Juno Temple has arrived, and it’s becoming impossible not to notice.
The 24-year-old British actress has appeared in 19 movies in the last four years, and while she says no one really ever recognizes — or, at least approaches — her in public, it can only be a matter of time before that anonymity is but a fond memory. The volume of her work alone should soon lead to the “celebrity spotting” tipping point.
With films like Killer Joe, Lovelace, Afternoon Delight, and Toronto International Film Festival selection Horns, she’s continuously played the alluring, slightly wild young woman who might make your conservative family trade nervous glances and gulp extra wine should you bring her home for dinner. If you’re casting for the girl next door who introduces a teenage kid to pot and The Velvet Underground, look no further.
And as the oldest child of filmmaker and music video director Julien Temple, it’s no surprise Temple has so often found herself in the role of the rebel, a theme that prevailed in her charmed, free-spirited, odd, and sort of dreamy childhood.
“The only time me and dad really had a fight was when I started getting into some bad ’80s electro that I’d put on repeat for a while,” Temple said, sheepishly admitting that she “went through a Gary Numan phase” in her younger, more vulnerable years.
“When you put that one song, ‘Friends Electric,’ on repeat…” she continued, sidetracking momentarily to mimic the cold, ringing pulses of the influential 1979 hit. “[Dad] was like, ‘You’ve got to change it up a little. You’ve got to throw some Kinks on every once in a while, just one Stones song, and then you can play it again! I’d be cool with that!’”
As both a documentarian and participant in the punk rock uprising of the late ’70s, the elder Temple made a name for himself directing movies about the Sex Pistols and music videos for stars like David Bowie and the aforementioned Kinks and Rolling Stones. By the time Juno — who was named after a butte in the Grand Canyon that her parents climbed while her mom was pregnant — was born in 1989, her dad was eager to share his insider’s account of history, while bringing major players into the family’s living room.
There were house visits from Joe Strummer — Juno’s mom was best friends with his second wife, Lucinda, while the budding actress counted the legendary Clash frontman’s daughters and stepdaughter as her best mates — and early introductions to the work of Jean Cocteau (when she was 4) and Oscar Wilde (at the advanced age of 8).
But when your parents endorse the songs and texts that are usually so ingrained in one’s self-discovery process and rebellion, is it still punk?
“It’s not that you can’t like it, because my dad so encourages that you like it, and he so loves the idea of having a rebel streak inside of you and always having a bit of anarchy in everything you do. And I think that’s a pretty great way to live, but what was strange about it is that I couldn’t really rebel,” Temple said, laughing. “What would I do that would really shock my parents — become a parking warden or start working in a bank? They’d be like, What?“
Clearly, Temple had no interest in the civil service or a nine-to-five of any sort; at this point, she travels so frequently that time zones are irrelevant. And she got the bug early: At 9, she had a small part in her dad’s 1998 film, Vigo: A Passion for Life, which ended up on the cutting room floor. Temple’s first “real” production came a year later, when she was cast as an Atlasaurus in a play about dinosaurs. “I wore a silk dress with red velvet gloves and I made my own mask; it was pretty impressive,” she said with a laugh. The prehistoric turn was followed by another role on the scholastic stage, as Hermione in A Winter’s Tale. By the time she was 14, she told her parents that acting was her future, not just an extracurricular endeavor.
“Their hearts kind of sank when I told them, because it is an industry where, if I have a daughter or a son and they turn around to me and they say, ‘I want to act,’ I’m gonna be like, ‘Get ready to be hurt and lonely a lot,’” Temple said, singsonging that last bit. “Because you spend a lot of time in hotel rooms by yourself, and you also spent a lot of time getting told, ‘No.’ And it hurts. And not because you’re like, Why didn’t they cast me? It’s more like, God, I wanted that one.”
Temple launched her professional career with 2006’s Notes on Scandal, and since then, she has emerged into ubiquity thanks to a willingness to take on flighty, mysterious, mischievous, and sexually charged roles.
“I’ve been playing these younger women, and I think when you’re young and in your late teens and figuring yourself out, you are a mystery, you are mischievous, and you are sexually charged,” Temple explains; in Horns, she takes on the flashback-heavy part of Daniel Radcliffe’s murdered high school sweetheart, including a tasteful sex scene with Harry Potter himself. “You’re doing things for the first time, almost, and I like that.”
The actress’ biggest parts thus far have included the underage temptress to crooked cop Matthew McConaughey in Killer Joe; a teenage lesbian werewolf in Jack and Diane; a misbehaved rebel girl looking for her delinquent dad in Dirty Girl; Queen Anne in The Three Musketeers; and McKenna, a stripper/occasional sex worker who guides Kathryn Hahn through a mid-thirties reawakening in director Jill Soloway’s summer dramedy Afternoon Delight.
“She is mysterious and mischievous; kind of an elfin little pocket-size hooker,” Soloway said. “For me, McKenna was like a Bratz doll with huge hair and huge eyes and huge heels and everything else just kind of grounded and shapely/skinny… She is this perfect package of child and woman, innocence and danger. She also seemed like she needed taking care of, much like McKenna. She doesn’t drive and needed a ride, and that just sparked all kinds of mom anxiety in me: I need to drive her! I should help her figure out how to get a taxi! Why doesn’t she have Uber?!“
Temple has also proven more willing to embrace her bare body than just about any other starlet in this era of carefully managed bubblegum careers.
“First of all, being young, I think if you have the balls to do it when you’re young, you can continue to do it, and I think nudity is a part of art,” she said. “I’m also European, so it’s part of sunbathing.”
