Leos Carax’s totally nutty “Holy Motors” features a slew of strange moments, the most beguiling of which (well, for this writer) features Australian pint-sized megastar Kylie Minogue. In the gonzo odyssey (which opens today in New York), Minogue plays a mysterious old flame of Carax’s protagonist, Oscar (Denis Lavant), who bursts into song upon reminiscing about the good old days while strolling through Paris at night.
“Holy Motors” is one of two films to star Minogue this year (the other being the upcoming romantic horror “Jack and Diane”) — a total rarity for the performer. Since first making a name for herself as an actress in the hit Australian soap opera “Neighbors,” Minogue has left acting on the back burner, for the most part, to focus on her music career — which has payed off quite nicely. In fact, “Holy Motors” marks her first time on the big screen since her blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance as a green fairy in 2001’s “Moulin Rouge!.”
While in New York for the recently-wrapped New York Film Festival, where “Holy Motors” screened, Minogue caught up with Indiewire to discuss her sudden activity on the acting front, her 25th anniversary in the music business, and working for the “Nick Cave of the film world.”
This has marks a big step up from “Street Fighter,” I must say.
Yeah — kapow!
This year alone, you seem to be appearing in a lot of art house, independent pictures — more than ever before. Why this sudden resurgence on the acting front for you?
I think I put it out there in the universe some time ago… because I had “Street Fighter,” etc. — show me an actor who hasn’t got a couple of turkeys for the credit. But I guess I was starting to think ‘This is not for me…,’ that maybe acting’s in the past. But I had said to friends and I guess I put the energy out there — what I needed was the Nick Cave of the film world to go ‘You, I know what to do with you. I’m going to bring something from you that I know you can do.’ And, ironically, the only thing that Leos [Carax] knew about me was my duet with Nick Cave.
Yeah, so I think my dream came true.
He really is, like you said, the Nick Cave of the film world. Had he long been on your radar prior to taking this on?
No. I was aware of “The Lovers on the Bridge,” but no — I had to study his work. First, he sent me the script, which I read. I was really intrigued by the idea, the concept, though I only really grasped it on a linear level – like, ‘Okay, this guy is an actor for hire and he’s doing these things…’ and of course it transpires that it’s way more complex than that. I was definitely intrigued about who are we, which different faces do we present to society. I know I’m a chameleon — even in music, I’m changing my guise a lot and all of that. We met and just talked really, got to suss each other out. We didn’t talk too much about the character, but enough, and I wasn’t entirely sure when I left the lunch if I was doing it or if I wasn’t doing it. It turned out I was.
There was no audition process or anything and, at the time, I thought ‘Oh my god. You’re either a crazy fool or you’re a genius.’ I think it was a blessing that he wasn’t clouded by all of the stuff that I’ve done. I think he just went on instinct and on meeting me — and I think that’s kind of what directors do.
Given you’re status as a worldwide megastar, I’d imagine you could approach a director and say, ‘Look. I have this project, I want to be a part of it, you make it.’ But it seems like you’re so humble to the fact that Leos wanted to cast you. What do you attribute that to?
I mean, this is his baby. This is his… life. And my fear was that the inverted commas around my name and what I’ve worked so hard at to create… Is a creation that almost eclipses me. I didn’t want to be in this film and suddenly there’s a right screech, and then, ‘What the hell is Kylie Minogue doing here?’ I’m not Kylie Minogue in that. I managed to get there… I got there. It took a bit of work to get there emotionally; I was walking around like an eggshell for days. It was a beautiful experience, a new challenge, and I thought it was brave of him to cast me.
Fans of yours will no doubt be happy to learn that you sing in the film, but this ain’t “The Bodyguard.” You just happen to burst out into song.
Well, those were the kind of roles that were offered to me before. ‘So she’s Australian, and she’s a singer in a night club!’ — I could do that for kicks, I could do that in my sleep. I began as an actress, and I feel like that muscle in me has been neglected. I felt kind to myself that she, or that side of me, had to moment to get some air. It’s done so much for me in myself, aside from the fact that it’s doing great things out there. It’s really taught me a bit about myself; it’s good.
Like… It is in me. I’ve known it was in me, but I lost the faith a little bit. And that’s why I was saying I need ‘the Nick Cave of the film world’ — someone who’s going to look at me from a different angle and it transpires that it was Claire Denis who recognized something in me and suggested me to Leos. I think it might’ve been for another film, I’m not sure, but it helped to at least put my name into his stratosphere. And Cannes… was the most mind blowing experience.
On page 2, Minogue talks about her first Cannes experience, ideas for her upcoming tour, and her 25th anniversary in the music industry.Even for you, really?
Yeah. I’m used to music shows, music award shows, music festivals — music, music, music. But film is this brave new world… I’ve done it before, but now I feel like I’m in it with all my capacity, and with some experience, so it’s good.
Even walking down the red carpet [at Cannes], I just thought it was so cool because I was with a team; I hadn’t realized prior to that that normally I do the red carpet and it’s just me. I do a show, and yes, I’m surrounded by people… But it’s just me. I felt like I was part of a rugby team and it was so comforting and thrilling to have it be like that.
