The American - Violante Placido interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
ITALIAN actress Violante Placido talks about the appeal of playing prostitute Clara alongside George Clooney in Anton Corbijn’s The American.
She also talks about her own career to date, following in her mother and father’s footsteps and mixing acting with singing.
Q. I imagine the prospect of working on the second film from Anton Corbijn with George Clooney as leading man and being set in Italy was too irresistible to refuse?
Violante Placido: This project had appeal from all sides. I mean, the idea of working with Anton… I loved his film, Control. I loved his background of rock and photography because music is another passion I have. So, to be able to work with him… and then George Clooney as well, who is such a great actor and director. This had huge appeal for me. Once I was chosen, I was very, very happy and I felt very lucky.
Q. And in Clara you also have a very interesting character to work with as well…
Violante Placido: Yeah. I was curious to get into Anton’s world because the characters are very extreme. I think the movie has some unusual ingredients, so that was new for me. It’s not just the idea of playing a prostitute because we didn’t create her and build her character from a stereotype prostitute. The way the characters come out in the movie is through something really deep inside of them. For me, it was more introspective work… what Clara, as a person, is thinking and dreaming of.
Q. Is that a real challenge to work with as an actress… someone who will allow the camera just to linger on your face and require you to do so much without words?
Violante Placido: It was very interesting for me. I love this kind of work. I’ve never been an actress who has worked too much with… I’ve never been too excessive with characterisations. I love working with the subtle things. Obviously, it can be harder because sometimes you can feel stuff but it doesn’t mean it comes through. So, that’s why there might be a tendency sometimes to do more. But I trusted Anton very much in a sense and tried to feel relaxed and to go with what I was feeling with the roots that were created with the thoughts of this character, and also connecting a lot with George, who was very helpful, because he’s very intense. There was a beautiful connection with him. So, I just trusted this and went through this approach… and Anton confirmed that what I was doing was right.
Q. Did you ever refer back to the novel for assistance?
Violante Placido: No, I never read it because instinctively I didn’t want to this time. I have done with adaptations I’ve worked on in the past. But movies are different from books and you need to be open to go into that difference. So, for me, it was more about the idea of being able to connect with that way of seeing and feeling this story. So, if I started making my story too much through the book and then maybe finding changes, perhaps it wouldn’t have helped.
Q. I gather George is quite a prank player off-set. Were you on the receiving end of any?
Violante Placido: [Laughs] Yes he is! I wasn’t personally on the receiving end. But he jokes a lot on set. Once, we were shooting a close-up on him and I was there to give him the lines, but he’d be joking until the last minute. Then, I had to give him my lines and I would be bursting into laughter in his face. For him, he was able to switch automatically between joking and being serious and in character. But I wasn’t able to do it so quickly. It was crazy.
Q. I read that George doesn’t take his characters home with him. So, is it nice to work with someone like that?
Violante Placido: It’s fun. He’s continuously jumping out of character with his jokes. But maybe he needs that. But some actors need to keep concentrated. That’s just another type of process.
Q. Did you enjoy filming in the Abruzzo region of Italy?
Violante Placido: I loved it. It’s a region that I’m very connected to, personally. It’s my second home town. Just by chance. I met some wonderful friends and I lived there for three months when I did my first music album. I love it because there is the countryside, the seaside, mountains… it’s very mystical. I find a lot of inspiration there and it’s very purifying.
Q. And the people are very welcoming?
Violante Placido: The people are wonderful… the food is great. It’s lovely.
Q. You mention recording your first album. Is it true that you’re now in the process of completing your second?
Violante Placido: Not completing. I’m still on my demos. I’m still making my mind up and deciding what kind of artistic production to come in. I do things at home with my musicians but I would like an artistic producer to come in and work on them. So, we’ll see.
Q. Which do you enjoy doing most – acting or singing?
Violante Placido: Both really. If I’m acting, when I’m on set or in hotels, I’ll always bring my guitar, so I get a chance to write my songs as well. It’s good to alternate for me.
Q. Your father is an actor-director and your mother an actress. Was it always going to be about following in their footsteps for you? Or did you find your own way into it?
Violante Placido: No, I definitely found my own way. I’m naturally like that. My parents never pushed me to be an actress. You can come from a family of actors, and sometimes there have been families that grow you up as an actor, but this wasn’t my situation. It’s very important to find your own way because it’s something you then have to confront yourself. You’re not going to be asking your parents. Actually, there was a period in my life where I had a refusal because of coming from an acting family. So, it’s different for each of us. But we’re very free as a family… very individual.
Q. Do you ever find yourself going to them for advice?
Violante Placido: Maybe now more… sometimes I just tell my dad. But at the beginning, before this came more concrete, I didn’t ask much because I didn’t want to know what they thought.
Q. You’re doing the Ghost Rider sequel now, so what’s the experience of that been like so far?
Violante Placido: I can’t talk about it much but I’m very excited. It’s going to be something totally different for me and it’s exciting because it involves a lot of action!