Actors, Features, Interviews, South Korea, USA

Stoker Q&As – Mia Wasikowska & Matthew Goode

We present two syndicated interviews with the stars of Park Chan-wook’s first Hollywood film Stoker, discussing working with him and their characters…

Mia Wasikowska (India Stoker)

After coming to international renown in the TV series In Treatment, Australian actress Mia Wasikowska has gone on to portray the title character in Cary Fukunaga’s adaptation of Jane Eyre as well as appearing in Gus Van Sant’s Restless and Rodrigo Garcia’s Albert Nobbs. In 2012, she featured in John Hillcoat’s Lawless and now she takes the leading role of India Stoker in STOKER from acclaimed director Park Chan-wook…

I understand that Director Park gave you a gift during filming?
Yes. He gave me a sculpture, a jaguar. It is the animal, obviously, and it is in my bedroom at my parents’ place at the moment. But I am just about to move into my own place and I shall put it somewhere there. I shall make sure it has good lighting. This will be my first place of my own and I am so excited.

The jaguar represents your character, India, as a hunter, so how did you enjoy the hunting scenes in the movie?
It was good but it was just a tiny bit uncomfortable because it was a day of lying in the bushes and I think I got a major muscle thing going on there! But it was good. It was fun. That is one of the things you get to do in film that you don’t do, or that I don’t do, in real life. I can’t speak for Dermot [Mulroney]! But it was fun. I didn’t shoot any guns then or when we did the scene with Uncle Charlie [Matthew Goode] and Evie [Nicole Kidman] in the hall. I sort of pressed the button but there were no blanks or anything in there because I think it was always going to cut.

How did you find the experience with Director Park working through a translator?
One of the producers, Wonjo, was an amazing interpreter. I don’t think we really knew how it was going to work at the beginning. Yet it was something that a couple of days into it seemed so seamless and it wasn’t something that we noticed or thought about. A couple of times I cornered him and forced him to speak English but we didn’t speak much English at all. That said, I don’t think anything was ever lost in translation. It was all very easy.

What did you enjoy most about working with Director Park?
When I got onto set with him we were given a folder of storyboards. I thought that was pretty incredible because I hadn’t worked with anybody who used storyboards before so he obviously had a very precise way as to how he visualized the film from the very beginning. It was every scene, but to his credit he was incredibly collaborative and gave us many opportunities to have our own input and to change things with him, so it was a really great way of working. Everybody is completely different. I think there is no formula for filmmaking. Everybody finds their own way of doing things.

India is an enigmatic and fascinating young woman…
She was always described as being quite hard to read and very repelled and much more of an observer rather than a participant, so a loner by choice but an incredibly lonesome person. Director Park always talked to me about her in a very innocent way, that the story was of her coming of age and her sexual awakening and her going from girl to woman and that she had the same desires and hopes as other young people in terms of being very infatuated, which comes in the form of her uncle, which is very unconventional.

You are a keen photographer yourself so you must have loved all the director’s visual metaphors in the film?
I really loved it because it really informed his way of seeing my character and the story. If you look closely he always had this metaphor of an egg, of a little chick pecking her way out of a shell, and in one scene in the kitchen there are all these white plates on a wall and then in the middle there is a yellow plate so even that looks like an egg. And a lot of the furniture was almost sculpted in that way as well. It was really cool to see that. He talked to me about that. He gave me that jaguar at the very beginning, at out first meeting, because he had seen India’s journey going from kitten to cat and the same with the saddle shoes and when Uncle Charlie gives her high heels.

Tell me a little bit about India’s clothes in the film — how they reflect her character and whether they were a bit stiff and uncomfortable to wear!
She is a very ordered personality and everything is uniform, so her clothes reflect that. Everything was symmetrical and I remember distinctly Director Park asking that if there was a pocket on one side of the piece of clothing then there should be a pocket on the other side. They were a little uncomfortable to wear, yes, because there were a lot of tight, high-waisted things so it was great at the end of the day to slip into some pajamas!

What else stands out as a memorable part of the STOKER shoot?
I always thought the piano scene was kind of unique to shoot because we were actually able to film with the playback of the actual song. And that was quite amazing because it almost made it easier — music is usually something that is added after filming has finished so to be able to shoot a scene with music was really wonderful.

And how are your own piano skills?
They have deteriorated a little since the end of production but I did do a crash course in piano leading up to it and I really enjoyed that.

Apparently, you and Matthew Goode had some fun when you were not working…
Yes. I loved him. We just had such a fun time, especially as the film was so serious. It was good to have somebody around who was a riot and who was completely silly when we weren’t filming. We had a ritual on every Saturday night of going to hit up the honky-tonk bars, because we were shooting in Nashville. We would do our rounds of a couple of the little honky-tonk bars where they had country music playing and dancing so that was always fun. It was brilliant. We ripped it up.

You have dancing in your blood, right? It was a childhood ambition…
Yes, it was. I wanted to be a dancer from when I was about nine or something like that and started ballet. I used to really like it and got into it and did it full time for a couple of years. I did a lot of ballet but I traded that in for acting when I was about 15.

Was there an epiphany moment that made you switch?
I think that I burnt myself out a little bit with my dancing because I did so much of it. I was exhausted so thought that I would try a different kind of performance and expression and acting seemed like a close fit; it was similar in some ways to dancing. My mum showed me some really good films and so I became interested in films and acting.

With your mum’s European background, did she show you lots of European films as well as Australian and American?
Yes, a lot of European cinema and a lot of independent films and art-house stuff. She is a photographer. She is a visual artist and photographer and my dad is, too. My mum, I must credit for showing me good films. With my career, my parents were great and though they were a little wary, maybe, of the acting ambitions they have always been supportive.

