It’s Fashion Friday (okay, that’s also not a real Twitter hashtag, but as you’ll see, it’s appropriate to today’s interview), and so we’re talking with actress and author Jolie Vanier.
Jolie’s big breakthrough came in 2008 when writer/director Robert Rodriguez cast her as Helvetica in the Warner Bros. feature film “Shorts”. Starring Jon Cryer, William H. Macy, Leslie Mann and James Spader, the film was released nationally in August 2009. She attracted positive critical reviews; “Variety” said “In an ensemble that involves much adult-kid interaction, the most memorable performance belongs to young Vanier. A dead ringer for Christina Ricci circa ‘The Addams Family’, Vanier is so loveably hateful here, she gets an ‘introducing’ billing in the credits and even her own musical motif.” Jolie is also novelist and screenwriter, recently winning an film festival screenplay award.
ANTHONY: First of all, congratulations on your International Family Film Festival Youth Fest Screenplay Award! How did you get involved in the contest, and how much competition did you have?
JOLIE: Thank you so much! I heard about the contest and immediately wanted to enter. I worked very hard to cross all of my t’s and dot my i’s. In the end, all of the effort I put in paid off!
ANTHONY: Tell me about the winning screenplay. What’s it about, and who is the audience you’re hoping to reach?
JOLIE: My screenplay is about the world’s youngest fashion designer, Joliea, who travels around the world visiting different cultures seeking inspiration for her line of clothing called Puwaii. In addition to combining fun with educational information, it’s designed to reach the whole family. There aren’t many shows that the whole family, no matter what age they are, can watch together.
ANTHONY: Part of winning the award was the chance to network with directors and producers, right? I know it’s only been a few weeks, but has there been any interest in turning your screenplay into a pilot or a tv movie?
JOLIE: I believe a lot of interest has been generated! I’m hoping to move my screenplay towards production.
ANTHONY: So you originally wrote the Puwaii Adventures as a book series. I see the books are available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, in print and ebook formats. How many books are there?
JOLIE: For now, there are two books. I’m planning on a third installation – trying to make up my mind which countries Joliea will visit.
ANTHONY: How long have you been writing? What other projects have you worked on?
JOLIE: I’ve been writing for quite a few years. I started writing the first book when I was in second grade and somehow it led to a passion. And since I’ve worked on many short films, theater productions, and a feature film called “Shorts”, I have a good idea of what is needed in a script.
ANTHONY: Your main character, Joliea, is a fashion designer who gets into all sorts of adventures as she travels the world looking for new inspiration. How many of the places in your books have you traveled to, and what was your favorite place?
JOLIE: Actually, I’ve traveled to many of the locales described in the books ranging from Hawaii and the Grand Caymans to France and Italy. Since the book is a family collaboration at least one family member has visited all the locations. Exploring different cultures and meeting diverse people are great sources of inspiration for me. My favorite place is Paris – one of the world’s most celebrated fashion capitals!
ANTHONY: What is it about Joliea that makes her a strong main character? Why do readers (and hopefully, tv viewers!) like her so much?
JOLIE: Joliea is a strong willed girl. She’s always up for fun and adventure and she’s a real “go-getter”. Moreover, she’s not a pushover and she uses her head – most of the time!
ANTHONY: Tell me about the supporting cast from the books. Who travels with Joliea, and what does each character bring to the book that is different from Joliea herself?
JOLIE: Her big brother, Jared, gives Joliea the occasional, yet necessary, reality check. However, Joliea always reminds him that anything is possible. Sarah is Joliea’s best friend who loves to travel and have fun. (That’s just how my real life best friend, Sarah and I are!) Joliea has a boyfriend(guy friend) who keeps the mood light! The group of adventurers travel with a wide cast of animals who each have a very distinct character. (Family and friends say Rammy is my alter ego.)
ANTHONY: Every adventure series has to have a bad guy, so let’s talk about Jack le Rat. Where did you come up with the idea for him, and what kinds of problems does he cause for Joliea and her friends?
JOLIE: I see Jack is a troubled prince in exile who wants to design, even though he isn’t good. He’s jealous of Joliea because she is so talented as a fashion designer; after all, people don’t just dislike others out of the blue. He feels that no matter what he does he’ll never be better than Joliea. Who knows, maybe one day he’ll have a revelation and not be so negative!
ANTHONY: You’re not just an author, you’re an actress. Your biggest role so far was in the 2009 film SHORTS, right? How did you land the part of Helvetica, and what did you do to prepare for the part?
JOLIE: I landed the part of Helvetica through hard work, determination, and I also believed that I was meant to play that role. To prepare myself for really getting into character, my hair was died black and I was given fake braces. When I looked in the mirror I looked like a completely different person. I felt like Helvetica.
ANTHONY: Any fun stories to share about filming the movie?
JOLIE: A few of the boys had already met me before the big hair dying transformation. When they saw me after the changes were made in my appearance, they nearly fell from shock!
ANTHONY: Since you’re an author and an actress, and your book/screenplay is about a young girl — any chance you’ll be the one to play your character if the pilot gets filmed? And who else would you like to see involved in the project?
JOLIE: I definitely wrote Joliea for myself and I would love to get to play her on the big screen. However, I am very open minded about casting. I should point out that almost every character is based on someone I know or have met. So some of those shoes could be difficult to fill!
ANTHONY: You also volunteer for a lot of different causes, including one close to my heart: the American Cancer Society Relay For Life. Why are these causes important to you, and what do you do to support each of them?
JOLIE: The ACS is very important to me because I know quite a few family members who have suffered through cancer and I truly believe that nothing is impossible, including finding a cure to cancer. To help out I’ve joined the Pepperdine Relay For Life and have started my own team to help raise money and awareness! Another one of my favorite causes is ASPCA because I’m a total sucker for animals of all kinds. I’m actually going to be singing at a fundraiser for ASPCA coming up in October.
ANTHONY: And my usual closing question: what is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who has never read it to convince them that they should?
JOLIE: I like so many books that it’s hard to choose. However, I recently read this book called Vegas Dazzle that I’m in love with! If I were trying to convince someone to read it I would tell them that the book and the characters are so alive that it’s nearly impossible to put the book down!