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Heavens to Luca Brasi, is that Nino Rota I hear? Darlings,  it is my wholehearted honour to present the excerpts of our wonderful visit with the cast and director of the film Youth Without Youth. We chatted with zipper-challenged acting laureate, Tim Roth, the gorgeous and charming Alexandra Maria Lara (~ who also starred in Control, which we loved so much), and also the maverick, the myth, the legend, and purveyor of so many of my favourite vintages, who simply introduced himself as Francis.

Luv it!

 

Tim Roth

 

Q What is it about the nature of Youth Without Youth that attracted you?

Tim Roth: When Francis started talking to me about it he was talking about old movies, talking about Goodbye Mr. Chips and the Alec Guinness movies from the old days. Like that kind of world and that intrigues me. It intrigues me more than modern filmmaking, quite often. So really that was that. Then I read the script and I found it impossible that was interesting to me. I said ‘How the hell are you gonna film this?’ and he didn’t know, so that was good. So we just embarked on an adventure and we shot the hell out of it, we shot a lot of stuff.  And then he came up with this. It was different. It was a wild time.

 

MG: What was Francis Ford Coppola like to work with as an actor? Were you given a lot of leeway in your interpretation of the role? Were you allowed to improvise?

TR: No, we weren’t allowed really to touch the dialog. The dialog was his. Well, I was, I don’t know how it was for the other actors. That was kinda hands off that was his world. But visually, you could suggest stuff, suggest shots and so on.

 

MG: Did he guide that at all?

TR: Well, I’d see something, I’d say “Hey, that looks good, let’s shoot that,” so we’d shoot it. The one thing that he had, he had time to do whatever he wanted. He was financing it. We were in a place, it was very, very cheap to shoot there, but that’s where it was set and we had a very small crew, it was very flexible. When the days were short and the sun went down we’d move inside and shoot some more. It was very grueling, but very good.

 

Q: Was it daunting to play an older man who inhabits the body of his younger self?

TR: No, I found that to be the easiest bit. I thought that was the most fun, because that’s more of the old school theatre stuff, it’s like rubber noses. I found that to be fascinating. I used to trail around people in Bucharest and take pictures of them and see how they walked and try and find one that I liked. I have a photograph of a guy and he’s trying to find his back pocket of his jacket and he can’t find it and I stole that and used that a lot. The little things like that, that’s old-school acting time and I find that to be intriguing.

I think it’s not a big deal really, the whole ageing thing, and I have ample evidence of ageing from the first thing that I did on screen to now. I see the arc already. What was interesting to me, because you can watch yourself age, and I have evidence of it, that’s really interesting in that respect. What was interesting to me was making a best guess on a physical level on what you would look like. I’ve now made a jump – cos I’m 46 – I’ve made a 25 year jump to where you see the man at the beginning of the film. I wonder if I make it to that age, will I look the same as I do in that.

 

Q: Were you challenged by playing your own double?

TR: No. Although I was never quite sure who I was playing on any given day. But I would just ask him, “Who am I playing? Who am I doing?” and he would go “You’re doing this…. “I thought it was kinda interesting. I wasn’t sure if he existed or not. I had to work from the premise that he did, that made it clearer in sort of simple actor mind. So I worked as though he did, and I used to get kinda pissed off when people said that he didn’t exist. *laughs*

 I’d shoot the Dominic side, I‘d shoot the double side, and then he’d say “Okay let’s shoot them all at the same time”, so you’d do them as a monologue. Where you’d have to change character during the scene and I liked that cos it’s madness. I thought that was really interesting as an exercise for an actor, it’s quite a thing.

 

Q: The film deals heavily with the origins of language. How much research or prep time did you have for your character to learn the different languages in the film?

TR: Well it was too complicated for me. Did he subtitle the artificial language, the one that we made up?

MG: Yes.

TR: He did. Okay, cos I’m not sure if that happened when we were abroad, when we were in Rome. I don’t think that that was the case there… I don’t know how many of them made into the film, I don’t remember, but I had to speak a lot of different languages, not too much in one go. Chinese, I had to do, the Mandarin I had to do a lot of a good version and a bad version. They would find locals who spoke those languages. Francis would say “This is the passage I want,” they would record it and it went into that Garage Band thing on my computer and I broke it down and I wrote it out phonetically and I just learnt it the way the way you learn a poem. So it wasn’t as though I had to live in a hut on the tundra or something … *glances down* Oopps. My fly’s undone!

