The fact that Marling is doing stardom her way will probably ring true to her classmates at Georgetown, where she majored in economics and studio art. (She grew up in Chicago and Florida.) After a summer interning at Goldman Sachs, she turned down a job offer at the investment bank, telling them she wanted to be an artist. As class valedictorian, she told the assembled students, faculty and parents that she doubted getting straight A’s was something to aspire to. Rather, it might be a sign of not being a rebellious-enough thinker or not taking enough risks.
“I think some people liked it,” Marling said of the speech during a recent visit to the Tombs, where she once snacked on french fries on her way from the darkroom to the library. “Other people, I think, thought it was a little too provocative.”
No training, no agent
Let it be noted for the record that Marling’s advice paid off, at least when she took it herself.
After graduating, she moved to Los Angeles with her best friends, Mike Cahill and Zal Batmanglij, who had cast her in their short films while at Georgetown. The three rented a house in Silver Lake, and Marling began trying to break into the business — with no formal training, no representation and no resume.
“I was trying to go on auditions for things and trying to get an agent, but you can’t get an agent until you’ve done work, [and] you can’t do work without an agent,” Marling recalled. “It’s truly an insane, impenetrable system. Unless you start acting in Huggies commercials when you’re 2. . . . I don’t know how people do it.”
Marling — who possesses the classic blond, blue-eyed beauty that’s at once compelling and all too common in Hollywood — received offers to star in Z-grade horror movies.
She routinely turned them down. “You felt like you were going to have to give up some piece of yourself that you weren’t going to get back,” she said. “So then I thought the only way to do this is to start writing. And then that turned out to be so much harder than I thought. It took us three years just to figure out how to write a script.”