As with any career, the key to a potentially successful career in Hollywood as an actor is making a good first impression. For 20 year-old British actress Imogen Poots, whose previous films include 28 Weeks Later and Waking Madison, is potentially about to make hers with the comedy/drama Solitary Man.
In the film, Poots plays Allyson Karsch, a rebellious young girl who becomes the object of lust for Michael Douglas’s character, Ben Kalmen, a car salesman who becomes fixated on Allyson as he deals with a mid-life crisis that threatens to ultimately destroy his life. She talks about how transisting from her native London accent to a New York was crucial in giving Allyson life.
“Solitary Man, which has an all-American feel, set in New York, is definitely incredible and you can’t help but dismiss your own British identity, I think,” Imogen believes, “I obviously had some voice coach work when I was over here after rehearsals with the cast and the directors. They occasionally just set something up because you can slip on some minor letters and nouns and things, so I had a little bit of help and tweaking here and there. There’s nothing worse than a terrible accent.”
“It’s incredible how many different dialects there are and how important it is to get that right, because a standard American really doesn’t mean anything,” she adds, “It was extremely important to do that and again, getting the New York accent kind of on your tongue therefore gives you, you’re then able to access the New York feel, because you’re fully embodying that character. You’re surrounded by Americans as well, so you feel like you got something up your bottom constantly, walking around like a Brit, but you adjust to the American feel.”
Imogen, then discussed how Allyson’s background was key to putting together who she was.
“I guess it was first of all, really a matter of discovering this girl’s habitat,” Poots says, “Upper East Side
“She’s a bright girl, but she’s quite ignorant of her effects on people or with the consequences of her actions,” she continues, “So it was really getting to the core of that. She wasn’t going to be a straightforward girl who made a mistake. She definitely had a motive in taking advantage of Ben, which she does in that scene. Of course, it was brilliant, because a lot of the times, roles for girls can be straightforward and it was exciting to take on a role like Allyson, who is really a character and pushes herself to that level where she’s really connecting with Michael Douglas‘s character Ben in this really insane situation. So she’s definitely unique.”
The connection between Allyson and Ben culminates in a love scene, which Poots says is challenging enough without having it be done alongside Michael Douglas of all actors.
“I think the prospect of that scene can be daunting with any actor who is so highly esteemed as Michael is because it was him,” she says, “And once I met him, it couldn’t have been more different. I felt so comfortable and he’s such a calm, caring person that it was just another kind of surreal day at the office, but intriguing, just another experience, I’ll always have good memories from the film. I think Allyson is extremely savvy in terms of how she can manipulate people and it hasn’t worked on her mother, so she seeks to do this with Ben because she can see his weaknesses. I think because he’s flawed at that moment, I think at that moment when they are discussing at the bar and they open up to one another and they connect on this level, which is extremely unusual and presents age as
“And so, I think he saw something in her, which wasn’t going to be dangerous or seedy in terms of how impressionable she was,” Imogen continues, “He genuinely saw her as a person like himself who had these insecurities and was seeking his advice. So I think that’s why she was the one. I don’t think Ben would have slept with a girl as young as Allyson had it not been for intelligence and kind of innate maturity. I think it was a challenge. I think Allyson saw a challenge there. I don’t she was at all wowed by this guy. I think she was presented in the film as being quite kind of bored at times and this was just something to amuse her for an evening.”
One particular motive she believes for Allyson’s indiscretions, Imogen believes, is to get back at her mother.
“Oh, yeah, for sure, that’s definitely a motive, I think, and how quickly she leaves Ben the next morning,” Poots says, “It’s definitely an expansion of that. Yeah, it’s a great prospect about her relationship with her mother and getting back at her. I think revenge is an ongoing factor in her decision. A lot of that has to do with, I mean, I’m 20 years old and I’m constantly, I hope not to be ignorant, but I think when you’re young, you’re not completely aware of what is coming out your mouth all the time. I think Allyson is going through that stage and she’s kind of flashing from one place to the other and it’s the same with her relationship with her mother.”
