It’s something of a miracle that a film like Across The Universe exists in the first place. Set to 34 classic Beatles compositions with limited dialogue, it tells the story of the blossoming romance between an American girl and a Liverpudlian artist, set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and other counterculture movements of the ‘60s. Featuring trippy set pieces, a largely unknown cast, and Bono in a handlebar mustache, Across The Universe is something of a Trojan horse: an audacious arthouse musical disguised as a glossy blockbuster.
That might explain why the $70 million production opened to a polarized response, and made back only $29 million when it was finally released in 2007, after numerous delays and battles between the studio and director Julie Taymor over its final cut. The film was derided as a box office dud and career setback for its cast of up-and-comers, which included Evan Rachel Wood as an all-American college girl who dreams of changing the world. But in the 11 years since its release, it has grown to become a beloved cult classic — especially among millennials, who have come to discover the Beatles’ music through Taymor’s technicolor fantasy world of 1960s New York.
This Sunday, Fathom Events is re-releasing Across The Universe in theaters across the country. And if the film felt of-the-moment in 2007, its focus on activism, protests, queer identity, and art as a means of dismantling government corruption feel particularly resonant in 2018. Wood certainly agrees; since the film’s release, she’s gone on to become one of Hollywood’s most outspoken superstars. Fresh off her recent Emmy nomination for the second season of Westworld, Wood chatted with them. about the legacy of Across The Universe, the rise of #MeToo, and the need for more bi visibility in Hollywood.
Across The Universe has cultivated such a devoted fanbase over the years, but it’s fair to say that its initial reception wasn’t too positive. Do you think the film was misunderstood upon its original release?
I think it didn’t get the power behind it that it needed. There was some turmoil because the studio wanted to make a lot of changes and we all felt like it wasn’t the movie that we made. I think the trade-off is that we got the movie we wanted released, but we didn’t get the backing, and it suffered because of that. And I think it was ahead of its time. Even while making it we knew it was something that was gonna build over time and become a cult classic. It had that potential, so I don’t think we were worried. But we were disappointed that other people couldn’t see that. I think we all knew that this fanbase would find its way and stick with the film the way it did us.
Do you think the reception to the film would’ve been different if it’d been released in 2018?
I think so, yeah. I think people were afraid of the politics in it as it came out right when we had gone to war. When we were filming the Fifth Avenue protest scenes, it was so relevant to the point that we had posters up saying “War Is Over” and “Peace Now” and everyone wanted us to leave them up. A lot of people thought it was a real protest. It was when I feel like the country started to change, at least in my eyes, and the future was still very unknown. Right now we’re all embracing this revolution and it’s undeniable that there’s this shift happening. Things are still unknown but I feel like people are more energized and involved.
Julie Taymor’s battle against the studio for final cut on the film was made pretty public. Did you ever see that back-and-forth struggle?
I didn’t, but I heard about it, and from what I heard it was a bit horrifying. I mean, they didn’t wanna make Prudence gay, they wanted to take the riot out of “Let It Be,” and take some of the politics out of it. They wanted to play it safe and keep it in “fluffy musical land” as a pill that’s easy to swallow. But that’s not what The Beatles were about. This film was made by Beatles fans and that’s not the Beatles musical I wanted to see. We wanted to deliver what we felt was right. People were like “You don’t even wanna see this cut…” Just hearing about it was enough for us to go "Oh no…” That’s the reason we all put our foot down in that way, because that’s just what we believed in.
Was Prudence’s storyline, which focused on her coming into her queer identity, important for you to see through in the finished film?
Absolutely. I thought it was an amazing idea that Julie had to make “I Want To Hold Your Hand” a girl singing it to another girl. I thought it was an amazing reveal when you’re watching the scene and think she’s singing to the football player and realize she’s singing to the cheerleader. I thought it was brilliant! And it’s a testament to Julie and her ideas and how she’ll go off the beaten path, which I think we all appreciated.
The film’s found a particularly passionate audience within the queer community. Prudence’s storyline aside, what do you think it is about the film that LGBTQ+ audiences find so comforting?
