Before seeing the new Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore comedy BLENDED last week, I had never knowingly laid eyes on actress Bella Thorne. According to her acting credits, she appeared on a few episodes of HBO's "Big Love," which I used to watch, but her character's name doesn't ring a bell. To a certain age group, Thorne is best known as a Disney starlet, starring as CeCe Jones in all 75 episodes of the series "Shake It Up!", and although the 16 year old has popped up in a feature film here, BLENDED marks her first appearance in big-time movie, in which she plays the oldest of three daughters to single father Sandler.
BLENDED is about widower Sandler who keeps his daughters close and weirdly unappealing by dressing them in track suits and giving them boy-ish hair styles. Barrymore plays the divorced mother of two boys, and the two families end up forced to take a South African safari together, despite Sandler and Barrymore disliking each other intensely, and the hilarity ensues. Okay, it's not CITIZEN KANE, but Thorne's Hilary does get something of her own subplot involving her coming out from under her father's protective wing and into her own.
Thorne has a whole bunch of films scheduled for release, including playing the "villain" in ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY, co-starring Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner, which has the potential to be an even more massive film that BLENDED. About 45 minutes before I stepped into the room to interview Thorne, I had to pop into a nearly drugstore to pick up replacement batteries for my recorder, and as I was in line to check out, from the bottom rack of magazines by the register was the latest issue of "Seventeen" magazine with Thorne all glammed out on the cover. That was definitely a first.
When I walked into the somewhat chilly hotel room where Thorne was doing interviews, I immediately noticed that she was wrapped up from the waist down in a white blanket (she was the victim of not having the right clothes for an unexpected Chicago cold snap that morning) with her legs crossed over the legs of a girlfriend seated right next to her on the sofa for additional warmth. It was actually refreshing to talk with a young actor who seems to have her head on straight and some idea of where they want to be in five or ten years (I'm especially curious about her book series, which we discuss). With that, please enjoy my talk with the lovely and charming Bella Thorne…
Capone: Hi. I’m Steve.
Bella Thorne: How are you?
Capone: Good. So, this is your first major film. Were you at all hesitant to have this first big-deal movie be one where you get mistaken for a boy for about half the movie?
BT: [laughs] Yeah, it actually is pretty funny that the first big movie is one where I look like a boy. That’s hilarious [there may be a hint of sarcasm in her voice].
Capone: In addition to the story of these two families coming together, there’s also this subplot about you coming out from under your dad’s wing. Talk about the importance of that message.
BT: That storyline is just cool because it’s a teenage girl who just wants to get out of her own skin, her dad keeps her looking like that because he doesn’t want her to grown up, and that’s his little buddy, that’s his little best friend, and she just want’s her first crush at 15 to notice her and notice she’s a girl. That’s not too much to ask for.
Capone: Do you know people that have this issue with their parents?
BT: No, but I think every dad holds his daughter back from growing up, but not necessarily by making her look like a boy.
Capone: That’s a litter further than maybe some of them would go.
BT: And now I’m almost taller than Adam.
Capone: Oh, wow. Is he really that short?
BT: I’m 5’ 8’’.
Capone: Oh, you’re tall. Well it’s sort of hard to tell when you're sitting wrapped in a blanket.
BT: [Thorne whips back the blanket to reveal legs that are indeed long and covered only by a mini-skirt.] Look at these long legs I’ve got. These suckers are freaking long. Look how long they are compared to my torso. You see that difference?
Capone: Yeah, definitely. You and Drew have some really great scenes together. Either before, during, or after this film, was she a role model for you?
BT: Of course she’s a role model. She’s amazing and so funny. She sets a really positive energy and vibe on set, which very unusual, and she’s so professional. She gives the best hugs. They’re like 10 minutes each, she calls me “Pickle,” and she’s between a mother and a sister to me. Plus, when she saw my hair, because they thinned it out and cut it really short to fit it under that wig. I'd never had long hair before; I’m from Miami, we don’t cut our hair, it’s always down to our hips, and that’s it. She knew how bad I felt. I felt so bad, because I didn’t know how to style it. I didn’t know what to do. It’s thinned out at the bottom, so it’s looking really ratchet at this point. And she was just like, “Here’s some really good hair pills.” Because she has really good hair. It’s thick, it’s gorgeous, it’s such a pretty color, and she was like, “Here’s this, here’s that. Take those, and I think it’ll really help.” And it totally did. My hair grew from here to here in four months. That’s ridiculous. Your hair only grows half an inch every month, and then you cut it and it breaks and it rips up. So, it’s a big difference.
