Hi Sebastian, welcome to FEST. Could you tell us how this co-operation started?
Lazar was looking for an actor who could interpret the character of Milutin and he contacted me. At the recommendation of Dimitrije Vojnov, with whom I co-operated on the film and series “Montevideo by Dragan Bjelogrlić,” Lazar sent me the script to see whether I liked it or not. I immediately recognized the potential of the script, I sent the self-made audition tape with the scenes selected for the casting and I was cast afterwards (laughter).
And what did you really like?
The story. This is a story of love between a cosmonaut and an android on a mission for Alpha Kentauri. The whole action takes place in space, in the future - some 150 years from now, but in fact all the issues that the story deals with are somehow archetypal, so in that respect they are not directly related to a specific time or space. Bodroža also mentioned that he wanted to do some kind of a retro-futuristic SF. Previously I only worked once in that genre, on one short film (The Cloud Catcher by Miha Knific) which had a strong dystopian pretext, so I was immediately in for it.
What was it like to act with only one actress? Easier, harder?
It was extremely nice, but very difficult, and the whole process was very intense. I actually arrived here as a parachute jumper. I was the last link since I was literally the last person to join the project. This means that I was selected some five months before the beginning of the filming, while Stoya was planned for the role of Nimani while the script was still being written. During the period of preparation for Ederlezi, I was away, recording a remake of Winnetou. I arrived from Croatia five days before the filming began, which was postponed for additional three days. And then, 18 days of shooting and boom - right after the last doubles, I rushed to catch a plane for Berlin to finish the Winnetou shooting, where I portrayed the character of the Comanche leader. Which means I that switched from Lakota to English and back to Lakota. Concerning English language, I had a great support from Stoya. Each day we would go through all the scenes twice, so that she could correct my pronounciation.
Wow, what did it look like?
Wichahuahua nithaua kelena ogle jakashkapitke otektelo (laughter). It’s always difficult, you worry about how to say something without interrupting the actions and intentions of the character. But, that is what an actor’s work is all about. You arrive some place, you do not know anyone, and, for example, you are immediately involved in a fight scene or in a sex scene, or you are supposed to ride a horse that you see for the first time and to gallop through explosions. It’s a little bit like in Love Actually, where the two act in a porn film - they get acquainted a few minutes before the beginning of the shooting, and the next moment they are already having sex. So it’s like you arrive, you learn the text and you try to avoid the furniture. (laughs)
Speaking about the sex scenes, there has been plenty of controversy in terms of whether they were real.
Haha, let everybody conclude for himself.
The film underlines that Milutin is a Yugoslav guy, and therefore he displays some sort of Oedipal complex, so he gets a female android resembling his mother to accompany him on the space mission. Who is he and what does he want? Does he get an ideal woman?
She is not ideal, she/it is inhibited by the Ederlezi multicorporation software. Initially he has doubts about his company because if he wants to be optimal in his job, he wants to travel alone, he does not want anyone with him, not even a doll. In fact, he is forced to accept Nimani as a condition imposed by his employer. However, he falls in love with this android and what is even more intriguing: he wants to set it/her free. Everyone will understand this in its own way, but he actually wants to see what happens when the android starts to exploit the full potential of the artificial intelligence. That's his drive. Although he is not sure what will happen later.
And then he falls into depression, essentially caused by the fact that she rejects sexual relations with him. Then they both decide to make a sacrifice.
It is somehow very Roman Catholic, mea culpa. For example, the Japanese would not have done so. He would have done hara-kiri or cut off her head. (laughs)
There is a very interesting use of light and music, practically as if they were characters, which is very post-dramatic.
Kosta, Aljoša and Nemanja have done a great job. Also, Senka, Mima, not to talk about VFX and CGI sectors. We know that film is “septima ars,” it brings together all levels of art. But this is the most difficult thing in a film, to achieve the harmony of elements so that nothing pokes you in the eye, nothing distracts you form the story - the costumes, set design, directing, camera, music - but to use everything to create a unique atmosphere so that can identify more easily with the story.
What was it like to work with Stoya?
Lazar told me that the main actress would be a porn diva. I said - yep. He sent me a link to imdb, and I thought that I had already seen that woman somewhere, on youtube at Histerical Literature. She is a great person, very smart and fragile. She quickly grasped the indications, she learned quickly, she had no fear in front of the camera, she is articulated and she coped well with the reduced resources imposed by the script. I think that she created a brilliant role. All these scenes of sex were shot very aesthetically and poetically. I do not think that I would have agreed to anything else, because I do not like when a film overuses sex scenes.
Tell us more about your work in the theater.
Lately, unfortunately, the theatre is burdened by hyperproduction. My home theater produces 13-14 premiers in the season, we give more than 450 performances in a year. With an ensemble of 34 actors, 25 of whom act as fools, it’s inhumane. For example: we prepared Othelo, and we had five weeks for it. It’s not a stand-up, it’s Shakespeare, it takes time. All that makes you work instantaneously, which is actually the habitus of a commercial theater, not of a national institution. Where did we go? I just can not accept it. So in past two years I have worked on War and Peace directed by Silvio Purcarete and the text of Ivan Vyrypaev, The Drunks. It is a theological-philosophical delirium tremens, a very interesting piece. But I had to put the theatre a little bit on the side, otherwise I would not be able to work on film.
Can you compare working abroad and in the region?
The difference between working abroad and the region? What is a hygienic minimum to the foreigners, it seems like science fiction to us. An indie film abroad disposes of a budget no less than 2-3 million euros. Anything below that is called “no budget.” The budget for one indie film made in the US equals the year-long budget of the Slovenian Film Center. You always have your own trailer on the set, you receive the royalties correspondint to the size of the role, etc. As I said: science fiction. (Laughter) I began working abroad in my more mature years - I waited for my children to grow up because I wanted to be with them. But us actors, unlike athletes, we have the advantage to mature with age and to be cast in more complex roles.
It seems to me that this is more true for men than for women.
It's true for women, too. Who will play Lady Magbeth, or Gertrude? The international film industry has certainly been unfair to women, I agree. But it has been changing gradually, at least from Chekhov onwards if not earlier. There are also younger female authors of the world format such as Milena Marković, Tene Stivičič, Paula Vogel or Anja Hilling, who really write good roles for women. But yes, in total, in the world of drama it is five to one in favor of male roles. But in this movie, Ederlezi Rising, it's three to one in favor of women! The voice of the computer is a female, the social engineer and the android are women as well, so ...
And in the end, what would be your advice to young actors?
I think that a young actor must get as much experience as possible as soon as possible. Because, it's the worst when you are playing a smart ass while sitting drunk in a bar, and once you actually get a job, you shit your pants. You must be in shape, both in front of the camera and on the stage. For those who want to act, the advice is that they must be ready to be rejected, because you get rejected in most cases. If you accidentally succeed, then it’s another story. But you know what they say in our line of work: you are only as good as your latest role. So, the process of learning never ends.