Franco-British newcomer Stacy Martin plays the lead character, Joe, in her teens and twenties in Lars von Trier's controversial and explicit "Nymphomaniac," before Charlotte Gainsbourg takes over when the character hits 30 in the film's second part.
At the film's press junket in Copenhagen, the acting novice talked about hitting the big time with her first role and how Cindy, her porn double, made her feel comfortable. The film's first part is now available on VOD and will be released in theaters Friday.
How did you manage to land the lead in a Lars von Trier film as your first film role?
It was very straightforward; I auditioned. I did two auditions in London, then went to Copenhagen for a screen test and met Lars, who was lovely and very calm. I never thought I'd get it because your first part won't be a role in a Lars von Trier movie; you just don't get to work with the people you so admire so early on in your career, if ever. So I took it very much as a workshop with the director. I went back to London after that and never really thought about it again until a few weeks later they said: ‘You've been cast,' to which I replied: ‘Is this a joke, because it's not funny?' But it was true. And now I'm here."
Were you worried or frightened about taking on the role before you finally accepted?
I thought about it, yes, but I really wanted to do this movie so these thoughts sort of left very quickly. There's very much nakedness and sexuality but Joe's such a great character and that, as an actress, is what appealed to me. To have to play her was an opportunity I really couldn't say no to. Being naked on camera is not something I do every day; I wear clothes. But it was a conscious decision to say: ‘This is Joe and as Joe, I'm honoring this part of the character.' But that doesn't mean it's a film about being naked. As Lars said, it's a ‘digressionist' movie and all these different stories connect to build this universe that you're watching.
Did you talk to your family or your boyfriend before signing on?
Once we'd discussed the nudity and it was clear there wasn't going to be any sex and there was a nudity contract it was all pretty straightforward for me to say yes. I actually didn't even tell my friends until about one month into filming . I'd gone into complete radio silence and my friends were like: ‘Are you alive? Have I done something wrong? Are you in London? What's going on?' I had obviously told my family before and my boyfriend was with me on the set.
How would you describe the story?
It is the story of Joe, who is a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac, from the age of zero to the age of fifty. But it's also about a lot of other things that Lars loves and has put in the film, so it's got this very ‘Lars' feeling to it. There is nudity and sexual content, I'm not going to deny that because it is very obvious but it's hardly the only thing in the film.
Filming material this risqué, can you be comfortable as an actor?
You body is your tool as an actor. A painter has his brushes, a musician his instrument and as an actor you use your body. We had a nudity contract and the porn doubles were there so everything was set up to make me feel comfortable. In the end, all the nudity and sex stuff is so technical it kind of becomes a mechanical thing and it stops being an issue. On set we knew that there were boundaries, so no one had to say ‘I don't really want to do the sex, it was all very clear from the start. So we'd do the scene and then the porn doubles would come in, or we'd do the opposite. We'd have to do the exact same scenes, except that they are having sex and I'm not, so you have to actually mimic things and it becomes very technical. You sort of become a puppet since you've got to exactly replicate what she's done. Well, what Cindy's done (chuckles).