it work for her. We want to be as real as possible, that’s the challenge playing yourself and making everything make sense to you in that moment, because you’re listening but you already know the lines.
What do you think Franco Nero brought to the film?
So much more than we could have ever had if it had been anyone else with Vanessa. They’ve had a 30-year relationship back and forth, long distance, he lives in Italy, she lives in the UK, it’s ridiculous; it’s amazing.
It’s so much more powerful because they are really together. They have this connection; they have this energy between them that you can’t fake no matter how hard you try.
When he rides in on the horse and she looks at him, that’s my favorite moment. It’s one of the best scenes I’ve ever witnessed, and it’s in our movie so I’m very proud of that.
What do you consider a romantic classic?
A classic to me is Romeo and Juliet, Baz Lurhmann style, because I was 10 when it came out and it’s amazing. It’s partly why I am acting, it inspired me that young, for years it made me want to just live in that world.
My imagination really developed on that. It’s a timeless love.
It’s Shakespeare, there’s nothing more classic than that.