Tilda: Well, I knew about it before I read a script, so what were your reactions to the script?
Giancarlo: My reaction was this is an outrageous journey. There were so many different parts of this film that I related to. But how is this master filmmaker going to do it? So I had to go back and look at his work and see how masterful he actually is, and I was completely in trust. But the story to me, it seemed handmade in so many ways; it was just what I needed to read.
Tilda: Hmm, handmade is right.
You go so deep into character, which I love. Talk about building your character.
Tilda: Well, director Bong and I had a made a film before Snowpiercer, where we made a real proper villain construct. This sort of crazy, power crazed politician called Mason, who really pushed into the burlesque. This time we wanted to look at a different way of being bad, a kind of rather modern way. Which is, the CEO who knows that the history of the company is completely corrupt and toxic but is trying to put a gloss on it, is trying to do a kind of PR white wash and make it like super sparkly and woke and eco friendly and everybody is going to find it very easy to love, she’s desperate to be loved, and meanwhile, of course, she’s not giving up the really toxic stuff and she’s trying to make as much money as possible and continue to exploit people, and lie. So this was a really interesting way of playing a real fool villain and we had a great laugh doing it.
You both have played some iconic villains, what’s the fun part of playing a villain.
Giancarlo: I think the fun part is to figure out how to really be committed to that villain’s values. There’s no black and white, there’s no right or wrong, and we live in a world where the line gets blurred. But for me I remember watching Jimmy Cagney in Public Enemy years ago, and man I just fell in love with that character, that guy, top of the world! And I said oh people love the villain, why? Why? I ask myself. Because they’re complicated…complicated beings.
Tilda: Very few villains I think in life think they’re villains you know? Everybody thinks they’re on the right path and thinks they’re, you know, good actually. I always think there’s a scene in Okja which I love very much which we were talking about the other day which is when Giancarlo’s character and my character who are you know, very much fiddling the books, as it were, and we are in that moment that we always wonder about with villains, like when you’ve just done the really dastardly deed or you’ve pressed the atomic button or whatever, and then you go into your bathroom and you brush your teeth, what do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you go,
“Whoops I did a really bad thing,” or do you go “Yeah!,” or do you go, “I’m the savior of the world?” That whole feeling of your conscious as a villain is really interesting. I don’t think there are very many villains who twirl their mustache and go “ha ha ha I’m so bad.” I don’t. I think they all think they’re on the shining path.
The director is so amazing, talk about working with him and that process in collaborating.
Giancarlo: Oh, I loved working with him. I was just getting to know him, I know Tilda has worked with him before and has cultivated ideas and creativity with him. I came into it as an observer, to be able to learn and to learn his rhythm, and he says to me I don’t speak much English but he understands a lot of English, he speaks more than you might think. So I was very sensitive to fit into the bigger picture of what he was trying to create. One of the most compassionate of leaders because as a director you have to be a leader and who shared his vision so courageously and fully with me and then allowed me to go away and think about things I can bring to the project, this is a dream director to work with, visionary.
Tilda: He is visionary, he has the film in his head, it’s like he’s watching it on a screen behind his eyes and he pulls it out of his ear and asks you to help him getting it up on the screen. He’s so playful … He’s so up for the cut and thrust and fun of life and work and he loves working with people. For someone who has it all in his own mind, and knows that he needs people to make it work. That’s the real joy.