But she does her best to avoid gratuitous exposure.
“There’s a vulnerability with taking your clothes off, you know what I mean? Even when not playing the characters, there’s a vulnerability when I take my clothes off, even when I’m in a hotel by myself,” Temple said. “Every time I’ve had to take my clothes off, it’s definitely, for the first minute, you’re like, God, I’m about to get really naked in front of loads of people, but then you think, Actually, I’m not; it’s this character that’s doing it. So you then have to slip into that other skin… It’s really important to make it a character decision, rather than it be about, Oooh, Juno’s getting naked.”
Soloway called the first strip scene rehearsal in Afternoon Delight between Temple and Hahn “truly unreal.” “I’m pretty sure I cried,” said the writer/director, who wanted to cast Temple after one meeting and lucked out when another movie’s dissolution meant the actress could sign on the dotted line.
“You’d think by looking at Juno that her whole life, she’s just been this super hottie who knows how to work it,” Soloway added. “But it was her first time in stripper heels, so she was a little coltish, trying to find her legs. When she tried to be sexy, it had this uncanny, astonishing melancholy to it, because she felt like a child. So she stirred up all those things in Kathryn too. At the moment in the script that Rachel gets a lap dance, I wrote that she swirled between three feelings: wanting to rescue McKenna, wanting to be McKenna, and wanting to fuck McKenna. Juno absolutely inspires all three of those things in rapid-fire rotation.”
“Juno is so fearless,” Hahn added. “It’s one of those things that you can’t predict, but we just fell so mad for each other at the beginning. I just felt our chemistry was so easy; it just made so much sense. When I got that lap dance from her, she’s just captured by something.”
By embracing roles in the raw, sometimes seedier end of the human spectrum, Temple has had to look for nuance in the outcasts. Every once in a while, you’ll find a hooker with a heart — Trading Places and Pretty Woman come to mind — but so often, they are relegated to stock characters and plot devices, something she has had to work hard to overcome.
“The thing I also find challenging about it is that if I’m going to play those roles, I want to try and make each one as different as possible,” Temple said. “Even if it’s like, Oooh, she played two prostitutes in a year; well, it’s like, How are you going to make those prostitutes different? Because not every prostitute on the planet is the same, you know?”
Strangely enough, the edgier roles on Temple’s résumé made her a more attractive choice for the angelic lost love that would appear to Radcliffe in happy flashbacks in Horns, director Alexandre Aja said. The Harry Potter star suggested Temple for the part, and having seen Killer Joe, Aja was eager to speak with her. “Daniel and I shared the idea that we had to find someone very different, unexpected,” the filmmaker said.
“The way she speaks, the way she moves, I knew she would be the best image of what a first love would be for a lot of people,” he added. “First love is very specific and usually gets its roots in teenagehood, and she had that kind of feeling that she was still very young, but at the same time, she had that kind of maturity and kindness.”
Both Aja and Soloway praised Temple’s willingness to thrust herself into uncomfortable situations.
“I’ve been making movies where the women are very much in jeopardy and very much fighting for their life; a lot of actresses that I had to put in extreme situations,” Aja said. “And Juno really has that trooper attitude. She had to play a very, very intense murder–rape scene; and the conditions, it was as cold as the night should have been, as rainy as it should have been. She was there and never complained. I could see that she was purple cold, and she was still giving me take after take.”
Fortitude or not, some of her efforts have hardly been seen. Temple has not been immune to the modern dilemma of indie filmmaking: It’s cheaper than ever to make a movie, but increasingly difficult to break through that glut to reach a mainstream audience. Not all of her movies have succeeded — Jack and Diane was a critical flop, while several films, like The Brass Teapot, which co-starred her boyfriend Michael Angarano, were quickly forgotten.
A similar fate befell Magic, Magic, a dark and surreal thriller she made with Michael Cera and writer-director Sebastian Silva in Chile. Temple played an American who began to lose her mind on a trip down South, and the movie, which received strong reviews, was bought out of Sundance by Sony Pictures. Then, in an unexpected move met with scorn by all involved, the distributor relegated Magic, Magic to DVD and VOD status, with no theatrical release at all.
“I was really bummed because there was a lot of hard work that went into that movie, and also, it is just a weird Roman Polanski film, and it’s like, God, why don’t people want to see that?” Temple sighed. “You’re not going to fall in love to set yourself up for heartbreak; you’re going to fall in love with the prospect of it being a really long relationship, maybe a lifelong one… It is hard, though, when you put a lot of work into something and you’re proud of it, or you’ve done something very different and you’re proud of the people around you, too, and then it doesn’t get seen. That’s always tough.”
Still, there have been enough strong impressions and commercial successes — count her sliced up part in The Dark Knight Rises as her top-grossing gig — for the awards season aspirants to notice. On Monday, it was announced that Temple was cast in Thomas Vintberg’s adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, joining Carey Mulligan and Michael Sheen in the period classic.
She’s also starring in two big movies due for 2014 releases: Temple will appear in the long-awaited Sin City sequel, as well as Disney’s live-action Sleeping Beauty retelling Maleficent, which stars Angelina Jolie. Then there are her lingerie-line aspirations — she wants to create “surreal underwear” — but that might have to sit on the back burner for now.
Temple is climbing through the industry with both the gutsy roles that have become her trademark, and parts in the more wide-release movies that are beginning to come calling. But as she looks forward, she also holds on to a bit of that punk ethos in a town where work is life.
“I feel like the only way to be a part of this business and really enjoy this business and learn from it is to not be bitter about it, because it’s a waste of time,” she said. “Life is way too fucking short.”
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