Claire Denis and André Benjamin might not be the most obvious of collaborators, but the French auteur has wanted to make a movie with the Outkast performer for some time now — so much so, in fact, that she was willing to fly to Atlanta to make it happen. She explained as much during a screening of “High Life,” her evocative new sci-fi film co-starring the musician and actor: “I always liked André 3000,” she said. “I always liked OutKast, and I had this idea, if one day I do a film in English and I can cast American people I would like to meet André Benjamin and ask him.”
There was only one problem: His people weren’t into the idea. “His agent said, ‘No no no. Only if you come to meet him in Atlanta.’” Denis did that, presumably while listening to “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” on repeat, determined to make it work.
“We went to Atlanta and we had a meeting in a restaurant and he was there, and Queen Latifah came to check on us,” she said. “And then, he said yes. I’m surprised because I didn’t think he would. His spirit was so easy.”
Benjamin has a number of other acting credits under his belt, from “Be Cool” and “Four Brothers” to “American Crime” and “Jimi: All is by My Side,” in which he played Jimi Hendrix. He’s joined in “High Life” by Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche, who actually wasn’t Denis’ first choice.
“I had met Patricia Arquette and I wanted her to be the doctor,” said Denis, “but then after she was delayed, she had to do something. She couldn’t be free at the same period. I had just finished a film with Juliette at that time. We were at Cannes, and Juliette said ‘Don’t be sad, let’s say I will be replacing Patricia Arquette.’”
“High Life” is now in limited release in Los Angeles and New York.