Former Bond Girl Olga Kurylenko Digs Deep In Terrence Malick’s ‘To The Wonder’

Olga Kurylenko—the Ukraine-born, Paris- bred, London-based model-turned-actor who made a big splash as the combustible, revenge-seeking Camille Montes in the 2008 James Bond film Quantum of Solace, and who stars in the upcoming Terrence Malick film, To the Wonder—will never be cryogenically frozen.

It’s not that she doesn’t trust the science—though she doesn’t—it’s that she doesn’t trust human nature: “What if they forget to unfreeze you?” she asks with Slavic sincerity. “Who’s giving you a guarantee that they won’t throw you in the garbage? I don’t trust anybody. There’s no way I’m going to trust that someone will unfreeze me. There’s no way.” She follows up with a soft, wistful punctuation to her train of thought, an endearingly peculiar feature of her conversational style: “But it would be nice to never die.”

We’re seated at a shadowy corner table at French brasserie Plein Sud in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood. After settling in and ordering oeuf dur mayonnaise (“I love mayonnaise,” she says), I present her with a small token of appreciation for re-arranging her schedule and taking the time to fly up from Miami, where she’s currently shooting the second season of the Starz series Magic City. It’s a copy of Alan Lightman’s small and magical Einstein’s Dreams—a book about a young, woolgathering Albert Einstein that imagines a series of bell-jar worlds where time moves backwards, in circles, in waves, and not at all. We discuss the book for a few minutes and, perhaps through its subtle suggestion, our conversation over the next hours bends backwards, rolls in circles, and jumps fitfully between topics, as any good conversation should.

Earlier in the evening, my first interaction with Kurylenko comes via text message while I wait in the lobby bar of her hotel. She’s stuck in traffic and running late. Then comes the more revealing, “I’m hungry, tired, and I need a massage!” It sounds enough like a command to allow my slightly lubricated imagination to momentarily get away from me, but she follows up quickly with an abating “LOL” that put my head back between my shoulders.

She arrives shortly after, apologizes again for being late, and shoots up to her room to drop off her bags, giving me a moment to jot down my first impressions: “She’s tall [5’ 10”], long, lithe, and comfortably dressed in jeans and a light, loosely fitting gray cardigan. She’s a natural beauty, her hair pulled off her face into a ponytail, and her green eyes are filled with energy despite protestations to the contrary.”

Actually, let’s start at the very beginning…

Kurylenko was born on November 14, 1979, in Berdyansk, Ukraine, a small port city located on the northern coast of the Sea of Azov. When she was born, the Ukraine was a Soviet republic. She was 12 years old when Ukraine passed a referendum on a declaration of independence, which became a leading factor in the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991. “Suddenly we were poor and we couldn’t eat,” she recalls. “My mother’s salary would run out and the envelope would be empty. And it was always an envelope, never a bank. There was no point in a bank.”

The experience had a profound effect on her, and to this day she always pockets little snacks to carry with her because she’s afraid of being hungry. “It’s a psychological fear,” she says. “I loved birthday parties because they had food in abundance. I would just eat. Up to here,” she says while she snaps her hand to her jawline. “But I was still hungry. The very first years when I immigrated to France I had to learn not to do that. I had to learn how to live with money.”

But before France there was a trip to Moscow, with her mother, when she was 13. An agent approached her on a subway platform about a modeling opportunity. Her mother was hesitant, but fortuitously allowed the young Kurylenko to later travel back to Moscow and learn how to be a model.

She was 16 when she left Ukraine for France, and it wasn’t long before she signed with a modeling agency and began working steadily, eventually securing commercial work with Campari, Bebe, Kenzo, and Victoria’s Secret and landing on the covers of Vogue and Elle.

“From the moment I got to Paris I never struggled,” she says. She tells me that it was watching Emily Watson’s performance in the 1996 film Breaking the Waves that made her want to be an actor. When I suggest she was setting the bar pretty high, she bites back, “Hey! Otherwise what makes you dream? Of course it’s the big things that make you dream.”

