Ulliel may not be a familiar face to many here in the states.
He recently appeared alongside Audrey Tautou in Jean-Pierre
Jeunetís A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT. In
recently stopped by The Four Seasons in
[the producers] were casting the part, they didnít want to go with
Before the auditionsÖ before the testsÖ yeahÖ Obviously, I watched THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS the day before and I observed Anthony Hopkins. But then, when I was preparing for the shooting I think the idea was not to imitate or copy Anthony Hopkins. This was not very interesting to me and I donít think Iím able to imitate him. Heís just amazing in those films, and a very big actor.
we discussed this a lot with the director and we agreed to say that
this film is very different and this story is taking place in a
different time and the character is much younger and hasnít
experienced all the prison and the killings.
So I was kind of free to create my own Hannibal Lecter. Obviously
I knew that the audience would expect some similarities with Anthony
Hopkins so one part of my preparation for the role was to observe
Anthony Hopkins and pick a few details and mix it with my own
character. So yes, I
tried to pick a few subtle details in his performance.
press kit said that the everyday scenes of
Well, yes. When you have less intense physical [performance], you have to express more things your eyes. So it is harder I think for an actor when you have less dialogue and less physical language.
do you enjoy doing both?
kind of research did you do into serial killers?
I read a lot of different books on real serial killers and this was very interesting and very helpful because I could read a lot of things about their childhood and how they started to kill. Itís pretty much the same things all the time. Itís a slow evolution and they start very early usually. Usually start with animals, and torturing animals, starting fires, and stuff like this. It was very helpful I think.
Also I worked on the script because I had a nice background for the character in the script so I could help myself with the script. And also I read the three novels Ė Tom Harrisí novels. I could find some really relevant information sometimes. And then there was all the work with Peter [Webber] and we discussed a lot about the character through the scenes and our point of views and slowly build our character. He also organized a meeting with a movement coach that was very interesting.
worked on different ways of breathing and walking and standing. And
also he sent me to an autopsy class in
said you wanted to go back a second day?
Yeah, the first time, when I went there, the lesson was during the whole month and I came during the last week and the bodies were all completely destroyed. I think thatís one of the reasons why itís not that scary. It didnít feel real. The bodies looked fake; they were so destroyed that I couldnít imagine that I was looking at a real human body so I asked if I could go on the first day of the next session to see the fresh bodies coming in and start opening them. I think itís more scary.
about the smell though? Did
that overcome you?
no, during the first two minutes itís a bit hard but you forget
you know, get used to it.
you a fan of horror films when you were young?
I was young? Not really.
Iím not a big fan of horror films or gory films but I can
understand why we like those films, itís a nice feeling to be
do you think this character is so well liked?
Well thatís a very interesting thing with this character because obviously in this film we try and make this character a bit sympathetic and more human. So we try and get the audience on his side. In the other films before, itís not the same thing. The character was presented as a real monster and the audience was still admiring him. This is a weird thing because this is a serial killer doing horrible things. But we still like him and I think maybe this is due to the fact that he is so intelligent, well-educated and he is always very polite [and] charming and he manages to seduce the audience I think.
is such and intense role and Gong Li said you didnít say much on
set. Did you keep in
character after work? Was
it hard for you to leave him behind at the end of the day?
Well, this happens sometimes, well it happened to me on other experiences, other roles at the end of the day youíre still in your character and you donít want to separate yourself from the character. But when youíre working on such an extreme character so far from reality you canít stick to your character at night and remain in your role otherwise it drives you mad. So noÖ At night I was myself.
I wanna go a little bit on that as well. The relationship with you and Gong Li, it seemed to be very strong on-screen and off-screen with her language barrier and with you, was that an easy thing?
Yeah, it was not that tough. She understands pretty much everything we say in English but then of course sometimes she needed her interpreter to express herself but it was okay. And you know, on-set sheís very concentrated, serious and sheís not that talkative. But it was a very nice experience, very nice lady, very cheerful and she gives a lot to her partners during the shooting and thatís a good thing I think for a big actress like this. Sheís very generous.
she teach you anything or did you observe anything thatÖ?
I observed her during the first week and I could see how precise she
was, sheís very, very precise.
And I was thinking she knew exactly which profile sheíd
give to the camera and which look she should give at this precise
moment. And we can see
that she has big experience behind her that she knows how to work
precisely with the camera.
character is like king of the frightening characters, so what
donít like to see blood. Thatís
itís fake blood.
So real blood really kind of creeps you out?
not when I eat it butÖ [Laughing] no really, I can eat steak
tar-tar and meat. I
really like meat. But
when I hurt myself and I see a lot of blood, I can getÖ you know.
you play this character again?
itís a very pleasant character to work on.
Itís very fun, very interesting too.
Itís a very deep and complex character.
And yeah, I think the idea of working again on this character
is kind of appealing to me. But
then you know you have to see if the script it good, the director is
interesting but yeah, the idea of working again on this characterÖ
would you like to see it go?
donít know. You have
to ask Tom Harris.
Itís the same. Heís
very popular in
there any ďlightheartedĒ moments on the set being that itís
such a serious film?
Well there is a funny moment, well, I donít know if itís really funny but the scene with the mask. We had only one mask and it was supposed to come on my face with elastic behind [it] to stay on my face. And the director wanted it to just fit like this [miming mask] without any elastic. So I tried to make it a bit smaller by pushing it on the sides so it would fit on my cheeks and I broke the mask. [Laughing] So this was kind of funny but not for the producers. So they had to build another one and they re-shot the scene.
was it like working with the other guys, youíve got Kevin McKidd
and the others as the guys you are after?
What was that experience like?
itís nice to have such a wonderful cast.
I really like Kevin McKidd, heís a great guy.
And Rhys Ifans too was very fun to work with.
Itís very nice, I think for a young actor like me to work
with big actors and big actresses [it] can be helpful and it can
push you up in some scenes.
was it like to work with swords?
the only scene for which we had physical preparation.
So we worked for a whole week with a Kendo teacher.
goes through your head when playing out the violent scenes, do you
say to yourself, Ďoh my God, why am I doing such violent
I donít think you say to yourself, Ďoh my God, why am I doing violent things.í Because you prepared for this role so then I think youíre ready to experience all the scenes and this is just normal for you and you try and feel as natural as you can. But many, many times, yeah, itís very fun to do all this killing. Itís like a game.
next for you that we can see you in?
a film that Iím going to start shooting in April with
me know what you think. Send
questions or comments to