About halfway through Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer, a doctor played by Colin Farrell visits the home of a teenage boy (Barry Keoghan) who’s put a mysterious curse on his family. The boy’s mother comes out to offer some pie, and — wait a second, that’s Alicia Silverstone! The Clueless star only appears in two brief scenes, but she makes a definite impression, cooing over the softness of Farrell’s hands and generally adding to the freaky vibe. “I remember thinking, How on earth will I fit into this movie?” the actress told Vulture. “Because when I read the script, it was just so wonderful. When you admire something so much, it’s a little bit hard to imagine how you fit into it.” While speaking to Vulture over the phone, Silverstone discussed her whirlwind one-day shoot for Sacred Deer, why she loved being in the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid film, and her upcoming Paramount Network series American Woman.
How did you get into this movie?
My agent called and said, “You need to go on this thing. It’s worth it. You should start preparing immediately.” I think the audition was 24 hours later, it happened very quick. Francine Maisler’s people were casting, and luckily Francine had seen me in a play two summers ago so I’ve been in her graces lately. And then I got a call saying that Yorgos would like to speak with me over Skype. One thing he said was, “I really liked what you did on your first instinct with the role” — before we started getting direction — “so just trust your gut. You’ll be great.”
What were your instincts telling you that first time?
I think that she was very lonely, very needing, very desperate and wanting. She had a big, big need to be filled, and that’s what I played.
Everyone who’s worked on this movie has such nice things to say about Yorgos.
He’s so brilliant. He’s such an inspired artist. I was delighting in every word he said on set. I would love to spend more time with him. He lives in another country, so I can’t. He just is a really cool cat. Everyone that was there was so happy to be there. You could feel that. I remember stepping off that set and going to do another film and the hair and makeup people were so jealous that I was working with Yorgos.
He creates such a good vibe. There’s a fun, artistic energy to the set. I’ve done tons of theater, and it reminds me of when I was doing a play with Laura Linney on Broadway. I remember when Laura would go to the bathroom, I’d wait to go to the bathroom with her. I had to pee and I didn’t want to leave the table because the conversations were so inspiring.
In the movie, Colin plays your dead husband’s heart surgeon. What was your interpretation of what happened between your characters before the film starts?
I don’t think much. I think she’s had her eye on him. He was the doctor to her husband. So it’s fun to think, was she flirting with him back then? Or is it only now that it’s this psychological thing — somehow he’s responsible for fixing my life too and replacing my husband? Who knows all of the wacky things that could be interpreted? It’s so much fun.
And then you’re in a scene with Barry, who is so freaky in this movie.
With Barry, I just remember going, “He’s good.” He’s really, really weird. I don’t mean as a person, but what he was doing with his art was so interesting. There’s a funny, odd kind of swagger. He has a rhythm with his body almost, the way the language would come out. I don’t know, I found him kind of mesmerizing.
Have you gotten a lot of feedback on the film?
I had a few people tell me that they had seen the film and how great it was. And then I think I heard some nice things were said in reviews. I haven’t read them.
Is that a rule you have?
Oh, it comes and goes. Sometimes I try really hard not to. Usually if somebody sends you something, then you can’t help but click it. But in general when doing theater, you have a rule of do not look at the reviews. It can really mess with your head. Even if they say wonderful things, it can be very confusing. But other actors read every single thing. Good and bad, they just don’t care. They soak it all up. But I don’t know. I’m also a mother and really busy trying to write books and do my business projects. You know, I have this vitamin company. So I don’t really have the time to do all that.
Are you picky about roles now?
For sure. Lately I’ve been making some tougher decisions about big parts that would be sort of commercial, but not necessarily satisfying to your soul. It’s not worth it to me. I’d rather a day on a Yorgos film than three months doing something I’m not passionate about. Shooting American Woman, it was all-consuming. Bear [Silverstone’s 6-year-old son] came around quite a bit, and every weekend I dedicated to him. But it’s a lot, so you want to make sure that the time that you’re spending away, it’s for something you’re passionate about. Luckily when I did Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Bear came with me and he spent the whole time on that job with me.
That sounds like a kid’s dream.
When I went in on Wimpy Kid, I thought that was going to be a small part. I didn’t realize it was a leading role. We didn’t have scripts, I just went in on the audition. We started negotiating timing and schedule around American Woman and Yorgos’s film, and they were all happening at the same time. Everybody worked together. Yorgos helped us to push my date and Diary of a Wimpy Kid held the movie for a week or two for me.
But I remember at the time, I was like, “Why is this so difficult?” I didn’t understand. “I probably only have a few scenes, can’t they just work around me?” They kept saying, “You have to be there every day.” And I was like, “Why would I have to be there every day? I’m just the mom.” And that’s when they were like, “I think you need to read the script.” Ohhh, I get it. But I loved it. I thought it was exciting to do something that later on in life, my kid is going to think is really, really cool. I hope he already thinks it’s really, really cool. To be on set with a ton of kids, where my kid could just be a part of it all, it felt like a really good choice.
American Woman is based on the life of Real Housewife of Beverly Hills Kyle Richards. Are you a fan?
No, I had never seen that show. But I’m a big fan of John Wells [the veteran producer who also worked on E.R. and The West Wing], and I’m a big fan of wonderful parts. It’s once in a lifetime to get to play this kind of fiery character. She’s such a trailblazer in a way, a badass woman. 1975 was a very exciting time. Two years after Roe v. Wade. Women couldn’t get a loan without a man. Equal education was just introduced. Girls couldn’t even play sports. Women were supposed to be virgins, and men were allowed to sleep around. Couples were having group sex and open marriages, and nudist groups and porn were catching on fire. And Bonnie [Silverstone’s character, based on Richards’s mother] just has this really magnetic draw. She’s very traditional, but she’s also super sexual. She’s kind of really reckless. She cares so much about her kids, but then she’s a bad mom at times. And obviously women haven’t really found our 100 percent equal footing yet, so 40 years later it’s kind of cool to see how far we’ve come.
This interview has been edited and condensed.