Mena Suvari: The Q interview

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The Independent Culture

Mena Suvari, 23, is most famous for the image of her naked body sprinkled in rose petals in American Beauty. She grew up in Rhode Island with her three brothers before modelling took her to Los Angeles and her first big role in American Pie. Her latest film, Spun, explores amphetamine addiction and is hyped as an American Trainspotting. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, the cinematographer Robert Brinkmann, who is 41.

You don't look your most attractive as a speed addict. What was that like?

It was great. Usually when you're doing a film you go to the make-up trailer to look better and this was the opposite. I was in pyjamas all day, running around in my slippers. I felt really comfortable. To be able to think about other things is a blast.

Your teeth were looking a bit scary - could you get that stuff off at night?

It was a resin they put on, like a nail polish, and I could use alcohol but I had to scrape, and sometimes I would just go out to dinner. It's amazing how differently people treat you when you look like that.

Is your body a temple or a bike shed?

Definitely a temple. I strongly believe you are what you eat. I'm really weird - I visualise how something affects me. I have a nutritionist and I don't eat sugar or bread or rice - my carbs are vegetables. And I take pilates and gyrotonics, spinning and I go hiking. I'm hardcore temple.

Are you evangelical about it?

I was working on this film in LA and for this shot they gave me a can of coke. And I was like, I don't even want to hold it. I don't care how much a deal would be worth, it's the principle. I don't want to be a preacher but it's something I believe in. Too much sugar is ruining children's health.

You've been married nearly four years. Do you work at it?

It's little effort because all the things I do just happen naturally - I do them because I want to. There have been a lot of relationships where you're always worrying about what you say or do or how that person's going to be affected and it's just consuming. I've been lucky enough to meet someone who gives me the freedom to be who I want to be.

You married young. Were people concerned? Did they warn you off?

They didn't really warn me and they weren't concerned - they were more negative. It's understandable to a certain degree but they don't know me and they don't know my relationship, so that's not right. But I don't want to care what anyone else thinks.

Are you good at being unaffected by what other people think?

I don't think anybody's ever unaffected, it's something you work at - taking the time to decide what's important to you and what you want to do. It's really hard, especially in this business where you've got people coming from all angles telling you what's good for you. You have to find the strength to stick with what you want to do and what you believe in.

You've learned that now?

I'm still learning. For a long time it was "Well what do you think I should do?" and I'd ask several people, but now I don't. It's made me more empowered but it's risky too.

Success came easily to you. If it hadn't, how hard would you have fought for it?

I don't know. I always try my hardest, in any part of my life, but I really fell into this business through modelling. Celebrity status was never a goal for me, or any kind of material object.

What did you want to do when you were a little girl?

First a palaeontologist and then an archaeologist. I had a dig outside my house. I grew up in this house in Rhode Island that was built in the 1870s. I found plates, I found a bullet. It was 4ft deep and I was digging away all day. My dad's a psychiatrist so I wanted to be a doctor too.

What's your alternative career now?

I really want to study criminal psychology. I've always been interested in science but I've recently decided that what interests me is the why and how more than the what. I read a great book called Base Instincts - What Makes Killers Kill by Dr Jonathan Pincus and it was fascinating. And sexual sadism - that interests me too.

Where does that come from?

So many of the cases, all they tell you about is the crime. No one talks about their upbringing. You look at their childhoods and the things that happened to them are unbelievable. It makes sense that they act out later on in their lives and do these things.

Is it true you're really a redhead?

No. Honey, there's a lot of things you read about me that are not true. I don't know why it's like that. I'm blonde.

How does it feel to be lusted over?

Frankly I have no idea that I'm lusted over. I really don't.

My financial adviser asked me to give you his number...

Are you serious? I'm just completely unaware of all of that.

Are there downsides to being a pin-up?

Everyone's been nice and accepting and warm. No eggs have been thrown at me.

What's your perfect weekend?

To be with my friends, go hiking with my husband, just kind of relaxed at home.

Do you two spend a lot of time alone together?

We're together all the time. We're stuck together.

'Spun' is in cinemas now

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