After the film in Cannes — which was the first time I saw it — when the critics gave a polite applause, I came back as much to the real world as I possibly could after that onslaught, and I remembered that they say in Cannes, people can boo, they can walk out, they can be really awful or really amazing. And I suddenly thought, ‘Is this it?’ And then the applause just grew, and grew, and grew — standing ovation for six or seven minutes… I thought Leos was going to collapse, it was very emotional for him. But what it illustrated to me was all this 360 energy and appreciation was going to him; I’m kind of used to it going to me. What I’ve realized is, when it comes to me or you, whether it’s eyes or lights or camera or energy, you’re snow-blinded. I finally understood that’s why, after doing X, Y, or Z, and your crew or your friends are going ‘Oh my god, it was amazing, it was so good,’ and you, in the middle of it, tend to go, ‘Was it? And so, this reaction, at Cannes — it was to the man that I was sitting next to. It was like I was able to see it and I got some of the overspill, which was really more of a nice shower — a crystal shower. I’ve never thought of that concept before; that’s another of example of how this experience was really rewarding for me.
It sounds like the full experience. Not only the making of the film, but promoting it —
And going to festivals. I’ve never done film festivals. I’ve decided it’s my new hobby, catching up. I had a screening of the film for my friends in London, and the distributors there are Artificial Eye, who have such an amazing catalogue of films. We got the goodie bag — you know we always love a goodie bag — stacked full of films that helped this light to go off in my head, like ‘Okay.’ I watched “Cleo de 5 a 7” by Agnes Varda, and after watching that I realized that Agnes Varda was married to Jacques Demy. Now I’ve got the Jacques Demy box set, and I’m just starting to join the dots with everything. I think I’ve just started in France because this experience was in France. With Leos and Claire Denis, learning about French directors — it’s like learning a new language being in the film arena as opposed to the music arena.
How is this experience going to play into your music career? Is it going to bleed into the next album or tour?
I would love to use that motion capture, used in “Holy Motors.” I’ve seen something like that, I think it might’ve been Japanese — it’s this crew that wears suits and all of the lights are choreographed as they’re choreographed. My friend sent it to me on YouTube, it was beautiful. But yes, something like that… I would reference, for sure.
It’s hard to believe, but this year marks your twenty-fifth anniversary in the music business…
I keep going ‘There’s not gonna be a K26, forget about it;’ K25 has exhausted me! It kind of has, but in a great way.
What do you think of that figure when you hear it out loud?
I’m astounded. I think someone’s made a terrible mistake; how can that be true. 25? Really? I think we’ve done really well this year in celebrating it, and I know from fan responses on Twitter and Facebook… They’ve loved it. It’s just been give, give, give and it’s been a great excuse for me to do all sorts of things. A lot of things have come to fruition this year, though I was working a lot last year, too. My Abbey Road album is out next month, but I recorded that last year. I do the Anti Tour, I do “Proms in the Park” with a seventy-plus piece orchestra, I’ve had all of these various experiences that are all amassing to make me feel more whole and more inspired about the future — the truly exhausting part has been looking back. I think for anyone, looking back is exhausting.
The way I’ve explained why that’s been a lot of work this year is like If you’re moving into a new house and you get to the box with the photo albums and you get caught up. I have a book coming out in November. It’s called “Fashion” and it goes through fashion over twenty-five years as well. Just that alone is like… Okay, we have to bring all the pieces in; it’s so much work, and everything that I see brings a whole stack of memories and emotions and it’s exhausting. But great. I feel very proud. There are moments I’d rather forget, but over all, I think of being seven or eight years-old and dreaming that my next door neighbor was a record producer and would hear me sing — and look what happened to my life. When I think about the good parts, I feel really honored that I get to connect with people. For me, I think that’s what it’s about — whether it’s through music, or film, or a performance, or a video, or a photograph, it’s the connecting that’s saying something and it brings an emotion. I think that’s what it’s all about.
Is there anything left that you really want to conquer?
Way too many things. Plenty. I mean, people have said for years: ‘You’ve done so much, why don’t you just quit?’ And I’m like, ‘What?’ Hypothetically, if I quit two years ago, I wouldn’t have “Holy Motors,” I wouldn’t have performed in Hyde Park in front of 40,000 people finishing the Prom Series and experiencing sitting in front of an orchestra that was reinterpreting my songs. So you just don’t know what’s around the corner… I think it’s good to give myself enough time to sit down and chill, and then I want to get going again. That’s what it’s about. And in many ways, I feel like I’m just beginning — as wrong as that might sound, it’s the truth.
In all aspects of your career?
In some aspects of singing. Some of that I can now do… it just happens. But it only ‘just happens’ because I’ve worked and worked and worked and had the experience. I think of being ridiculed in the early part of my career for ‘she’s not a singer, how can she do this — she’s an actor, how can she be a singer?’ and then you reach a point in your career where you’re a singer: how can you be an actor? And I hated those pigeon-holes, I hated them since the beginning. Doing something like this is… I’ve got one word for you, babs.
There are people who do it both and I guess in this current time, you’ve got J. Lo and… Cher? Who else is singing and acting? I don’t know. Actually, I think it’s more common in France. I think they embrace it; that’s just how it is, that’s what they do.