Björk approaches our table bright-eyed, but
somehow faintly timid; she pauses before sitting as a
diver pauses to mentally prepare herself on the
board. Suddenly, she shakes her head, smiles, and
taps a little dance, "They were playing jazz -- I was
having none of it. I was dancing Charleston."
The Icelander having broken her own patch of ice,
sets a silver-glittering Kuala bear purse on the
table and then comfortably takes a seat.
Press: We had heard you
decided not to act again...
B: Being in that creative environment were
the film was I made an exception, because of the film
I wanted to act. But I should do music ... that's
where I'm at my best.
Press: So maybe you'll act
B: It's not like I got it all planned out.
Things keep happening that I thank God, I couldn't
even imagine. Right now I feel very strong on
focusing on music. I get really depressed when
I go to Tower records, I don't think there are a lot
of good records there. [Even my own stuff] I'm still
far away, I get embarrassed listening to my last CD's
and so I've got a lot of work to do.
He'd always be saying, "Please don't act, I hate
acting -- feel your way through."
On Selma songs:
I'm very proud. I was really into it at that time ...
giving my interior up to someone else. For someone as
obsessed with music as I am, I always hear a song in
the back of my head all the time, and that's usually
my own tune, I've done that all my life and then
suddenly to have someone else's songs in there is
like ... "AHHHHH" a bit scary! Right? But at that
time I was ready for it. I was ready to get really
craftmanshippy, because I did 10 years at classical
education as a child, so I was ready to go really
anal into music. The whole idea of writing the music
and then going back and hooking up with Lars and
getting someone else's vision I was really into that.
That's a challenge. That's actually understated ... a
harder job than sitting there and thinking of
RA: What were the parameters
that Lars had given you? Did he give you specific
ideas for the songs?
B: I read the script and my immediate
reaction was very emotional. So I would start writing
the songs from a very emotional point of view. More
like a form of love for Selma rather than anything
else. For me to react in an intellectual way ... I
couldn't even though I tried, it's not what I'm
about. But when it came to arranging the music --
that's kind of when I can get maybe slightly clever.
That's the part that Lars wasn't interested in at
all, that's why he contacted me. Me being one of the
most idiosyncratic people around. I did the music
very much how I wanted to.
Press: What was the first
song you wrote?
B: The song that happens on the train. My
first question to Lars was, "Does she have a
boyfriend?" Once [I got that song down], I knew what
she was like as a woman and the rest kind of ...[fell
into place]. The next was "New World" the title tune,
that sort of was her being hopeful and really
believing that music can save people's lives.
(Some people, while addressing a group, tend to
look around at each person, but Björk turns her
head to the person asking the question and responds
only directly to them. Her attention seems very
personal - and her bluish brown eyes, oddly
On taking on the project:
B: My instinct is 50 times more wise than my
head for sure. From the start my instinct was saying,
"Go go go" and my head was going, "This is the most
ridiculous thing you could do in your life." I had to
follow my instinct.
Press: The music was so
haunting, I was thinking about it all
B: I guess my music is always an emotional
thing. I could never sit down and decide okay let's
do it now. You can't control those things and if you
want to control them then you got a problem. You're
just being arrogant. It's not your choice. It's
finding strength in being vulnerable. I think
sometimes discipline is very important [too], but you
have to be very careful what areas you put discipline
into. And when I arrange songs I can go with my
academic education. Okay, here we have something that
was just burning... okay just make sure it's got what
it deserves and then you can sit there with like 500
hours of studio time. Some of this music I was 12 to
16 hours in the studio everyday for a year. You're
definitely not on a high, inspired all the time, you
just sort of sit there with big bags under your eyes
and a cup of coffee.
On understanding Selma's pain:
B: She experienced a lot more pain than I have
ever experienced. I've had a lucky life. Some of
these songs come from a painful place ... but it's
not mine. This is not my pain. I never felt this
pain. But it provokes empathy for sure.
On her terms with Lars:
B: I want to mix my tunes in London with
people I normally work with, I'm going to do the
album sleeve for my album, the record's going to be
the way I want it to be, I'm going to have a final
mix. For example, after Cannes I went back and mixed
it again. Basically, what I was asking for was that I
could protect my music ... nothing to do with acting
being too difficult. So I was one day off work, so I
came back the next day with a piece of paper and for
one day they said we can't sign that, it's
impossible. And then in the evening -- they did. I
was working from August to May non-stop. All that
work I wouldn't be able to do that if they didn't
sign the paper. It's happened so much, just because
they were editing something and then suddenly, "Oh,
no, now we gotta do this" and then they'd like chop a
minute out of the song, which I don't mind, I
actually prefer my songs to be 4 minute songs ... it
was Lars who asked them to be 8 minute long. But it
would have to be the minute chopped out of it that I
had to agree with. I'm ready to collaborate, let's
talk about it. It's not like I hand my music over and
go home, I can't do that. After twenty years of doing
music, I just can't do that.