As a child her dreams were neither of acting nor modeling; they were of Bach and ballet. “I was so good,” she says of the seven years she spent studying piano as a child. “I played so much Bach, Mozart, Prokofiev, Schubert, Beethoven… and I’ve forgotten everything!” And then talk turns to her youthful love of dance.

“I loved ballet,” she says. “It’s such a pity I had to stop.” After a moment I ask why. “I got hit by a car and my leg was broken. Badly.” She puts her hands together and then pivots them apart at the palm and says, “One piece was sticking this way and the other was going that way.” It wasn’t compound, but she could still see the break. “I was 11 and I freaked out. I thought, ‘This is it,’ and I looked at it and I didn’t think someone could put that back together,” she says. “I was traumatized. I thought that was the end of me.” When the cast came off, she remembers, “I had to re-learn how to walk because the muscles had atrophied, and one leg was much skinnier than the other, and my knee wouldn’t bend anymore.” She tried to return to dancing, but was so far behind she got discouraged and stopped.

But she’s returned to dance recently with vigor. “I don’t go to the gym! I take dance classes,” she says. Her character, Vera Evans, on Magic City—about a Miami Beach hotel in the early 1960s—is a dancer, “so it’s partially for the role,” she says. “It’s so much fun though. To feel your body moving. I’m like, what have I been doing all these years?”

We talk about Magic City for a moment. The show also stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan as her embattled husband, Ike Evans, and her current beau, Danny Huston, as a sadistic mobster named Ben “The Butcher” Diamond. “I don’t like that they film so fast. We’re shooting episodes in nine days, but I love doing it,” she says. “You never know where the story is going. And we’re a family now.”

For years she’s kept a journal, and when I ask about her writing she says she’s sadly been too busy to keep up with it. “I think about it all the time,” she says. “There are so many things out there that aren’t true. I always think about the day when I write something real and people will be truly shocked.” She gets excited and her back straightens: “It will be nothing like the image people have of me,” she says, adding that she’s storing her life for an eventual memoir. Wait a beat. “If I survive.”

I ask if survival is a concern. She takes a delicate sip of New York City tap water and says matter of factly, “I’d like to live until I’m 200 years old.” (New York City tap water is good, but not that good.) Kurylenko is shooting for Ponce De Leon numbers, for 2179. Back in 2012 we continue to talk about life and death themes, and before we know it we’re returning to Berdyansk. “My grandfather died right in front of me,” she says. “I was eight or nine. I saw his last breath. It was disturbing, but I grew up in someplace so rural that by eight I had seen lots of dead people. You leave the coffin out and people come by. So I would go and look at every grandfather and grandmother that had died.” She pauses. “I’m glad I saw him die because I was there in his last moments. He wasn’t alone. He knew we were there.”

She starts to cry, but gathers herself quickly. I apologize for the dark turn our conversation has taken, but she says, “No. It’s good because I’m so busy that I never think about him or my grandmother. They’re a part of my life, but I forget to think about them. Now I’m remembering them. It’s good.”

And now we’re touching on the kind of dreamy poeticism that pervades the upcoming Terrence Malick film, To the Wonder, which stars Kurylenko as Marina, an independent woman struggling to understand the capricious nature of love. To the Wonder premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September to conflicting reports of boos and standing ovations—as Malick films are wont to do. Some stars, including Rachel Weisz and Michael Sheen, were unknowingly edited out the film, but Kurylenko was less concerned about ending up on the cutting room floor. “Terry told me that it was Marina’s story,” Kurylenko says, “but he’s done that before where the actor who was the main character didn’t even end up in the movie. He kept his word though. It is Marina’s story.”

The atmospheric film is pure Malick. Kurylenko stars alongside Ben Affleck, who plays her cold, distant lover, Neil; Javier Bardem as the wandering priest Father Quintana; and Rachel McAdams as Jane, one of Neil’s old flames. Marina experiences love and its dissolution, vacillating between free-spirited joy and uncontrollable fits of despair, and the film makes the suggestion that love is like the lens flares that flicker in the corners of so many of Malick’s films—or like the quicksand at Mont Saint-Michel that Marina and Neil dance on during the height of their adoration for one another: you have to catch it just right.

