Maya is the cover star of C California Style (Summer 2021)! Maya is joined by director Gia Coppola and they discuss their new film, Mainstream. Check out the photoshoot and article below.
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SOURCE: C MAGAZINE – Having collaborated on a new film about the perils of YouTube-style stardom, the pair discuss awkward childhoods, mindless algorithms and the misrepresentation of millennials
Our selves and our followings, intimacy and fame, addiction and ego: all the cravings and perils of our digital age are placed center screen in Mainstream, Gia Coppola’s pop-art retelling of Elia Kazan’s 1957 A Face in the Crowd for the YouTube and influencer generation. In the lead sneakers is Andrew Garfield in an unhinged, Jim Carrey-topping turn as Link, an increasingly maniacal YouTube satirist, in a virtual world that merges with a neon-lit Los Angeles — a place where cravings are supercharged into obsessions. But the city is brewing a new infatuation with Garfield’s co-star: husky-voiced 22-year-old Maya Hawke, who plays Frankie, an introspective bartender and frustrated video artist. Her languid blue eyes alone express Frankie’s volcanic longing for self-expression and the magical sensations, at least, of love.
Before her turn as Jo March in the 2017 BBC adaptation of Little Women, Hawke began her career as a teen model like her mother, actor Uma Thurman, did. She got to know the softly spoken Coppola while modeling for the director-photographer’s Zac Posen Spring 2019 look book. But Hawke is not just a singularly natural face in the crowd; she’s also a fiercely intelligent new voice, with the curious philosophical mind and writerly nature of her father, actor Ethan Hawke. Streams of inspired ideas spring from her mouth as emoji do from Frankie’s in Mainstream. Also a poet and lyricist, with a voice as pure as singing glass, she released her first album Blush last August.
Coppola, now 34, has garnered a reputation as a naturalistic chronicler of Californian youth, with an offbeat eye for composition and the beauty hidden in the quiet and the ordinary. Raised in L.A. and NorCal, Coppola — who has also made films for Gucci — started out as a photographer, eschewing four generations of her family’s film tradition (her aunt is Sofia, her grandfather Francis Ford). That is, until James Franco persuaded her to direct an adaptation of his short story collection Palo Alto. In 2013, the drifting, dreamlike portrait of plotless teenage lives, starring Emma Roberts, Jack Kilmer and Nat Wolff, drew festival acclaim.
Both from big extended families, Coppola and Hawke retreated home during the pandemic: the director to the Coppola family vineyard in Napa Valley, and Hawke (who has one brother, Levon, 18, and three half sisters) to her mother’s childhood home in Woodstock (after shooting for season four of Stranger Things, in which she plays ice cream scooper/Russian code breaker Robin, was pulled), giving impromptu musical performances from their barn. Today Hawke is back in L.A., goofing around with Coppola on set in the hilltop wilds of Malibu and engaging with her for C Magazine in philosophical debate on algorithms, the future of film, poetry and streaking.
Maya Hawke: In my family, L.A. has always been considered like Disneyland, a place to go where magical dreamland things happen. You go to your hotel, your favorite restaurants, go see the ocean, and you think, “I should live here! Why do I live in that hideous concrete jungle?” And then you leave. Leaving it shiny is kind of the goal. I remember my whole childhood, everywhere I would go, people would ask me, “Do you live in Hollywood?” And I’d reply: “Hollywood doesn’t exist, guys. It isn’t even a thing.” Now I like the idea that Hollywood exists. Then I can go home to my dirty streets, pollution and cold weather and I can be all pale, bitter and revolutionary.
C: What were you like at school?
MH: Before high school I was totally a loner. I went to five different schools trying to find the right learning style for me [before attending Saint Ann’s School, Brooklyn]. That school definitely had a different barometer, I think, than the classic Midwest television cheerleaders school had for what was cool. It made a lot of room for outcasts. But I was still struggling to find myself. I was friends in my freshman year with the super popular girls, because my mom is a movie star and that seemed cool for everyone. And then it was like, you’re not that cool for us. Then I was friends with the degenerates and the stoners. Then I was friends with the theater geeks and did all the school plays. I loved poetry. Taking on a whole novel was really intimidating to a young dyslexic student, but an Emily Dickinson poem was more approachable. My connection to music is about poetry.
C: And you, Gia?
Gia Coppola: I was super awkward. I had pimples and weird bangs. I was always hunched over, as I was so insecure in myself. I didn’t have any friends in school, I hung out with my cousins [actors/musicians Robert and Jason Schwartzman]. The whole academic environment didn’t suit me. I am such a visual learner, I needed to experience things in order to retain them. I look at teenagers now and they all don’t seem to go through an awkward phase. They all look like TikTok, long hair and cropped tops.
C: So many different L.A.s have been immortalized on film, Gia, but I really related to the slightly seedier L.A. in Mainstream.
GC: I live above Hollywood Boulevard, so I have a deep appreciation of that kind of strip. It feels very much to me what Times Square was probably like in the ’70s. Sometimes it feels like you are inside a cell phone. It’s a bit like Las Vegas, everything is directing you to buy something or see some sensationalized celebrity thing. During the recent protests there were all these different groups, and there was Freddy Krueger walking through them trying to get a hot dog.