Matthew Goode (Charlie Stoker)

English actor Matthew Goode is known for his roles opposite Mandy Moore in Chasing Liberty, in Woody Allen’s Match Point and the epic graphic-novel adaptation Watchmen. Other notable roles include the Evelyn Waugh adaptation Brideshead Revisited, Leap Year, Imagine Me and You, and A Single Man, opposite his friend Colin Firth. In STOKER, from acclaimed director Park Chan-wook, Goode plays Charlie Stoker, uncle to central character, India (Mia Wasikowska), and brother-in-law to Evie (Nicole Kidman)…

Director Park reveals that he gifted Mia a jaguar statue. Did you get anything nice?
He gave me the part. That was the best present! And yes, he did he gave me a gift — an amazing green tea. He and his wife gave me these six or seven boxes of this green tea with this lovely little teapot. Fantastic. I like it a lot. It certainly has anti-oxidant stamp on it.

What surprised you most about working with a great filmmaker like Director Park?
The atmosphere he creates and the man himself are so wonderfully peaceful, especially considering what his work is often about, with the violence and often quite disturbing themes. But as a man he is the antithesis of that. He is not manic. It is funny, because he and Quentin Tarantino like each other’s work. They have an appreciation but, obviously, Quentin is much more manic. Both are brilliantly intelligent and, as I say, Director Park is so peaceful and I liked the whole Korean vibe on set because I found it quite Zen. Listening to him is very peaceful, particularly the way he speaks. I find him a very relaxing, calming person to be around. He is just fabulous, a really lovely guy. I think his next film is a Western and I would love to be in that, as barman with a moustache or something like that!

How did the director help you to understand his visual ambition for STOKER?
We actually got a folder when we arrived, stuffed full, where just about every single frame had been drawn. It was amazing and also slightly worrying.

Why was it worrying?
Well it was like, ‘Wow! This is going to be quite demonstrative and there won’t be much room,’ but he is actually very collaborative during the filming and it was fantastic. You knew pretty much that it was going to look special even if you weren’t always sure at the time why things happened. Nicole said that she always wondered why he photographed her hair being brushed for so long that day. And then you realize when you watch the film he was going to do that incredible cross-cut with the fields. So some things you knew and some times you were just like, ‘Well, he is an Asian director, perhaps this is what they do.’ The film is ravishingly shot.

And how did you and Nicole Kidman strike up the chemistry on screen?
Well, we went to the house because Director Park wanted to show us around it early-on during the rehearsal stage and I remember getting there and it was very hot, in the hundreds, and I was in a vest, a bit sweaty and Nicole said, ‘Actually, I think we should rehearse one of the scenes now that we are in the house.’ And I, professional that I am, had not got my script with me, so I was a bit worried that it would really show me up. Then it turned out to be the scene with the kiss at the end, so I was thinking, ‘Well, it’s just a rehearsal, we are not going to get to that moment, are we?’ But, suddenly, she’s approaching and that very day in an impromptu rehearsal she ends up going in for the kiss. I thought, ‘This is weird.’ I had this flashback to being in the cinema and seeing her in BMX Bandits! That was one of the first films that I watched in the cinema and if someone had told me at the age of seven, ‘Oh, you are going to kiss her. It is just going to be in another 25 years,’ well that is a very, very weird thing. Also, you are not in character when you are rehearsing. I was just a grubby Englishman in jeans and a vest, probably stinking of cigarette smoke. So at the rehearsal it was a little intimidating but on the day, in character, it was fine and just another scene. The rehearsal really helped.

Apparently, you and Mia visited the local Nashville honky-tonk bars on your weekends off?
Yes. We went two stepping. That’s one of the joys. We were such tourists. It was like buy cowboy boots? Check! Also my wife and my daughter were there because we were filming in Nashville and I knew that I wasn’t going to work every single day. It was one of the joys of the job that they came with me. We did everything that you think a tourist does and I bought them cowboy boots and my daughter actually got two pairs of cowboy boots. They are huge. She is only just wearing them now. With the two stepping, there were some very cool places to go, like The Bluebird Café, which has a reputation. It is the quality of the musicians that blows you away. We went to The Station Inn which is a very famous old place and the players are unbelievable — Bluegrass and swing music and it just makes you really happy. It’s a great a way to wind down. You see the old couples dancing, two-stepping, and they make it look so easy. Mia did a lot of dancing with my wife as well while I was sitting a couple out.

Having your family there must have made shooting STOKER even more special…
It did, because this can be a very selfish job. It becomes harder and harder. I have never really liked being away from family. I went to Australia and that was tough. Three months away with the little one at home. I hated it. They did come out for two weeks and that was hell. Then I had a one-year old with jet lag, while I was working a 16-hour day! It was awful when they had to leave and go back to Britain but, boy, did I sleep well. They are always the priority. . I just wish that I could work in England more. But you do have to go where the job takes you. It is not like I can pick and choose.

You were chosen for this film, so things must be going quite well…
I take work far more seriously since becoming a dad. I generally still wake up with financial crises going on in my head and for me it is just about getting a job and doing it. I think you do get better. I have been doing it for 14 years now and I have done 20-odd things. I’d love to think that down the road I am going to meet someone like Michael Fassbender’s got this amazing relationship with Steve McQueen. I’d love to find a director who brings out the best in me time and time again. That is what I’d like to think will happen one day.

Stoker debuts on Digital HD™ on 24 June and on Blu-Ray and DVD on 1 July from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Syndicated interviews courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and Premier Comms.

About the author

Andrew Heskins
Founder of easternKicks.com, which he's been running since 2002. And it's all thanks to Monkey, Water Margin and those damn fantastic 80s Hong Kong action movies! Andy works as a graphic designer in London... More »
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