I think because it’s about youth and free love and finding yourself and pushing boundaries and revolution and fighting for what you believe in. It’s about this group of outcasts who move to New York and find each other and form their own kind of family and community during a really tumultuous time. It’s a fight for love in a time of war. It seems like those themes are something that the queer community could relate to in some way.
In a lot of ways it’s a sort of miracle that a film like Across The Universe was made in the first place.
I agree! It’s a big-budget arthouse movie basically, and Julie is one of the only people who can really pull that off. It’s what happens when arthouse films get the budget, which never happens.
Why do you think movies like that aren’t being made today?
Because there’s this constant battle between creatives and people with money, and both need each other to get the job done. At the end of the day, the people with the money are in control of what gets made and what doesn’t. Arthouse movies are a bit more off-the-wall and for people who are non-creatives, a weird idea seems like a risky idea. But I think they’re not giving weirdos enough credit. We’ve started to play it really safe. I mean, that’s why you’re just seeing kind of franchises and remakes with a built-in audience instead of coming up with new ideas that are gonna ignite something in somebody. Make films for the hipsters, the alternatives, the weirdos, the black sheeps. They’re there, they love movies, and they wanna see them but we’ve been neglecting that and we’re not seeing these movies getting made.
You were only 18 when Across The Universe was made. How do you look back on that particular moment in your life?
I really related to Lucy and her journey and that’s something Julie saw in me. I moved out of my mother’s house while we were filming. I turned 18 and moved to New York, so I consider Across The Universe my college experience because I didn’t go to college. That was the first time I was on my own living with this group of artists and creatives doing this Beatles musical for almost a year and it was completely transformative and life-changing and beautiful. I look back at that time as one of the most special times in my life as something that was completely transformative that I carry with me all the time.
You recently tweeted about a directing project you’ve been trying to pitch for two years and the sexism you faced in business meetings among other struggles. Have there been any developments since you made those struggles public?
What’s funny is after I announced on Twitter that I was trying to make this and having trouble, a lot of great people reached out. The point of that wasn’t to be like ‘It’s been two years and why isn’t my movie being made!’ It wasn’t an entitlement kind of thing. I know it can take much, much longer to get a movie made. It takes time. But I’ve heard people say ‘why aren’t there more female directors, why aren’t there more female-driven movies, why aren’t these being made?’ I wanted to show ‘Look, we are trying, just so you know. I’ve been trying to get this movie made for two years.’ And I’m established and it’s difficult, so imagine how hard it is for someone just stepping into this with an amazing idea who can’t even get in the door. But I am still plugging away at it and there’s definitely progress. It’s a female-driven film with queer characters and women of color. I tried to make it a diverse and inclusive story and cast. I’m planning on directing it, it’s written by me and another woman, and I’m gonna be in it as well. I basically wrote a character I’ve always wanted to play that girls don’t normally get asked to play. I started writing it three years ago, so it was before a lot of what we’re seeing in the entertainment industry now, which tells me I’m not the only one feeling that way and that it’s a perfect time for this movie. But I don’t know, we’ll see what happens.
You’ve been acting for over two decades and constantly outspoken about the rampant sexism and homophobia in the entertainment industry. Post-#MeToo, have you noticed a positive shift in the industry at all?
I think we’re definitely seeing a shift. People are listening in a different way, but just like when they abolished slavery, racism didn’t go away. Now we’re aware of the issues, and now we have to actually put things into action and change things. The fight has just begun and now it’s gonna take a lot of people backing it up and really doing the footwork to move things. Now the door’s open and we have to go in and start shifting things around.
You’ve spoken about how important it was for your development as a young queer woman to hear an actress tell you what “bisexuality” was. In the context of LGBTQ+ youth, how important do you think it is for queer public figures to be open about their sexuality?
I think everyone’s gotta do it on their own time because it’s a very personal process and you can’t force or guilt anybody into doing it. I think when you’re ready it’s important because it helps normalize things. If you’re carrying shame or frustration, those are feelings that are really damaging to someone’s psyche and self-esteem. It’s unnecessary pain. I can only speak from my experience, but it still means a lot to me when someone comes out. Bisexuality really gets the shaft a lot and is something that isn’t really taken seriously so people don’t know enough about struggles that come with it. I mean it’s hard for me to even think of bisexual film characters. I just watched Call Me By Your Name and I freaked out, like, ‘Why didn’t anyone tell me this was a bisexual movie? Why did I hear nothing about this?’ That could’ve been a great opportunity.
