Jerzy Skolimowski explains his 'Essential Killing'
The Polish director on how he tamed the wild animal that is Vincent Gallo
You used to live in LA but recently moved back to Poland.
‘Yes, I live in the lake district of Masuria in northern Poland. I live in a forest among the wild animals.’
Do you see ‘Essential Killing’ as more of an American movie or a European one?
‘I believe this is a European movie – not only stylistically, but it has more of a European feel than an American one. It stars an American actor, but he is not playing an American, he’s playing some ambiguous character from somewhere in the Middle East. But he could be a Westerner who went to the Middle East some years ago and was assimilated?’
How did you cast Vincent Gallo?
‘By chance I was in Cannes in 2009. Francis Ford Coppola was there with his film “Tetro”, and I went along. After the screening I saw Vincent walking in front of me and noticed an animalistic quality in his movements. I approached him, as we had met several times when I was living in California, and I said, “You know, Vincent, I have a script which I’d like you to read.” He asked if I had it, so we went back to the hotel, I gave him the script, and two hours later he called me enthusiastically, saying, “I must do it, I’m from Buffalo, I’m used to the cold, I love to run barefoot on the snow!” I thought that he was exaggerating, but I said, okay, we’d be shooting in May and he should start growing his beard and hair. So every couple of weeks he would call me up and say, “Jerzy, I’ve already got an inch!” So he was my first choice, and quite accidentally. I think his performance is phenomenal.’
The media represents Gallo as something of a narcissist.
‘I heard those stories. He is a method actor, and you know those guys, they take it much further. Playing such an alienated and frustrated character, he allowed himself to get in to some similar situations privately. So he purposely wasn’t making friends with anybody, he was staying alone and separated. I think that helped him and it’s what he needed for the part. If this is the method, then let him do it. One can’t really fault the result.’
Your 1970 film ‘Deep End’ is being re-released in the UK soon.
‘Yes, in a new restored print which I’m very pleased with.You’re not supposed to say this, but this is one of my best films. It hasn’t aged.’
Do you have fond memories of making ‘Deep End’?
‘Yes, that was a happy period. We shot all the exteriors in London, and the interiors in Munich. Our genius production designer, Tony Pratt, did such an amazing job that you don’t feel like you’re in a foreign country. The German bath was totally white, and Tony splashed some green and red paint on it and – hey presto – it became British.’
Read our review of 'Essential Killing'
Author: Interview: David Jenkins
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