In Man of Steel, Christina Wren calls Superman "kinda hot". A quick browse of our cover feature this month, and you'll get where she's coming from. Of course, even the less-than-observant among you will appreciate that Wren is also a card-carrying member of Hollywood's 'beautiful people' club. She was also on deadline.com's list of the top five rising female movie stars of 2016. We caught up with her ahead of the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Tell me about playing Major Carrie Farris in the Superman franchise?
It's not the biggest or most challenging role I've had, but the experiences surrounding playing her – as well as what she represents in such an iconic universe – mean a lot to me. I was cast at a time in my life where I wasn't sure I'd really be able to crack the industry and figure out how to grow my career.
I had also been told I would never be cast in this kind of a role. I'm petite and so the thought of playing such a strong woman, a ranking military officer – hell, a fully-fledged adult character – was incredibly affirming and gave me the foundation I needed to have the courage to pursue my career full force.
And I really owe that to Zack [Snyder, director of Man of Steel]. Literally, until I showed up on set in full costume and everyone could see what I looked like on screen, some people were still telling him – and letting me know, as well – that they didn't think I was right for the role, that I looked too young, and he just kept saying to trust him. Thank God they did. The moment I appeared in the monitor I could see people's shoulders relax. Sometimes it really takes a director's vision to see beyond what others will see.
The moment I appeared in the monitor I could see people's shoulders relax; sometimes it really takes a director's vision
Who did you bond with on set?
I did form a special relationship with Harry Lennix, who plays my superior officer. He's absolutely lovely and has become a good friend. We were pals on set and had a lot of fun together – he always treated me with respect, from moment one, even though it was my first real Hollywood film, which I truly appreciated. He and his wife have taken my man and I under their wings and include us in holiday meals and celebrations. When they were in Pittsburgh last year, I even set the two of them up with my parents.
So, you've hung out with enough superheroes by now – if you could have a superpower, what would it be?
I mean flying would be seriously badass. I've been asked this quite a bit and I think the appeal of flying is both experiential – what a wild feeling it would be – but I think there is an emotional appeal, too. There is an imagined feeling of freedom, of escape, of privacy and chosen isolation, of the ability to see the world, to break past borders that keep us in our places, to get to our loved ones quickly, and to adventure. What a dream!
I think the superpower of flying really touches the parts of us that feel stuck or slow or trapped, and makes us imagine what vast experiences we would have were there no shackles on our feet. Granted, I'm also super thankful for gravity…
What's the most fun you've had on set?
Filming Saudade?, the first indie film I wrote. It's super imperfect, the sound sucks – we shot it on a Canon 5D on weekends in New York, but man did we have a good time making it.
Passions were so high because everyone involved was at that point in their artistic journey where you're trained and capable, but still so fresh and believing that anything is possible and that your art has a voice. The process was just delightful.
I remember feeling so alive while we were filming and I remember laughing a lot. And it was ridiculous. I mean in one scene, I was in bed with one of the actors and another actress was standing above us holding the boom and – bless her – she pressed record when the scene would end and stop when we were supposed to record. We had to ADR that entire scene yet every moment in between was full of side-splitting laughter and real joy. That film kind of marks an era for me. A lot of the people involved are still dear friends of mine.
If you could play any figure, either living or dead, who would it be?
I know it's been done, but I've always been drawn to Joan of Arc. I think exploring the lines between her utter bravery, her physical and leadership capabilities beyond her size, gender and years alongside the possible spiritual/psychological relationships she was having would be fascinating. As an actor, the range in a story like that would be a gift.
To begin as a girl, become a war hero with a secret identity, to deal with the mental turmoil and ultimate betrayal by her people would be an incredible journey to go on as an actor.
Do you remember the first time that you were recognised in public?
My friends claim people have talked about me when we're out on the street before but I was never really sure. However, the first one that was blatant was so sweet… I was at a callback for a commercial in New York and it was right after Man of Steel came out. It was a really ridiculous spot with a kind of gross family that were all dealing with indigestion and I was brought in for the moody teenage daughter.
I was dressed like a teenager and sitting off to myself going over the sides and then we were called in – around seven of us – to be all the different family members. We did it a bunch of times, almost playing musical chairs, it was really quirky. Afterwards, in the elevator, one of the guys reached out his hand to say hi and I went to introduce myself, because there's often this funny moment after auditions where you just behaved as if you're really close to people that you've never met and afterwards feel like the decent human thing to do is at least learn each other's names.
But before I could get anything out he blurted, "My family are really huge fans of yours – we're Greek and we're obsessed with your hummus commercial – and you were so great in Man of Steel – we watch your trailer all the time...". By this point everyone else in the elevator had gone silent and was trying to figure out who the weird girl dressed as a teenager with a side ponytail was. Admittedly, it kinda made my day, especially to be appreciated by a fellow actor.
What's the strangest thing you've been asked to do for a film?
In Moon and Sun, I play an odd woman with these psychic abilities that manifest in strange ways. I think the scenes where I'm channelling other people were really interesting – I know that I surprised people on set at times with what came out of me!
The pressure of making decisions that so deeply influence someone else's finances would probably be tough
What hidden talents do you have?
I'm a trained singer. I started out in musical theatre and even had a short stint were I was performing as a solo artist as well as performing as a back-up singer for some underground artists. I'd love to do a musical again. For now, the shower will have to do!
If you weren't an actor, do you think you could have ever made it in finance?
I'd like to think I could do anything I put my mind to. I was a smart student, am good with money and can be competitive – does that count for anything? I've never thought about being a trader, though: the pressure of making decisions that so deeply influence someone else's finances would probably be tough to wrap my head around at first.
What's your next project?
I'm gearing up to play Gina in Racing to the Altar, a film about a group of young people who rush to Vegas and quickly marry within the 24 hours after the Vietnam draft was announced. I also have two projects in pre-production that I've written and will act in, as well. One of the joys of writing is that I get to make some of my own dreams come true. In Specimen 143 I'll play an action hero and in Hicksters I'll work out my comedy muscles. Good times all around.
Christina Wren stars in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice which is out in cinemas on 25 March.