Juliette Lewis Returns to the Big Screen

Rocker/actress opens up about playing a "meanie" in 'Metropia'

A scene from 'Metropia.'
A scene from 'Metropia.'
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Juliette Lewis wants her life to be "dangerous": "I need the unknown." So when she was a film star, she wanted to become a singer — and once she became a rock star, she wanted to become an actress again. And now she's attempting to do both, going on tour with her latest band the New Romantiques just as a handful of her new roles hit the big screen, starting with Metropia's limited run in Los Angeles this week.

"It's all about timing," she says. "I took a break from movies to make a living as a music artist, and I was going for broke, but I was finally at a place with music where I could explore movies again. Not that it's easy [to do both]. Nothing I do is easy. I need lots to chew on."

When Juliette and the Licks were at the end of their last tour in 2008, she thought she would take a mini-vacation and go to Spain for five days of "paradise." But then Drew Barrymore threw a surprise her way, asking Lewis to play the would-be villain Iron Maven in her directorial debut, the roller derby film Whip It!, which would require her to "train like crazy." "I wanted to support Drew, so I said yes, despite the vacation idea," Lewis says. She soon found herself in Detroit waking up at 8 a.m. to do yoga, strength training, and pylometrics. "So I was on tour, took a break to train for roller derby, back on tour, then back to training, then shooting the film," she laughs. "No break, no vacation."

And she hasn't had a break since. One after another, filmmakers started calling her and asking her to join their casts. Mark Ruffalo wanted her for his directorial debut Sympathy for Delicious, which at first she resisted, "because it's about a band," but then she caved when she saw her character would be the "druggie bass player," not the singer. Then producer Albert Berger called and asked her to join the Jennifer Aniston/Jason Bateman sperm donor comedy The Switch, out in August, as Aniston's best friend. Then Todd Philips called and asked her to join the Robert Downey Jr./Zach Galifianakis comedy Due Date, out in October, as a pot dealer with a penchant for comfort food. "It's funny," Lewis says. "I'm a druggie in one, a pot dealer in the other, in two comedies about pregnancy. Who knows what will come up next?"

Opportunities continued to come in twos for her — she agreed to do two hair-brained sci-fi dystopias, the animated Metropia, which she lent her voice to, and as soon as Michel Gondry's finished with The Green Hornet, Megalomania. "It's about three kids who discover how to create energy from hair," she says, "and they shave everyone on the planet, so the rich people wear wigs, and the poor people are just bald."

In Metropia, a shampoo works beyond the scalp and into your actual brain, leading to people falling victim to subliminal advertising and mind control from the corporation behind it, and Lewis plays a shampoo model with devious plans. "I'm a bit of a meanie," she laughs. "But I love a good anti-establishment story, and I love that it's a metaphor for all kinds of things and will hopefully inspire to question their reality."

In between all these shoots, the Licks broke up — not because of her film work, but because the band had run its course, she says. She's learning to take it a bit easier with her new band, Juliette Lewis and the Romantiques, who are currently on tour in Europe and coming back to the states starting August 3rd in St. Paul, Minnesota. "I had toured for roughly two years straight with the Licks," she says, "so I have a lighter tour schedule this year, so I'm able to find the balance between acting and music. I'm finally able to appreciate that I have this strong, healthy, little audience, and that's what I was working for. And I can go out there with open eyes, and hunger, and passion."

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