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Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for
August 27, 2010

In recent years, Odette Yustman has taken on a variety of roles in a healthy mix of genres: a haunted twin sister in the horror flick The Unborn; a fit, bad ass government assassin in the irreverent action comedy Operation: Endgame; a frightened girlfriend at ground zero in the J.J. Abrams-produced monster thriller Cloverfield; an archetypal mean girl who terrorizes Kristen Bell in the romantic comedy You Again; and a domesticated housewife in her upcoming espionage drama The Double. By all accounts, it seems she enjoys tackling her fears by delving outside her comfort zone and trying on unfamiliar personas.

While Odette was promoting You Again, we had the opportunity to speak to her about her career to date. In this exclusive interview, Odette talks about her goals and a selection of her recent films, and indulges our casting fantasy that she should be the next Lara Croft in another Tomb Raider film. Seriously, folks...Anyone who has seen Operation: Endgame knows that she can pull off the look, attitude, and athleticism for the role, and that she seemed just as comfortable as co-star Maggie Q in the skin of a kickass seductress/killer. Give her a ponytail and a pair of handguns, and we're good to go...

Catch Odette in You Again, now playing in theaters everywhere... I'm sure you've been asked a lot about the kind of person you were in high school, so let's switch gears just a little: If you could go back to your teen years and do something on top of what, I assume, was a myriad of accomplishments, what would you have liked to tack onto the old high school resume?

ODETTE: [laughs] Oh...Maybe mock trial? Yeah, that would be great! I mean, I feel like I would be intimidated, and it would be a challenge. So maybe I would do mock trial. What else...? To be honest, I was a pretty good student. Maybe I would have been a little more rebellious? Cut class a couple times, ya know?

You could have engaged in all manner of recklessly bad behavior...Like passing notes...

Passing notes, being a loudmouth. Why not?

What role in mock trial would you be interested in?

A judge, for sure! That would be so fun. Are you kidding me? Get to have the little [makes a clicking gavel sound]...It'd be awesome.

As an actress, you could conceivably play a judge at some point...

I could. I mean, if somebody gave me the opportunity, I could. [laughs] As far as my career goes, I feel like I'm still paving my way through, and I'm still finding what works for me and what doesn't work, and what I really enjoy and what I don't enjoy so much. And I feel like romantic comedy is sort of my wheelhouse--I have a great time with it, I feel like you can play with so many different emotions. I feel like my character Joanna in You Again really did have that layered quality where I got to play all of these emotions--I got to be funny, I got to be sympathetic, I got to redeem myself, I got to be a mean girl. So I really, really, really enjoyed that. Not to say that I wouldn't love to play a judge or do a period piece or be a marine biologist...Except that would be conquering a lot of my fears, and I don't know if I'm ready to do that, because I'm terrified of the ocean.

So why a marine biologist then?

I don't know...Because I like to challenge myself, and I like to face my fears. I just went swimming at night, and that was horrible. But I did it! Life is short, and if I can challenge myself as much as possible before I really settle down and I have my kids and I can't do that as much, then I'd like to.

I almost thought your marine biology comment was a Seinfeld reference...

No, it wasn't. [laughs] But I'd be much cooler if it was.

I just caught Operation: Endgame and thought you were great doing action...

Did you? I haven't seen it!

...But you certainly remember kicking ass, right?

[says with a happy bit of sheepish pride] I kicked ass. Yeah! I did. I had a great time doing it as well. We trained. We did a lot of training for that. And that was also challenging, but it was fun. I was sort of an athlete growing up, I played a lot of volleyball. And that was difficult, but this was a whole new ballpark, you know? You can really get hurt doing these action sequences, and if you go forward instead of back, you can get kicked in the face. [laughs] So that's really fun. And you know, it gets your adrenaline going. And that was a great old time--you know, mixing action with comedy, and killing people. I mean, what's better than that?

Death by paper cutter blade...

Death by paper cutter blade! [laughs]

Between wielding that blade like a machete and the colors you were wearing, your character Temperance was looking very Lara Croft/Tomb Raider-esque...

Oooo...! I'm into that.

Was that look an intentional reference?