MG: I hadn’t noticed *turning elephant-head and lying through tusks*

TR: Don’t worry darlin’.

It’s all technical hocus pocus and sometimes an earpiece. It’s fun, y’know smoke and mirrors.

 

Q: This was the first motion picture you’ve filmed in High Definition…

TR: Yeah, and I’d been a snob about it until now.

 

Q: What changed your mind?

TR: On High-Definition? I think that for actors it’s very useful. As far as cinematography goes, I don’t think it’s worth pursuing the idea that … trying to make it look like film. I don’t think you should bother with that, I think you should just decide that it its own thing. I think when you start playing with effects, that’s when it betrays itself, if you like. I think it’s beautifully lit a lot of the stuff that we did. But for actors, its 56 minutes in there, so you can just keep going and going and going, until you feel that you’ve got something, or he feels that you’ve got it right. So it’s very flexible for actors, very good for actors. I don’t know if I’d choose it, I may, as a director, I don’t know.

 

MG: Your character Dominic’s main concern is that he wouldn’t have enough time to get his work done. Do you have that in common with him? Do you ever think there are things that you’ll never get done by the end of your life?

TR: No, I don’t. Except reading War and Peace, it just sits there lurking on the desk and never gets read. Books that you haven’t read, paintings you haven’t seen poetry that you haven’t read … time that I haven't spent with my kids, I definitely regret that, but, no, I don’t have anything in common with the man.  If I had another shot I’d probably wanna find out what would’ve happened if I wasn’t an actor. That would be an intriguing thing.

 

Q: What do you think would’ve happened?

TR: Well, I was studying sculpture and painting at the time when I became obsessed with this stuff. So, I think I would like to know what would’ve happened if I’d gone down that road. That would’ve been an interesting time for me, I think.

 

Q: Do you still paint?

TR: No, I don’t.

 

Q: You’ve played artists before {e.g. Vincent Van Gogh in Vincent and Theo}. As someone who’s studied painting, was that particularly satisfying?

TR: Yeah, actually at that time it was because it was a very freeing experience. I had a truck driven by a painter that followed me around full of equipment, full of canvasses and oils, it was like having my own little store and wherever I went, they would follow me and I could go and paint. It was wonderful, it was absolutely wonderful. And on top of that I had a director who encouraged me to write the script. It was very free; it was a very interesting time. And I’ve been offered a couple since, different kind of painter.

 

Q: Once the shoot began did Francis do heavy rewrites as you were filming?

TR: Oh that happened even before we started filming, It changed daily and it changed many, many, many times before we rehearsal and during rehearsal. That was a constant thing. I think he’s renowned for that. What would tend to do was just learn what was available to me at that time and then come and he’d give me something else to do. *chuckles*

 

Q:  Were you affected at all by the buzz around this film being the first film from Francis Ford Coppola for many years?

TR: Me, I don’t pay attention to that stuff. I mean he talked about it on set and I think he found it quite liberating, this film. I think he figured out a structure which he can use again and again. I mean, these trucks that he designed are very interesting.

 

Q: Do you think he was at all apprehensive?
TR
: No, he’s had fun, he was having fun. You’d see him having fun on set.  He was enjoying himself. He had more energy then all of us, I mean, every day, day and day out. He had more energy than we all did put together it was incredible.

 

MG:  What did you learn from your experience working with Francis as both an actor and director?

TR: I tend not to dwell on that. Those are things that come up… I only have directed once, and I didn’t go into that thinking, “I’ll do it like this,” or, “I remember when so and so did…” What I tended to do was to remember the bad stuff that directors did and make sure I didn’t do that. The rest of the time it occurs to you in the moment, “Oh wow, that’s why he did that. That’s why he approached me that way.” And with Francis, I was very interested to see how he dealt not just with composition of a frame, but space – geographical space. I liked watching how with a limited amount of cars, for example, he created a busy street or an empty street in a busy place. I liked watching how he would fill a frame; that was very, very interesting. He has a great sense of composition. So I would just stand by him and watch what he was up to.

 

Q: What are some of those bad things that you mentioned you try to avoid that other directors did?

