HEAT VISION

Kathryn Newton on 'Map of Tiny Perfect Things' and Golfing with Bill Murray

Kathryn Newton
Emma McIntyre/amfAR/Getty Images
The actor also has 'Ant-Man 3' on her docket: "Five years ago, if you asked me what my dream was, I would have said, 'To be in a Marvel movie.'"

In the span of five days, Kathryn Newton celebrated a birthday, released her coming-of-age time-loop movie, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, and just so happened to golf with the godfather of time-loop movies, Bill Murray. In Ian Samuels’ take on the Groundhog Day concept, Newton plays Margaret, an aloof teenage girl who’s content with remaining in a time loop until she meets Mark (Kyle Allen), who’s also stuck in the same endless cycle. When Allen found out that Newton was going to be playing golf with Murray at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, he urged her to mention their movie to him, something Newton resisted at first. Luckily, she received an assist from one of golf’s most decorated players.

“Kyle was like, ‘Are you going to tell [Bill Murray] about our movie?’ And I said, ‘I don’t want to be uncool.’ But then, we were on the 15th hole and Jordan [Spieth] brought it up,” Newton tells The Hollywood Reporter. “He asked me what movie I had coming out, and I was like, ‘Well, it’s kind of inspired by the greatest time-loop movie of all time with our Bill Murray right here.’ And Bill was really excited and happy for me. I told him, ‘When you make a movie that great [Groundhog Dog], Hollywood just wants to see it over and over again in a different way.’”

Newton’s perfect week in early February picks up right where she left off at the end of 2020. In November, she led Christopher Landon’s slasher-comedy Freaky to an 83 percent score in Rotten Tomatoes, which, relative to the genre, is quite the achievement. And then, on Dec. 10, during Disney Investor Day 2020, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige announced that Newton would play Cassie Lang in Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2022). While Newton can’t say much at this time, she’s as over the moon as one might expect.

“I still feel like I can’t talk about it because I’m not on set and I just don’t want to jinx anything until I’m really there, making the movie," Newton shares. "But it’s a dream come true for me to be a part of the MCU, and I’m so honored and so grateful because I love the Marvel universe so much. Five years ago, if you asked me what my dream was, I would have said, ‘To be in a Marvel movie.’”

Newton’s Marvel casting was such a secret that she still hasn’t directly told her own family.

“I made a joke that my dad still doesn’t officially know,” Newton says with a laugh. “I think he’s seen it on my Instagram, but I haven’t told him because I don’t want to get in trouble when he goes to Starbucks and just starts talking to somebody about it. Now I can say, ‘It’s not my fault! I didn’t tell him!’ I love my parents, but you don’t want them to tell anybody anything.”

In a recent conversation with THR, Newton also discusses a potential Freaky and Happy Death Day crossover event, the golf-related project she’s developing and Tiny Perfect Things’ “Astaire walk.”

Well, you’re having quite the week. Besides the release of your charming time-loop movie, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, you just so happened to golf with the king of time-loop movies. What was golfing with Bill Murray like?

(Laughs.) I was so excited to play with Bill Murray. I’m a huge fan. I’ve seen everything that he’s in, and obviously, golf is a huge part of his life, too. When I woke up and saw that I was going to be playing with him and Jordan Spieth, I jumped up and down because I knew that it was going to be the best day ever. And it was. I told Kyle [Allen], “Kyle, I’m playing with Bill Murray. He’s the time-loop movie king,” and Kyle was like, “Are you going to tell him about our movie?” And I said, “I don’t want to be uncool.” But then, we were on the 15th hole and Jordan brought it up. He asked me what movie I had coming out, and I was like, “Well, it’s kind of inspired by the greatest time-loop movie of all time with our Bill Murray right here.” And Bill was really excited and happy for me. I told him, “When you make a movie that great [Groundhog Dog], Hollywood just wants to see it over and over again in a different way.” That’s what I love about Hollywood. I love Groundhog Day-type movies. I love time-loop movies like Happy Death Day. They’re always different. The thing that I love about Tiny Perfect Things is that when you're young, you feel like you’re in a teenage wasteland where life is waiting to start. That’s what this movie is about, and we use the time loop as the allegory for that feeling. When you’re young, every day feels never-ending and the same. You have infinite math classes that are so boring, and the boredom never ends. But I loved that. I was working at the time, so whenever I would go to school and be bored out of mind, I would think, “This is awesome. This is what being young is about.” So I loved how this movie explores that feeling with another person.

