“This movie is not autobiographical in any way,” Robin Wright told the press at a Cannes roundtable session to discuss “The Congress,” Ari Folman’s half live-action, half animated hallucinatory indictment of the moviemaking industry starring Wright as… Robin Wright.
Among the most divisive titles to play at Cannes so far this year (our own Eric Kohn is a fan, The Playlist is not), “The Congress,” loosely based on Stanislaw Lem’s science-fiction novel, “The Futurological Congress,” takes a meta “Being John Malkovich” approach by featuring Wright as a fictional version of herself, who at the outset is struggling as an actress in an industry that values youth over experience. At the behest of her agent (Harvey Keitel), Wright agrees to partake in a revolutionary experiment to create a digital replica of herself (albeit a younger one) to take over her career. The catch? The real Wright can never act again.
“Could it really happen?” Wright mused. “Could actors be evaporated from this medium? No, I think actors would revolt. There are too many people that love the craft. You think about that technology – it’s tactile versus not. To be able to watch an actor perform and share a story versus something that was manufactured.”
“The movie is about the choice taken away,” she continued. “He’s saying, ‘Can you imagine?…This is where it could go.’ And it’s a bit of an acid trip. But don’t our fantasies go into acid trips a lot of the time?”
Unlike her film alter-ego, Wright (now 47) is very stable, career-wise, heading movies like this one and the recent Sundance shocker “Two Mothers,” and starring opposite Kevin Spacey in Netflix’s hit show “House of Cards” (she’s currently shooting the second season).
“I feel very blessed,” Wright said. “I’ve actually done more work in the last five years than I’ve done in my career. I usually averaged one a year because I was being a mom. So knock on wood that it’s coming still… the quality still.”
But like her character in “The Congress,” Wright is still most beloved to this day for her two iconic performances in films over a decade old: as Jenny in “Forrest Gump” (1994)” and as Buttercup in “The Princess Bride” (1987). According to Wright, that’s why Folman cast her. In the early stages of the project, Folman met with Sony Pictures Classics co-president Michael Barker (who distributed Folman’s “Waltz With Bashir”) to discuss some ideas. Folman singled out Wright as an actress whose career fit the template of what he was seeking; Barker, a good friend of Wright, brought them together.
“Ari asked [me], ‘You’re taking a risk. Can you do that?'” Wright recalled. “I said, ‘Fuck yeah, let’s go.’ It just means I have to do more interviews like this two years from now to dispel the speculation.”
“Are there aspects of truth in all of it? Yeah,” Wright continued. “Did they want to create the perfect ingénue of me after Buttercup? They did. I turned down a lot of movies; they didn’t blow my dress up, they didn’t turn me on. I remember there was a turning point after ‘Gump,’ when I turned down the cover of Vanity Fair. That was like blasphemy. You don’t do that. I remember not getting a couple studio movies that I wanted.”
Still, Wright has no regrets. “You couldn’t pay me enough to be 20 [again],” she said. “Too stressful and so many tears. God, no thanks.”