TR: There are ways of approaching actors, there are ways of enticing a performance out. Remember, we’re there, really our job is just to try and get as close to what the director has in his head, that’s it. That’s all we do. And if we can get that up and running, then we can walk away and they’ll be happy and they can cut it to ribbons, they can do whatever they want. So, our job is that and there are good ways to go about that and there are bad ways to go about that. So, when I was working as a director, what I found is that you need to be ten different directors if you have ten different actors, that’s what you need to be. Some of those guys weren’t too nice and sometimes that was needed. Short of being a bully, I tried to find a way to get what I needed and have the actor feel safe. But there are a couple times where I failed on that a little.

 

Q: You’re soon to be seen in Funny Games which is a shot-for-shot remake of director Michael Haneke’s own 1997 German thriller. What was that experience like after having had the freedom that you mentioned working with Francis?

TR: It was extremely frustrating working with Michael. I think Michael’s terrific, but I found it infuriating that he was so insistent on us basically just doing and English version of… I can see why, I can see the value in it. I can also see the failings of it. I haven’t seen the film; I will never see the film because it’s too distressing for me. I can see the point for me, vaguely, but he’ll never know what he could’ve got.  But I’m sure he can live with that cos he’s that kinda guy. He’s a good guy, he’s the sweetest gentlest soul, but he’ll never know, and that’s tough I think. It was hard for us.

 

MG: You’ve worked with so many amazing directors over an incredible career, the list is endless. Who’s left?

TR: *laughs* I don’t know. I really don’t know. There’s tons and tons and tons of people. And remember that there’s a lot of them haven't made a film yet. I’ve been very fortunate to work with first time directors and many very good, so there’s all of those out there. I’d like to – I don’t think I’ll ever have the opportunity, I’ve worked for him as an extra, but I’d like to work with Ken Loach. I’d like to spend a lot of time working with Ken Loach. I’d like to do 10 movies with Ken Loach, but I don’t know if I ever will, because he’s … When you become visible it’s a distraction in his films. He deals with it pretty well, but it gets in the way.

 

MG: Is it something you lean toward when you choose a project, working with somebody who’s new?

TR: I don’t plan it, I really don’t plan it. I go off the script and off the story and if the character’s interesting. If he’s placed well within a well-structured story, that’s what you hope for, doesn’t matter how many words you’ve got to say. I tend to like less. I don’t really have a plan, which I think has worked *laughs* And then maybe that’s a plan, but that’s worked in my favour. And as a consequence, some of the films I’ve made are crap. But I’ve enjoyed generally the experience of making them, with a few exceptions.

 

Q: Have you seen Youth Without Youth in a theatre?

TR: I did. I tend generally not to watch my films, but I broke the rule on this one, and I watched it in Rome. I cringe when I look at myself, always. But I was looking at the imagery, really, and it was quite sweeping and beautiful. And also knowing what we went through that day to get that shot at any given moment. You can’t watch yourself because you’re too connected to it, you can’t step back and see a film, really.

 

Q: If you do watch a film you’re in, do you find yourself acting it again?

TR: No. Once I’m gone, I’m gone. And I have no regrets. My feeling is always that, you know when actors have a best side? That’s their worst side for me. I think that you’re supposed to… all the bad stuff makes the good stuff happen. And if a director is smart and if an actor is smart they’ll connect all those dots. So scenes that might make me wanna throw up will be part and parcel of what makes other people happy in the audience. No I never have regrets, I just don’t like looking at myself anymore, I’m sick of it. It’s not for me, when you act in a movie it’s not for you, it’s for someone else.

 

MG: Did you ever get back the fan letter you wrote to Francis 30 years ago?

TR: No, he never gave it back *chuckles* It’s probably better… 

 

 

Francis Ford Coppola

 

Q: What was it about Mircea Eliade’s original short story that you connected to personally that inspired you to make this movie?