“I miss Terry,” she says. “It’s so amazing to be a part of his work. I think we had a connection, and his writing is so simple and beautiful.”

During filming, script pages would arrive every morning, “first thing, and never before because he doesn’t want you to rehearse too much and overthink it,” she says. “They always tried to recuperate the pages, and what they didn’t get back Terry or his assistant instructed us to burn. Nice fire,” she says, rolling her eyes. “It’s the most horrible act that can be done. Burning those pages.”

When asked about working with Ben Affleck, she surprisingly says, “It was awful. He had to be Neil, this cold person, and I assume he was instructed to stay in character on the set. I don’t know, but I assume because I just realized that’s what he did to all of us.” I suggest that it sounds like a form of psychological torture. “It was!” she says. “I went nuts. There are moments that, as Marina, I went completely crazy, but Terry didn’t put that in the movie,” she says. “Apparently it was too terrifying. People saw it and they freaked out, so it was cut. He drove me to that state though.”

Her voice slows and softens one last time as she sums up the experience of working with Malick. “It’s because of experiences like working with Terry that I feel like my life has been worth living and that my life makes sense,” she says.

It’s getting late and our night winds down. I walk her to the elevator bank in her hotel and she thanks me for the conversation, and I thank her in return. She wonders if I have enough material. I assure her that I do. As the elevator doors open she steps in and says, “Well… if you need more there’s always tomorrow.”

Olga Kurylenko Covers Our Upcoming New Regime Issue!

With the end of the year comes the inevitable: lists and lists and lists of so-and-so and what’s-his-face’s favorite movies, albums, animated gifs, and/or Honey Boo Boo catchphrases of the year. Of course, we at BlackBook like to close out the year a little differently, which is why I’m pleased as punch to reveal the cover for our upcoming December/January issue featuring our annual New Regime feature. Rather than looking back on the year in review, the editors at BlackBook have compiled a list of our favorite up-and-coming stars. Inside you’ll find the best and brightest talents in film, music, television, art, and nightlife. 

Of course, we saved our favorite for the cover: Olga Kurylenko. Already having made a name for herself as a Bond girl in Quantum of Solace, the Ukranian model-turned-actress is prepped for a big year in 2013. Fresh off her supporting role in this fall’s Seven Psychopaths, Kurylenko has a few big projects coming up, including starring alongside Tom Cruise in April’s Oblivion. And let’s not forget her role in To the Wonder, directed by that little-known and totally underrated writer-director Terrence Malick. (I’m kidding, of course; there’s hardly anything more exciting than a highly anticipated release from the notoriously unprolific Malick.) Kurylenko shares with us her own personal experiences of working with the enigmatic director and shares the long road to cover girl and movie star. 

Meanwhile, Brian Jonestown Massacre member Tony O’Neill talks to novelist Nick Tosches about his new book, Me and the Devil; Walter Salles opens up about his long-waited adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road; The Walking Dead‘s Norman Reedus takes on a tour of his local lower Manhattan haunts; and comedian Eric Andre sits down for cocktails and LOLs. And, as usual, we cover the newest trends in nightlife, restaurants, and fashion—including a gorgeous Amish-themed men’s fashion spread. 

Look for the New Regime issue on newsstands in December, and, as always, check back here for full coverage!

Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter.

You Have No Excuse Not to Go to the Movies This Week

The holidays are upon us. Soon enough we’ll be carving up the turkey and the next thing we know we’ll be falling into an eggnog coma beside a fireplace. And with Thanksgiving on Thursday, it’s safe to say most of us have a shortened work week upon us. So with all that free time, there’s no reason not to head to the theater and see what you’ve been missing while buried under a pile of work.

