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Brady Corbet
Tania Volobueva/

Brady Corbet: ‘Natalie Portman asked what ketamine does, so I sent her videos’

The ‘Vox Lux’ director on making his pop epic and sending Natalie Portman K-hole videos

Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Phil de Semlyen

American actor-turned-filmmaker Brady Corbet is making a name for himself with fiercely original films hallmarked by their zeitgeisty themes and bone-shaking Scott Walker scores. His latest, ‘Vox Lux’, follows troubled pop star Celeste – played by Raffey Cassidy and Natalie Portman – through two phases of her life. He tells us about making it and remembers the late, great musician.

Did the two actresses work together to create this character?
‘It was all pretty much in the script, but Natalie did ask if I wanted her to spend time with Raffey. I said no because when Celeste arrives on screen, she has nothing to do with Raffey’s version of the character. She’s a kid from Staten Island and 18 years later she’s a mob wife.’

Is it true you sent Natalie Portman YouTube videos of people who’d taken ketamine?
‘That is true. She asked me what drugs her character was on and she’d assumed that because [Celeste and Jude Law’s character are] snorting it, it was coke. She asked what ketamine does, so I sent her some videos. She wrote back, “I get it!”’

Natalie Portman as Celeste in ‘Vox Lux’

Which real-life pop stars inspired the character of Celeste? 
‘We did a lot of research but it was super-important to us not to reference any one person in particular. The character is such a dragon, there’s no way for anyone to take it the right way.

There have a lot of comparisons with ‘A Star Is Born’. How do you feel about those?
‘We had tons: the New York Times called it “An Apocalyptic ‘Star Is Born’”. The whole idea of “Vox” was to invert the melodramatics that you’d expect from that kind of rise-and-fall story. It’s fine but you never make a movie thinking: I can’t wait to be paired up with someone else’s film!’

Scott Walker scored both your movies. What was he like?
‘We were fast pals as soon as we met, because we had a lot of the same interests. I don’t think my movies’ relationship with music will ever be the same [following his death]. Compared to those slabs of sound that Scott’s so famous for, everything else will sound like a pussycat.’

‘Vox Lux’ opens Fri May 3. Read our review here

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