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The Life Aquatic - Angelica Huston Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. On Saturday, at the British Academy Awards, you described Wes Anderson as a genius. That clearly is one of the main reasons why you were happy to work with him but another, I suspect, is that you enjoyed the life on the ocean wave?
A.
I do like the ocean wave. I was born under the sign of Cancer the crab, so I like coastal areas and sunny beaches and such. Although not the wide open and deep sea, which often Bill Murray and Wes found themselves upon in mid-January. But I love working with Wes because he's very intelligent and also I think his movies have, he's an author, and I really like his sensibility, and I think they're really smart. I think they're really beautiful and the whole package appeals to me.

Q. And I'd imagine it's also very flattering when you know that a role has been written specifically with you in mind?
A.
Yes, that is flattering. Particularly after the first time we worked, because people were talking on the set about Wes' next project, which was to be on the open seas which sounded delightful when you were in a small, cramped house in Harlem. So I had a kind of hankering to be wanted for that movie, but I didn't say anything, and then Bill Murray and I had a scene in the movie where we were trying to get into Gwyneth Paltrow's bathroom, and we kind of came up from the keyhole and Wes went, 'mmm, I have an idea'.
Wes: I did, I said something right there on that day...
Angelica: Yeah you did. And happily that turned into The Life Aquatic for me.

Q. Bill Murray seems able to get a laugh even when doing very little. Did you get a chance to observe any kind of method behind his particular brand of comedy?
A.
Well I think, yes, there's method in the man and working with Bill is a bit like being on a high diving board and not knowing quite how deep the water is that you're jumping into. So there are moments with Bill where your trailer door will fly open at 7am and he'll come in with an arm-load of flowers and start your coffee maker and you'll feel like he really truly loves you and then there'll be another day where he invites the entire cast and crew to dinner but not you! And you'll wonder if this has anything to do with, I don't know, halitosis. And so it's a little bit hard to negotiate sometimes that idea, because I think most actors like to be liked.
But the thing about Bill I think is because his particular brand of intelligence requires a certain comeback, so sometimes when I felt myself getting a bit trepidatious around him, I think he can kind of run over you like a steamroller; I think he likes you to come back at him and I felt that on the days where I did kind of come back at him he kind of liked me better than the other days. But that was also hard, because those were generally the days when Steve [Zissou] and Eleanor were getting on, so I find him something of a man of mystery, but I find him also extremely charming and really smart.

Q. Are you a fan of Jacques Cousteau, as I believe the film is dedicated to him?
A.
Yeah, I kind of grew up on those documentaries and one particularly trenchant memory was the one about the baby walrus that cried. I always wound up crying on those things, so I can't say that they were not bittersweet. But I think there's something of that in Wes' movie too, this bittersweetness of those adventures. And I like creatures of all types, so yes.

Q. You come from a line of geniuses in acting and directing, but I read somewhere that you were thinking about getting your own documentary together on your family, is that so?
A.
Well strangely enough they're starting off a film festival in Puerto Vallarta, which was my father's last home, he lived there for the last 15 years of his life. And I received a phone call, I went down there for this film festival which is in its second year and they've put up something called the John Huston Maverick Award, and it seemed that when he was living there and writing his autobiography he spoke for about four years with a friend of his, who was a poker player, and ex-spook CIA guy called Bill Reid, and so I received a call on my way to the airport from Bill Reid, who I hadn't seen in as many years, to tell me that he wanted me to stop by his apartment on the way out of town. He had something to give me.
Well I stopped by and he gave me a box of tapes of my father, I think 120 hours of tapes, four years worth of dialogue tapes about his personal life, his films, his children, the whole deal. I've yet to listen to these but I think probably it would be a really nice project to start on; I know it's Bill's wish that I go to work on a documentary or something of that sort, but I would love to see a really nice examination of my father's work with narration by him about all the films. I think that's something that would be worth one's time.

Q. I imagine that would be a fairly unique experience for you in terms of the emotion involved and hearing your father's voice?
A.
Yeah, it's hard even now for me to watch him in documentaries, or to hear his voice or see his face. So I think it may be painful, it may be cathartic, I'm not quite sure, but it's something that I'm going to have to see where it goes.

Q. And how about your grandfather singing September Song?
A.
I learned about my grandfather only through film because he died a year before my brother was born, and two years before I was born. Growing up, really the only films that I saw were my father's films on a projector in our house where I grew up in Ireland in the country, in the west of the country. And for years I thought my grandfather was that guy in Treasure of the Sierra Madre, I thought he was a little old prospector, and when I got to New York, I think I was about 18-years-old, I turned on the television one night and saw his movie Dodsworth and then I realised like that.
I think, actually, I had seen The Devil and Daniel Webster too but that's really when I got the full size of my grandfather, so I know about him through film.

Q. How was filming in Rome during the winter wearing Summer clothes?
A.
Everything was fine when we first began the movie but then it got progressively colder and finally there was a scene where I had to wave to the guys on The Zodiac after they leave the island and it was too cold, I didn't know what to do. So I called Milena Canonero, the brilliant Milena into my trailer, and said 'we can't do this in these clothes' because it was ice cold, bitter, and she said 'I don't know, Wes wants this shot', so I said 'get me a wet-suit'. And she said 'Wes does not want you to wear a wet-suit', but I came back with 'I'm wearing a wet-suit, I don't care'. So she went and got a wet-suit and I got into that thing, which is the only reason why that shot exists. Otherwise it was just like 'no'.
Wes: And that was your last shot of the movie. The wet-suit was a very good look for you in the end.
Angelica: I'm glad you think so now.

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