Francis Ford Coppola:  I read the story for other reasons, and I had really never heard of the author, although a good friend of mine had read the script that I was battling – I can’t say working on – it was my dream project and it wasn’t well. I sent this script to a girl who was 16 when I was 17, now is a famous Sankritist, Orientalist, Wendy Doniger, who is a professor of this field and her mentor, had been Mircea Eliade. She was always a very bright young woman and I felt I needed some feedback by my script other than movie feedback, because inevitably movie thing is “it’s not commercial.” Okay commercial is great, but what about ‘is it any good?’ So I sent it to her, and she gave some comments that were different than the typical movie reaction and she sent me some quotes from this Mircea Eliade about time. And part of what I was having trouble with in my script had to with sort of how you express things in movies, the language that movies have for dealing with human consciousnesses. Not a lot you can do if you wanna get inside. In a novel you can write and write and write and say ‘she thought this, and she did that, and she thought that’, but in a film other than of course what the actor can give you just through what they show you, what they’re feeling. You can get what they’re feeling but to have a thought process other than showing them and having a voice … there are other things, but it just seemed to me there has to be another way to help the audience get inside a person’s thoughts. She sent me some quotes of Eliade and I read them and I found them interesting. And I got the story, which wasn’t easy to get. And turns out that Eliade was, of course a religious philosopher and scholar but he used to write these little fables, maybe for fun, or maybe to play around with ideas that were derived form his studies of Indian myth. Indian myth is very much like parables, y’know, little silly stories about a king, but it really has to do with what the meaning of perception, what is reality and the more oriental attitude towards what we call dualism, y’know that we think in terms of good and evil, up and down. Helps us to navigate through the world, but it’s probably not the way life really is. So to make a long story short, I got the actual story because I found what she sent me interesting and then I read the story and it was sort of like; it was like a Twilight Zone. And every two pages something extraordinary would happen to this man. He gets hit by lightning, and then he wakes up it turns out he’s young, turn out he’s smarter and has intellect. Turns out he can dream about studying Chinese and then he wakes up he can speak Chinese. Then he turns into two personalities and one seems to be sending a message form almost a future human species.  I said, ‘This is the craziest story I ever read,’ and I just started to become really excited. ‘Oh, I could make this’, ‘I could go to Romania,’ y’know just get a crew there and not spend a lot of money. And it happened like that.

 

MG: One of the more beautiful images throughout the movie is the butterfly motif that is spoken of when Dominic is recovering from being struck by lightning and is referred to as being in a “larval state.” The Nazi seductress wears a Kimono with a large butterfly print and Dominic tells the story of the king who wishes he was a butterfly. Do you feel that creatively you’re still in a larval state?

FFC: I would say yes. Artists are always in the larval state until they’re ready to kick it up and ‘I don’t wanna do it anymore’. I don’t know – who is the French poet – oh, Rimbaud, who after he was a young person became a stockbroker or something. So I think there are people who just say,“ Well, I don’t wanna do it anymore”, but I just think the cinema, the movies is the most magical field and it’s amazing it’s only a hundred years old, but there have been such masterpieces made. It seems to the language of film is gonna keep evolving and 200 years from now we’ll see movies that are able probably even to get inside a person’s head in a way that I don’t know how to. So I was just so enthusiastic about movie making – as are the other people my age, who are my friends – that they haven’t gotten over what a kick it is. How magical; you take this piece of film, take this piece of film, put it together and suddenly something that didn’t exist before. So I would have to say that I’m in a larval phase until I don’t wanna do it anymore.

 

Q: How do you think the language of film has evolved from films you were making say 20 years ago?

FFC: I stumbled on some things that I felt did what I was trying to do. There are a lot of dreams in the film or alternate reality things. For example, I always felt that dreams were always all wavy or coloured pink or something. But dreams are not like that, dreams are really realistic when you’re having the dream what’s happening may be strange, but it seems like its real, so I started just doing the dreams upside down as a way to say they’re dreams, but you then get used to it. That was something I hadn’t done before that I felt was clear. I don’t remember...y’know I’m trying to remember the film now. I’ve been now immersed in making a new one. But I think the way I dealt with the double; the double is an interesting figure in the film and he was in the story as well, although I use the double more extensively than he had been used in the story. The double came in the story, did his thing and then was gone. And I thought, ‘Well, gee, the double could be helpful for me throughout the story because it’s someone …” And I thought, ‘Well, how am I gonna do the double? Shall I have another actor be the double?’ Then I thought wouldn’t it be interesting if I just had him talk to himself, but when he’s talking as the double he’s looking  right to left, and then shoot him exactly the same way talking  and have him look from left to right and cut those together and see if it looks like he’s talking to someone? At first everyone said “Oh, I dunno, maybe there’s a other way we could do it,” but I found that when I actually had him in bed talking to himself, just with screen direction, he was pretty convincing. And then his personality started to be a little different, so it was like he was talking for someone else even though, of course, he wasn’t. Those are just small things; I have to remember the film.

