After coming to international renown in the TV series In Treatment, Australian actress Mia Wasikowska has gone on to portray the title character in Cary Fukunaga’s adaptation of Jane Eyre as well as appearing in Gus Van Sant’s Restless and Rodrigo Garcia’s Albert Nobbs. In 2012, she featured in John Hillcoat’s Lawless and now she takes the leading role of India Stoker in STOKER from acclaimed director Park Chan-wook…
I understand that Director Park gave you a gift during filming?
Yes. He gave me a sculpture, a jaguar. It is the animal, obviously, and it is in my bedroom at my parents’ place at the moment. But I am just about to move into my own place and I shall put it somewhere there. I shall make sure it has good lighting. This will be my first place of my own and I am so excited.
The jaguar represents your character, India, as a hunter, so how did you enjoy the hunting scenes in the movie?
It was good but it was just a tiny bit uncomfortable because it was a day of lying in the bushes and I think I got a major muscle thing going on there! But it was good. It was fun. That is one of the things you get to do in film that you don’t do, or that I don’t do, in real life. I can’t speak for Dermot [Mulroney]! But it was fun. I didn’t shoot any guns then or when we did the scene with Uncle Charlie [Matthew Goode] and Evie [Nicole Kidman] in the hall. I sort of pressed the button but there were no blanks or anything in there because I think it was always going to cut.
How did you find the experience with Director Park working through a translator?
One of the producers, Wonjo, was an amazing interpreter. I don’t think we really knew how it was going to work at the beginning. Yet it was something that a couple of days into it seemed so seamless and it wasn’t something that we noticed or thought about. A couple of times I cornered him and forced him to speak English but we didn’t speak much English at all. That said, I don’t think anything was ever lost in translation. It was all very easy.
What did you enjoy most about working with Director Park?
When I got onto set with him we were given a folder of storyboards. I thought that was pretty incredible because I hadn’t worked with anybody who used storyboards before so he obviously had a very precise way as to how he visualized the film from the very beginning. It was every scene, but to his credit he was incredibly collaborative and gave us many opportunities to have our own input and to change things with him, so it was a really great way of working. Everybody is completely different. I think there is no formula for filmmaking. Everybody finds their own way of doing things.
India is an enigmatic and fascinating young woman…
She was always described as being quite hard to read and very repelled and much more of an observer rather than a participant, so a loner by choice but an incredibly lonesome person. Director Park always talked to me about her in a very innocent way, that the story was of her coming of age and her sexual awakening and her going from girl to woman and that she had the same desires and hopes as other young people in terms of being very infatuated, which comes in the form of her uncle, which is very unconventional.
You are a keen photographer yourself so you must have loved all the director’s visual metaphors in the film?
I really loved it because it really informed his way of seeing my character and the story. If you look closely he always had this metaphor of an egg, of a little chick pecking her way out of a shell, and in one scene in the kitchen there are all these white plates on a wall and then in the middle there is a yellow plate so even that looks like an egg. And a lot of the furniture was almost sculpted in that way as well. It was really cool to see that. He talked to me about that. He gave me that jaguar at the very beginning, at out first meeting, because he had seen India’s journey going from kitten to cat and the same with the saddle shoes and when Uncle Charlie gives her high heels.
Tell me a little bit about India’s clothes in the film — how they reflect her character and whether they were a bit stiff and uncomfortable to wear!
She is a very ordered personality and everything is uniform, so her clothes reflect that. Everything was symmetrical and I remember distinctly Director Park asking that if there was a pocket on one side of the piece of clothing then there should be a pocket on the other side. They were a little uncomfortable to wear, yes, because there were a lot of tight, high-waisted things so it was great at the end of the day to slip into some pajamas!
What else stands out as a memorable part of the STOKER shoot?
I always thought the piano scene was kind of unique to shoot because we were actually able to film with the playback of the actual song. And that was quite amazing because it almost made it easier — music is usually something that is added after filming has finished so to be able to shoot a scene with music was really wonderful.
And how are your own piano skills?
They have deteriorated a little since the end of production but I did do a crash course in piano leading up to it and I really enjoyed that.
Apparently, you and Matthew Goode had some fun when you were not working…
Yes. I loved him. We just had such a fun time, especially as the film was so serious. It was good to have somebody around who was a riot and who was completely silly when we weren’t filming. We had a ritual on every Saturday night of going to hit up the honky-tonk bars, because we were shooting in Nashville. We would do our rounds of a couple of the little honky-tonk bars where they had country music playing and dancing so that was always fun. It was brilliant. We ripped it up.
You have dancing in your blood, right? It was a childhood ambition…
Yes, it was. I wanted to be a dancer from when I was about nine or something like that and started ballet. I used to really like it and got into it and did it full time for a couple of years. I did a lot of ballet but I traded that in for acting when I was about 15.
Was there an epiphany moment that made you switch?
I think that I burnt myself out a little bit with my dancing because I did so much of it. I was exhausted so thought that I would try a different kind of performance and expression and acting seemed like a close fit; it was similar in some ways to dancing. My mum showed me some really good films and so I became interested in films and acting.
With your mum’s European background, did she show you lots of European films as well as Australian and American?
Yes, a lot of European cinema and a lot of independent films and art-house stuff. She is a photographer. She is a visual artist and photographer and my dad is, too. My mum, I must credit for showing me good films. With my career, my parents were great and though they were a little wary, maybe, of the acting ambitions they have always been supportive.
Stoker will be released on 1st July on DVD BluRay