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It might be a sweltering 90-degree L.A. day, but Evan Rachel Wood breezes into Hugo’s restaurant in West Hollywood like NBD. She’s wearing a sleeveless concert tee emblazoned with her own band, Rebel and a Basketcase’s logo, and a poppy-red lip; her blond crop tossed to one side. She’s a study in effortless cool as she sips Dandelion Vanilla tea and enthuses about her latest project, HBO’s masterful television reboot of Michael Crichton’s 1973 android thriller, Westworld, premiering October 2.
Wood, now 29, has been in the spotlight since her teens, becoming known for edgy indies like Thirteen and Oscar-winning hits like The Wrestler. Now she feels she's hit her stride with Westworld, a role she hopes will be her opus. Set in the near future, Westworld is an immersive artificial reality: a Wild West theme park populated by highly advanced androids with cavernous narratives. Visitors to the park indulge in their darkest desires, and questions about human consciousness and morality quickly arise –think Jurassic Park meets Ex Machina.
Wood plays Dolores Abernathy, the park's oldest “host” with a well of memories to draw upon as her emotional intelligence awakens. It’s a role so complex, so captivating, it’s hard to imagine anyone but Wood playing the part. “We know there’s something different about Dolores and it’s either consciousness or madness,” Wood says. “It’s the tiny flickers of something that’s not quite human that was really fun to find.”
In Westworld, Wood’s character dons the same blue period dress each day as her story repeats itself; in real life, Wood prefers her personal style to be fluid and androgynous. “Sometimes I think I still dress like a 13-year-old boy,” Wood laughs. “It’s not that I don’t like feminine clothing, I just like a blend because it reflects who I am.” After more than a decade of red carpets and myriad style incarnations, Wood says, “It took me a while to get to a place of feeling like fashion was an expression – something I could have fun with and an art form.” While you may see her in a perfectly fit Dolce and Gabbana pinstripe suit at a premiere, Wood also prizes her vintage Harley Davidson tee, broken-in Dr. Martens shoes, and pieces from Wildfang, a company that specializes in menswear-inspired clothes for women.
With style influences including David Bowie (“I love that he was a shape-shifter”) and Debbie Harry, it’s no surprise that Wood embraces music as much as acting these days. When it came time to create an onstage persona for performances with her electronic pop band, Rebel and a Basketcase, Wood chose to pay homage to her favorite 1980s stars. “My stage character is a weird blend of Siouxsie Sioux, Watts from Some Kind of Wonderful, Ducky from Pretty in Pink, Bowie and Debbie Harry,” says Wood, a John Hughes film fan who even has “Watts” tattooed on her inner arm. “She’s like my tomboy hero.”
Photographed by Billy Ballard; styled by Melissa Rubini; hair by Dennis Gots for The Wall Group; makeup by Toby Fleischman for TMG-LA; manicure by Marisa Carmichael for Streeters; production by Kelsey Stevens Production.
VIDEO: TIFF: Up Close with Evan Rachel Wood