 

Q: The effects that were used in this movie were they more of the in-camera effect of Dracula or did you use more simple techniques?
FFC:
  No, not at all. Dracula was made entirely in-camera, the kind of effects that were done at the turn of the century. The effects that are in the picture, and there probably as with most modern movies, more of them than you think. But they were very subtle; on first level it was replacing the sky, or getting rid of contemporary things that wouldn’t be in 1938. But then we began to do subtle things and I found it very exciting if you use digital effects in a very subtle way, for example we of course did not go extensively to India or all these places but we were shooting one scene in which the characters are walking along, it was actually one of Ceaucescu’s palaces and they’re supposed to be in India. And then we went to India and shot a temple and the temple had many coloured banners and we had of course the sounds of the prayer inside that temple and when they were walking right after we’ve seen the temple, they’re walking along the water, very subtlety we put the reflection of that building with the flags. You can barely see it, but you can see it and it really sorta married – one was really India, one was Romania. The use of effects in a very, very subtle way can really help to kind of give the illusion that you want. It was a company in Prague did it for us and it was very helpful.

 

Q: Was there any part of the story dealing with the issues of age and youth that attracted you at this particular time in your life?

FFC: Only to the extent of, y’know, I had to think a little bit that, gee, I didn’t count on being so successful so young, with The Godfather. Gee, I never had any money, suddenly I had some money and status, and The Godfather started to be a much bigger deal than I thought. So, it naturally bent my career out of shape. I made The Rain People, and I was gonna next make The Conversation, and go on to make more … these type of personal films that I would write. Y’know, I didn’t think suddenly I was gonna be rich or big-deal Hollywood guy.  So there was something at age 65 that sort of was, gee, I would’ve liked to be that young, European-style director, like when Fellini was making pictures like Vitteloni or Antonioni. And I never got to do that, so I thought why can’t I just be that now? Just go to Romania with the attitude of an 18 year old, which I did, and certainly the budget of a younger filmmaker, and just have that career now. And that’s what I feel as I speak to you; I can’t imagine my ever wanting to make a big film for reasons you can guess because those are huge responsibilities and there’s a million people who want.… Just count how many producers on the credits, that they must all be putting their two cents in. And if I could just make one personal film after another, even if I finance it myself – what else do I have to do with the money? You always ask, “Well, if you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?” After you bought the Ferrari and the summer house, then what? So if I won the lottery I would make personal films, so that’s sort of what I’m doing.

 

Q: Youth Without Youth is shot in high-definition, what made you decide to use that process and would you do it again?

FFC: Yeah, I will only work in the electronic medium and I think frankly, between us, in four years that’s all that’s gonna be made. I don’t think anyone would have particularly known seeing the picture how it was made. I mean it’s a beautiful image. I think what I learned about it is that really the two most important things are the eye of the photographer and the lens. We shot with very high-quality beautiful flat lenses and with a lot of care, obviously to make beautiful images, In fact, the same equipment that made this picture was all configured in a truck the way we made The Rain People. It’s all in Argentina now the same stuff or even a little improved. So, in a way I have this mobile film studio that I can just send somewhere and make the film that way. But I think you’ll find that before five years every movie will be made in electronic medium and shortly after that all theatres will be projecting in it.

 

Q:  Did you design your truck and your mobile studio in anticipation of your rejuvenated career?

FFC: That’s partly what happened, is I was very frustrated, y’know my Megalopolis movie – I mean, where was I gonna get 80 million dollars, and who was I gonna get to be in it who’d go on such a flier?  And then when the Twin Tower tragedy happened, a movie about Utopia in New York suddenly was harder to… Y’know New York was changed in a way that I didn’t know that my fiction could ... would have to deal with it. I mean everyone knows that Rudy Guiliani was the mayor and that it was Islamic fundamentalists who were involved. So, I’d have to bend the story to accommodate that, and I didn’t know how to. I tried very hard; I must’ve done 20 rewrites. And finally, I was sorta like a little depressed about, y’know, my businesses were going big and successful. So I just one day, had a very nice young assistant, had been a film student, guy from Wesleyan, we heard about these fabulous Zeiss lenses that they were gonna make for the digital camera, so I bought these Zeiss lenses for like 50 thousand dollars. O So, I sorta made the commitment. So now I said, ’What am I gonna do with these lenses? I don’t have a movie to make.’ Then when I read Youth Without Youth, I thought. ‘Oh, we’ll go to Romania.’ And we got all excited, we got a truck and we started. George Lucas came over because he had been involved when we did The Rain People and we started to figure out, “Well the cameras could be on this side, and all the lights could be on that side,” and the whole thing. So it was partly starting to build the truck and buy the lenses that got us going again.

