"She has no problem turning on the bitch switch," said Nicolas Winding Refn of Kristin Scott Thomas in Cannes today. No kidding. In the writer-director's ultra-violent Palme d'Or contender "Only God Forgives" (he won Best Director at the festival in 2011), Scott Thomas deviates from the upper crusty roles we're accustomed to seeing her play in films like "The English Patient" and "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen," to deliver a showstopping turn as Crystal, a foul mouthed American matriarch to a drug empire with long blond hair and nails for days.
Her scene-stealing performance is the best thing about the film, which unlike Refn's last existential noir "Drive," lacks just that. It's therefore no surprise she courted a ton of attention at the film's press conference. That and its star Ryan Gosling, who delivers a muted (literally) performance as her drug smuggler son, wasn't present, stuck on week three of filming his directorial debut.
"This is kind of film is really not my thing," Scott Thomas candidly admitted. "Films where this kind of violence happens, I don’t like watching them at all."
"What appealed to me was working with Nicolas," she continued. "When I’d seen 'Bronson' -- I’d seen it before I met him -- I thought it was the most beautiful thing. There was something deeply emotional and troubling there which appealed to me enormously. When I first read the script, I was excited to play someone who is as far away from the upper class thing that English people seem to love to see me in. I really just thought of how interesting it would be to be playing this wild, savage person and working with Nicolas."
No doubt one of the film's highlights is a scene (already readily available to view on the web) during which Crystal, upon meeting her son's new squeeze, greets the petrified girl by scoffing, "How many cocks can you entertain in that cum dumpster of yours?" The appeal lies in seeing someone of Scott Thomas' Oscar-nominated stature say that line with such brash confidence.
Scott Thomas, however, shivered in front of the press when Winding Refn said the line aloud, when speaking of her performance.
"I couldn’t say that word [cum]," she explained, when asked why she got so agitated. " It took me eight takes to say it."
"A lot of the language that happens in that scene appeared during, while we were shooting it. I think if it had been prepared weeks ahead I would have been terrified of it. The confidence that was building between all of us allowed us to go beyond these taboo things. It’s all a bit mad, really."