Well, thank you Jordan Spieth for the setup. He was your caddie in a way.

(Laughs.) He was! He set me up! I got to do it without being totally uncool. Just a little uncool.

Your tee shot on Pebble’s 17th hole was an enormous perfect thing. Do you typically know right away if the outcome of a shot is going to be favorable or not?

If you hit it solid and you did what you thought you wanted to do, it’s probably going to end up OK or better. My favorite thing about golf is that you have to let everything go and just focus on the next shot. On that one, it was a par-3 that was 163 yards, and I hit a little 6-iron. I was like, “You gotta hit it close, Kathryn, because this is for charity.” And I hit the best shot all day. It was great, and that’s all you can ask for. I just play for fun, and I’m lucky that I’ve been playing my whole life. So I can still go out and hit some really good shots. I cannot tell you how inspired I am to keep playing after this tournament. It wasn’t just being here at Pebble Beach, the most beautiful place in the world; it was also being so supported by people like Jordan Spieth, Bill Murray and Larry Fitzgerald. They totally made me do better. Before that shot, Larry Fitzgerald was like, “Get in your left eye, Kathryn,” and I was like, “OK, Coach.” So it was a team effort with all six of the players, and Macklemore gave me a fist bump. So I felt so confident, and I did well because they were happy for me. I’m not going to forget this for a long time. And it was my birthday on Monday, and I have a movie out this morning. I would be so happy to be living this day over and over again.

Well, Happy Birthday. I knew you were having quite the week, but it’s reached another level now.

Thank you! And we started this movie on my birthday last year. So it started the movie off with this magical little feeling, and it never really ended while we were filming. Last night and this morning, all the producers were texting each other pictures from the first day of filming and my birthday. So it kind of feels like we’re still making the movie. It never ended.

In the movie, Kyle’s character helps a golfer get a hole in one by moving the position of the cup. Since you can’t really see the golfer in the shot, were you the one who actually hit the ball?

(Laughs.) I should have been! I had to go do a different scene. Second unit did the golf, but I was so happy that they put that in there. I just think it’s really special to me when there’s a little golf element in any project I do. It means more to me than probably anybody else, but I’m just like, “Yeah, there’s a little bit of me in there.”

When you read Tiny Perfect Things, what was the first detail that piqued your interest?

I really wanted to know about this girl, Margaret. Why is she so difficult to get to know? Why is she shy? She’s so smart, and when I spoke to Ian [Samuels] for the first time, we both agreed that this movie would only work if it was really grounded in a love story where you truly felt like these two kids needed each other, loved each other and had that hope for a future because it’s the thing that pulls her out of her own world. She’s in her own world, literally. She’s stuck in a temporal anomaly and no one’s going to make her change. But that’s the same in life. We’ve all been through phases of life — whether it lasts five years or one week — where you’re stuck in your own world. And what pulls you out of it? It’s yourself. You have to pull yourself out of it, but how do you get to that point where you finally decide to change? So I thought it was a really exciting thing to dig into because I feel like that sometimes; I think young people especially feel like that. Everything is the end of the world when you’re young, so how are you going to move on and let things go so that you can be open to receiving something better? Maybe it is love. Mark and Margaret fall in love, but Margaret is not ready for that because she isn’t ready to move on from her past. She’s got to let go to be able to be with Mark, and I think that’s what the movie is about. Mark shows her that there’s hope for a better future.

Was the Pokemon reference already in the script when you signed on? Or did the screenwriter add it as a tribute to you?

(Laughs.) It was already in there, but when I see things like that in a script, it makes me feel like I’m meant to be there or that it was meant for me. There are projects where you feel like you can just slip right into them. Those details make it feel like it was going to be for you the whole time.

I loved the choreography in the street as Margaret and Mark made their way to the record store and restaurant kitchen. Did that sequence take a while to choreograph?