 

Q: What does Apocalypse Now mean to you today, that it didn’t then?

FFC: Well, a lot of people ask me if I wanna make another war film, which I don’t and if I would go out and deal with Iraq. My only thing I could think of is that I would make a very peaceful film. I mean, you gotta understand the two big hits of my life that I sort of beg people to allow me to go beyond which are The Godfather and Apocalypse, are very violent movies. And violent movies are successful commercially; it’s sort of like disturbing, almost. I guess it always has been, long since the Greeks. Kurosawa made beautiful films with violence and I suppose I would do it again if it all seemed essential, but I don’t particularly wanna make violent films and if I were to make a war film again, I think it would be more like Kundun or something, which was very beautiful.

 

Q: The release of any of your films is an event. This is the first film you’ve directed in a decade were you aware or affected by the expectations?

FFC: Well, y’know, I am aware that when I am invited somewhere, wherever it is, even if it’s the local school charity, and I walk on the stage, they play The Godfather theme. So, I know, I know… I almost wanna say, The Godfather was magic, those beautiful actors and that book and certainly I’m proud of it and I’m known for other things. But I kinda wanna beg permission to go try to discover new things and fumble around. And I knew that any unusual movie is gonna have a tough go. Even The Godfather, if you read the Variety review of The Godfather, you’d be shocked. And I won’t even mention Apocalypse! So, I’m sort of used to films that are not of the type that are presently the mainstream, certainly by the trade press and stuff get a tough go. You only hope that a little later you’ll get a look and then much later you’ll get a real opinion. So I’m waiting 20 years, I hope I’m alive to hear what this movie really was.

 {To MG} Did you get to talk to Alexandra?

 

MG: Not yet. We’ve spoken to Tim. He said you still haven’t given him back his fan letter

FFC:  And he’s not gonna get it! He sent it to me! And it wasn’t a fan letter it was, “I am a young actor and I wanna be in your movies”, all written. He was about 16.

 

MG: It was a job application.

FFC:  Yeah, right! Did you see the film already?

 

MG: Yes.

FFC: Did you see it in the Paris Theatre?

 

MG: No, I didn’t get to see it there.

FFC: The Paris Theatre is beautiful. It’s so amazing to see what movie theatres, y’know not multiplexes, are like. I’m so happy it’s in the Paris Theatre.

 

 

Alexandra Maria Lara

 

MG: We’ve just had Francis in and sitting and listening to Francis Ford Coppola was like being in a master class.

Alexandra Maria Lara: Yes, you are absolutely right.

 

MG: What did you learn, tell us what it was like especially as you haven’t made that many English-language films yet, to be directed by him?

AML: You are absolutely right, first of all. I share exactly the same feeling with you; whenever I see him, hear him saying something. I could sit down and listen forever. I think that’s what geniuses have in common, that ability of saying in a simple way the most extraordinary things. I can’t tell you, it’s a miracle for me. I am the lucky one who was allowed to do this, to go through this experience. And what I learned from him, so many things, you know, he’s so passionate, he’s so dedicated. He’s incredible and he loves actors. He makes life very easy for actors. And actually he’s the dream director for an actor, because he’s trying different things, he’s open. He is not intimidating. He’s demanding, but inviting. I don’t know, I love him, it’s difficult to say.

 

Q: What was the audition process for Youth Without Youth?

AML: He saw a German movie called Downfall and then he sent me a letter and the script. Of course, I didn’t believe that it’s him who’s sending it to me. And this letter said “When you’ve finished reading the script, you can call me,” and there was written a Romanian phone number, and I thought ‘okay….’ And I dialed the number and it was, “The person you dialed is temporarily not available,” so I was relieved and happy that I don’t have to talk to Francis Ford Coppola, or whoever pretends being Francis Ford Coppola. And then when I tried again, he was on the phone and my instant reaction was to hang up immediately! Honestly. And then he called me back cos he saw, I was in Spain at that time, so he called me back the number. “*doing silly impression of herself* Oh, I’m sorry, bad connection here in Spain. Is it you?” Yeah, it was incredible. We finally got to meet each other in London and that was my audition. I guess. I spent two or three hours with him, two or three very interesting hours. And I had a return flight in the afternoon back to Berlin, but he asked me to stay and to go and do the makeup tests, and everything. And that was the day I met Tim Roth, and still nearly two years later, I cannot believe it.