Do you ever get sick of feeling like you have to be the one to educate others about these kinds of issues, though?
I don’t get like annoyed or sick but I do get tired. But especially just being a woman in any kind of position of power, I feel a massive responsibility to say things and get out and fight, because that’s just where we are. But there’s a lot of emotion and pressure that comes with that and while I am out doing things and fighting for things I believe in, it does take an emotional toll and sometimes I do have to take a step back to recharge because it can be really upsetting. It’s also something that I feel is kind of involuntary that I have to do or I can’t rest.
Some performers have said that they don’t like being referred to as a “bi actor” and having their sexuality hashed out in interviews. In the face of mainstream Hollywood, do you ever worry about being boxed in a “bi actress”?
I mean if it’s for fodder like “bisexual actress does blah blah blah,” it’s like you’re just using that for a story, which is just exploiting it. But otherwise I don’t mind. I always kind of felt that whatever I did would stand on its own and I wouldn’t be defined by that. And even if I was it’s like, well, whatever. I’m just gonna keep doing what I’m doing. It’s more annoying when it’s exploited or only used when it’s convenient to make a story juicier or used as an excuse like ‘well obviously this person has crazy behavior or is slutty and is bisexual.’ I don’t use that word but I’m saying other people do. And it’s like ‘no no no that person’s going through whatever they’re going through, it has nothing to do with them being bisexual. Don’t use that as an excuse for someone’s behavior.’ I see that sometimes where I’m like ‘you never talk about this person being bisexual but now that’s it’s a story you’re using it to perpetuate this idea that they’re somehow off the wall’ and that’s not cool.
When LGBTQ+ youth don’t have a supportive environment in their everyday lives, artists they admire often take the role of emotional support. Did you experience this as a youth becoming more aware of their identity?
Absolutely. Musicians and artists and actors would become these sort of beacons of hope. The more I heard about their journeys and what goes on in their heads and their flaws, it carried me through a lot of those experiences. So 100 percent, I believe that to be true. I grew up with an open-minded, artistic family but I still had shame and was scared to tell my family. I still feel elements of shame and things that are hard-wired into your brain, that’s how we’re programmed. It’s a process of de-learning. Even when you intellectually know something, sometimes the feeling remains because it’s just imprinted on you. That’s why I’d have Bowie or Kurt Cobain over my wall, these that I feel stood for something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on at the time! There were so many women that I remember being like “Oh man I wanna be them!” and in retrospect I’m like “Hmm did you wanna be them or did you love them?” Like man I loved Melissa Etheridge and KD Lang, I couldn’t have been more cliche as a child.
That’s the way I feel about Across The Universe, and I’m assuming so many others who connected to it so deeply at a young age without maybe understanding why.
Exactly! Sometimes those people and things are in your life and you don’t know why until later.
The Beatles have always had a cinematic presence, from the 1964 faux-documentary A Hard Day’s Night to the experimental shorts of John and Yoko. But no director has ever used the Beatles’ music as inventively and audaciously as Julie Taymor, whose 2007 film Across the Universe is being rereleased in theaters for three days by Fathom Events. Using 33 Beatles songs and minimal dialogue, Across the Universe tells the story of three young adults in the late 1960s: Lucy (then 17-year-old Evan Rachel Wood), an all-American girl who wants to change the world; her brother Max (Joe Anderson), a rebel who gets dragged into Vietnam; and Jude (Jim Sturgess), a working-class artist from Liverpool who follows his dreams across the ocean. Their stories coalesce in New York City, where they befriend blues musicians, acid heads, radical extremists, a closeted lesbian, and Bono in a ridiculous mustache. Fictional characters become entangled in real events (the Detroit riots, the Columbia student protests), using songs from every Beatles era to express a nation’s political and psychedelic awakening.
