Kay did 2 interviews recently for Complex and Upcoming Movies.
On the surface, Little Birds seems like your typical, forgettable independent film. It’s a quiet coming-of-age tale of two friends with emotionally absent parents wading through their vacuous wasteland of a hometown, the Salton Sea, who decide to follow a group of punks back to Los Angeles. But it doesn’t end the way you just pictured in your head, nor does it leave you unaffected.
Little Birds, which premiered at Sundance in 2011 and is out in limited theaters now, makes you actually care about something other than what you’ll pick up for dinner afterward. Maybe that’s because it came from a very real place: the life of its director, Elgin James.
James, who was a moviebuff since he was a kid, is a newcomer in Hollywood, but his name has certainly been whispered in the grittiest parts of the US. Before being recruited to develop his film at the Sundance labs, James, now 42, was the leader of the dangerous gang F.S.U. (Fuck Shit Up), whose mission was to destroy drug dealers and neo-Nazis, that started in Boston but has since developed chapters all over the nation. After stints in jail, James has completely renounced his gang-life and is now sober and happily married.
But, of course, James couldn’t realize his dream, which would ultimately give him redemption, without a cast to bring it to fruition. Leading a roster of talent that includes Leslie Mann, Kate Bosworth, Neal McDonough and Kyle Gallner, Juno Temple and Kay Panabaker are two of the most promising young actresses in the industry right now. Temple, 23, is known for her fearlessness and willingness to embody the most risqué characters (just watch Killer Joe). Panabaker, 22, is a sweet staple in family-friendly films who’s now showing audiences a more contemplative side to her.
Together, James, Panabaker and Temple toiled for days on the film that would ultimately become a shared passion project between the three of them. Complex got a chance to speak to the trio about their experience on set, how James’ criminal past affected the film, and what Little Birds ultimately means to them.
Interview by Tara Aquino (@t_akino)
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW AT COMPLEX.COM
Lily and her best friend Alison know little else then the claustrophobic, decaying town along the shore of the Salton Sea where they were raised. Los Angeles is only a few hours away, but it might as well be on another continent until they run into some trouble-making guys that lead them into a dangerous world in “Little Birds.”
“Little Birds” is loosely inspired by writer/director Elgin James’ life of crime that led him to prison. Raised in Boston, James had a difficult, violent childhood, so the only way he could cope was by joining a gang.
“I’ve been through a lot of stuff since I was a child and movies were always my escape,” James said. “I had nervous ticks when I was a kid and it was whenever I would watch movies that they would stop.”
After a decade of living a criminal lifestyle and at times being homeless, James escaped and moved to Los Angeles to pursue his love, movies. It was there he met producer Jamie Patricof, which led to to involvement with the Sundance Institute.
But from early on, James resisted any opportunity to glamorize his past life.
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW AT UPCOMING-MOVIES.COM
Photography and article by Tina Turnbow
I met the Los Angeles-based actress Kay Panabaker on a quick visit to New York. We chatted about a lot of things, including her coming film, “Little Birds,” which opens Aug. 29 and also stars Juno Temple, Kate Bosworth and Leslie Mann. Panabaker’s character, Alison, is solid and levelheaded, much like the actress herself. Mature beyond her 22 years, this young lady knows who she is, what she stands for and which beauty products she can’t live without!
T.T.: What have you been up to this summer?
K.P.: I’ve enjoyed spending some time in San Diego. I always try to get to the zoo when I’m there, as I’m a huge animal lover. My boyfriend and I have three dogs. We recently rescued a pup; we’re fixing her up so we can find her a good home. I also found time to hang out with some of my gamer friends. Those would be friends who love playing video games! We play mostly the Lego series. The movie versions, like the Lego Star Wars series.
T.T.: Do you enjoy living in Los Angeles?
K.P.: L.A. has its pluses. It’s always sunny, and the beach and the hiking are great. I’m mostly a homebody there, though. It agrees with me more than living in New York, which I think I would find overwhelming. However, in L.A., interesting and good people are hard to come by. As a friend of mine pointed out, “people in New York City are so different and diverse, because there the entertainment industry is one of many.” Whereas in L.A., people get swept up in the bubble, a big, vapid bubble.
T.T.: What stood out to you most about the style and look of your character Alison in “Little Birds”?