 

Q: What did you do to prepare to play three different characters in the film?

AML: I was most scared of… the language was on the one side. The languages were very fascinating to me, not very scary because it’s like learning songs, it’s like learning lyrics. I loved that part of preparation, very much. But then there was of course, were these paramediumistic ecstasies Veronica is going through. I had no idea what’s expected of me. I had no idea what he’s {Coppola} expecting of me. So in Berlin I called all my old teachers from drama school and I said, * in weepy voice* “Please can I meet you I don’t know I have to play kind of an animal, not really an animal, but can I come, can I talk to you about it, please help me, what can I do with my body?” It was crazy to find all that. The beautiful thing is that it’s the same woman actually and basically. But I had to play different things it was a big challenge and I was terrified sometimes. Yeah, but I was always allowed to go to Francis and tell him that I’m terrified and he said, “There is no reason to worry”, so…

 

Q: Did Coppola direct you very closely in those scenes or were you allowed to interpret it as you felt?

AML: No, he directed me quietly. At the beginning, he gave me the feeling we are pretty free, but then my assistant came – I had a personal assistant, I never had a personal assistant before or afterwards - but during the first movie I did have a personal assistant, it was an amazing experience. We did the first camera rehearsal and she came with a list of 12 points, saying how he imagines the scene. “Veronica makes the wolf jump.” “Licks the watch” – that is not in the movie anymore. “Sees the reflection of the light transforms into a priest, speaks old Egyptian as she would talk to…” I can’t tell you when I read that list, I thought “Okay, what? I can’t do this, I’m lost.” But I wasn’t.

 

Q: How did you find your way through that?

AML: The good thing is if you do have time – at the very beginning of the day I went to Francis. I saw him having breakfast with his lovely wife, Ellie. And I went to him and I said, “I will try today of course to do my very best and to come as close as possible to what you want to see, but I’m terrified.” And he said, “Alexandra, don’t worry, we try today and if we have the feeling it’s good what we are doing, then it’s good. And if for whatever reasons we have the feeling it’s not, then we will do it another day.”  That’s how he made me feel so free and then I think we shot the scene. That was only one shooting day but that the first shooting day playing these ecstasies. I think we shot eight hours, I can’t remember. And of course, at the beginning you are more, ‘I don’t know exactly how far I can go?’ These are moments that can easily be turned to ridiculous to play. You have to be brave in a moment like this. Maybe you make a mistake, maybe a sound that sounds stupid. But after all these hours you become more brave and brave and brave, and at a certain point you start losing yourself a little bit.

 

MG: How did Francis pull you back when you felt you were losing yourself or going too far?

AML:  I was immediately back the second I knew I survived that shooting day. Immediately, I smoked a cigarette and was the happiest girl on earth. *laughs* Really, I called my parents, I said. “Oh God, the first paramediumistic ecstasy is done! I’m so happy and relieved!”

 

MG: After working with Francis Ford Coppola at this early stage in your English-language career, are there any other directors you aspire to work with?

AML: The crazy thing is I’ve really worked a lot in these last twelve years. Really a lot and I met all kind of different people. I met a lot of people who no one has ever heard of who are very, very fascinating. So I’m convinced that there are people we’ve never heard of and then there are, of course, very famous directors out there, like at the beginning of this year I worked with the fantastic James Ivory in Argentina. Another incredible experience for me, and of course all that is very unusual because I mainly worked as an actress and do work as an actress in Germany, so I never thought I will ever need the English language for my work or I never thought I will be able to give interviews in a language that is not that familiar to me. But you know I never made plans in all these years, and I’m convinced that is one of the reasons why I’ve been so lucky. I’m relaxed, whatever happens, happens.

 

Q: Francis mentioned this film as a sort of regeneration of his career and doing films he wanted to do. Were you aware of his feeling s about that?

AML: Yes. I thought he is quite sentimental about the fact and I was often wondering what a feeling that must be for him to stand there after ten years. I think it must be very special for him and I think that love and work can keep you young and passionate about what you’re doing. I think he thinks a lot about age and about all these things we do see in that movie, and he’s a sentimental, wonderful person. But I think everyone on the set knew exactly that this means a lot to him and that it’s very special to him. And he’s a very special person.