B: There were other things... The fact that
they put that thing over the overture. Because
apparently people don't concentrate because there's
nothing for the eye, only for the ear, and I was like
"Uhhggg." First the ears please, because listening in
the dark is incredible and the fact that you need
something for the eye, just kills it. But in a funny
way it supports Selma's argument that people don't
trust their ears and they don't trust their instincts
and the subconscious and mysterious. They have to
like analyze everything ... the eye is very much an
instrument of logic.
On seeing herself on screen:
B: I can't really relate to it. I'd be lying
if I told you what it was like. I just watched it
like "blahh" I don't even have an opinion on it. I
know I gave everything I got and a lot more, I'm
proud of the film. If I close my eyes I know all my
heart is in there. And that's all I can do. I sit and
watch it, if I don't like something - it's out of my
hands. I'm not controlling like that at all, my
acting or image or visual stuff. I wish I was more
ambitious ... but I just don't care. I always knew
that when it came to visual vanity ... I don't really
give a shit. And I was right because [just look at
the film] I'd like have a handicam up my nostrils
after I haven't slept for a month and I'd be like [ah
so what]. But there'd be one wrong note and I'd be
like "AHHHH" and I'd be running to the studio.
Choreographer Vincent Paterson, speaks with a deep
resonating voice, like a choir teacher or Harrison
VP: I think that the whole film is really a
fable, I think that the great contradiction for
people is that you're seeing a fable for the first
time through a very documentary real world
sensibility of filmmaking. Lars is an amazing
director, so much of what Lars does is alters his
grips and vision to bring out as much of the actor's
personality ... so almost as much as he asks us to be
improvisatory, he's actually as equally as
improvisatory as he's creating.
RA: Were there really 100
cameras in the dance scenes?
VP: Yes, we used 100 digital Sony video
RA: Each rolling their own
VP: Yes, and actually in some pieces we
used over 100, like in the train sequence, we would
mount 100 on the train and 50 in the landscape, they
were all cabled together. It was fantastic for the
actors ... they got to go through the entire piece
from the beginning to the end. [Actually] Lars'
original idea was to do it live, vocally live, but
the logistics of that were too difficult. Lars makes
a lot of rules and then breaks those rules
immediately. Even with the dancing, not a Dogma, this
is not a Dogma film, but he created his own
commandments for the pieces. Part of it was, there
was no front to the pieces ... that you could face
anywhere. I tried to explain to him that it works
better on paper ... [Finally] he changed that rule
and said, "Okay, okay, make it the other way." But
everything is like that with Lars, I mean the script
is written out, he told us don't memorize, just be
familiar and then we would walk into the space and
he'd pick up the camera and just say go.
David Morse stands well over six foot, perhaps
6'4," and though he's played several bad guys
recently, his face is peaceful and reassuring. He
sits comfortably, ready, but calm and relaxed. He fields questions with
a moment of careful thought shown only in his eyes.
His answers are mindful and often times sown with a
subtle, dry, biting humor easily missed, unspoiled by
his poker face.
Press: When you first read
the script, did you have a sense of the
DM: No. (pause) I thought it'd be
potentially something awful.
Press: Is that how you're
choosing roles these days?
DM: No. (pause) It was really Lars that
convinced me. I did question my choice, not that what
they were doing wasn't good, it was just the
character ... was a really hard one to do... because
I did not sympathize with him. He chooses to do
something I don't get. So how do you find your way,
believably and truly living that through, if you
don't get it. So it was a hard one. I tried mightily.
But this one was a hard one to really feel like I'd
done my job.
RA: Of the wealth of roles
you've played in the past of which are you most
DM: Crossing Guard.
Press: Were you happy to "Get
out" of singing and dancing?
DM: No. (pause) Actually I was really
disappointed. I was looking forward to it. It would
be fun to be up on the tables.
On possible audience reaction to the
DM: It's not a whole lot different than
anything you do for love, you'd like it to be
embraced. In a way there's a satisfaction in doing
something so challenging that people are going to
come down on different ends of the spectrum. We have,
Lars has, succeeded in making the film that he wanted
DM: She is so alive (pause) and unusual, she
has no preconceptions, she's not protecting herself -
she was living her life as this woman Selma. It just
brings out things that don't always happen on
David mentions that the gun sequence was a bit
frustrating for him because the use of a weapon was
so foreign to Björk:
DM: She couldn't just do the scene, (pause)
but she WAS doing the scene.
Acting Legend Catherine Deneuve sits donning
tint-gradated glasses, she pulls the table mic a bit closer, and waves to
Björk at the other table.
Press: Was this acting job
CD: I don't work hard anyway. That's not my
type of living. It's difficult, but it's not
Press: How do you feel when
reporters refer to you as legend or icon?
CD: I find it a little boring. Because it's
a way of putting me away on a pedestal and watch me
and expect me to speak a few lines, but I try to
always break that strange idea.
On audience reaction:
CD: Yes of course, you always want people to
like it. [But whenever] someone special like Lars,
takes a normal story and brings it into musicals,
makes you think differently and see things
differently ... it's not reassuring.