“I feel like I’ve led the intense life of a celebrity without making the money or getting any free shit. I’m like Lindsay Lohan minus the swag.”
Not quite the humbled perspective you’d expect from an actress who has worked with the likes of Angelina Jolie, Ryan Gosling, Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell in 2009 alone. But with Zoe Lister-Jones, this is precisely what you get.
Still, with a resume as diverse as it is impressive, the 27-year-old remains committed to the creative liberties that come with independent moviemaking. Premiering in April, Breaking Upwards is the IFC original film starring and co-written by Lister-Jones; it’s the true story of her planned break-up with the film’s director, Daryl Wein.
“The idea of polyamory versus monogamy has always been a pretty interesting question for me,” says the New York City native. “We didn’t want to be didactic in any way, but I think this is the question that plagues everyone: What are you willing to sacrifice and what sacrifices will make it work for you personally?”
Though she’s speaking of her film’s premise, it’s this very sentiment that can be directly attributed to the way Lister-Jones’ career has steamrolled uphill with no perceptible inhibition.
After graduating with honors from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Lister-Jones created Codependence is a Four Letter Word, the one-woman show that raised eyebrows and landed her an agent.
She continued upward with television spots on “Law & Order” and a recurring role as the voice of Kim in the Adult Swim series “Delocated.” But Lister-Jones came to understand sacrifice on a more personal level when Wein suggested they turn their heart-wrenching attempt at “growing apart, together” into their own feature film.
“Daryl started writing, often word-for-word fights that we were having, and it became kind of contentious—the idea around making this film. Then he took it to our mutual friend, [screenwriter] Peter Duchan, because he wanted someone who had a little more perspective and objectivity. They worked on it for about a year and then came to me. I was still uneasy about writing it, but I felt like it was an obligation, just because [without me] it was Daryl’s version! So writing it became this really interesting, kind of therapeutic exercise.”
When an artist writes and stars in an independent production, the necessary paperwork alone could combat the effects of six espressos with little resistance. Pile on the mental drain that comes with showcasing a particularly private story, and it’s almost incomprehensible how Lister-Jones has had any breaks during the production of Breaking Upwards.
Roles in Salt, opposite Angelina Jolie, and All Good Things, with Ryan Gosling, are only part of the story. “I’ve been really lucky to get the opportunity to be in a lot of different projects. I just did The Other Guys as well, with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, then I did the independent film Stuck Between Stations. It’s nice because I get to be a part of the independent film world and a part of the studio film world.”
As for the future, Lister-Jones is understandably optimistic. Her unwavering integrity as an artist combined with an appreciation for the ways of the industry have rendered her limitless and hopeful. She co-founded the production company Mister Lister Films and has multiple projects on the horizon.
Lister-Jones knows that no matter what new ventures she chooses, her own life will continue to serve as the ultimate source of inspiration. “Even with scenarios that are far from the reality of your own life,” she says, “as an artist it is inevitable you’ll draw upon your own experience.”
Breaking Upwards is in theaters now.