When it comes to landing a great role, 20 distinguished years in acting helps. But sometimes, as The Dropout star Amanda Seyfried sees it, the right role begets the right role. In this case, the role of Marion Davies in David Fincher’s 2020 film Mank led her to the role of controversial Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes. “I was nominated for an Oscar that morning, and I got it [‘Dropout’] Call at night,” she says. “Nobody said otherwise.”
Still, her journey, which captured the now-convicted entrepreneur’s looks and voice, the walking and dancing, the drive and the fears, the relationships and the loneliness, was the thrill of her life. “I’ve never impersonated anyone so completely,” Seyfried said earlier this year before attending a splashy “Dropout” event in Los Angeles. She spoke to The Envelope about the dancing, Holmes’ eyes and that scream.
After the PR rise, the scandalous case, the book, the podcast, the documentary and the trial, what was your role as the dramatized version of Elizabeth Holmes?
Getting the three-dimensional human back, finding what connects us humans. She’s a villain, but we’ll characterize her from every perspective. The most important thing about storytelling is that we put ourselves in other people’s shoes. And we get to know ourselves. There is a mirror scene…
The one in the last episode, after her damage control interview where she seems to be studying herself intently?
That scene was so effective. You peer into a very intimate moment of desperation, of intense engagement…how could you not somehow understand what’s going on inside her?
Elizabeth Holmes played a role to some extent. Studying them, did you recognize a fellow actor?
At the Oscars [last year]I sat down with David Fincher and told him I would do it [play her]. He turned to me and said, “That Theranos girl, she’s not listening.” And I thought, “You’re right!” Watch her listen. she is to play Listen. [Seyfried uncannily segues into Holmes, opening her eyes wider, vacantly, and leans in.] Everything is like, “Do you see me listening? Make sure you see I’m listening.” It’s one of the things that made her succeed. So much of it was acted out and her bubble had to burst. It must have been so exhausting.
And you both have such intense eyes.
Yours are even bigger than mine!
Studying yours must have been fascinating.
The interrogation tapes, there are 10 hours of them and I watched them over and over again because I couldn’t get enough. And I had months for that, because I [got the role in] march [of 2021] and did not shoot until June. I just watched her eyes a lot, first to see how long she blinked. It was like a deer in headlights, but with a smile.
The dancing has also caught the attention of viewers and even ignited social media.
My favorite way to express Elizabeth Holmes’ frustration was through dancing. A character who pushes himself to the limit. A lot of it was based on the fact that she was a dance student. Naveen [Andrews, as Sunny Balwani] also nailed that physicality.
I heard some of the dances with Naveen were there because legal concerns prohibited speculated sex scenes.
I did not know that! But that’s right, because of litigation, there were a lot of things [showrunner Liz Meriwether] couldn’t write.
The final scene, in which she screams alone, is an annoying break from her plastic stance. How was it to shoot?
I didn’t know what I would do until this day. The weight of the final scene in an eight-hour show. Is it an implosion? A blast? i know how she feels She looks back at the building from which she is running away, angry, irritated. But that’s for the audience. You need some satisfaction. Scream? no scream? I spoke to Liz and she said, “Try it.” It’s hard to surprise people.
The scream was a surprise.
It’s good. It had to be so many different things and unexpected even for her. And the emergence of Uber is a surprise, and the switch that’s happening so abruptly. Who the hell is this person? We’re still not destined to know who she is, after all, even with her sociopathic transformation. We are no smarter. It leaves a dot dot dot but none that’s frustrating.
What did producing The Dropout teach you about what you do?
I’m a character actor. I’ve been at this for a while so it’s not like I’ve ever felt the need to go upstairs. As long as I worked, I was fulfilled. I mean, I Thought I was fulfilled. But I’ve never had so much fun in my life. I’ve never done anything more exciting, on any level, every day, because she was so different from me. And I’m not done yet. Maybe I’m done with her, but I’m not done playing someone I can emulate and get to know, even if I’m making it up in my head. My next job is playing someone very similar to me, which is what I usually do, but I was like, ‘What if I had an accent?’ They were like, ‘I don’t think so.’ But I’m still trying to get over Thinking about ways I can change [her].
So you’re ready to lose yourself more in roles?
Wouldn’t that be nice?
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/awards/story/2022-06-14/amanda-seyfried-david-fincher-elizabeth-holmes-dropout David Fincher gave Amanda Seyfried the key to ‘Dropout’ role