Since her film debut as a teen in 1989’s “Troop Beverly Hills,” Carla Gugino has freely jumped between big-budget fare and indies, and even TV before that became fashionable. The “Spy Kids” and “San Andreas” co-star is still thankful when something as meaty as Bart Freundlich’s “Wolves” comes along.
In the new drama — which just premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival — the actress, 44, plays the wife of a gambling addict (Michael Shannon) and the mother of a high school basketball star (Taylor John Smith), whose future prospects she’s sometimes scarily adamant about protecting.
What you often see in films about someone with a gambling addiction is if they have a spouse or lover, that person is usually haranguing them. It’s unusual to see your character as someone who often goes along with his addiction, not realizing how destructive it can be till it’s too late.
I was really enamored with how Bart wrote these characters with all the complexities of what it is to be a human being. She doesn’t realize she’s in an enabling situation until it’s too late. It makes sense, especially in a situation like that, where the father figure is so unstable. It really puts everyone in survival mode. A lot of families have that. I was so appreciative that wasn’t painted over and she didn’t become a hero at the end.
He’s so charismatic, and you get the sense that she’s still holding onto that original attraction.
That’s true. Often times we see what we want to see when we’re falling in love with somebody. It was important to us in the few scenes we had together to convey that there was still this spark, that you can see why they’re with each other. We’re just finding them at a particularly bad moment.
Did you bother with heaps of backstory, or is it a situation where you just throw yourselves into their dynamic?
A little bit of both. We did speak about it. But Michael’s one of those exceptional actors you trust. It winds up that you just get to live in it, as opposed to acting it. That’s the best of both worlds.