Taymor’s film is as visual as it is musical. The magical-realism elements Taymor brought to her Oscar-winning film Frida and her Broadway hit The Lion King are blown to epic proportions in Across the Universe. “I Want You” becomes a nightmare ballet about Max’s recruitment and subsequent dehumanization in Vietnam, ending with an image of soldiers carrying the Statue of Liberty as they crush villages underfoot. “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” is a psychedelic circus featuring collage animation and 20-foot puppets. “Because” scores an underwater love-in. Even in more traditionally constructed scenes, the scale is breathtaking; the entire film was shot on location and, according to Taymor, employed 5,000 extras.
Across the Universe also runs well over two hours — not a big deal in this age of bloated superhero adventures, but in 2007, the length of Taymor’s cut alarmed Sony executives. Without her approval, the studio test-screened an alternate cut that eliminated much of the film’s political content and minimized the nonwhite supporting characters. Taymor fought back hard, and while she won final cut, she was smeared in the press (industry publications used words like “ballistic” and “hysteria”) and, she says, torpedoed by Sony’s marketing department. The film polarized critics (Roger Ebert loved it, Ann Hornaday hated it) and opened to limp box office, failing to recoup its budget.
And yet — in the past decade, the audience for Across the Universe has grown, its inevitable cult-classic status realized. At the present moment, the film’s portrayal of ’60s activism and art as weapons against government oppression seems especially resonant. In the lead-up to the Fathom Events release, Vulture had a candid conversation with Taymor and Wood about the unusual process of making the film, the bizarre logistics of Wood’s first nude scene, the ongoing challenges facing female directors, and the potential influence of Across the Universe on millennial activists. (Given the timing of the interview, we also threw in a few Westworld season-finale questions.)
There’s no film quite like Across the Universe, so I’d imagine making it was a unique experience.
Evan Rachel Wood: It was one of the best experiences of my life. I was 17. Once I heard Julie was making a Beatles movie, I remember just thinking, “There’s nobody else that can do this. And I won’t let anybody else do it!” It just had to be. And then I got the part and we all spent about seven or eight months in New York together.
Julie Taymor: We rehearsed it like a normal musical in theater … and it bonded everybody. I’ll never forget Evan walking in the hallways with this Bowie T-shirt, because at one point we’d asked David Bowie if he was going to play Mr. Kite. And I think that at the moment Evan was really like, “Bowie, Bowie!”
ERW: Well, yeah, I mean I’m always like, “Bowie, Bowie.” But I was also all about Eddie Izzard. I was always doing Eddie’s stand-up in the hallway.
JT: One of the things that I remember profoundly — this was during the Iraq War right? And it was really touchy subject. When we did the march down Fifth Avenue to Washington Square, the anti-Vietnam War march with the Bread and Puppet Theater puppets — everybody thought they were marching against the Iraq War. Now this is what I wanted to say: When Across the Universe came out ten years ago, it was right before Obama. And maybe this is just my own feeling, but I feel that this movie was very popular amongst young people. And I think people were very inspired by what the youth of America did in the 1960s, how they really made things change.
ERW: I even remember that a lot of people in the neighborhood wanted us to leave up the peace signs and protest signs, because it wasrelevant.
I have a vivid memory of going down to the Lower East Side when you were filming and seeing a whole block transformed into a ’60s fantasy of New York City. It was magical, like stepping into a dream. Were there any moments that felt like that to you as you were making it?
ERW: Oh my God, all of it. Certainly the scene where we stumble upon the puppets and the blue meanies and Eddie Izzard started coming out and singing. That was when I was really on a different planet.
JT: We shot that in Garrison, New York, and all of those were papier-mâché handmade puppets, giant puppets. There is almost no CGI in that section. It’s all real.
ERW: I think “I Want You” is one of my favorite numbers in the movie.
JT: I was walking on a beach in Mexico when I came up with the idea — I’d done the Haggadah at the Public Theater years before, where the slaves are carrying the pyramids across the sands of Egypt. And I got the idea of all the young boys in their underwear and their army boots supporting [the Statue of] Liberty, and the image of Liberty charging through the jungles of the Third World, mashing and stepping and destroying all the trees. You know, the irony of us being this country that says we’re bringing Liberty, at the same time we’re bringing it at the expense of many people.
