Juliette Lewis on Working With Woody Allen, Oliver Stone, and Robert De Niro’s Thumb

Actress-musician appears ahead of her new rock documentary, "Hard Lovin' Woman"

April 13, 2016
Juliette Lewis returns to the Stern Show, 04-13-16 Juliette Lewis returns to the Stern Show, 04-13-16 Photo: The Howard Stern Show

Juliette Lewis stopped by the show Wednesday to promote her upcoming rock documentary “Hard Lovin’ Woman,” directed by friend of the show Michael Rapaport. It was the actress-musician’s first visit with Howard since 2005, so naturally there was a great deal of ground to cover.

Lewis spoke candidly about everything from her father’s “In Memoriam” snub at the Oscars to convincing Oliver Stone she could kill him in an audition and clearing up long held misconceptions about her relationship (or lack thereof) with controversial photographer Terry Richardson.

Geoffrey Lewis, 1935 – 2015

Juliette’s father Geoffrey Lewis died last April at the age of 79 after battling Parkinson’s disease and dementia. A noted actor in his own right, Lewis starred in multiple Clint Eastwood Westerns (“Every Which Way but Loose”) and appeared on shows like “Laverne & Shirley.”

But when the Oscars ran their annual “In Memoriam” tribute this year, his name was left off of the list. So, Juliette tweeted about the omission… and wound up making headlines.

She told Howard it’s something she did for her family, explaining that she didn’t even watch that part of the ceremony. “I think my extended family all wanted [to see his name up there], but I actually didn’t see the ‘In Memoriam’ part [of the Oscars] because I’m one of those weirdos that doesn’t have a TV,” she told Howard.

Ultimately, Juliette chalks up the Oscars’ oversight to “paperwork stuff,” but said she isn’t worried too much about it anymore because she continues to honor Geoffrey in other ways. “I literally talk to my father every day and everything I do in my career is kind of for him,” she added. “It’s his kids that are going to celebrate him, not a TV show.”

Sucking on Robert De Niro’s Oscar-winning Thumb

Juliette’s big break was in 1991, opposite two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese’s remake of “Cape Fear.” She was still a teenager when she filmed the successful thriller, which includes a scene where her character sucks on the much older thumb of De Niro’s “predatory” character, Max Cady.

She was the first one to audition for the role, but explained that she still had to beat out like 500 other girls. There’s a rumor she improvised the thumb sucking during her audition, but Juliette told Howard that one wasn’t true. When it came time to shoot the scene on set, she said, there was even a discussion beforehand.

“We talked about it,” she told Howard. “It was very complex, as you see in the scene. I was always very aware of what was happening. I never felt taken advantage of.”

She said “Cape Fear,” which netted both her and De Niro Oscar nominations, was invaluable when it came to her development as an actress.

“Actually, that experience was so key,” she said before praising the different acting rituals of her co-stars: De Niro, who had Gospel choirs sing in his trailer, Jessica Lange, “who comes from theater,” and Nick Nolte, who she said was hilarious.

“Here’s what’s awesome about being young and relatively naïve,” she said. “I didn’t know I was working with the greats of American cinema, which protected me from sort of being a nervous wreck.”

“I was just there and playing the daughter and was young and natural,” she concluded. “It was an incredible experience where they treated me with respect and I really developed my artistry.”

Woody Allen Fixes Her Bad Attitude

Woody Allen and Juliette Lewis in "Husbands and Wives" Woody Allen and Juliette Lewis in “Husbands and Wives” Photo: TriStar Pictures

Juliette’s acting career has been long and successful, but the road she has traveled hasn’t always been smooth. Naturally, Howard wondered if any director had ever said she was horrible or that he made a mistake in casting her.

“Close,” she teased, “But not quite.”

She then dove into a story about when filming “Husbands and Wives” in the early ’90s, she was just getting over a bad breakup. “At the time, I was sad. I was really depressed,” Juliette said.

But her director, legendary filmmaker Woody Allen, wasn’t having it. “Woody took me aside and said, ‘Listen Juliette, your attitude needs to change or you’re going to be walking the e-line,'” she explained.

