To those who knew Amy Greene “back in the day” in Arlington, it comes as little surprise that the affable Martin High School graduate has (A) found her calling in the motion picture industry or (B) been resoundingly successful while doing so.
In fact, the path Greene has followed from her hometown to both coasts in pursuit of telling stories on the big screen was laid out virtually from the time she was born.
“I always performed as a kid – dance, theater … you name it,“ she says of formative years spent at Miss Persis Studio of Dance and on the stage entertaining local audiences. “It pretty much was in my blood.”
So, too, was a competitive spirit that inspired numerous accomplishments in youth sports and beyond – ultimately including an incarnation as a boxer and currently as a marathon runner and mountain climber.
“I pretty much do whatever extreme sport I can find,” she says. “I love taking on challenges.”
As a result of her yen for performing and her drive to perform well, Greene was able to scale Hollywood in remarkably rapid fashion. After leaving her hometown she attended DePaul University in Chicago, served in a casting internship in Hollywood and returned to Chicago to finish her degree at Columbia before moving to Los Angeles. Here again, that ascent is no surprise – this is someone who has been to base camp at Mount Everest (more than 15,000 feet in altitude) and who yearns to return to see if she can reach even greater heights on the storied peak.
For now, though, she and her beau of the past seven years, Chris Stinson, are thrilled to be standing on lofty ground in their chosen field.
To date, her name has appeared among the credits of some three dozen films – as a producer, production manager, casting department member, stunt coordinator and performer, and actor.
Stinson, meanwhile, has been part of 35 films, 26 as a producer. None was more important than “Nina,” a story about singer Nina Simone. It was on the set of that movie that he and Greene met, discovered a common passion for telling important stories and decided to start telling them together – on film and in life.
They’ve collaborated on 10 movies, including, recently, the provocative “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” which stars Zac Efron and Lily Collins. Where Greene once danced with the troupes at Miss Persis Studio, today she’s dancing with the stars, the likes of Efron, Collins, Robert Redford, Cate Blanchett, Dennis Quaid and Kirsten Dunst. Each of those Hollywood “A List” members have appeared in films with which Greene and Stinson were involved. One of them, Efron, even killed Greene on screen.
That revelation shouldn’t be construed as a “Spoiler Alert” – after all, “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” is a tale about serial killer Ted Bundy, played by Efron. Greene was cast as one of his victims.
“My first on-screen death,” she says with a fetching smile. “At least, as an actor. I’ve probably been killed a few times as a stunt double.”
That Greene and Stinson would take on a disturbing or unconventional topic on film is no anomaly; in fact, they choose movies to produce that tell interesting stories, regardless of subject matter. It’s not the “Hollywood way,” but it’s what drives Greene and Stinson. And it’s what drove them to become involved almost exclusively in independent filmmaking.
“People come to us with a script, we decide if we like it, and, if we do, we try to make a movie,” Greene says. “But we only like it if it tells an important story.”
Stinson says Hollywood studio executives only like movies that can make studio executives a lot of money. Some studios even have manuals that contain a formula by which the film comes together; nothing strays from that blueprint.
“It’s like being a baker,” he says. “Here’s your recipe. Here’s your oven.”
Stinson decided that’s a half-baked way to produce films. In fact, he almost said as much during his first meeting with studio executives to discuss his prospective participation on a film.
“I sat there listening to them for five minutes and said, ‘sorry, I can’t do this,’” he says. “I’ve been doing independent films ever since.”
While his and Greene’s indie movies don’t generally achieve the box-office success of their studio-produced counterparts, they often garner critical acclaim. Their film “Chronic,” starring Tim Roth and directed by renowned Mexican director Michel Franco, won the award for best screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015.
Another Greene/Stinson production, “Leave No Trace” about a father and his 13-year-old daughter living an ideal existence in a vast urban park in Portland, Ore., until a small mistake derails their lives forever, has garnered a perfect 100 score on rottentomatoes.com. That’s the website “bible” for movie goers to peruse to see what the critics thought of the work they plan to see.
Greene and Stinson are currently involved in a new endeavor, “Knives Out,” starring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans and Jamie Lee Curtis, which will be released soon, and they are excited about its prospects to appeal to critics and viewers alike. “It’s a murder mystery,” says Stinson. “And I think it’s a good film.”
When it debuts, there’s a 99 percent chance the outgoing Greene will be on the red carpet at its premier. The odds are much slimmer that Stinson will join her.
“I told her I’d pick her up when it’s over,” he says. “That’s her thing, not mine. I’ve done enough of those that if I didn’t have to do another, I’d be OK with that.”
What they both agree on, however, is their home in Portsmouth, N.H., to which they recently moved. With shoreline and woodland landscapes galore, the burg appeals to the nature lover in Greene, and Stinson appreciates its lack of limelight.
“Everything is so real there,” Greene says. “That’s not always the case in Hollywood. It’s just a great place to go to recharge the battery before we take on a new movie challenge.”
One she’ll no doubt conquer.