Evan, what was involved in the scene where you and Jim Sturgess are singing “Because” and making out underwater?
ERW: Speeding up the songs, and then learning how to sing them really fast. So the scenes were like, [sings] “becausetheworldisrounditturnsmeon…” And then she slowed it down so that it looked like it was in real time. So we filmed underwater all day. We would just take a deep breath and dive under and then try to get the song out as quickly as possible.
JT: And she also had to work hard to hide her breasts, right Evan?
ERW: Oh, I always had to hide my breasts. I could only show one boob because it was PG-13. Two made it an R but one was fine! And that was my first nude scene.
Julie, you fought the studio to get final cut on this film, when Sony wanted to shorten it. I was reading some of the press from that time, and I was noticing how gendered the language is when they write about you and this movie. There’s a Variety article that says, “She went ballistic to save her child.”
JT: Thanks for reminding me. I’d almost forgotten how awful that was.
I’m sorry to bring it up! But I think it’s important to acknowledge that double standard.
JT: You know, for me, I’ve been through it. Being a successful director on Broadway brings out all kinds of knives and hatred. But the misogyny business is true. And I put blinders on and just tried to do the work. I think every director, male and female, has babies, you know what I mean? It’s not just women. But you’re right. It is sexist dialogue. We loved our movie. And it wasn’t that it wasn’t working. It was working. They just smelled the money and thought if we dumb it down, literally, and get rid of the politics — I saw a cut where they got rid of the Detroit riot. There was no black child who was killed.
ERW: Prudence wasn’t even gay!
JT: Yeah, they cut “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” so many of the things that I knew young people and everybody would love. Evan had a line — this was one of the first signs of the kind of difficult road that would come. Lucy, who’s 16 or 17, is walking home from school and her best friend says that one of their friends got pregnant. And Lucy says, “I’m never having children. Having children is narcissistic, like putting out carbon copies of yourself.” I remember my best friend, when I was 16, telling me that. I mean, that line came from experience. But the studio said at the time, “Oh, Lucy can’t say that, it will make her so unlikable.” No, will make her likable! Because you have that sign that when she’s a high-school student, that she will become someone like Gloria Steinem or Jane Fonda, that she’s going to become an activist.
The other thing is the poster. The poster that we’re releasing it with now is the underwater poster, the psychedelic poster of them kissing. The one that they put out, the strawberry, everybody who made this film hates. Well, if we’re being honest! [Laughs.] The problem with it is, I think what happens in Hollywood is they think that you can only market to 14-to-15-year-old girls. And we always said this movie, even if it’s PG-13, will appeal from 10-year-olds up through the parents. I mean, the Beatles appeal to all ages. If you watched the karaoke James Corden video with Paul McCartney in Liverpool, all these people in the bars were from 16 years old up to 80. And I’m hoping that with this rerelease this summer, we’ll see the teenagers and the young adults, and also the families.
Evan, you tweeted recently that you’ve been struggling to sell a movie that you will direct with a script written by women.
ERW: Oh my goodness, the responses are just breathtaking. I mean, split down the middle: Some people totally get what I’m saying and some people are so angry with me! But the thing is, what I was trying to say was not a sense of entitlement like, “I should have this,” even though I do believe that I could make a really great film. It was just to expose what these rooms are like that you walk into over and over and over again. And until you have the more inclusive pitch rooms with women and people of color and LGBT representation, then you’re not going to see this movie.
And I hear people saying all the time, “Why aren’t there more female directors, why aren’t there more stories about women?” So I wanted to say, “Hey, just so you guys know, I’m really trying. And nada.” I’m starring in the film, I co-wrote it, I’m directing it, I had an amazing cast, I had amazing DPs, an amazing crew. So everybody that read it was like “absolutely,” but the only people that are wishy about it are financiers, because it is very female-driven. And I do believe that they just don’t understand this film. So that’s what I was trying to say.
You did get a number responses that are just people saying, “ I want to see that film.”