 

Q: One of the characters you play is Dominic’s lover in his early youth. Were there more scenes shot of her? She’s a presence throughout the movie, but there isn’t much actual footage of her in the film.

AML: Laura. I loved playing these two scenes. Unfortunately, or fortunately because then I would be very sad, *weepy* “Oh no, there is not that one scene anymore in the movie.” No, it has been that small from the beginning. Sad. I should ask him to make a movie only about Laura. Yah, that’s a good idea.

 

Q: Your other character, Veronica, ages rapidly in the film. Did that make you wonder about ageing yourself?

AML: I have fantastic parents who I adore. My father’s 70, no he’s 71, now. And I see my father sometimes and I know that he’s the best, and I see him having moments of being afraid. Having moments when probably it’s not that easy, I guess. I’m 29, I don’t know. Although even with 29, I feel changes, but this is beautiful and probably that’s the beauty of life. But, yeah, of course it makes you, being confronted with a story like that, playing things like that, you think even more about it yeah.

 

Q: Are you interested in writing, do you ever write?

AML: Do I write? No, unfortunately not, I wish I could write. I wish I could write, because my dream is one day I want to direct. This is my dream. But it would be brilliant to write and then direct, but unfortunately - I love to read and I love to try to write, but unfortunately it’s only a try.  I never… when I started writing a diary when I was 13, 14, 15, I used to stop too quickly.

 

MG: Dominic’s main motivation is his worry about not getting his life’s work done before he runs out of time. You are very young, but are there things that you worry you won’t have time to pursue, perhaps artistic pursuits like, writing or directing?

AML: No, I started working when I was very, very young, and I had rather the opposite feeling, ‘Oh, where are my crazy years? Where’s the time where I don’t care, where I don’t have that pressure?’ because this job is related to a lot of pressure. To be an actor is very sad if you are not successful, but to suddenly have success means a whole other world of pressure; things you have to learn to deal with, and all that. So I rather always had the feeling, I don’t know, when my friends from school, they came to America and they spent a year in wherever, they were here for being au pair – do they say that here? –and I was on whatever movie set. These were moments where I thought, ‘I wanna do something, I don’t know. I don’t wanna care about how I look or what I’m wearing,’ – anyway, I don’t do. It was rather the other way around than thinking ‘Oh, I didn’t work enough,’ but I think everybody has that feeling a little bit, you know? If you work too much you have the feeling you don’t enjoy life too much and if you enjoy life too much, you probably have the feeling you are not working enough. I think human beings always look for things that they do not have in that moment. Isn’t that the craziness of human beings? What do you think? No?

 

MG: I think I’d rather be in your situation

AML: Yeah? Bless you.

 

Q: What’s next for you?

AML: I just finished a very, very interesting movie called Der Baader-Meinhof Komplex, it’s about the Red Army faction time in Germany. Wow, that’s another subject of German history where you really think that’s incredible. So I just finished on that. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the movie I did with Mr. James Ivory, called City of Your Final Destination. And other than that I’m happy and relaxed.

 

Q: Have you seen the documentary Protagonist, which deals one of the people involved with Baader-Meinhof?

AML: No, I heard of that documentary. It’s incredible what happened at that time. It’s terrifying; it’s horrible, but very interesting. And this movie, it’s made by the same producers who made Downfall. I think it will be very powerful and strong. The director is Uli Edel, he’s a German who lives in America. He’s very good and very good German actors. I’m looking foward to see. You never know, you only know in the moment when it’s out and then everybody had a different opinion about it so … I don’t know.

 

MG: Before you leave us I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your performance in Control. One thing I wanted to ask about was the feeling I got that the film posed the triangle with the women in his life being a main factor in why Ian Curtis killed himself. I wondered about your thoughts on that? Did you think that was true?

AML: Well, you know the crazy thing is because he committed suicide, you’ll never know. But these women both are still very, very … they can’t talk to each other or anything. After all these years, so… I think that played a major part, but I think his epilepsy probably as well. Probably too many things came together….

 

MG: I’m sorry we didn’t get to meet you then. I loved that movie.

AML: It’s a brilliant movie, isn’t it?

 

MG: It’s heartbreaking.

AML: It is heartbreaking. 

 

~ Mighty Ganesha

December 3rd, 2007

 

 

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