Rising Star

Alexandra Daddario on ‘True Detective’s’ Misogyny Claims and Her Hollywood Ascent

The up-and-coming actress sat down at the Venice Film Festival to discuss her wacky zom-com Burying the Ex, the acclaimed HBO potboiler, and her rise up the ranks.

Lacey Terrell/HBO

It was the scene that launched a thousand HBO subscriptions—and one misguided, mammary-centric New Yorker think piece.

During the second episode of HBO’s potboiler-phenomenon True Detective, court reporter Lisa Tragnetti, played by the impossibly blue-eyed Alexandra Daddario, seduces Woody Harrelson’s family man-cop with a wandering eye, Marty Hart. The steamy scene, coupled with the show’s overall macho POV, led to trumped-up charges by the aforementioned periodical regarding the show’s perceived misogyny. And Daddario, whose character was singled out by the New Yorker, doesn’t see it that way.“Referring to the misogyny thing, I would be very curious to go back and read that article,” says Daddario. “I feel like the story was incredibly well-written, the character’s were real to me, and I feel like the story was about these two, flawed men, and the women—especially my character and Lili Simmons’ character—were there to propel their storylines forward. The truth is that they do some bad things, and it was just part of it. You see Woody Harrelson as this family man and he’s well-respected, and then you see this naked girl on top of him, so it totally changes your perspective of the character. It made a lot of sense to me.”

She adds, “On the other hand as well, opposite to what people are saying about misogyny, for the women on the show, it gave us a lot more power in Hollywood. Professionally, it created the opposite situation for myself. Immediately afterwards, I booked a very strong female role in San Andreas, so I do disagree—wholeheartedly.”

Indeed, we’re seated across from one another at something called the Jaeger-LeCoultre lounge—which sounds like a Bond villain—at the ritzy Hotel Excelsior overlooking the Adriatic Sea in Venice, Italy. The occasion is the Venice Film Festival, where Daddario’s latest film, Burying the Ex, is making its world premiere.

Directed by Gremlins helmer Joe Dante, Burying the Ex is a cheeky zom-com that tells the tale of Max (Anton Yelchin), a horror movie nerd who works in a Halloween shop, and finds himself distancing from his too-hot-for-him girlfriend, Evelyn (Ashley Greene), whose outrageous obsession with all things “green” makes Gwyneth Paltrow look like one of those assholes on Duck Dynasty. Still, they make a pact next to a satanic doll that they’ll be together foreva. And then… Evelyn gets totaled by a bus and dies. Soon thereafter, Max meets Olivia (Daddario), a fetching fellow fan of all things macabre who runs an ice cream shop called I Scream, and they fall for one another—that is, until the sex-crazed Evelyn rises from the dead (because, you know, satanic doll pact) and makes Max and Olivia’s lives a living hell.

For Daddario, part of the attraction was working with Dante, the horror buff behind films like The Howling, Gremlins, and The ’Burbs.

Gremlins is one of those eternal movies that stands the test of time, and that everyone loves and knows,” she says.

The film is also, it seems, about when to pull the plug on a shitty relationship, as Max finds himself haunted by his empty promise of life-long love when, really, he wanted anything but.

“I think love is something you figure out later on in life, and you have to make a lot of mistakes to figure out what love is, which is why we all have shitty, tumultuous relationships when we’re younger, and it’s harder to let go,” says Daddario. “I’ve had those relationships, and you have to make those mistakes to find out what we really want.”

Daddario, a self-described “city girl” who grew up on 84th and 1st in Manhattan, got her first break at 16 when she won the role of Laurie Lewis, a troubled young gal whose mother was killed and whose father is an abusive drunk (soap opera, natch).

“I was fired from the soap,” she says with a laugh. “My character went to go live with her alcoholic Dad when he went to rehab, which was somewhere far, far away. Then, I went to Marymount Manhattan for college for a couple of years, but I kept taking semesters off and I really wanted to be an actor. I’d do an episode of Law & Order and miss class and get points deducted, or would miss class for auditions, so I was wearing myself too thin. I thought, I have to devote myself to this fully, or I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.”

The big break came when she was cast as Annabeth Chase, the female lead in the epic (and oddly titled) Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. While the Greek mythology-themed film was directed by Harry Potter helmer Chris Columbus, and went on to gross over $226 million worldwide, it didn’t turn her into the next Emma Watson.

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“Look, when I did Percy Jackson people told me, ‘Oh, you’re going to be so famous… you’re not going to be able to walk down the street… it’s going to be huge,’ and it wasn’t—although it was big for my career,” she says, matter-of-factly. “You never know what’s really going to hit.”

One upcoming film that looks like a potential hit is the 3D disaster blockbuster San Andreas. Daddario is the female lead, starring as the daughter of a rescue pilot—played by Dwayne Johnson—who must rescue her when the mother of all earthquakes hits San Francisco. It crash-lands into cinemas on June 5, 2015.

And The Rock aside, Daddario knows a bit about badass dads. Her attorney-father, Richard Daddario, was appointed by then-Mayor Bloomberg to serve as the New York City Police Department’s Deputy Commissioner for Counterterrorism.

“He works out a little less [than The Rock], probably,” she says with a laugh. “He doesn’t do the job anymore, but he did do counterterrorism in New York. He’s very cognizant with the issues.”

The San Andreas job, her biggest to date, came in part thanks to the enormous success of True Detective, which she says she knew was a big deal thanks to the talents involved, but “couldn’t have imagined how big it would become.” Now, she’s doing her best to navigate the treacherous terrain of Hollywood and not fall prey to typecasting (as is Hollywood’s wont).

“It’s hard to get jobs, and Percy Jackson took me from being a nothing actress in New York struggling to get work to suddenly starring in a big movie,” she says. “I’ve really fought to get into rooms, and I’m a big believer in auditioning. It’s hard, because I’m insecure, but I have an intense desire to prove myself to people.”