Juno Temple lights up the first of several cigarettes, taking in the sheer lunacy of Venice Beach at sunset—the middle-aged skateboarders, the ganja stink, the spaced out hula hoopers, the tatted Latino gangbangers, the acid casualties, the white wizards with decades-old dredds, and some exceptionally friendly crack hos. We’ve unwittingly picked the most batshit crazy spot on the boardwalk to have a beer, and Temple, 22, is soaking it all up. “Los Angeles is such a minestrone soup of people,” she says, her eyes, the color of green tea. She notices a yacht gliding along the ocean. “You know, the best thing about it here is the never-ending horizon. Makes you realize how small you are in the bigger picture.”
She’s forthright, jolly, and charmingly foul-mouthed—so very British. But she’s most passionate when she talks about America, where she moved from London three years ago, aged 19. She’s in love with it all, from the crumbling antebellum houses of New Orleans (“I want to retire there”) to the starry desert nights in Joshua Tree (“you’re in your underwear dancing and singing under the stars”) and even the tragically rotten Salton Sea in California. “It’s so romantic,” she says of the toxic red lake where she recently filmed. “Just destruction and derelict spaces built from trash. But at the same time, its one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen in your life. I would happily take a lover to the Salton Sea for a weekend and just be like, ‘look at these old fish bones!’”
(A sun-beaten woman with dry black lips asks Juno for a cigarette.)
Like so many English actresses before her, Temple, daughter of famed punk film director Julien Temple, crossed the pond in order to try her luck in Hollywood. Unlike so many English actresses before her, she seems to be making a real impression. She arrived in LA an established indie actress with a string of very British, schoolgirl-type supporting roles under her belt. Like Lola Quincey in “Atonement”, the flame-haired World War Two-era 15 year old who refuses to name the man who raped her; like Celia, the blonde trustafarian in the campy “St Trinian’s” film series; and like Di Radfield, the well-bred boarding school pupil with an obsessive crush on her beautiful teacher in the moody “Cracks”.
(“Oh no I don’t have any change, sorry!”)
As the story goes, Temple’s producer mum Amanda Pirie and director dad Julien Temple, (who made iconic Sex Pistols films “The Filth and the Fury” and “The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle”) were apprehensive when Juno announced she wanted to be on film. “When I first told them I wanted to act they were like, ‘fuck that!’” recalls Temple, named after a mount in the Grand Canyon. “’You’re going to be miserable, you’re never going to work, it’s going to suck’.” Her mum sent her to the audition for the Judi Dench/Cate Blanchett film “Notes on a Scandal” so she could see just how tough the casting process was. Despite having no major experience, aside from a few bit parts in her dad’s productions, Juno landed the part, playing Blanchett’s angsty daughter, Polly Hart. After that, mum and dad were on board with her career decision. “They said ‘fucking go for it. If it gets tough, call us and cry.’”
And cry, she has. Petite as she is (only 5’2”) she’s got a big, sensitive, romantic heart. No doubt, that’s what makes her well-suited to a life in acting. It also means she requires a fair amount of Kleenex. “I’m an emotional headcase,” she says, matter of factly. “That’s why it’s really important for me to trust my director. Because at some point, I will cry.” She likes to unwind by writing poetry, and by reading—right now she’s digging into Nabokov’s “Lolita” for the first time. She also likes poetry, e.e. cummings, Ginsberg, Keats. And she really loves Charles Bukowski, the subversive Hollywood author, alcoholic mail-man and literary genius. She has jotted down some Bukowski quotes in her diary. “’The sadness becomes so great, I hear it in my clock,’” she recites. “Isn’t that so genius? So simple, but so genius.” She looks in her journal for more pearls of wisdom. “’Live as if you’ll die tomorrow, dream as if you’ll live forever’. James Dean.” And then she finds her favorite. “No matter how beautiful she is, somebody somewhere is sick of her shit.” She erupts into raucous laughter. “That’s by a friend of mine.”