Capone: I did a Q&A with her here for WHIP IT, and she did hug me.
: Oh, WHIP IT. I love that. She makes really good eye contact. And she goes like this when she talks [grabs a strand of hair with her finger and begins twirling it]. Have you noticed that? She takes one strand of hair, and she just goes like this. You feel important when she talks to you. She tries to engage you in the conversation. She’s exactly as she seems on screen. She’s that fun-loving, beautiful girl. That's really who she is, which is just crazy.
Capone: She and Adam and the director have all worked together before in various combinations over the years. Did you have to break into that a little bit?
BT: Feel like an outcast?
Capone: Not an outcast. I’m sure they didn’t make you feel that bad.
BT: No, actually they were very welcoming. I was a little nervous going into it because that’s their little group. They’re the three musketeers. They’re so funny, they’re always cracking jokes with each other, and they travel everywhere together, and the only thing that was going through my mind the whole time was, “I hope these people just think I’m funny.” That’s all I wanted.
Capone: Was Adam encouraging and helpful about being funnier? Did he feed you lines? Did he encourage you to improvise?
BT: He was definitely like, “Improvise, improvise,” but I felt very awkward improvising, because if you improvise and it doesn’t get a laugh, it’s very awkward. Everybody looks at you like, “Why did you just go there? You just ruined that whole take.” And each take is a lot of time. Like, we shoot for 16 hours just for like a 29-second scene. People don't even realize when they look at the movie how much work and effort really went into everything.
Capone: Yeah. So how do you think you did as an improviser?
BT: There are only really two scenes that I was improvising in a lot, and that is the basketball scene, and there is a scene with Drew when I’m talking to her at the beach.
Capone: Is it the one where she’s giving you her appointment?
BT: Yeah. It’s that one where she’s like, “What about changing your hairstyle?”
Capone: Yeah. I can’t even fathom what it would be like to work with Adam just day to day.
BT: He's exactly how he is on screen. Exactly the same person. He’s funny, he’s hilarious, he’s always making jokes, he’s a real guy's guy. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but he has a sport in every single movie he’s done; he loves his sports. And he’ll be like, “What take is this? I’m going to go play basketball. I’ll be back later.” He works so hard, and he was really doing so much work on this film, that when they weren’t shooting him, he’d go sleep in his car. It was right next to set, literally. There’s the camera; there’s his car, because he was just working all night long and all day long. He was always in a good mood. Same with Frank [Coraci, director]. Frank has a really hard job, and he was incredible to work for.
Capone: The other thing I can’t imagine is getting thrown into any movie that’s largely set in South Africa, to just get sent on this adventure. I’m guessing you’ve never been before this.
BT: I’ve never been, and it was two months. We weren’t even in Cape Town where there’s like civilization and restaurants and people. There was like no civilization there because there’s no internet. It was a beautiful hotel. It’s all on a reserve, so it’s mostly just animals, which are beautiful, so beautiful. Honestly, me describing it does it no justice because you have to just see the beauty with your own eyes.
Capone: Did you have time off to like enjoy it? Did you get to go out and explore on your own?
BT: We didn’t really have that much time off. We were filming a lot. But it didn’t matter be all of our scenes were safari this, safari that, meeting this animal, meeting that animal. The one thing that was really cool was that we got to play with the lion cubs, and one bit me. I didn’t get a disease... Maybe I should get checked out though.
Capone: That might be advisable. That scene with the giraffe, was that real?
BT: That’s real. The giraffe was really there licking us. It didn’t go that far inside his mouth like it looked like it did, but it went inside our months. It wasn’t supposed to go in mine, and I had giraffe saliva on me. I don’t know if you know this, but their tongues are ridiculously long and they’re purple. They are deep purple.
Capone: Yeah. I’ve been close to one before.
