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From Bond Girl to Terrence Malick Muse: 'To the Wonder' Star Olga Kurylenko on Working With the Enigmatic Director and How the Film "Teaches Us A Lot About Love"

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire September 12, 2012 at 1:26PM

Actors who worked on Terrence Malick's latest film, "To the Wonder," fall into two camps: those who made it into the final cut, and those who didn't. Luckily for Ukrainian-born actress Olga Kurylenko (best known for playing a Bond girl in 007's 2008 outing "Quantum of Solace"), she falls into the former, unlike Rachel Weisz, Jessica Chastain, Michael Sheen, Amanda Peet and Barry Pepper -- all of whom fall into the latter.
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Olga Kurylenko and Ben Affleck in "To the Wonder"
TIFF Olga Kurylenko and Ben Affleck in "To the Wonder"

Actors who worked on Terrence Malick's latest film, "To the Wonder," fall into two camps: those who made it into the final cut, and those who didn't. Luckily for Ukrainian-born actress Olga Kurylenko (best known for playing a Bond girl in 007's 2008 outing "Quantum of Solace"), she falls into the former, unlike Rachel Weisz, Jessica Chastain, Michael Sheen, Amanda Peet and Barry Pepper -- all of whom fall into the latter.

In "To the Wonder," which had its North American debut at the Toronto International Film Festival Monday, Kurylenko stars as Marina, a soul-searching Ukranian raising her young daughter alone in Paris who falls in love with traveling American Neil (Ben Affleck) and moves to Oklahoma with him. At first overjoyed by the change of scenery and the chance to start a life with Neil, Marina soon becomes disenchanted with it all as her relationship with Neil begins to unravel. Rachel McAdams co-stars as a past love of Neil's who comes back into the picture once Marina returns to Paris after failing to get Neil to commit and marry her (thereby allowing her to live permanently in the U.S.).

READ MORE: Toronto Review: Why 'To the Wonder' Is Terrence Malick's Most Accessible Work in Years

The morning after the premiere, Indiewire caught up with Kurylenko, who demystified the Malick process and revealed what she makes of the film.

"Quantum of Solace"
MGM "Quantum of Solace"

From a Bond girl to Terrence Malick's latest muse -- that's a path many probably didn't see coming.

Well, I kind of started with films that resembled Malick films more than the Bond one. My first film was this French indie film called “The Ring Finger" -- “L'Annulaire,” au francais -- and it was based on this Japanese novel. I mean, of course, it's a different director, it’s a different way of working -- there was a script. But, you know, that’s what I started with. So, I never saw my career going toward action in that way. It wasn’t necessarily my purpose; it just happened. At the same time, it was great that it happened, because it was big and it was commercial and people suddenly knew who I was. Because I remember with that little film, in America I couldn’t find an agent. I remember they told me, "Well, we don’t watch French movies." I went to see someone with the DVD, and I said, “But I have the lead role.” And they said, “We don’t care. What have you done in America?” I said, “Well, nothing.” So I knew I needed that to work if I wanted to work internationally. But because people saw Bond and never saw the others, they thought that that’s what I came here for, I guess. But I always wanted to do films like Terrence’s films -- not that I would never do a film like a Bond film again. I realized that it’s a good balance, and that that’s the secret of it, is to have a balance of both. You can’t do only small independent movies -- or only big. People don’t really watch small movies, unfortunately. I mean, Terrence Malick is different because Terrence Malick is a master.

He has his following.

Exactly. He’s very special, so his position is different.

"It felt like he already knew who I was and the experience I had in my life."

Were you a big fan of his work prior to taking this on?

Yes, I was.

How did he discover you?

I first did an audition in Paris where he wasn’t present. The casting director was just filming, I guess, all French actresses in Paris. And after Terrence watched my audition, he asked to meet me. So then I flew to the U.S.

How did that meeting go?

It went well! It was fascinating. He was present at the audition, and it was all about the eyes and the expression. And then we just spoke. He asked me questions that were fascinating because it felt like he already knew who I was and the experience I had in my life. So I thought, “How does he know that he could talk to me on those subjects?” It was like he was psychic. He understood who I was. It was so precise and so deep that I was just fascinated.

So you were sold.

Absolutely. At some point I was scared to think. I thought, “He’s reading my thoughts.”

What did you receive initially when you first auditioned? He's known for not working from a script.

Well, the only thing I knew was that my character was connected to nature, loved nature very much, loved children. That’s kind of all.

That’s it?!

Yeah, but that’s just for the audition. Later, of course, I was given much more. Once I got the part and we were talking about it, I got much more and I knew exactly who she was, and all her fears and all her aspirations. But, yeah, initially, it was just that. Nothing more. It was just about being connected to nature. Which a lot of his characters, especially feminine characters, seem to be. But for him, it’s very important, because he wants to show this force that is stronger than us.

This article is related to: Toronto International Film Festival, Olga Kurylenko, To The Wonder, Terrence Malick, Interviews






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