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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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In helping you prepare for the role, what did Malick have you do, if anything?

He had me read three Russian novels: “Anna Karenina,” “The Idiot” and “Brothers Karamazov.” “The Idiot” and “Anna Karenina” I had read before, so I just re-read them, so that was good. It was easier, because they’re really big novels. And it was really the best thing he could have done, because everything I needed for the film I got from the books. So that was his script, you see? He didn’t need to give me a script. Everything I had to understand and inspire from was in the books. And after that we spoke a lot about the characters -- especially the female characters -- in those books, and what they go through, what their relationships are with other women, and with rivals, especially. What he liked in Russian novels was that often the rivalry between women was so noble. There was no cattiness or anything. It was almost like they tried to love their rival.

But there’s none of that in this film.

None of that, but we filmed it. We filmed scenes with Rachel, and it was very much like that. There was a moment where Rachel comes to our house and visits. And I know it’s that woman. She comes back because she loves him, and she wants to talk to me. And we talk, and we talk -- there was dialogue. At the same time, it’s a pity, because you do so much and you know everything can’t end up in the film. But they were wonderful scenes, I think. We would just talk, and he almost told me that I had to love her, you know? That I have love for her, because I understand. It’s such a pure and beautiful way of thinking and taking things. And my character, he wanted her to be candid and at the same time insolent, and to portray these two things together. And that’s something that a lot of characters in Russian novels have. They’re both.

Especially Anna.

Yes. And also Aglaya and -- what’s her name -- Nastasya Filipovna. They have these things.

Following the screening last night, both you and Rachel told the audience that many of your favorite scenes had been cut. Did he warn you that a lot of what you thought would make it into the film, wouldn't?

No [laughs]. I think we know, but he doesn’t talk about it.

What do you make of his cut? Are you happy with it?

Well, apart from me being in it, I think it’s a very deep film. It’s heartbreaking. Because it’s not an easygoing relationship that’s portrayed, and it’s very sad, but yet it’s so true, because these things happen. But it teaches us a lot about love, I think. It’s about love in all its forms. I was surprised to see what scenes didn’t make it in the final cut. I honestly expected a harder picture, a darker picture.

Yeah. You revealed last night that your character goes through an extremely dark period over the course of her journey, much of which isn't reflected in his cut.

Maybe it would have been difficult to watch. It’s heartbreaking but then there is light.

It’s deeply romantic.

Exactly. So maybe those scenes were too harsh. One would have to ask Terrence. But yeah, I was surprised to see that.

Did he screen it for you privately, or did you just see it in Venice, where it had its world premiere?

No, I saw it before Venice because I had to have interviews before the premiere. My agent had a private screening for me in Los Angeles.

Have you spoken to Terrence since seeing it?

No, it’s funny, because I didn’t have time. And actually, I hear that he’s already filming his next project, and I didn’t want to disturb him. He’s so concentrated when he’s in a project. But I really want to. I’d like to give him a call and just talk to him. I mean I have to talk to him [laughs].

You’re not gonna let him have it are you?

[Laughs] Well, I would ask if he’s planning to cut five more different movies from all the material he has. He has so much material!

Given that Malick never does press, you're the one forced to answer for the film. How nerve-wracking is that?

Well, yeah, I’m the only one who spoke about the film. And now I have to explain to people what it is about. I wonder if Terrence could do it. It’s so hard to describe a Terrence Malick movie. You can’t just make a one-sentence plot. It’s impossible. I feel that I carry a lot on my shoulders, but I get what I deserve, I guess. Because I’m there most of the time, so now I’ve got to pay for it.

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







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