Thursday, February 17, 2011

Vincent Cassel talks about the Black Swan

In line with the release on February 23, one of the actors in Black Swan Vincent Cassel shares his experience working with Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder and director Darren Aronofsky. Cassel reveals that he studied ballet for 6 years which makes him perfect for the role as Thomas Leroy, the artistic director of the ballet company that Portman and others work.

In the movie, Leroy is the artistic director of the ballet company where Nina (Portman) works. Forcing the retirement of Beth MacIntyre (Ryder), he fulfilled the dream of Nina to be the star of the ballet company which everyone wanted. Nina became the lead for the Swan Lake and Leroy was there watching her and turn her to be more seductive for the role. Yet, Nina remained stiff and controlled but with her obsession to secure that role and not to be given to Lily (Kunis), she became obsessed and her insecurity destroyed her.

Here is the interview of Cassel, sharing his experience doing the movie:

Q: What made you say ‘yes’ to the movie?
Vincent Cassel: I only say ‘yes’ when I can’t say ‘no’, and that was exactly the case right here, because I’ve been following Darren’s work since the beginning. I always thought he was one of the most interesting filmmakers of his generation so for me, the minute he called me, I was already flattered, and all actors need to be flattered once in a while, so we just had a little talk. He told me about the character and I had a background experience with ballet and so it’s something I could easily relate to.

Q: Did you base your performance on a particular choreographer?
Cassel: It’s actually a mix of a bunch of people and, of course, it’s about the way Darren had written the character in the script. But definitely (George) Balanchine, even though I never met him but I did read a lot about him. And in the 80s I was close to a guy called Michael Bennett, a choreographer who directed A Chorus Line, Dream Girls and many other shows. So I drew a little bit from Michael, who sadly, died in the late 80s. I even had the good fortune of working with him when I was 17, 18. But actually, Benjamin Millepied, who choreographed Black Swan, is actually the closest person to who I’m playing. Not in terms of the story, of course, and he’s not a control freak (laughs) but he’s a modern dancer and a very good one and a great choreographer. And then I was lucky enough to work, just for half an hour but that was a lot, with Mikhail Baryshnikov, at the Opera Garnier (in Paris). And Peter Martins, of course. I went to see him work during rehearsals at the New York City Ballet and that was great.

Q: Black Swan is about Nina’s disintegrating reality. Are you playing your character as seen through her eyes?
Cassel: Well, I think the only moment where I really played Thomas the way she sees it, is when I’m fucking the girl on the table, because it’s obviously not reality. But for the rest, no, it’s not through her eyes, it’s just him.

Q: What age were you when you first started dancing?
Cassel: My father danced and as long as I can remember, I always tap danced. And then I got involved with ballet when I was sixteen.

Q: Did you take some dancing classes for the movie?
Cassel: I went back to taking classes and it was very painful. But it was already painful when I was younger - dancing is painful, by definition. Just see any professional dancer naked and you’ll see. A dancer’s body is beautiful when it’s in movement but when they stand still you see the injuries that their bodies have picked up over the years. It’s a very hard discipline.

Q: Did the finished movie live up to your expectations?
Cassel: Visually, it’s more than I thought it would be. It’s darker than I thought it would be. I was waiting for something closer to let’s say, The Tenant, by Polanski, and visually, it’s richer than that, it’s between The Tenant and Star Wars (laughs). It’s full of effects, really.

Q: You were working very close with Natalie and she had a very challenging role, to say the least. How hard a role was this for her?
Cassel: Well, it was physically very demanding for her. First of all, I was impressed and very respectful because when you really go that far in terms of training and everything, you have to be careful. She was there every day and I didn’t want to interfere so I was very respectful and I would be like ‘hi’ and just let her do her thing and then (claps hands) when we were doing the scenes it was time to get busy. And plus, with the kind of things we had to do – all the kissing and touching, these physical things – I thought it wasn’t that bad that we had a little distance. And plus her boyfriend was on set (laughs).

The Black Swan will open in all cinemas nationwide beginning February 23. The psycho suspense thriller is a 20th Century Fox film distributed by Warner Bros Pictures.

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