Ian and I talked about that at our first meeting, and he liked to call our scene the Astaire walk. So we watched old movies to see how they moved down stairs and through people. They never really stopped and they had this seamlessness. That scene was just like a dance routine. When I first saw Kyle, I knew that he was an amazing dancer. I thought to myself, “This movie needs somebody who’s going to be able to move with me through scenes. I need someone who’s going to be able to not just act, but also move with ease and not stop, and still leave room for mistakes and magic to happen.” So we had a couple days of rehearsal with our DP, Andrew [Wehde], because he was just as much a part of the dance as we were. And then on the day, we only had two hours to get it done and we wouldn’t have been able to do it without the whole town of Fairhope [Alabama] lending a hand to help. It was probably my favorite scene that I’ve ever done. I really love long takes in general because you feel like you’re really in the moment and you’re not even making a movie anymore. That one was really fun because I trusted Kyle so much, and I didn’t have to worry that a bike was going to hit me or that I was going to trip and fall because I knew he would catch me. So I just moved like I really was in a temporal anomaly, where I knew what was happening every second. It was so, so cool. We had so many elements working with us and against us, but we made it happen. Quickly. (Laughs.)

You previously told me how one of your favorite aspects of the job is that you get to do things on screen that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to do — such as eating an entire breakfast with your hands in Freaky. Does trashing that model home in Tiny Perfect Things top Freaky’s breakfast moment?

(Laughs.) Eating breakfast with your hands is always going to win for me, but I really love food and it’s hard to make anything better than that. That was also improv on Freaky. I was like, “Well, the Butcher has to be weird, and he’s definitely not going to use a fork and knife, or a napkin, so I’m just going to use my fingers.” And that day on Tiny Perfect Things, when we shot the model home scene, it was every kid’s dream to trash a house, and this one happened to be really perfect. So it was really fun to just break plates, rip open pillows and kick over a lamp. I never knew how badly I’ve been needing to do that. I highly recommend it. It’s very fun. (Laughs.)

I’m being vague and oblique, but the movie’s sudden swerve really affected me. Did it have a similar impact on you when you first read it?

Well, my main concern for Margaret was if anybody could understand this girl. Without revealing what happens to her, they’re going to think, “Why is she not into Mark? He’s so nice. What’s wrong with her? She’s being so standoffish.” So I was afraid that nobody was going to like her. But that was silly because as I kept reading the script and started understanding her, I just loved her so much and thought she was just the strongest person ever. What she’s choosing to do is really hard and I hope people can relate to that. People have horrible things happen to them, but then they’ll find something that helps them grow and become stronger. I’ve had a couple people tell me that they related to it in a really personal way with their own families. So you just kind of cry with them because that’s a universal feeling that a lot of people can understand, and I hope that people feel seen through Margaret’s story.

Going back to Freaky, Chris Landon said during the press tour that the movie takes place in the same universe as Happy Death Day. Naturally, there’s already a clamor for a crossover event called Freaky Death Day. So are you open to putting on the red leather jacket again and having a showdown with Jessica Rothe?

(Laughs.) Yes! Oh my gosh. Look, I cannot wait to do another movie with Blumhouse, Chris Landon and the whole team. And Jessica Rothe kills it in Happy Death Day. Also, it’s a time-loop movie. So I think that we need to push The Map of Tiny Perfect Things into Freaky, get Jessica in there and I would say that’s a sequel. I don’t know. (Laughs.)

That’s very ambitious!

It’s very ambitious, but I think that would be so much fun. The truth is that [Freaky Death Day] is what the fans want. And if the fans want it bad enough, I think that they could make a crossover happen.

I’ve recently discussed teenage roles with a few other actors who are the same age as you, and they’ve all expressed a desire to move on to roles their age. But then, an incredible character will come their way who just so happens to be a teenager, and they can’t say no. Since Margaret and Millie also aren’t typical teenage roles, do you relate to that tug of war between teenage roles and twenty-something roles?