“I wasn’t surprised at all because I think in terms of Ben’s impact on Allyson at the time,” she adds, “They shared this experience together, but I think she never thought she’d see him again and it was kind of a reminder when she saw him again on campus. So I wasn’t shocked. I think she’s
Poots, however, has her own take on how much of a creep Ben Kalmen is in the film for pursuing a young girl like Allyson over the course of the film.
“Certainly, I don’t think he’s a creep at all,” she believes, “I think in terms of the characterization of Ben, it’d just interesting to see a man who has gone from, gone through a high stakes in his life, reach a point where you suddenly wonder what you’re going to do anymore, because you’re not a young guy, you don’t walk into the room and make everyone turn around and look at you. And it’s really kind of maintaining what Ben Kalmen once had. Psychologically, It’s just very interesting to watch human beings and I think it’s brilliant because Ben Kalmen is a man who’s older and you’re seeing him in his life and how he’s coping with struggling during his later years. He’s self-destructive in his own way and especially with his indecision regarding women. At some points in his life, they’re disposable because Susan Sarandon’s character, Ben Kalmen’s wife, she’s something that he’s essentially missed because she’s permanent, because they’ve divorced at that point.”
“I think maybe that’s the opinion we came to mutually on the characters in the script because I still believe what happened between Ben and Allyson to be something higher than just a seedy encounter,” Imogen adds, “I think that there was something poignant, if flawed about them sharing that night together because they were both weak and seeking some sort of advice from the other one. I
Imogen thinks the affair between Ben and Allyson was simply another factor contributed to the realism of the script.
“I think it was extremely realistic and that’s what worked with the script with the film because it was told in such a naturalistic sense,” Poots says, “I don’t think many families are that straightforward because people are unpredictable and flawed and there’s a moment in your life when you realize that people you looked up to since being a child can be wrong and can make mistakes and I think that the film speaks true in that sense, but I don’t families, not to my knowledge, can be completely straightforward in that sense.”
“I think age is so irrelevant now,” she continues, “Primarily, in this industry, in terms of acting, you’re constantly surrounded by people who are younger and older than you and you’re working on the same product. But I think in terms of the relationship, I think it’s much less of a great impact anymore. It happens all the time and people fall in love, I suppose, and you cannot help that. I think, to an extent, it shouldn’t be judged if people are happy and the ages are moral.”
Poots talks about how Michael Douglas was the first choice of co-directors Brian Koppelman and David Levien for the role.
“Well, I heard that Brian and Dave had
Imogen also talked about what it was like working with two directors, who have worked together consistently writing Rounders, The Knockaround Guys, Walking Tall, and Ocean’s Thirteen. This is the second film they have also directed together since The Knockaround Guys.
“It’s really brilliant, they really complement one another,” she says of them, “Brian Koppelman is hilarious, as is Dave Levien. But they’ve worked together and collaboration is very fantastic and very nurturing as well. They both do pretty much the same job and focus on the same aspects.”
“But they’ll have a little discussion first and one will come over, but they never say the same thing to you though,” Poots adds, “They’ll have their own kind of ways of explaining it, but it worked brilliantly, but I’ve never worked with two directors before.”
Poots shares the screen for Solitary Man with an ensemble cast that includes Jenna Fischer, Susan Sarandon, and Danny Devito. She shares working with one particular co-star Jesse Eisenberg.
“I met Jesse Eisenberg again and his lovely girlfriend at the Capri Film Festival, where they screened the film, and he’s someone who’s just an incredible person,” she says of him, “He’s like 25 years old and incredibly bright and so funny, so he’s a wonderful person. He’s a thrill to be around.”
Imogen finally talks about working with Mary Louse Parker, who plays Allyson’s mother Jordan in the film.
“Working with Mary Louise Parker was so wonderful,” Poots says of her, “We met at the rehearsals at the beginning and she was so charming. Hilarious. The majority of the people in this cast are so funny, because I suppose a few of them came from a comedy background