BT: And then they drip like a web, like a spider web. They just drip with saliva, and it like clings onto things, and it like goes onto you, and will wrap around your arm. Ugh, just pure saliva.
Capone: Yeah, you definitely need to get checked after that.
BT: It’s really gross.
Capone: That junk will mess with you.
BT: An you have giraffe saliva in your hair, which makes it all sticky.
Capone: What was it like having so many young people around all the time?
BT: There are a lot of difficulties you face when you have minors that are so much younger. You have to watch all the precautions. There are a lot of SAG laws you have to follow--very certain rules. Also, you have all these huge animals around them. The kids are like, “I wanna pet them.” “Don’t pet them. They’re not trained.” I’d always be like, “Aly,” and pull her hand away from like a monkey or a baboon, because these animals can be dangerous.
Capone: You have a ton of films coming out in the next year or so. Can we just go through a couple of them?
BT: ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY.
Capone: That trailer just came out.
BT: Didn’t that trailer look really funny?
Capone: It looked really good. I’m actually shocked that it said that it was PG. It looks like it could be so much darker than that.
BT: Rated R?
Capone: Not R, but something in between.
BT: Isn’t the next one R after PG? Oh, no. There's PG-13.
Capone: Right, but it’s PG, this one.
BT: Oh, it’s not even PG-13?
Capone: No, it’s PG.
BT: Wow, that’s crazy. Well, it is a Disney feature. It’s really funny. Steve Carell does a great job. He’s very quiet on set. He’s not like Adam who is a real comedian on and off set. He’s very, very reserved. Doesn’t really talk all than much, and then once they call “Action” he’s this big character. Same with Jennifer. She’s just really sweet, but she’s also a much more quiet performer. I missed the only day that her husband came by, and I love him. So, I was like, “Oh, I’m so mad I didn’t stay.” I play the mean, beautiful girl in the school, which is really not necessarily my favorite role to play. I’m definitely the villain in the movie who’s dating their son, Dylan Minnette, who’s a pleasure to work with. He’s very natural, very good actor. And then I have BIG SKY with Kyra Sedgwick. The director [Jorge Michel Grau] is known for WE ARE WHAT WE ARE, which is the movie about cannibalism. You can watch it; it’s really good.
Capone: I know it, I've seen it. You’re talking about the Mexican version, right?
BT: The good original.
Capone: I’ve seen both, and they're both quite good.
BT: Yeah. He’s awesome, but it’s very difficult to work with a director who only speaks Spanish. And he tries to speak English, and it’s hard enough to understand regular direction. Sometimes people are like, “Oh, I didn’t really get it.” Now he’s speaking in Spanish trying to give you direction. But I got to know him so well, and working with him for a long time, he would just look at me, and he didn’t have to say anything. I knew what he meant; I knew what he wanted. That’s the agoraphobic film, which is very difficult to play because I had nothing to draw from as an actress, so that was full on me thinking, “I have to be this character. I am this character.” Where in BLENDED, I can understand where the character is coming from, I didn't understand where the character in BIG SKY was coming from.
Then we have HOME INVASION, which is a Joel Silver film. Do you know who that is? He’s so cool. He’s an awesome guy. He had me over for dinner at his house, and he flew in his private chef from Italy who’s so nice, and his son is so cute. It’s just ridiculous. His family is so awesome.
Capone: Chandler Riggs is in that, right?
BT: Yeah. That movie is not necessarily gory. It's so intense. Chandler Riggs is honestly one of the best people I’ve ever worked with. That kid is such a homey. People would be like, “Are you guys dating on set?” Because everyday, I wanted to spend lunch with him. We kept in the mood, because it is scary, and every single scene we’re crying and screaming. If you break out of that every time they call “cut,” you have to restart the tears, you’ve go to redo that. So, I had my computer in the master bedroom with Netflix watching only horror films. So, every day when they would call cut, and we did re-set ups, all the actors would come and lay on the bed, and watch whatever horror film we picked that day.
Capone: Was there one that really did it for you?
