Magazine article The New Yorker

Greatest of Ease

Magazine article The New Yorker

Greatest of Ease

Article excerpt

Evan Rachel Wood is one of those actresses whose appearance and manner change so much from role to role that she can be hard to recognize. This may be another way of saying that she's good. She is twenty-one and has been working since she was five--her parents, back in North Carolina, were theatre people. Her first real whiff of stardom was the 2003 movie "Thirteen"; her second was the news, a few years later, that she was dating Marilyn Manson. Last year, she had a brief but fierce turn as Mickey Rourke's daughter in "The Wrestler." Next year, she'll play Mary Jane in Julie Taymor's version of "Spider-Man," on Broadway. This month, she fills the gamine slot in the new Woody Allen comedy, "Whatever Works." She does perky, blond, and dumb as a naive foundling who marries a curmudgeonly physicist played by Larry David, whose part Allen wrote thirty years ago for Zero Mostel. A euphemist might observe that the role is timeless.

Wood seems to enjoy teaching her body to do unusual things; she has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and takes belly-dancing lessons. Late one afternoon during a recent visit to New York, she escaped a "Whatever Works" press marathon to take a class in the flying trapeze. She appeared in the doorway of the Trapeze School New York's permanent rig, in a tent on West Thirtieth Street. She was red-carpet-ready, heavily made up, and dressed in a black-and-white dress and high heels. She disappeared to change into a sheer orange tank top and flared black tights. An instructor named Jeff cinched a safety harness around her waist. Between her shoulder blades, she had a tattoo that read, "All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream" (Poe). She had the number 15 tattooed behind her left ear (lucky number).

"Have you done this before?" Jeff asked.

"Once," she said. "Three years ago."

After absorbing a few refreshers and chalking her hands, Wood mounted a ladder onto a platform about twenty-five feet off the ground. Another aspirant, who had changed into sweats and was looking forward to maybe performing some hocks-saltos and penny rolls with her, was advised that his surgically reconstructed shoulders rendered him unfit for the trapeze. An instructor demonstrated a position called "skin the cat," often attained by beginners making mistakes; it was suggestive of glenohumeral dislocation. …

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