Alongside the epithets in her diary are pen sketches, largely of feminine creatures (one looks like Medusa) in their underwear. She loves lingerie, and had hoped to study fashion design before deciding upon acting as a career. “Underwear is my favourite,” she purrs. “Like, it’s my problem.” Sometimes Temple’s mum will have to talk her out of spending all her money on panties and silk slips and vintage brassieres and ostrich feather nightgowns, reminding her that her rent is due. “Look,” says Temple, pulling a pair of black lace panties from her bag. “I am an Agent Provocateur junkie. And here’s the matching bra. See-through. Naughty!” She loves underwear because the female body is, to her, “so magical. I dress like a fucking homeless person, but underneath, I’m always a woman. And no-one needs to know. It’s my business.”
(A man walks by bearing a cardboard coffin on his shoulder.)
When we sit down for our beer on Venice Beach, she’s excited for a few reasons. First, she’s officially become a corporation—“Juno Violet Temple, Inc.” meaning that, in American accounting terms at least, she’s arrived. “Look, I’m incorporated!” she beams, showing me her business stamp, which she tested out on a page of her diary. She’s also excited because she’s in the middle of filming the latest installment of the Batman saga, “The Dark Knight Rises”. It’s her first big studio production, and could mark the transition of “Juno Temple, indie drama girl” to “Juno Temple, bona fide starlet”. She’s starring alongside heavyweights like Gary Oldman and Christian Bale in the multi-million dollar production, which has opened her eyes to a whole new process of filmmaking. “It’s like juicing a lemon and juicing an orange,” she says of the difference between acting in an indie film and a studio blockbuster. “And you know what, I fucking enjoy both flavors.”
She’s not allowed to talk about the movie, but it’s rumoured she’s playing Holly Robinson, Catwoman’s lesbian prostitute sidekick, and one of the few openly gay comic book characters. It’s easy to imagine why Temple was picked for the role—she has a long list of lesbian, bisexual, bi-curious or just hopelessly sexual characters on her resume. Take the upcoming “Jack and Diane”, a love story between two girls set in Time Square, New York. In it, Temple stars opposite Elvis Presley’s granddaughter, the mesmerizingly beautiful Riley Keogh. “I had a lot of fun making out with her,” says Temple. She’s not gay (she’s in a relationship with an American actor who shall not be named), but she has “no problems with playing a lesbian, or being part of a movie that tackles homosexuality. It’s not that I am specifically going out of my way to choose those roles. But if one comes along and I feel good about it? Fuck yeah! I’m going to do it, and I’m going to really take it seriously too.”
(An unwashed senior citizen wails, operatically.)
And then there’s the charming “Dirty Girl”, a sparkly, gay version of “Thelma and Louise” in which, Temple plays a Rizzo-esque slutty teenager who takes a road trip in a stolen car with an overweight closeted gay boy, helping him lose his virginity to a super hot male hitchhiker along the way. The heartwarming coming-of-age tale shows us Temple at her sassiest and most outrageous (“what are your thoughts on the pull-out method?” her character asks a sex-education teacher). That character, a white-trash 1980s man-eater from Oklahoma, is a far cry the real Temple, the Bedales-educated boarding school Boho with the punk rock parents. But that’s why she enjoyed making “Dirty Girl”—it allowed her to explore an entirely different world to the one she grew up in. Which is kind of what she’s been doing for the last three years, anyhow.
(A ruddy-cheeked man yells over. “You girls British? I knew you were British! Your women’s team just won the football!”)
No matter how far she is from her homeland, though, Juno Temple isn’t forgetting where she came from. A few days after our interview, she was due to meet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their first official visit to Los Angeles, and Temple’s one of a handful of UK actors handpicked by BAFTA for the honour. She lights up another cigarette, pondering the weight of it all. For someone so self-assured, who has traveled thousands of miles and established herself in an unknown land, and who has absolutely no qualms about showing you her knickers, she’s surprisingly anxious about meeting the Royals. “I’ve got to keep it under control,” she says, furrowing her brow. “I mean, I have a mouth like a fucking drainpipe, don’t I?”