Fans have never seen her in anything quite like The Neon Demon, Nicolas Winding Refn’s psychological horror film that notably earned a smattering of boos after its Cannes Film Festival premiere in May and has polarized critics ever since.
The actress, 31, recently gave birth to a boy, and in a recent interview tells EW The Neon Demon is the type of socially-probing movie she wants her child to see when he grows up, and why she thinks it fits into a larger discussion about gender politics in its own dark, twisted little way.
What would you say to people who might be turned off by what they’ve read about this film so far?JENA MALONE: I’ve read some of these things w they’re like, “Oh, it’s so violent,” but it’s not that violent at all, comparatively to the evening news or even PG-13 thrillers w t’s so much gun violence.
When you first read this script, were you having these reactions? And how would you describe the film in a nutshell to someone?If it’s handled in the right way, violence is important to watch because it talks about something that humans do.
I think it’s really ballsy of Nicolas to start the ball rolling with a concept film – almost a genre film.
It’s a lot to take on, and he does it so smoothly and gracefully and so conceptually, and a lot of people can see it as a lot of different things, and yet it’s not preachy, it’s not political, but it’s still something I would want my daughters or my little sister or every teenage boy and girl to watch.
In Hollywood, I’m like, “Oh I’m learning how to use these feminine arts,” but it’s not something I was raised thinking was very important, so it was nice to be able to take on a character who [reflected] a different side of society and beauty, that it’s more inner beauty and the need to be accepted and loved and feel beautiful, not just in the sense of physical beauty, but [in terms] of lust and desire as well.
At first I was like, “Oh, it’s sexual, it’s out of want, it’s out of desire,” but once I got into the process, I realized how deeply alone she was and how it affects humans so much, not being touched and not being loved, that she’s pushed into this environment w it’s okay to get it however you can, you know? I felt like t was a part of her I loved even more for getting it however she could, but it was also about getting in touch with this deeply lonely and dark place that had never been fed for her.