ERW: And I did get a lot of inquiries after that tweet. But also lot of people saying my idea is probably not very good, and you’ve never directed anything, and how dare you. I do believe that if I was a man with 25 years’ experience in the industry, who’s worked with some of the greatest directors in the history of film, and who’s lived and breathed it since I was a child — to say that I would have nothing to offer, when I know there are other people with a penis, with less than I have backing me up, that get green-lit, that’s where I’m taking issue. [Laughs.] Because it does seem like there’s an imbalance and it’s unfair. And that’s what I was trying to call out.
Julie, do you have any advice for Evan in this situation?
JT: Listen, I’m going through the same thing after 40 years. Evan knows, there’s a movie that I wanted to make with her, a female-driven epic love story. Haven’t been able to do that one. I mean, we still try, and I’m doing [a film adaptation of] Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road that will be extremely female-driven! And we will be making it this fall. But I have a number of films that have not gotten off the ground and things that I’ve wanted to do. And it probably has a lot to do with the ballistic-baby concept. Even if people realize that the press has misogynistic writing or fear of a powerful woman, unless they meet you personally — and then I often get people being so surprised! [Laughs.] But I work with a lot of the same people over and over and over again, so I have a very good team and very good friends and collaborators. Evan and Jim, all of the kids on Across the Universe, we’ve stayed close.
Quite honestly, ten years ago, when women were in big positions, they were not supporting other women. They were terrified of losing their job and they had to support the boys’ films. I don’t need to name names, you can all go look at it, but it wasn’t necessarily better that women were at the top because they were frightened of making a mistake and that they would then be called out for having supported chick flicks or women’s things. It was fear. For me it’s more. I have the scarlet letter of “A” on me — not “adultery,” but “art.” Even though The Lion King is the most successful entertainment in the history of all entertainment. [Ed. note: Broadway’s The Lion King has grossed $8 billion to date, more than all the Star Wars movies combined.]
ERW: And Across the Universe is a masterpiece.
JT: And it’s also been very, very successful without a whole lot of press. I mean, Frida didn’t get press either.
ERW: We even said that when we were making it: “This is going to be a cult classic, this is going to be something that throughout the years will continue to grow and grow.”
JT: The studio is all new people now, and they love it. And they’re very supportive. But I think it’d be great if they would just rerelease the film completely, because it didn’t go out enough as a movie. But they’re dipping their toe in with Fathom. If it does really well this summer, maybe they will do a real rerelease, which would be amazing because I do feel like it’s time. The success of La La Land — well, that had two very big stars in it, but it really comes on the heels of what Across the Universe did ten years ago.
ERW: I want to add about Julie, that she has such a strong vision and she holds true to her conviction. She’s a real artist. And yes, that does scare the shit out of people, because they don’t understand.
JT: Well, they think I’m not interested in commercial success. You gotta be kidding, of course I am!
ERW: Exactly. They underestimate what people want and how art moves people. I mean fuck, look at the Beatles, they changed the world. But I’ve worked with male directors that are complicated and have the same kind of conviction and they’re kind of hailed for it. But when you’re a woman, and you say, “I’m not going to do that, it’s not right,” they’re like, “Well she’s crazy. She’s difficult.” Julie is not crazy or difficult. She’s an artist. And I’ve worked with male artists that are similar that don’t get any shit for it.
JT: Well, thanks Evan. The thing is that we all knew what the movie was, and we presented it all. Maybe the falling Vietnamese ladiessurprised the producers because that was the first day of shooting. That I can understand, kind of gulping for a moment. But the rest of it, we did what was on paper and what we rehearsed. I didn’t change anything. I just did what I intended to do. I remember Amy Pascal jumping up and down in the first screening at Sony, just going, “It’s the best thing I’ve ever seen.” And the marketing woman was thrilled. Somebody else got in there and just smelled the money. But at any rate, you heard that already. And yes, I have gone through it and I will continue. But there’s enough great people wanting the kind of films that I want to make and the theater that I want to make. So you know, I’m not dying here.
All right, I know I can’t wrap this up without asking some Westworld finale questions. Evan, is that okay with you?
ERW: Ha! Of course.
How much time did you and Tessa Thompson spend practicing Dolores together?
