Evan Rachel Wood may have spent her career looking for films that push the envelope, but the 26-year-old actress found the toughest role of her life when she had her first child via natural home birth this past summer.
Wood plays a tough-talking Romanian cellist and strip-club denizen who entices an American (Shia LaBeouf) in “Charlie Countryman,” opening Friday. But her birthing choice, she says, “was the hardest thing I’ve ever done — and also was the most rewarding experience of my life, ever.
“I just had no idea that birth could be like this,” she adds of delivering her son with actor-husband Jamie Bell. “[Women are told] ‘you’re not going to be able to do it, it’s too hard, too painful.’ I don’t know when something being hard and painful became something we never experience, just because it’s hard.”
You certainly can’t say that about Wood. The Raleigh, N.C., native took to performing early. At 5, she tried out for the role of the young undead girl in 1994’s “Interview With the Vampire” that ultimately went to Kirsten Dunst. But Wood went to steady TV series work (“Once and Again”) until 2003’s big-screen drama “Thirteen” got her a lot of attention at 16 for playing a middle-schooler whose very adult life worries her mom (Holly Hunter).
“It’s odd starting so young, because I think you don’t really know what you’re getting into,” Wood says. “I wasn’t prepared for what it was going to be like, and how people would treat you or look at you.
“I’ve lived many lifetimes already. Definitely being a teenager and having ‘Thirteen’ come out, having my whole life change overnight, was jarring.”
Rather than going the “Twilight” route, Wood did a Western (“The Missing”), edgy indies (“Down in the Valley”), one genuinely tough-to-sell project (Julie Taymor’s Beatles-themed musical “Across the Universe”), Darren Aronofsky’s gritty “The Wrestler” and a two-season stint on HBO’s “True Blood.”
“The reason I go for those roles is because, you’re a twentysomething girl in Hollywood, you mainly get sent movies [where] you’re just the girlfriend, you’re just having sex with someone and then leaving. It’s hard to find roles for women that are, well, like Gabi in ‘Charlie Countryman.’ ”
Wood’s role in the gritty fairy tale is the kind she likes, an independent woman who “doesn’t need to be rescued” by the men in her life.
“I really love doing movies that push me as an actor,” she says. “If something is too easy, I get bored pretty easily.”
Working with LaBeouf, she says, was never boring. “There’s all kinds of things floating around about Shia, but I personally had a great experience working with him,” she says. “He’s insanely dedicated to what he does.”
As for her own dedication, motherhood hasn’t slowed Wood down in the slightest.
“I’m working harder than ever because now I have a whole new reason to, and a reason why, and an inspiration,” she says. “There’s no time to be lazy. I was ready for that in my life.”
She says she and Bell (“Billy Elliot,” “King Kong,” the upcoming “Nymphomaniac,” co-starring LaBeouf) don’t let work overtake their life.
“I’m more the person who is like, ‘OK, [the day’s filming] is over, I don’t want to talk about it,’ ” Wood explains. “But it’s nice when you share the same passions because you can keep turning each other on to different things. But I’m more like, ‘Let’s watch cartoons and videogames, I don’t want to think about movies!’ ”
Though Wood, who used to date goth rocker Marilyn Manson, says dealing with “fame and paparazzi is the worst part” of acting, she nonetheless took to her Twitter account in August 2012 to share that she’s bisexual, an announcement that thrust her into the public eye in a different way.
She characteristically handled it with toughness.
“I’m very happy I did it,” Wood says. “There’s always going to be people that don’t understand and are going to say hateful things. I feel bad for those people, and don’t pay attention to that. I do pay attention to the people that say to me, ‘Thank you, you’ve made me feel so much better about myself.’ That’s the reason I did it.
“If more people came out about it, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal. It’s something I’m very proud of — I don’t let the hate into my life. I don’t regret it at all.”