My mom wanted me to tell you that she has loved you since she was a kid.
I love her, she’s very funny. Did you always get along with her?
Always? Have you never gone through a period where you didn’t like her?
I mean, I go through like small periods, but I have a really good relationship with my parents. My mom’s like my best friend. I feel like I have more in common with her than [with] any of my friends.
Do you ever feel the need to individuate or to be different?
I’ve gone through stages where I tried to rebel, but it was kind of stupid because my parents are so nice I have nothing to rebel against.
That’s nice. I feel like my daughter has been rebelling since the day she was born.
My sister’s like that. What is the most important advice you ever got from your parents? What have you learned from them that helped you as a parent?
I think the most important advice that I got from my parents was to do something other than act. They were always impressing upon me how important it was to develop other skills and other talents, and I think that’s served me well throughout my life. And so I try to impress that upon my kids, you know, whatever they’re interested in, to not just put everything into one thing, but to stay curious.
And also, uh, not that much TV. I don’t know what your parents were like with you with television, but for the first four years of Mathilda’s life we lived in New York, and our apartment was so small that there was no place for a TV, and she didn’t have any interest anyway. And then a couple of years ago we moved [to L.A.] and got a TV and all of a sudden all she cared about was television. So we put rules on television, the computer—you know, any device. That is really hard, but I think it’s been really good for her.
We have no TV on weeknights.
When I told [Mathilda] there was going to be no more television during the week she lay down on the coffee table and sobbed for like half an hour.
[Laughs] My sister does the same exact thing!
It was like she lost her best friend! But after that she started to do stuff during the week again. She started to draw again, and paint again, and now she’s into doing stop-motion animation. She’s doing claymation videos.
Oh, that’s cool! Are you nervous for when your kids are teenagers?
I am, but I try not to be. I look at somebody like you, and I think you’re a really good example, you know, that shows me that it’s possible she’s going to be OK. I just try to look at [teenagers] that are good examples and hope I can steer my kids in that direction. Shailene Woodley, who played my daughter on Secret Life, she’s another one. She’s grown up now—I think she just turned 21—but she’s an amazing example of someone who had a great relationship with her mom and a very strong sense of herself [as a teenager]. But ultimately as a parent you’re just a custodian. [Your kids] are yours, but they’re not really yours. You have to kind of guide them in the right direction, but they’re going to make their own choices and their own mistakes, just like I have.
But I will admit that sometimes, in the middle of the night, it keeps me up. I’ll have anxiety attacks thinking about my kids, like, What am I going to do if she tattoos her face?! Hopefully she’ll never tattoo her face. I can deal with tattoos on the body, just no tattoos on the face. That would just break my heart.
Have you seen kids at your school do that—tattoos on the face?
I’ve seen the lips, which I don’t get—you pull your lip down and there’s a tattoo.
Oh, that’s awful. I don’t get that. What kind of books do you like to read?
I’m reading a lot of books right now. We just read The Catcher in the Rye at school. I loved it.
I love The Catcher in the Rye so much!
[The rest of] my class didn’t seem to like it that much. My teacher seems bored of it.
I read The Catcher in the Rye when I was doing the John Hughes movies, and when I look back on it today, I had no idea that I was making, in a way, a Catcher in the Rye in this set of movies that would continue to exist for generations. I mean, The Catcher in the Rye came out in 1951, and people are still reading it.
And I feel like I can relate to it now!
I felt like it was me! Have you read [J.D. Salinger’s] Nine Stories?
No, but I just got it. It’s sitting next to my bed.
It’s so good.
I just read Room. Have you heard of that?
I haven’t, no. What is that?
It’s from the perspective of a little boy whose mom got kidnapped when she was 19 and locked in a shed, and he was born in the shed, and that’s all he knows, and he’s five. I liked it. When I was telling my mom about it, she didn’t want to hear about it.
Yeah, there’s certain things that when you have kids, you can’t…like, I never particularly liked violence in movies, but now if there’s violence perpetrated on children, I can’t watch it. Like, it makes me physically sick.