BT: That’s really scary? We were watching CABIN IN THE WOODS. We watched THE SHINING, because Chandler hadn’t seen it and neither had I. That was so long though, it’s hard to watch between set-ups, and that’s not necessarily that scary. It’s not like, “Oh my god, I’m so scared.” And there’s a lot of people walking in and out of the room changing set-ups and stuff. And then I have AMITYVILLE, which I just wrapped. It’s going to be so freaking awesome.
Capone: Is it picking up where the original story left off?
BT: No. It’s different. They moved into this house that has had that history. It’s different. It’s modern. I’m goth in it, very goth. You can go on my Instagram and you’ll see my hair and makeup. Black and black and mean looking.
Capone: Which of these films did you make with Jennifer Jason Leigh? That’s the one?
BT: That’s AMITYVILLE. And Cameron Monaghan is in it, who’s from "Shameless." A great actor. Thomas Mann is in it. Taylor Spreitler, who is from "Melissa & Joey." She is my woman crush Wednesday. I love that girl. Who else is in it? Oh, and the girl from ONCE UPON A TIME. The lead character, Jennifer [Morrison, I assume]. She’s in it. She plays my aunt. We have a very small cast. It’s really just based upon our family.
Capone: You’ve had this access to Kyra Sedgwick, Jennifer Jason Leigh, these really great actresses. Are you someone that sort of watches them and learns from them?
BT: The one I learned the most from is Jennifer Jason Leigh. The rhythm she speaks in is unlike anyone else. It’s so interesting. Even the director will say it. It’s so weird. I would have never said that line like that, and she makes it so powerful and so different and so dynamic, you watch her just in awe, at least I do. And she’s so serious on set. She is one of those actors that are like that, and then all of a sudden, it’ll be my close up, and she’ll be doing like a funny face, and I love it. I love seeing her break out of character and be her. It’s really cool. She’ll be like talking, and it’ll be a regular scene, and [bursts out yelling]. The character just freaks out, and it works so well for her. She looks like a psychopath. That’s her style of acting. It’s really good.
Capone: You’ve been, to some degree or another, in front of a camera practically since you were born. What do you do to keep yourself grounded, to keep yourself humble, to keep yourself from melting down?
BT: I have these folks with me all the time. I have my mom, my family. I feel like because I work so much, I don’t want to go out. I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to go to a party; I barely like going to events. I’m more like the kind of person who would stay home, watch Netflix, and eat Top Ramen. That’s what I do.
Capone: But you keep adding things to your agenda. You have an album coming out soon? June? July?
BT: Yeah. My single just released. I have a book series coming out with Random House.
Capone: Tell me about that.
BT: It’s called “Autumn Falls.” It’s fiction, there will be three of them. It’s about a character named Autumn Falls who’s red-headed, frizzy hair, moves to Miami when her father passes away. She doesn’t fit in whatsoever, and he leaves her a journal to help her though high school, and she’s like, “Wow, dad. Die on me and leave me a journal like that’s really going to help.” When she writes in the journal, things come to life. It’s an actual journal. But since she’s dyslexic [Thorne herself is dyslexic, they come to life a little bit wonky, mostly backfiring on her throughout the book.
Capone: So it’s you. It is you.
BT: Yeah, except for the magical part. I took a lot of facts about myself to mold and shape the character, yeah.
Capone: And how many do you think you’ll do with that?
BT: There are three so far. I have a contract for three. It’s following her throughout her years of high school. It’s growing up with her.
Capone: Would you like to turn that into a film?
BT: A film? Are you kidding?. How cool would that be? By the time the third one finishes, I’ll be 21. So I’ll be in college studying writing and directing, so hopefully I’ll get to either produce it or write it or direct it. Something along the lines of that.
Capone: That’s pretty cool. But again, it’s more and more work. You’re piling on the work. Are you taking time to decompress when you can?
BT: My decompression is watching "Bones." I like it. I love when she says “phalanges.” Love it. I say it all the time, and people are like, “What?” Like, “Uh, my phalanges are swollen. All the salt’s coming to the surface.”
Capone: With all of these different things that you’re doing, is acting still the primary focus?
BT: The number one. Yeah. And I think my book is going to be the one I am most proud of, because I am dyslexic, so I think that is going to be really freaking awesome.
Capone: That’s great. Thank you so much. It was really wonderful to meet you.