ERW: That is so funny. You know it’s hilarious because we became really good friends at the beginning of season two, and then we started hanging out, and then all of a sudden we realized that we were gonna be the same person [laughs] and it was very strange! This show is so funny. Because they didn’t tell us anything.
But I thought she did an amazing job. I would send her recordings of myself doing the dialogue, and then she really sold it. I thought it was great. But you know, we weren’t really doing scenes together and I was basically playing a different character this season. So when she found out she had to kind of be me, she came to me and said, “Wait — what have you been doing?” [Laughs.] I’m like, “OH! Oh right! Yeah, I’ve got to do the voice for you and everything!” So I just made recordings and she really made it her own, it was good.
Ed Harris told us he has no idea what’s going on in the showwhile he’s making it. Have you had a similar experience?
ERW: I had no idea what was happening in season two. At all. And we shot out of order, so most of the time — I mean, it was insane to be an actor on season two. I don’t know how I feel about it. [Laughs.] But it was a ride. We stopped reading the call sheets. We would show up and Jeffrey and I would ask what episode we were in. It was kind of that level of — we just lived in the moment in whatever scene that we were doing, and that’s how we made it.
Westworld star Evan Rachel Wood has developed a great power in earning a following, and with it she is acting with great responsibility.
Wood, who is also known for roles in Across the Universe and Thirteen, recently took a stand on a political issue plaguing the United States: the border. With debate raging on the handling of illegal immigrants and families which have crossed the American border in seek of refuge, only to find themselves being divided from their families and children being locked away from their parents, Wood was eager to make a difference. As a result, she went straight to the source, heading down to Texas to see what was happening first hand and make what difference she could not only by raising awareness but literally joining the cause.
“I feel like we’re living in an age where it’s really hard to find good information and there’s so much mistrust with information,” Wood said. “With something like this when the stakes were so high I just thought, ‘Well you know, Texas is a 3 hour plane ride, I have the means to do this. If I want to know what’s going on I should just get on the ground and start asking around and talk to the locals and talk to the people at the shelters and see what’s really happening,’ and it confirmed a lot of things that I had already felt.”
Seeing the how the issues as the U.S. and Mexico’s border were being handled truly opened Wood’s eyes, revealing the situation was possibly worse than she had imagined. However, rather than commiserating, Wood was determined to help and share how her followers can, too (which they can research with “#EvanInTX” on social media).
“It also made me realize that there were things that I could do and a lot of information was being withheld about what actually we can do and places that you can donate,” Wood said. “You can actually go and hangout with the kids and not actually in the detention centers but there’s places that they go when they come out of the detention centers or when they’re being held while they’re being processed or right before they’re gonna be deported. If you want to go and be with the people you can do that and if you want to give them supplies you can do that.”
One trip to Texas wasn’t enough for the actress. “I want to go back because there’s so much more to be done and to learn and I could only be there for a weekend,” Wood said. “It was crazy, we were at the Detention Center McAllen right when Elizabeth Warren walked out. So we got to get her testimony first hand. We were standing right next to her when she was talking to reporters and she’s amazing.”
Furthermore, Wood participated in a 24-hour hunger strike which has a real tradition to it, in another effort to raise awareness regarding what is going on at the nation’s borders.
“The 24 hours hunger strike was, it’s funny,” Wood said, pre-fracing a story regarding social media’s reaction. “It is amazing how people can find any reason to kind of make fun of you or if they don’t believe in your cause make you seem really dumb but the 24-hour hunger strike was a part of a prayer circle and it’s kind of like a ritual and it was to pay homage to Caesar Chavez who used to fast with Robert F. Kennedy. The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Center holds these hunger strikes and you get this eagle medallion and you fast for 24 hours and then you give it to somebody else and they fast for 24 hours and then they pass it on, they fast for 24 hours.”
More so than saying she wasn’t going to eat until her demands were met, Wood was delivering a message of respect while simultaneously raising awareness.
Watch ComicBook.com’s full interview with Wood, ranging from her musical career which includes shows under the Evan & Zane name to her future with HBO’s Westworld, in the video at the top of the page.