SUNDANCE FUTURES | ‘Simon Killer’ Actress Mati Diop

SUNDANCE FUTURES | 'Simon Killer' Actress Mati Diop
SUNDANCE FUTURES | 'Simon Killer' Actress Mati Diop

Why She’s On Our Radar: In Antonio Campos’ “Simon Killer,” 29-year old Diop plays a prostitute opposite Brady Corbet’s titular character. The French actress – who also works extensively as a filmmaker – made her impressive on screen debut in Claire Denis’ “35 Shots of Rum.” With “Simon,” she takes her career a big step forward with a raw, affecting portrait of troubled young woman.

So how did you get into acting?

I think I’m becoming an actress. I don’t feel like I am one. It’s a long process. I was in film school – I’ve wanted to make movies since I was 18.  And I was in film school preparing a short film and a friend of mine called me and introduced me to Claire Denis, who was looking for a person my age and type for an acting role. So I ended up having the great honor to work with Claire Denis as my first experience.

That was “35 Shots of Rum,” yes?

Yes. And then I came back to my short films. I didn’t really feel crazy about becoming an actress initially. But then I realized I was very interested it, and that it was the best film school for me to direct actors in my own movies.

How did you get involved in “Simon Killer”?

I met Antonio [Campos, the film’s director] in a very informal situation. I had first met Melody Roscher, one of the film’s producers, and she said Antonio had seen “35 Shots of Rum.” I hadn’t seen “Afterschool” but I’d heard about it. So me and Antonio met and we this very fluid conversation. He was looking for someone to play a role of a prostitute. And I must admit I found that idea pretty exciting. I think for women playing a prostitute is like for men playing a gangster. It’s very exciting.

And how did things evolve from there?

I met with Brady [Corbet] and we all got together and I totally discovered this amazing group of collaborators. And I felt very close to the way they worked together. I really loved that Brady also collaborated on the script and the scenes. I really felt as an actress and a filmmaker that there was a nice balance. There was no division between the actors and the director. I think it would have been more difficult to play a prostitute otherwise. Because it’s not an easy part. But the more you can involve yourself in it as an artist, it becomes an engagement that is more than just acting.

Why did you think the part wasn’t easy?

The difficult side of it actually wasn’t a big deal anymore because of the collaboration. For me, playing this part was a wonderful way to go further with my work. Even if Claire Denis’ film was a great, great experience, it was only a film. And I’m still a very young actress. So I felt this part really took me somewhere else and it was a very interesting challenge for me. I felt that I needed to go into something way more radical and extreme to take a step further.

What’s Sundance been like so far? This is your first one, yes?

Yes. It’s been very moving. It was the first time I saw the film. Watching it with like 1,000 people was a bit crazy. Each time I appeared on the screen I would freak out. It was sort of the best and the worst way to see it. I didn’t read any press yet because I need to be more calm when I sit down and read it. But I feel like with all the people I’ve met and the things I’ve read what I’m happy about is that it’s judging the cinema and not the provocative side of it. I was a bit worried about how people were going to deal with the dark side of it, and I think people went further than this and that’s a very nice start for the film. I still don’t have enough distance from it, though. I’ve been here for four days, I’ve seen the movie and we’ve being doing a lot of press. So it’s a lot to take in. I think I need to see the film again in another context.

What’s next for you?

I really want to keep acting, but for me it’s not about doing it as much as I can. I really want to work on projects I can get involved in. And they are quite rare, I must admit.  So I hope I’ll be able to act again soon. But until then, I have a lot of directing projects. I am going to shoot a short film this winter in both Senegal and Alaska. And I’m writing my first feature.

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