No, it wasn't intentional at all. Temperance...She was interesting. She also had to have those vulnerable qualities. But it was really fun because I don't really feel like I have the body type, or, you know, I'm that girl to kick ass. And being given that opportunity, I was really excited, and hopefully I embraced it, and hopefully it translated into film. I haven't watched it. I'm terrified of watching myself.

Can you watch yourself in a romantic comedy like You Again?

Well, you know, there's screenings that they want you to go to, and so I do. But covering my eyes for the most part. [laughs] But I don't know, it's insecurities, I guess.

Well, trust me, Temperance was 100% bad ass. In fact, I think we should start a rumor that you should be the next Lara Croft...

Really? I'm on it! Let's do it! Let's start spreading that rumor! [laughs]

As a little kid, you were in the movie Kindergarten Cop in 1990. You did a few things after that, but for the most part, there's kind of a gap in your filmography until, like, 15 years later. At some point, were you not really planning on being an actress? Were you studying and working toward something else?

I had hopes and dreams of becoming an actress, but really, when you're that young, I don't know if anybody pays attention to you or you even take yourself seriously. It was more of a dream than anything. And I thought I was going to go to Loyola Marymount for business finance. I'm really actually interested in the business side of the industry. And eventually, one day, I'd love to have my own production company. But I always thought I would never forgive myself, and I'd always regret it, if I didn't try it, you know? And I had such a great time growing up doing it, and like I said, it really was challenging, and it was the last thing I wanted to do on a Saturday, to go shoot a McDonald's commercial. [laughs] But I really loved it. And I wanted to prove to myself that I at least could try it and to see if it would work. And that's what I did. I moved to Marina del Rey, so I thought if it doesn't work, I'm a hop, skip, and a jump away from Loyola Marymount, so I can just go and do that. But I've been so lucky, and I have been able to work with great people, and about six months into moving to LA, I got my first job. It was called South Beach, a TV show. And I had moved to South Beach for a while. And that show got canceled, and then I jumped right into pilot season and I did a show called October Road, which was one of the best experiences of my life. It was so great, and the people that I met opened so many doors for me. And I just feel like I'm on a great roll, and I've been really lucky. And I can't wait to see what the future holds. I'm really excited!

Do you have an upcoming film you're particularly excited about?

I just finished a movie called The Double with Richard Gere and Topher Grace and Stephen Moyer and Martin Sheen--this great cast. And I play Topher Grace's wife. So that was a new role. I'm so lucky I haven't been typecast, which is great! [laughs]

Although, between killing Emilie de Ravin in Operation: Endgame and roughing up Kristen Bell in You Again, you might get a rep for beating up on little blonde girls...

Uh-oh, there we go! And I'm into that, too! [laughs] Little shrimps! [laughs]

So The Double will be more of a dramatic turn for you?

Yes, it is. But it's also not as traumatic as, say, The Unborn was, or, say, Cloverfield was. It's more of a domestic role for me. The movie is a spy thriller, but for me, the challenging part was to hold a kid and chop the vegetables and be a housewife. So that was really great. And working with Richard Gere and Topher...I mean, that was fantastic.

You mentioned Cloverfield, which I love. I thought it was impressive that the marketing campaign could keep so much of it a secret for so long, given how quickly advance news and spoilers spread on the internet. Do you remember security being unusually tight on that film?

Yes. Our scripts were watermarked all in red. If we lost them, we were basically fired. [laughs] Everything was under wraps. We had different codenames for base camp and all that stuff. I mean, I think it was "Slusho" and "Monkey" and "Chocolate" and all these different things. There was a lot of security, and we were under contract [for] confidentiality, you had to sign everything. I can't believe it worked.

When we spoke to director Matt Reeves a few months ago at Comic-Con for Let Me In, he said they would love to get around to doing a Cloverfield sequel, but everyone is so involved with other things. Would you be game for another round?

Listen, if they asked me, I would...It was sort of ambiguous if I died or not, but I'd be into it!

They could do a prequel, a side-quel, whatever they want to call it...

I'm going to start pitching it. How about that?

We'll add it to the Lara Croft rumor!

Yes, exactly!

Thanks very much for your time...

Thank you so much, have a great day.

Related Material

More Odette Yustman Interviews
Full Movie Coverage: You Again


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