In preparing for her role in the time-loop film The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, Kathryn Newton definitely did her homework. She closely studied Groundhog Day, of course, and also watched a tonally relevant pair of Michel Gondry movies, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Mood Indigo ("now one of my favorite movies," she told SYFY WIRE). Newton then suggested some surreal possibilities for her character, a teenager named Margaret, but they didn't fly with the filmmakers — no one could get behind Margaret suddenly showing up in a wedding dress, with no explanation — but she was able to customize Margaret's closet with some of her own clothes.
Will she be bringing such sartorial concerns to the character of Cassie Lang in her not-so-tiny next film, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania? Unfortunately, she isn't allowed to talk about that film just yet. Instead, she chatted with SYFY WIRE about shooting the new Amazon Prime film, witnessing tiny perfect things in real life, and her hopes of reviving her canceled cult Netflix series, The Society.
Thanks to the pandemic, do you feel like the life you lived in the movie is happening now?
When you're shooting a movie on location, you kind of fall into a bubble. Time went by in the blink of an eye, and now time is repeating itself, and I'm back to where I started. When we finished the main shoot, it was right at the end of March, and we had two or so days left to film when we had to shut down. I was like, "I don't want to leave. I just want to stay in this bubble. I don't want to have to go to L.A. and fight for toilet paper at Whole Foods."
You later revisited those lost shooting days. How did resuming six months later affect those scenes?
On our last day of filming before the pandemic break, our director Ian Samuels had me do this phone call pickup scene. He was like, "We had to do that in case we're not able to come back and do the airport scene." I was scared that we wouldn't be able to come back because that airport scene is a very important storytelling moment. Luckily, we were able to do the shoot safely later. And it was so fun to revisit the movie after being away from it for a minute. It's kind of like seeing a best friend that you haven't seen in a while. It was like no time had passed.
Cambridge mathematician John Littlewood came up with something called Littlewood's Law, which is that if you're paying close attention to the world around you, you should witness about one miracle — or one tiny perfect thing — every month. Or every 33 1/3 days, if we're being strictly accurate. What was your tiny perfect thing this month? Or while shooting?
I can think of one right now when we were shooting, and that's when Kyle Allen and I were being Mark and Margaret, and we kiss for the first time. There is a line in the script where it says that Margaret has a hair stuck in her mouth, and that actually happened to me when we were shooting! You can't make stuff like this up! We got that scene in one take. I consider that magic when things like that happen, you know? Like it's a little miracle that it happened. I was hitting golf balls yesterday with my dad, and he actually hit a good shot. That was a miracle.
Speaking of golf, they worked in some references to your interests in other projects. In Supernatural, they called you Biker Barbie and wrote in some mini-golf. In Freaky, they called you Murder Barbie and wrote in golf. Did you discuss inserting anything here?
Yeah! Golf is something that always comes up for me, and I think it means more to me than anybody else making the movie. My very first meeting with Ian, he asked me, "What do you think Margaret likes?" I was like, "I think she would be into anime." Something strange like that changes everything. I love anime. And there are things like that which are really important to create a character and make her special. You don't want her to be a manic pixie dream girl. She was the girl who was really certain about who she was, down to wanting to be a NASA mission specialist. She wants to be an astronaut. I thought that was really cool. Maybe there was a day where I thought I could do that. My mom still thinks I could do that. But Margaret's scary smart. She doesn't get swayed by other people. I react to people more quickly than she does. I like to absorb people, take on their personalities, and kind of become them. Margaret is more like, "I'm on my track."
When you were in school, physics and calculus were some of your best subjects. So how did you wrap your head around the theoretical physics of the temporal anomaly? The fourth dimension, the singularity, all of those things? Or even how the time loop might affect the universe on a larger scale, with black holes and quasars resetting themselves every day?
Well, I felt like this movie dealt with actual things in a temporal anomaly, but it also dealt with the emotion of feeling like you're in another dimension, reliving the same thing over and over again. It captures how I felt when I was a teenager, when my math class suddenly felt like eternity, you know?
I love what a big deal things seem like when you're young because your perception is different. I hold onto that. I still make a big deal out of nothing. I'm still just a kid trying to grow up. For Margaret, the biggest, hardest thing of her whole life happens to her at a young age. How is she going to move on so that she can experience love again? I think you have to let go of your past to keep growing.
Doing a time loop story, filmmakers sometimes get to save money on costume changes, since the characters tend to wear the same things over and over. Not here. Margaret wears different outfits, even if it's always the same day. I got the impression that you might be wearing your own clothes...
I'm so grateful that our costumer gave me a lot of freedom to create Margaret the way I wanted to. Sometimes on movies, they'll just want to put you in skinny jeans and a T-shirt, and I was like, "No. This girl's cool." Plus her story deals really seriously with her mother, so I wanted it to be like she was wearing some of her mom's clothes. I took a lot of pieces from my own closet to wear: the blue dress, the green pants, the star sweater I got at Top Shop. I would say about half of Margaret's clothes are from my own closet, which is kind of funny, because now I can never wear those clothes anymore. They're Margaret's. She's just a really specific character, and I felt like I was going back to my eighth-grade self, with the angsty Man Repeller vibe like, "I'm cute and soft, but don't touch me because I'll bite." The blue sweatshirt, however, was not mine, but I stole it from set because it's so cute!
If I've learned anything, it's that if a fandom wants something bad enough, it will happen. I see the petition every day. People want to see those characters finish up that story.
It makes me feel just a part of something bigger, you know? We were part of somebody's life. That means a lot. In my own little selfish way, I would just love to see Allie and Harry get together. I don't want their love story to be finished. And I want to see Allie be queen once again. I hope that the fans get to know what happened, because we had all the episodes written, so somebody out there knows what's up. I don't, however. They never even gave me the script, so I'm dying to know just as much as the fans are.
There has to be a way to continue it. Maybe another streaming platform. Maybe a podcast.
That's what I've been saying! Amazon, are you listening?