K.P.: “Little Birds” is very unique, in that the styling doesn’t really feel like it’s from any particular period — it seems timeless. My character in particular spent no time on her looks. This meant literally no time in hair and makeup. I came in with greasy hair, or however it looked that morning. Then, maybe, the makeup artist put a little cover-up on my face, where needed. We wanted to keep her very young and easygoing.
T.T.: Did you have any skin issues as a teen?
K.P.: Funny enough, I am having issues now. I’ve got some great skin genes and never had to worry about big breakouts. I can even do the big “no-no” of not washing my face or taking my makeup off before bed, not that I do that often. I’ve always had baby-soft skin on my face, and it’s been the one thing I could always count on. But, over the last year or so, I’ve developed a reddish, dry roughness to my cheeks, which has unfortunately forced me to wear a lot more foundation than I would like. I’ve finally found a way to mask it! After washing my face in the shower, I use Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizer and then Perfékt Skin Perfection Gel in Translucent. This helps restore my skin to its usual softness.
T.T.: Do you find exfoliating helps with the roughness and the flaky skin?
K.P.: I used to exfoliate every day, but that was too aggressive for my skin. So I use Proactiv Cleansing Wash, which lightly exfoliates and cleanses. Then, a few times a week I will use Queen Helene Oatmeal n’ Honey Scrub.
T.T.: Your skin is very fair. Do you have a special trick to help get a glow?
K.P.: It’s a struggle having such incredibly fair skin, and when I spend time in the sun, it turns obnoxiously red, instead of getting a pretty glow. I use Jergens Natural Glow Daily facial moisturizer. It not only restores moisture to my face, but it builds up a natural color without giving me that orange, fake-tan look. I’ll also use Physicians Formula Bronze Booster on my neck, so I don’t get that weird face-is-a-different-color-than-my-neck look!
T.T: Is there a safety-blanket product you like to have with you at all times?
K.P.: I’ve always loved cover-up, because I can use that with mascara and look naturally great — quickly! My favorite is Lancome Effacernes Waterproof Undereye Concealer. I not only use it under my eyes but anywhere I need to on my face. That combined with bareMinerals Touch Up Veil makes your face look flawless! I like Fresh’s Supernova mascara to build volume in my lashes. I layer Lancome Hypnose mascara on top to build length and help hold the curl.
T.T.: What type of fragrances do you like?
K.P.: I wear all perfumes by Burberry, but my absolute favorite is their London scent. I like very fresh, floral scents that aren’t too strong.
T.T.: Which hair products do you use to style your pretty hair?
K.P.: I’ve always struggled with keeping my hair curly when I style it that way. I have really healthy hair, which means it’s stubborn to any sort of change. Before each curl, I’ll spray my hair with Redken Spray Starch 15; it works with the heat without weighing hair down. Once I’m done curling my hair, I set it with Freeze It Hairspray, which doesn’t have the stickiness or heaviness of other hair sprays.
T.T.: Is this your natural hair color?
K.P.: I keep my hair its natural color. I don’t mess with it unless I’m doing something for an event or a role. I have a widow’s peak and a cowlick, though, so I battle with my bangs often, but I love having bangs!
T.T.: When it comes to diet, do you have any restrictions or do you keep it pretty varied?
K.P.: Everyone seems to be eating gluten-free lately. In many cases it’s not because people are gluten intolerant — it’s just the trendy way to eat. I don’t restrict myself or do anything too extreme. I’ve tried that and the effects are not good. I like to be adventurous with food, as I think it’s meant to be enjoyed. I know people who eat the same foods every day for each meal. If I feel the need, I will cut back, especially on sugar.
T.T.: Is there a certain acting goal or project that you dream of doing?
K.P.: I’ve been dying to do a period piece! I was a history major at U.C.L.A., and I would love to do a movie set in another era.
T.T.: Is there a woman whose style and beauty you admire?
K.P.: I love seeing pictures of Rachel Bilson. She always looks so natural and effortless, which I think is so attractive. No one looks good with caked-on makeup in the middle of the day!
T.T.: How have you remained so grounded and strong at such a young age?
K.P.: I’ve always loved the simple life. I grew up in the suburbs of Illinois. Riding your bike everywhere and running through sprinklers — I simply loved it. I think that I’ve been able to keep my head on straight because I’m not caught up in the glitz and glamor of Hollywood. I’ve always stood by what I believe in, and I always try to stay true to myself. I surround myself, whenever possible, with like-minded people. It’s hard in this town, but I’ve managed so far!