C: It’s also where Andrew Garfield runs around, more or less butt naked, for Link’s Jackass-style guerrilla YouTube show.
GC: Originally we were going to do it in a quiet neighborhood, but it wasn’t sensational or courageous enough. And I said, “Well, how about Hollywood Boulevard?” We were going to use nude underwear, but then Andrew suggested, “What about a giant prosthetic dick?” I think for him, it was really liberating to just run around Hollywood Boulevard naked.
C: His performance is Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker-level unhinged.
GC: The genesis of this movie was me feeling like an outsider to what the mainstream, the mass majority, is liking [online]. It was what I feel about [making] art in this world where everyone just wants a picture of you naked, essentially. He had similar thoughts, and like Maya, he can articulate them much better than me.
C: He pulls really A-grade dance moves too.
MH: The day that I got the part in this movie, I went to a party and saw Andrew and Gia there, and I thought, “Oh, Andrew is such a good dancer!” I was desperate to work with Gia after the Zac Posen shoot, because she was the first person whose camera I ever sat in front of that I felt like saw me — not what I could be or what I should look like, but who tried to capture my weirdness and awkwardness. I saw Palo Alto in high school and it felt like the first movie about my generation which was made by someone who actually saw us. So often, the way late millennials and Generation Z are depicted is addicted to their phones. But the truth is, most 40-year-olds I know are staring at their Blackberries more than my friends and I look at our phones.
GC: All the cool kids now don’t even want to use their phones. They don’t want to be tracked.
MH: Phones have taken some of the drama out of films because no one shows up announced anymore. Or it’s really hard for any character to say, “How will I ever find him again?” But in Mainstream, Link doesn’t have a phone in the beginning, so you actually do build that same romantic tension.
C: There’s a silent dialogue going on between intimacy and technology in the film.
MH: I think intimacy is to do with a powerful desire within all of us to be known and understood. … It seems really easy to get to know someone [on social media] when they boil themselves down to a picture in a small square with the few qualities that they want you to know about them. But annoyingly, people are so many things, so that never feels good enough. You never feel truly understood until someone really sees your ugly bits. Then you’re like, “Oh no! I don’t want to be known anymore.”
C: That’s the thorny, illusory, addictive nature of social media.
GC: Link is eventually sucked into it because it’s so hard to be in this world [of influencers] and not let it affect your ego, and stay authentic. By the end, he has gone full ego in this entertainment way. We don’t focus on anything anymore unless it’s entertainment. That’s a fascination for me. The way that the [online] algorithm forces you to become this person. And where is the way out?
MH: It’s very hard to resist that algorithm. People no longer need to trust in an individual’s creative vision to make a piece of art. Instead, they trust the algorithm to tell them what creative decisions hold people’s eyes. If you base all your decisions on [that alone], you’re immediately catering to the lowest common denominator. Computers have such low expectations of people.
C: As do studio executives, historically.
MH: If you left me in a room with the whole Criterion Collection, I would watch all of it. If you also put in a ton of pornography and some chocolate cake and some Arrested Development, it would probably take me a long time to get to the Criterion Collection. You have to give people the opportunity to rise; if you don’t, even the smartest people will eat chocolate cake and watch porn. You can’t blame people for that. They’re not addicted to it, they’re being fed it constantly.
C: And now we have AI who write novels and paint, and maybe soon they will fully act and direct?
MH: I don’t think robots will ever take up the space of the human imagination. No matter how good movies have gotten, theater is not dead. People still enjoy the possibility of bodies and sweat and life happening before your eyes. Even in the Star Wars movies when they [posthumously] animated Carrie Fisher, I thought that was amazing. I don’t feel threatened by it at all. I’m not worried about having to compete with Marilyn Monroe for parts.
GC: Maya is a movie star. Playing Frankie you get so much of what is going on inside that character, just through Maya’s eyes. And then off camera, Maya is doing the Macarena with all the crew.
C: Maya, you met Jesse Harris, your musical collaborator, through jams with your dad?
MH: My dad really loves these guitar-circle moments. He’s obsessed with [the idea of] the family band. He loves to get people together to sing. Jesse was often a part of that when I was growing up, and I would write songs and Jesse would give me advice and then we started writing together.
C: Speaking of your dad, he’s had such critical acclaim with his adaptation of James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird [in which Maya plays the daughter to her father’s abolitionist John Brown].
MH: I think my dad did a beautiful job of that, and I’m very proud of him. It’s such a special story. I definitely get my optimism from my dad. To go back and look at bleak stories of absolute darkness and look at the underbelly of what the human race is capable of, but also to look back at bright moments — James McBride’s goal was to expose a moment of intersecting interesting beautiful people at a time when everything seemed awful.
C: Gia, you come from a musical family too.
GC: I remember always being at the house of my cousins Jason and Robert and them just playing piano all the time, even in the middle of the night. And taking a new word and making it into a tune. My grandpa too [Francis Ford] — the first time he meets anyone and they say their name, he always turns it into a song. And my great grandfather Carmine [who won an Oscar for the score of The Godfather Part II]. I love your music, Maya. I see Maya as a poet, too.
MH: I’m excited about the possibilities in this world where everything is getting more short form. I think poetry is a great literary medium for the short attention span of the age.
IFC’s Mainstream will be released in select theaters and on demand on May 7.