Juliette Lewis: "You Can't Kill My Joy."

Photo: Matt Baron/BEImages.
“I was thinking the other day that nothing can kill my smile right now. I had so much of a fuck-you spirit and I think that’s important to have, but you can’t kill my joy because I’m sitting in it, I believe in it. I’m not giving myself such a hard time anymore.”

This is one of the many delightful sentences that spill out of Juliette Lewis on a recent afternoon in New York City. She had recently returned from the Istanbul International Arts & Culture Festival, where she discussed her new short film directed by Daniel Arsham, Future Relic 03. This summer, the actress and frontwoman for the band Juliette and the Licks can also be seen on Fox's Wayward Pines (or — SPOILER ALERT! — she could until her character died). And in the fall, she'll play the villain in the live-action film Jem and the Holograms.

Here’s what the refreshingly unfiltered actress-musician had to say about what she feels is one of the most creatively fulfilling moments of her career.

What can you tell us about Future Relic 03, which recently took you to Istanbul?
“I came with Daniel Arsham. He’s a brilliant sculptor, and we did a series of short films that will eventually be a feature film. The theme of our short film is about the future and the decay of our world, but we are discovering these relics, which are the objects he makes. I play an archaeologist. [The film was in a] festival that was just eye-opening because their taste, and the diversity within art, is so great. That festival was such a great coming together of really interesting people. My favorite discovery was this Mike Figgis-produced performance artist duo called Carnet de Voyage. One is a classically trained pianist; the other is also a musician, and she does spoken word. They use synths and beats. They took me to another world.”

What else do you have on your plate, acting-wise, coming up?
Jem and the Holograms is a kids' movie — or teenagers' — and it’s fun. It’s a really fun movie. The main villain was a man, and they had offered me another role. Then, they were like, ‘Well, take this role; we’ll make her a female.’ I thought that was pretty cool. I might write a song for the soundtrack. I’m supposed to, so I better get on that. The TV show I did, Secrets & Lies, that got picked up for a second season. So, I’m doing that in August for four months. And then Nerve comes out in the spring. I play Emma Roberts’ mom.”

Nerve has been so hush-hush.
“They’re keeping it secret. Here’s what’s exciting to me: I always get really happy when I see an original idea in script form, because lately they like to recycle a lot of old ideas. This is a real, original thriller of kids getting too into this truth or dare online game. It’s really a commentary of that daring culture of people one-upping one another for attention. It is a thriller, not a horror movie. And the two directors [Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman] are brilliant and visual. It stars Dave Franco and Emma Roberts, who I love. It comes out in the spring.”

After you wrap Secrets & Lies, will you work on more music?
“I’ll go to Europe to start testing the waters again because we had such a beautiful audience out there for the Licks when we were at our little peak. New music is coming that I made two years ago, and then this band will add to it. I’ll release an album in the spring next year. I made an EP with a guy named Brad Shultz from Cage the Elephant. They’re brilliant and great, I knew them 10 years ago from when both our bands were touring, before they blew up. I got with Brad; he produced; we wrote together; we made an EP. In the spirit, that’s what the Licks are because I’ve come full circle in that kind of guitar rock and roll. We’re going to add to it.”

Where does your creative energy and inspiration come from?
“I’m really trying to fire on all cylinders — is that the metaphor? But, you have to be ready to do that, because in the past, I’ve had a lot of anxiety. I’ve stretched myself too thin, and I have to talk about this a little bit for anyone who has dealt with loss and death. I’ve dealt with heartbreak, and it’s been the fuel in a lot of my music. Or a lot of things: lust and drive and celebration, all of that. But the biggest thing I could ever fear in my life, which was losing my father or a parent, that happened, and the gift that it’s given me is this bittersweet strength…My dad wasn’t well for a long time, so you do the right thing and give what you can to this condition he’s in, and when he passed, he’s supposed to pass. It’s this bittersweet journey of how to live without this lifeline, and then of course, the point is that I’ve honored [him] and have fully bloomed into everything my dad has always wanted for me. You could have told me how strong I am or all the gifts I have, but I’ve lived so much in the world of have-nots and my melancholy. I’ve lived so much in that pain, I’ve used it so much in my art, but now I’m living in my joy.”

Do you do any sort of exercises to check in and stay focused?
“Any time I’m thinking too much, like me, me, me, about my own work, you can do things in little ways. I like giving and receiving a smile. Or seeing how somebody else’s day is going. Or rather than when someone says, ‘Hi how’s it going,’ saying, ‘How are you?’ Like actually caring.”

Are you working on any tributes to your dad?
“I’m writing a movie that I’ll direct next year. If I say it, I have to do it. It’s going to be all the things, everything that I am, in a movie, slightly psychedelic. It’s painful; it’s funny. It is about a girl’s relationship with her ailing father. And it’s something I’ve been writing for the last five years. And again, it’s my father’s impetus to do all those things I put on hold or had fears about, and it kind of ripped the fear off. I just want to honor him.”
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