INT: Wong Kar Wai
One of the beauties of the Cannes Film Festival is the opportunity to interview talented artists at private oceanfront beach clubs. Director Wong Kar Wai and the star of MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS Norah Jones (read my review of the film HERE), sat with a select few press folks to talk about the challenges of making their much buzzed about flick at the film festival. Both were incredibly sweet and gracious as they spoke about their individual and collaborative experiences. It was quite apparent that there was a deep mutual admiration and respect between the director and first time actor. Check out what they had to say below...
How did this film come about?
It all begins with Norah Jones because I wanted to work with her. Then we decided we couldnt do it in Chinese so we would do it in English and in NYC where she lives. Working in a different city with a different language gave me the consistence and I thought it could be challenging.
How did you choose your
location and why did you shoot in
What was the biggest challenge for you?
I wanted to make sure that MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS is not a
Chinese version of
What was the challenge in working with Norah Jones as a first time actress?
To break for lunch on time. Its been easy to work with Norah because in a way shes confident. It was very enjoyable working on Norahs growth from a newcomer into an actress. The thing is that she has to keep herself at a certain weight and I always work very long hours and food for her is very important. So, I had to break for lunch on time to make sure she eats and gets her energy.
Were you very hands on with the actors or did you give them creative freedom?
This journey [of acting] is a concept but it was Norah and Jude [Law] to meet them is a curse because I have to borrow something from them from their own characters and they have to put in all this detail. So, in a way Im just watching them and they deliver and contribute to these characters.
You have a longstanding association with Chris Doyle. Is there any reason you didnt use him in this film?
He was busy shooting LADY IN THE WATER or something and we had to schedule with Norah because she had to work on her album the week after shooting.
You said yesterday at the press conference that when you hear Norah Jones voice, even without seeing her, it tells a story. Can you elaborate?
Well the first thing that stuck with me was imagining her standing on the corner of the street and looking up seeing her boyfriend with another girl. Somehow, when I hear her voice it gives me that picture. Its the starting point of the film.
How long did it take to shoot the famous kissing scene?
It took one day. There were two kisses and in a way, my line producer said the film is about the second kiss. She travels all the way to get the second kiss, we shot it in 2 scenes, and each one took a full day. In a way it looks simple it was a very technical thing. Its like a stolen kiss and Jude had to pop up his whole body on the counter because his face had to be 90 degrees on the counter. They asked if we can just make it shorter and I said, no, people will expect the touch of the lips and we have to make this moment prolong and delay this moment as long as possible. By the time they are finally kissing each other its an evolution.
You have a unique style of filming. Is there someone you model yourself after?
Maybe my style is too romantic. People asked why I shot this film in NY through glass, why was it so tight and it is really for practical reasons because the place was so small and we didnt have a lot of money to have extras. So I wanted to shoot it this way so even when we only have 2 people in this diner, it still seems like a lot of people. Its also sometimes a technical thing.
Can you talk about the writing process?
Normally when I work on a Chinese film, I write the script myself. This time I had to work with a writer, which was Larry Block because I admire his work and I like his style. So the way I worked was that I wrote down great details about this story and then I asked to write a shooting script and used that to start working on the film and I asked him to improvise during the shooting.
What are you working on next?
I have a couple of projects but nothing definite, yet.
What was it like for you to transition from singing to acting?
The biggest challenge was that I never acted before or did a movie before but my nerves were a big challenge and sort of letting myself be in the moment and be confident.
Did the other actors help you?
So much, the entire crew and all the actors made me able to do this by being cool and nice, be open, and make me feel comfortable. Especially Kar Wai, he would come up to me between takes and pats me on the back and say whatever he had to say. Any direction he ever gave me was very sweet and it was good for me. I needed that. He had the confidence in me that I didnt even have because I obviously didnt know what he had in mind. I had never acted so he instilled it in me by being so confident. I trusted him because I thought he was a great filmmaker so we had this weird faith in each other that made it happen.
Did Kar Wai approach you to do this film?
Yeah, he approached me and I had never heard of him before so I watched IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE and I thought it was amazing. I was on break from the music industry. I needed a long break; a year or two from tours so I thought it was a good time and opportunity to try something new. So when I met with him he asked if I wanted to do it and I did.
Kar Wais films are famous for the way they shape women. Did it make you nervous when you saw IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE?
Oh no, it made me excited. I was hoping he would help me out in that department. If youre going to be directed or be in a film as a woman, thats the director you want to have around.
What was it like working with Rachel Weisz?
She was really wonderful and nice. I just really enjoyed watching everyone and I got to work with all these amazing actors one on one. It was a great lesson. I learnt so much in working with each one of them. Rachel especially had a very limited amount of time and she came in and just nailed it. That was hard because she kept being bit by mosquitoes during takes.
How many times did you have to kiss Jude Law and how was that for you?
Actually, my neck was in a cramp but it was fine. It was interesting because it was the most choreographed and most important scene technically to shoot. We spent 3 days on that scene and not more than half a day on any other scene so obviously it was very important for the director. We kissed like 95 times.
Were you guys really eating the pies?
I was yeah. I was able to spit it out sometimes but I even had 3 slices one night. I didnt really like pies before but now I really like it. I even have a thing for blueberries now.
Would you like to act again?
No, I would love to, I really enjoyed it and would love to have that experience again, but I also dont have to. Im fulfilled. What a cool experience I had and I dont think I would do it again but I mean I would if it was the right situation just like this one. It just kind of happened and it made sense but if something cool came along that made sense then I would try it.
It seemed as though your acting progressed with the evolvement of your character in the film. Could you talk about that?
I think it was really interesting and it was crazy for me to watch it and realize. I had a feeling we did most of the early scenes in the movie in an early shoot and I was totally inexperience and was terrified but it kind of worked for the character actually. I think the director did that on purpose actually. There definitely was a lot of parallels between my characters journey and in my journey making my first film as an actress. I became much more comfortable and I think it worked because my character wasnt comfortable with anything. In the beginning, she is freaked out and doesnt know whats going on. By the end she has really grown up. I think that is why she took the trip in the first place, to figure things out, and thats what happened.
Did you get to see yourself on film?
I watched a few playbacks but I thought it might make me too nervous having been new at this so I trusted Kar Wai once again.
Were you surprised with the final piece at the premiere last night?
I was amazed at how large and terrified my face was but I would like to watch it again.
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