“What’s the E-line?” she had wondered. Yeah, it’s the unemployment line.

“I was like, oh shit – I better straighten up,” she told Howard. “[Woody] was just telling me to be grateful for where you are.”

Killing Oliver Stone to Land “Natural Born Killers”

Juliette Lewis and Woody Harrelson in "Natural Born Killers" Juliette Lewis and Woody Harrelson in “Natural Born Killers” Photo: Warner Bros.

Another violent but acclaimed film Juliette starred in is Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers,” in which she and Woody Harrleson played a psychopathic couple on a cross-country killing spree.

Howard wondered how she had convinced the director that a girl such as herself was capable of playing a psycho killer and, well, he got his answer: “Theoretically, you can say I might have made him believe that I can kill him,” she told Howard. “But I didn’t threaten him in some violent way, I explained to him how you murder someone.”

“I was like, ‘How do I make him believe that this tiny 120 lb. little female could kill him?'” Juliette continued. “I sat across from him and was like, ‘Killing someone is about finding their weak points and the element of surprise.'”

She eventually landed the role, which Julia Roberts may or may not have also been up for, but it wasn’t as easy as explaining to Mr. Stone how she might go about killing him. She had to convince him she could look the part, too.

“He, psychologically, made all the actors think he didn’t have the part because he wanted you to work for it,” she explained. “But he wanted to know you would be physically fit. … I was a scrawny little thing.”

She ended up going to his office and doing pull ups right there in front of him.

“I got to seven pull ups and I got the job,” she told Howard. “Nobody knows that.”

Juliette Lewis Never Fucked Terry Richardson off Camera, or on Camera, or in That Book

Fashion photographer Terry Richardson has been associated with several controversies and a whole slew of rumors, including a long standing one that the brunette woman he has sex with in his coffee table book is actually Juliette Lewis.

Well, that isn’t at all true and Juliette was grateful to be able to dispel the rumor on Wednesday’s show.

They have worked together, she explained, but their relationship was strictly professional: “I shot with him before I knew he did such images. There’s this one picture where I’m biting his thumb, we’re doing a send up of the ‘Cape Fear’ thing…that’s as much as I did with this guy!”

The photo made its way into Terry’s controversial book, which included an assortment of photographs, ranging from innocuous, like the thumb suck, to the downright pornographic.

Juliette said she signed a waiver allowing him to use those photos as he pleased, but she never fathomed they’d appear in that type of book. “We didn’t know… I’m sure Faye Dunaway [who also appeared in the book] didn’t know.”

“So, three pages after one of my images is him having sex with a brunette girl that looks slightly like me and I know the fucker did it deliberately to start a rumor,” she told Howard.

“That’s not my thing,” she added. “I’m wild in a lot of ways and that was not one of them.”

So, Howard suggested the headline for this anecdote himself: “Juliette Lewis Never Fucked Terry Richardson off Camera, Or on Camera, Or in That Book.”

“Hard Lovin’ Woman”

Part of the aforementioned Oliver Stone story as well as quite a few others can be found in her forthcoming documentary “Hard Lovin’ Woman,” which explores her rock ‘n’ roll career.

“Is rock dead,” Howard asked?

“I feel like it’s making a real comeback,” Juliette told him, before Fred played a clip from her new single.

Juliette’s transition into music happened over a decade after she had already become a household name for her impressive on-camera work. But Howard wondered if that meant some people had difficulty accepting her as a musician.

“I was an oddity in that one I was female playing real muscular and male-dominated rock ‘n’ roll,” she said.

She also went into detail about her musical influences, which run the gamut from Tina Turner and the Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde to Robert Plant and Iggy Pop.

Howard praised her attractive onstage look as well, which he said leaves her scantily clad. “You can call me half naked, I think I’m a superhero,” she told Howard. “In the beginning, I would wear a Viking helmet.”

Juliette also spoke highly of Michael Rapaport, who directed the documentary. Howard jokingly wondered whether he tried to get in her pants and she assured him that he did not and that they’ve been friends for many years.

“Hard Lovin’ Woman” premieres April 23rd and can be seen on-demand globally on Red Bull TV.