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Interview: Rose McIver in ‘The Lovely Bones’ From Director of ‘The Lord of the Rings’

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CHICAGO – “The Lovely Bones,” which is directed by “The Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson with a relatively unknown executive producer credit from Steven Spielberg, has gone down in history as a poorly reviewed film that was based on a much better novel of the same name by Alice Sebold. “The Lovely Bones” was released on DVD and Blu-ray on April 20, 2010.

Saoirse Ronan as Susie Salmon in The Lovely Bones
Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan stars as Susie Salmon in “The Lovely Bones” from Paramount Pictures.
Photo credit: DreamWorks Studios

Despite needing a higher-budget special effects department and featuring like a never-healing sore thumb one of the worst supporting performances in recent memory by the unknown Nikki SooHoo, the film did delicately tackle the sensitive issue of a pedophile murderer and rapist while still maintaining a “PG-13” rating. That role was hauntingly played by Stanley Tucci.

Tucci’s supporting role is the standout feature of this film. He earned an Oscar nomination in 2009 for it. On a production budget of $65 million and a theatrical release date of Dec. 11, 2009, the film has grossed $44 million domestically with worldwide box-office receipts of $93 million.

Timed alongside this week’s release of the film on DVD and Blu-ray, HollywoodChicago.com brings you its interview with newcomer Rose McIver from New Zealand. McIver plays Lindsey Salmon, who is the sister of the primary character Susie Salmon (played excellently by the up-and-coming child star Saoirse Ronan of “Atonement” fame).

Andrew James Allen as Samuel and Rose McIver as Lindsey Salmon in The Lovely Bones
Andrew James Allen (left) stars as Samuel and Rose McIver (right) stars as Lindsey Salmon in “The Lovely Bones”.
Photo credit: DreamWorks Studios

“The Lovely Bones” also stars Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz as the Salmon parents along with Susan Sarandon as the grandma. Rose McIver was born in 1987 and is currently 22. She attends the University of Auckland and is majoring in psychology and linguistics. Saoirse Ronan was born in 1994 and is currently 16.

HollywoodChicago.com: This was your first major film. Talk to us about your audition for it.
Rose McIver: I just auditioned for this like I would for anything else. I didn’t think I had a chance for it. I turned up for the audition in my gym gear with my hair in a ponytail and no makeup. It worked in my favor that it was exactly what they wanted. I met with them a month later and they said I had the role.

HollywoodChicago.com: What attracted you to this script?
Rose McIver: I’d read the book when I was 13. I was very familiar with the story and the characters. I read it before it was being turned into a film. When I heard it was being directed by Peter [Jackson], it was instantly appealing to me. The film has translated very well. It’s hard to turn a book with so much in it into a film. Peter put his own spin on it based on the impression the book made on him.

HollywoodChicago.com: There was a different reason, for example, that the mom (played by Rachel Weisz) runs away in the film as compared to in the book. Talk to me about the changes made from the book to the film.
Rose McIver: What was important was that it was Susie’s story. It kept coming back to being Susie’s story. That influenced all of the decisions from Peter [Jackson], Philippa [Boyens] and Fran [Walsh] [who all wrote the screenplay]. They asked themselves whether each scene impacted what we’re trying to get across in this film so nothing was superfluous. It’s always a process of reduction making in film. You can’t fit everything in. They’ve chosen really well what to include.

Stanley Tucci as George Harvey in The Lovely Bones
Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci stars as George Harvey in “The Lovely Bones”.
Photo credit: DreamWorks Studios

HollywoodChicago.com: More than anyone else, your character was always suspecting the neighbor. She really noticed what was going on and you did your own private investigation work. Your scene in the neighbor’s house had especially excellent tension. Talk to us about filming that scene.
Rose McIver: Even when we filmed that scene, we had suspense on set. It’s quite unusual to be able to create that atmosphere without the music, editing or things that really up the pace in the film. We knew it’d be something special.

I get along with Stanley [Tucci] really well. We have a lot of fun. It was terrifying to see him transform on screen into someone so utterly different from himself. He does it so well. When we were shooting that scene, we did a lot of stuff very up close with a lipstick camera. You saw my fingernails on the pages and Stanley running around the house after me.

He was holding a lipstick camera himself. Stanley shot some of that footage himself in front of him. It ended up being the easiest way to get it. It was an exciting scene to film. We shot the interior stuff in New Zealand and the exterior stuff was in Philadelphia. It was very involved. We took a long time with it.

HollywoodChicago.com: Why was it so terrifying to see him transition from the real Stanley Tucci to the murderer George Harvey on screen?
Rose McIver: He’s such a professional. He’s Stanley up until the cameras roll. We have a lot of fun and get along well. But when “action!” is called, he’s just a different person on screen. That’s what was so terrifying. [It’s scary to see] someone you’re so familiar with and close to just become someone so different. That’s why he’s a master at what he does.

Saoirse Ronan as Susie Salmon in The Lovely Bones
Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan stars as Susie Salmon in “The Lovely Bones” from Paramount Pictures.
Photo credit: DreamWorks Studios

HollywoodChicago.com: Talk to me about “Predicament,” which is your next film.
Rose McIver: It’s a New Zealand story with the comedians Jemaine Clement from “The Flight of the Conchords” and “Eagle vs Shark” and Heath Franklin from Australia. It’s set in the 1930s. It’s a completely different film, which is great to go onto after “The Lovely Bones”.

HollywoodChicago.com: Talk to me about Peter Jackson’s directing style in “The Lovely Bones,” which is quite different than something like “The Lord of the Rings”.
Rose McIver: Peter is incredibly involved with all of the actors and the technical team. He knows all areas of a film. He’d act out little physical moments for us to show us things he needed to catch. He was very clear in how he communicated what he wanted.

He’s not an actor’s director or a technical director. He’s a director’s director. That works in any film. It’s worked in so many of his genres including “Bad Taste,” “The Frighteners,” “Heavenly Creatures” and the various “The Lord of the Rings” films. Being a good director should translate into various genres.

HollywoodChicago.com: A lot of people don’t know about Steven Spielberg’s involvement in this film. What’d he bring to it?
Rose McIver: Steven obviously is a seasoned professional. He brought so much to the film. Him and Peter worked together on lots of things in it. It’s great for the film to be affiliated with him. It was an honor to meet him.

HollywoodChicago.com: You’ve done TV work, too. Do you prefer film work over TV work?
Rose McIver: They’re different. Film gives you the luxury of time. You get so much done on TV in one day. That’s hard. Television has a fast turnaround. There are different things about each. It’s really about the people I work with and the character I’m playing.

“The Lovely Bones” stars Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Rose McIver, Jake Abel, Michael Imperioli, Amanda Michalka, Thomas McCarthy, Nikki SooHoo, Reece Ritchie, Carolyn Dando, Charlie Saxton and Andrew James Allen from “The Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson. Steven Spielberg served as an executive producer.

“The Lovely Bones,” which has a running time of 136 minutes, was released theatrically on Dec. 11, 2009 and on DVD and Blu-ray on April 20, 2010. The film is rated “PG-13” for mature thematic material involving disturbing violent content and images and some language.

HollywoodChicago.com editor-in-chief and publisher Adam Fendelman


© 2010 Adam Fendelman, HollywoodChicago.com LLC

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