Hollywood Report Card

Press Conference Interview with Björk, David Morse and Catherine Deneuve

Björk approaches our table bright-eyed, but somehow faintly timid ; she pauses
before sitting as a diver pauses to mentally prepare herself on the board.
Suddenly, she shakes her head, smiles, and taps a little dance, “They were
playing jazz—I was having none of it. I was dancing Charleston.”

The Icelander having broken her own patch of ice, sets a silver-glittering
Koala bear purse on the table and then comfortably takes a seat.

Press : We had heard you decided not to act again...

B : Being in that creative environment where the film was I made an exception, because of the film I
wanted to act. But I should do music ... that’s where I’m at my best.

Press : So maybe you’ll act again ?

B : It’s not like I got it all planned out. Things keep happening that I thank God, I couldn’t even imagine.
Right now I feel very strong on focusing on music. I get really depressed when I go to Tower records, I
don’t think there are a lot of good records there. [Even my own stuff] I’m still far away, I get embarrassed
listening to my last CD’s and so I’ve got a lot of work to do.

On Lars :
He’d always be saying, “Please don’t act, I hate acting—feel your way through.’

On Selmasongs :
I’m very proud. I was really into it at that time ... giving my interior up to someone else. For someone as
obsessed with music as I am, I always hear a song in the back of my head all the time, and that’s usually
my own tune, I’ve done that all my life and then suddenly to have someone else’s songs in there is like ...
“AHHHHH” a bit scary ! Right ? But at that time I was ready for it. I was _ready to get really craftmanshippy,
because I did 10 years at classical education as a child, so I was ready to go really anal into music. The
whole idea of writing the music and then going back and hooking up with Lars and getting someone else’s
vision I was really into that. That’s a challenge. That’s actually understated ... a harder job than sitting
there and thinking of something.

RA : What were the parameters that Lars had given you ? Did he give you specific ideas for the songs ?

B : I read the script and my immediate reaction was very emotional. So I would start writing the songs
from a very emotional point of view. More like a form of love for Selma rather than anything else. For me
to react in an intellectual way ... I couldn’t even though I tried, it’s not what I’m about. But when it came
to arranging the music—that’s kind of when I can get maybe slightly clever. That’s the part that Lars
wasn’t interested in at all, that’s why he contacted me. Me being one of the most idiosyncratic people
around. I did the music very much how I wanted to.

Press : What was the first song you wrote ?
B : The song that happens on the train. My first question to Lars was, “Does she have a boyfriend ?” Once [I
got that song down], I knew what she was like as a woman and the rest kind of ...[fell into place]. The next
was “New World” the title tune, that sort of was her being hopeful and really believing that music can
save people’s lives.
(Some people, while addressing a group, tend to look around at each person, but Björk turns her head to
the person asking the question and responds only directly to them. Her attention seems very personal—
and her bluish brown eyes, oddly hypnotic.)

On taking on the project :
B : My instinct is 50 times more wise than my head for sure. From the start my instinct was saying, “Go go
go” and my head was going, “This is the most ridiculous thing you could do in your life.” I had to follow
my instinct.

Press : The music was so haunting, I was thinking about it all weekend.

B
 : I guess my music is always an emotional thing. I could never sit down and decide okay let’s do it now.
You can’t control those things and if you want to control them then you got a problem. You’re just being
arrogant. It’s not your choice. It’s finding strength in being vulnerable. I think sometimes discipline is
very important [too], but you have to be very careful what areas you put discipline into. And when I
arrange songs I can go with my academic education. Okay, here we have something that was just burning...
okay just make sure it’s got what it deserves and then you can sit there with like 500 hours of studio time.
Some of this music I was 12 to 16 hours in the studio everyday for a year. You’re definitely not on a high,
inspired all the time, you just sort of sit there with big bags under your eyes and a cup of coffee.

On understanding Selma’s pain :
B : She experienced a lot more pain than I have ever experienced. I’ve had a lucky life. Some of these songs
come from a painful place ... but it’s not mine. This is not my pain. I never felt this pain. But it provokes
empathy for sure.

On her terms with Lars :
B : I want to mix my tunes in London with people I normally work with, I’m going to do the album sleeve
for my album, the record’s going to be the way I want it to be, I’m going to have a final mix. For example,
after Cannes I went back and mixed it again. Basically, what I was asking for was that I could protect my
music ... nothing to do with acting being too difficult. So I was one day off work, so I came back the next
day with a piece of paper and for one day they said we can’t sign that, it’s impossible. And then in the
evening—they did. I was working from August to May non-stop. All that work I wouldn’t be able to do that
if they didn’t sign the paper. It’s happened so much, just because they were editing something and then
suddenly, “Oh, no, now we gotta do this” and then they’d like chop a minute out of the song, which I don’t
mind, I actually prefer my songs to be 4 minute songs ... it was Lars who asked them to be 8 minute long.
But it would have to be the minute chopped out of it that I had to agree with. I’m ready to collaborate, let’s
talk about it. It’s not like I hand my music over and go home, I can’t do that. After twenty years of doing
music, I just can’t do that.

