Your film, called 355, is about to premiere in this murky setting, at a time when screening halls all over the world are closed.
I hope that by January, when the movie is scheduled to be released, the situation will have improved. I haven’t yet figured out if this crisis has made me want to make films even more passionately, or if it has given me doubts regarding the future. I certainly feel lucky that we are now discussing a new project though, and, obviously the film industry is agile enough to defend itself.
Let’s talk about the film. It is a spy thriller that Jessica Chastain envisioned to feature the ultimate female ensemble. Right?
Exactly. First of all, I act alongside wonderful women. Apart from Chastain herself, you will also see Penélope Cruz, Lupita Nyong’o and Fan Bingbing. It was Jessica’s idea to bring actresses from different parts of the world together, offering a plot twist to spy movies, in which we are used to seeing male leads. The story is based on Agent 355, one of the first female spies in the history of the USA. Jessica has managed to develop special chemistry between us. I appreciate her tenacity, especially when it comes to matters pertaining to female rights, she is stubborn in a good way, and one of the feistiest feminists in the planet at the moment. I feel that we have made a film that sends a loud message regarding female empowerment and solidarity, something extremely rare in Hollywood.
How easy is it for so many big stars to work together in a film?
There never was any female competition among us. Besides, the director’s goal is for each different personality and cultural identity to be showcased. Our differences were actually the whole point. The way in which different female temperaments are brought together in harmony for a shared result.
They say that the worst bullying a woman can receive in the work environment, comes from her female colleagues. Have you ever experienced this?
Of course. Unfortunately, some women see other women around them in a hostile way. In the past, the worst criticism I received came from representatives of my gender. I don’t know if it has to do with a lack of solidarity, but I was definitely displeased. And it sure has to do with the generations gap. Women my age are usually very supportive towards one another, they have to struggle for shared goals. On the contrary, when there is an age difference, the older woman sees the younger one as inexperienced, and the younger one thinks of the older woman as outdated. We sure have a long way to go when it comes to understanding what feminism is about.
How male dominated is cinema still?
It still is a field where men have the first word, but I see progress. We have more female directors, producers, or screenwriters. The good thing is that the people that lead the film industry seek female directors in order for them to make films about matters that concern them, since only they know how to approach such subjects. But, yes, I can’t hide that in various occasions –mostly in the past – I have realized that my opinion is not regarded as highly as a male co-star’s and that it would be easier for me to be labelled as “difficult” or “rude”, whereas a man with the same characteristics would be off the hook and just considered “dedicated to his art”.
I am trying to remember which film I first say you in. I think that it was in Troy, in 2004, when you made your cinema debut. Many people doubted your acting skills, claiming that you were still a model that was trying to become an actress and had an expiration date. Sixteen year later, you have proven them wrong. What has happened in the meantime?
Troy was my second film and that period was really difficult for me. The film wasn’t met with the success it was expected to and I was extremely nervous, because everybody said that in Hollywood you are not offered a second chance. They were wrong. I had the advantage of my young age, the strength to block the negative reviews and focus on my goal. Since then, a lot has changed in my life. I’ve always tried to accept parts that would help me evolve and that would make me feel outside my comfort zone and I think that I have managed to do so. My age also contributed to this. While I grew, I felt more mature in dealing with my career.
Why did you abandon modeling for acting? You had a successful career in fashion.
I think that there came a time when I felt that I had had enough of people judging me based on my appearance. Fashion entered my life when I was 15 years old, when I won a local modeling competition, and timidly started making my first steps, without having an extraordinary look or the measurements of a typical model. When I was a little girl, I felt fascinated by photoshoots, clothes, and catwalks. It was a carefree period in my life. I remember being in Paris when there were no mobile phones yet. Everything seemed so innocent. Growing up, I felt that I wanted to do something more meaningful, and acting opened doors to unbelievably creative worlds that I wanted to pursue. Today, at the age of 44, I do not regret this transition.
They say that a woman at the age of 40 has found the freedom she was looking for in life. Is this true?
Yes and no. I will obviously react indifferently to the vulgarity of a troll on Instagram. I also know that I have worked hard to be in a position to deserve things. My age, as well as time fleeing do not cause me nervousness, but rather they make worry about maintaining my youthful energy that has made me fly in the past, as I can see many of my powers failing me now. The fact that I may wake up one day and not have the same vivacity when it comes to my daughter, or the same passion when it comes to my work, scares me. I am more worried about what I am leaving behind. Whether I missed something that I had to experience at the right age, whether I forgot to laugh or cry when I was supposed to. These are thoughts that frequently occupy my mind. On the other hand, so many roles come up daily in my career, that I don’t know if am saying “yes” and “no” when I should. I am hopeful, though, that the future always has something good in store for us.
Have you pinpointed the biggest mistakes in your career?
I have made so many mistakes. Especially during the period when I was a model, I was affected by the beauty standards of the time, I ended up weighing very few kilos and dating morally questionable lovers. I have also made films that I wouldn’t choose now. I also think that I was extremely arrogant for a period of time. I spoke three languages, I was a model, I had success in my love life, I was young, smart, and made a lot of money. However, all that came crumbling down, as was expected, when life rubbed my ignorance in my face. I was living in a fashion bubble, being a person devoid of content. When I was around 30, I embarked on an introspective journey and escaped from all the hypocrisy.
Will you share all these risks in life with your daughter at some point, or will you let her make her own mistakes?
Probably yes, because I am very worried about her future. I honestly don’t know. This is a big question. At times, I get upset, because I think that I am giving her advice that may be wrong, that will stay with her and that may even help carve her personality and character, when I am not even sure of how accurate it is. We always have so many expectations for our children! On one hand, I think that her life is her own journey; on the other, I find it useful to give her some guidelines. Before giving birth, I thought, “Okay, I will return to work immediately, I will make it”. When I brought her home, I wanted everything around me to stop and to just occupy myself with her. What I mean is that I don’t want to miss moments of her life and I think that this is what’s important at the end of the day. Being discretely present in your child’s life, but being there.
*The film 355, directed by Simon Kinberg, with Diane Kruger, Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Penélope Cruz and Fan Bingbing is scheduled to hit the screens in Greece on 14/1, by Spentzos Film, but the date is subject to change due to the pandemic.
Translated by Nina Zve
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