Wow, I love that question because I feel like my last two roles, Millie and Margaret, were a transition for me. They are both young adults, but they are not just a daughter or one thing. They are very complex characters who are standing on their own, leading these films and the vehicle that pushes each story forward. And that’s just me being me. I like playing young people because I am young, but they never feel like young adult stories or just for teenagers. They feel like anybody can relate to them because you don’t have to be older to have things happen to you. And when you’re young, I feel like it impacts you more. It forms who you are in a different way. So I don’t think about it too much. I just try to stay focused on the character and what they’re going through. And, really, the number one thing for me is the people behind the project. Who am I going to be working with? Because they’re the ones who are inspiring me. On this one, I really wanted to work with FilmNation, Ashley Fox, Aaron Ryder and Akiva Goldsman because they make great movies. So I knew that they were going to make this movie great, and without them, it wouldn’t have been the same. And the same on Freaky. I knew it was going to be great because Chris Landon and Jason Blum are incredible at what they do. I worked with them in 2012 on Paranormal Activity 4, and I’d been dying to work with them again because it was just the best experience ever. So, for those two projects, it was the people behind them that really drove me to them. Besides that, they were both amazing characters. Millie was a dream come true. To play a serial killer and a normal girl in the same movie was a challenge, and it made me so excited to go to work. On The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, I’d been dying to do a rom-com that feels magical and makes people feel a lot of hope. I just wanted to do a movie like this my whole life, where you leave the theater and you’re smiling. That’s what I wanted to do.

You started golfing and acting at a very young age, and I'm still impressed by the fact that you’ve been able to remain committed to both. Growing up, did you ever feel like you had to choose one or the other?

I was on my high school golf team, but I was also working. So I would do movies and go on auditions after school. But, usually, if they were in the middle of golf, I’d do my golf tournament instead. So my priority was just to be true to myself at all times. When you get older, you have to ask, “Am I going to go to college? What am I going to be when I grow up?” And I was like, “I just want to be what I am now,” which was an actor who golfs. And I still do it. I have dreams of maybe pushing myself and putting golf a little more in the front because I do feel like I have an opportunity to do something with golf. But my main love is always going to be acting. And let’s be honest, acting is way easier than golf. It’s really hard to be really good at golf, and I have so much respect for the pros who literally give everything to that sport. I just do it for fun. (Laughs.) I just do it for fun, and I’m lucky to be out there playing as well as I can.

I’m still anticipating your inevitable golf movie announcement.

It’s bound to happen. I’m actually working on something right now. I’m developing something. I don’t know how much I can say because I don’t want to jinx any of it, but let’s just say that during Covid, I worked on my own project. I got it written. I had a bunch of pitch meetings with people that I’ve worked with just to get inspired. I picked their brains, asked them for advice and it turned into something where one of them said, “Yes, I like it.” And now, it’s moving forward. I had no idea what was going to happen; I’d never done that before. But I’m still just an actor first. (Laughs.) So we’ll see what happens, but I’m actually working on something and it’s going really well right now. I guess that’s called “in development.” (Laughs.)

That’s really exciting, especially since you took the initiative. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie about a woman golfer so it’s time to change that.

It’s not exactly that, but it’s golf-related.

I’ll take it!

(Laughs.) OK!

So as we wind down, I just want to bring up something from our last conversation.

Great, I know what this is about. (Laughs.)

We talked about The Society’s “un-renewal” and how if there was one silver lining, it’s that you became available for projects that wouldn’t have been possible previously. And then you alluded to some really cool stuff that was happening. Well, on Dec. 10, we learned exactly what you meant. So this is my roundabout way of congratulating you on Cassie Lang and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.

(Laughs.) Thank you so much for the congratulations. I still feel like I can’t talk about it because I’m not on set and I just don’t want to jinx anything until I’m really there, making the movie. But it’s a dream come true for me to be a part of the MCU, and I’m so honored and so grateful because I love the Marvel universe so much. Five years ago, if you asked me what my dream was, I would have said, “To be in a Marvel movie.” So everybody who knows me knows how much it means to me, and I’m just so excited! So I don’t want to say anything because I don’t want to get in trouble. (Laughs.) I made a joke that my dad still doesn’t officially know. I think he’s seen it on my Instagram, but I haven’t told him because I don’t want to get in trouble when he goes to Starbucks and just starts talking to somebody about it. You know what I mean? Now I can say, “It’s not my fault! I didn’t tell him!” (Laughs.) I love my parents, but you don’t want them to tell anybody anything. (Laughs.)

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The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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