B : There were other things... The fact that they put that thing over the overture. Because apparently
people don’t concentrate because there’s nothing for the eye, only for the ear, and I was like “Uhhggg.”
First the ears please, because listening in the dark is incredible and the fact that you need something for
the eye, just kills it. But in a funny way it supports Selma’s argument that people don’t trust their ears
and they don’t trust their instincts and the subconscious and mysterious. They have to like analyze
everything ... the eye is very much an instrument of logic.

On seeing herself on screen :
B : I can’t really relate to it. I’d be lying if I told you what it was like. I just watched it like “blahh” I don’t
even have an opinion on it. I know I gave everything I got and a lot more, I’m proud of the film. If I close
my eyes I know all my heart is in there. And that’s all I can do. I sit and watch it, if I don’t like something
—it’s out of my hands. I’m not controlling like that at all, my acting or image or visual stuff. I wish I was
more ambitious ... but I just don’t care. I always knew that when it came to visual vanity ... I don’t really
give a shit. And I was right because [just look at the film] I’d like have a handicam up my nostrils after I
haven’t slept for a month and I’d be like [ah so what]. But there’d be one wrong note and I’d be like
“AHHHH” and I’d be running to the studio.

Choreographer Vincent Paterson speaks with a deep resonating voice, like a choir teacher or Harrison
Ford :

VP : I think that the whole film is really a fable, I think that the great contradiction for people is that
you’re seeing a fable for the first time through a very documentary real world sensibility of filmmaking.
Lars is an amazing director, so much of what Lars does is alters his grips and vision to bring out as much
of the actor’s personality ... so almost as much as he asks us to be improvisatory, he’s actually as equally as
improvisatory as he’s creating.

RA : Were there really 100 cameras in the dance scenes ?

VP : Yes, we used 100 digital Sony video cameras

RA : Each rolling their own tape ?

VP : Yes, and actually in some pieces we used over 100, like in the train sequence, we would mount 100 on
the train and 50 in the landscape, they were all cabled together. It was fantastic for the actors ... they got
to go through the entire piece from the beginning to the end. [Actually] Lars’ original idea was to do it
live, vocally live, but the logistics of that were too difficult. Lars makes a lot of rules and then breaks those
rules immediately. Even with the dancing, not a Dogma, this is not a Dogma film, but he created his own
commandments for the pieces. Part of it was, there was no front to the pieces ... that you could face
anywhere. I tried to explain to him that it works better on paper ... [Finally] he changed that rule and said,
“Okay, okay, make it the other way.” But everything is like that with Lars, I mean the script is written out,
he told us don’t memorize, just be familiar and then we would walk into the space and he’d pick up the
camera and just say go.

David Morse stands well over six foot, perhaps 6’4,” and though he’s played
several bad guys recently, his face is peaceful and reassuring. He sits
comfortably, ready, but calm and relaxed. He fields questions with a moment
of careful thought shown only in his eyes. His answers are mindful and often
times sown with a subtle, dry, biting humor easily missed, unspoiled by his
poker face.

Press : When you first read the script, did you have a sense of the potential ?

DM : No. (pause) I thought it’d be potentially something awful.
Press : Is that how you’re choosing roles these days ?

DM : No. (pause) It was really Lars that convinced me. I did question my choice, not that what they were
doing wasn’t good, it was just the character ... was a really hard one to do... because I did not sympathize
with him. He chooses to do something I don’t get. So how do you find your way, believably and truly living
that through, if you don’t get it. So it was a hard one. I tried mightily. But this one was a hard one to really
feel like I’d done my job.

RA : Of the wealth of roles you’ve played in the past of which are you most proud ?

DM : Crossing Guard.

Press : Were you happy to “Get out” of singing and dancing ?

DM : No. (pause) Actually I was really disappointed. I was looking forward to it. It would be fun to be up on
the tables.

On possible audience reaction to the film :
DM : It’s not a whole lot different than anything you do for love, you’d like it to be embraced. In a way
there’s a satisfaction in doing something so challenging that people are going to come down on different
ends of the spectrum. We have, Lars has, succeeded in making the film that he wanted to make.

On Björk :
DM : She is so alive (pause) and unusual, she has no preconceptions, she’s not protecting herself—she was
living her life as this woman Selma. It just brings out things that don’t always happen on film.

David mentions that the gun sequence was a bit frustrating for him because the use of a weapon was so
foreign to Björk :

DM : She couldn’t just do the scene, (pause) but she WAS doing the scene.
Acting legend Catherine Deneuve sits donning tint-gradated glasses, she pulls the
table mic a bit closer, and waves to Björk at the other table.

Press : Was this acting job hard ?

CD : I don’t work hard anyway. That’s not my type of living. It’s difficult, but it’s not
hard.

Press : How do you feel when reporters refer to you as legend or icon ?

CD : I find it a little boring. Because it’s a way of putting me away on a pedestal and watch me and expect
me to speak a few lines, but I try to always break that strange idea.

On audience reaction :
CD : Yes of course, you always want people to like it. [But whenever] someone special like Lars, takes a
normal story and brings it into musicals, makes you think differently and see things differently ... it’s not
reassuring.

Ross Anthony

publié dans Hollywood Report Card - 01.09.2000

 

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