Whether you’re desperately escaping the confines of familial holiday nightmares or looking to take your holiday guests out to see something good, here’s a list of what’s playing around the city this week sure to satisfy your film cravings.

holy
IFC Center
Holy Motors
Spirited Away
The Loneliest Planet

goo
Sunshine Landmark
This Must Be the Place
The Goonies (Friday & Saturday)
A Royal Affair

silv
Nitehawk Cinema
Seven Psychopaths
Silver Linings Playbook
Black Christmas

eve
Museum of the Moving Image
All About Eve
Not Fade Away 
Shadow of a Doubt

once
Film Forum
Mea Maxima Culpa Silence in the House of God
The Man in the White Suit
Once Upon a Time in America

caf
Cinema Village East
Cafe de Flore
Barrymore
28 Hotel Rooms

‘Seven Psychopaths’: Victim of The Postmodernist’s Dilemma

I like Martin McDonagh’s work. Well, let me rephrase that: I loved In Bruges, heard his plays are pretty great (I haven’t set foot in a theater in years, all due apologies to my editor), and found his brother John Michael McDonagh’s The Guard to be an excellent character study. But close enough! For me, there’s just a positive vibe about any Irish black comedy. Because what’s not to like? And while his newest film, Seven Psychopaths, is for the most part diabolically funny, there’s a definite fly in the ointment.

Call this annoyance the Postmodernist’s Dilemma: how to bend and refract your story so it unfolds in a cool, disjointed way. Right out of the gate, he’s onto the Tarantino mode of trivial digression—the opening one-off scene is a casual conversation about shooting people in the eye between two contract killers (perfect cameos from Michael Stuhlbarg and Michael Pitt). This charmed little playlet has the desired effect of wrong-footing the audience and whetting our bloodlust for the complicated carnage that unfolds.

However, as soon as we meet Colin Farrell, here playing an alcoholic Irish screenwriter and obvious proxy for McDonagh himself, we’ve hit a snag. Just how important is it to see a character writing the movie we’re seeing at the moment? (I know, I know, Adaptation, but that was sort of the whole point of that film; here’s its just winky window dressing.) Especially for a film that makes so many wise choices—letting Sam Rockwell off the leash, not wasting a single moment of Christopher Walken’s screen time—it’s a very worn trope to fall back on. Ultimately, McDonagh is confronting/resisting his artistic attraction to grotesquerie and violence, and there’s a nice meditation on how impossible it is to write a movie about peace, but I have to think one could get there without Farrell furrowing his caterpillar’d brow for 109 minutes.

Oscar Buzz Watch: Ben Affleck Is Definitely Getting Oscar-Nominated

Ben Affleck is definitely getting Oscar-nominated for Argo. When it opens in theaters next weekend, and you make it your compromise movie because nobody can agree on Pitch Perfect or Seven Psychopaths (and no one wants to see Here Comes the Boom, come on), you should watch it with the full knowledge that Ben Affleck is a stone-cold certainty to be nominated come January, for either Best Actor or (more likely) Best Director. It’s just absolutely going to happen.

You can try to pretend it won’t happen—maybe you’d rather it wouldn’t? Maybe you’re still holding on to some of that Bennifer resentment. And who could blame you? He was actually kissing her butt in the "Jenny from the Block" video! That’s how much they thought the public wanted to see them! Or maybe yours is a more high-minded resistance. Maybe it was that five-year-or-so stretch in the 2000s where he made an unbroken string of terrible movies, roughly from Bounce in 2000 through Surviving Christmas in 2004 (we’re being kind and granting his Golden Globe-nominated role in Hollywoodland as a streak-breaker. You’re under no obligation to do so). For a long while, Ben Affleck was about as far from Oscar material as you could possibly be. But that is exactly why it’s even more certain that he’s DEFINITELY getting Oscar-nominated for Argo

If there’s anything Oscar loves more than an actor-turned-director—do I even have to mention the award-winning names? Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner (Kevin COSTNER!)—it’s a comeback story. Particularly a comeback story where the individual is "coming back" from trying to make studio heads and agents lots and lots of money with movies like Armageddon and Pearl Harbor and Daredevil. Oh no! How will these businessmen ever forgive him for pulling in $118 million domestic for The Sum of All Fears?? Of course, what he’s really coming back from is a reputation as a great Hollywood doof. Sure, he won an Oscar seemingly right out of the gate with Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting, but having to stand on all those red carpets next to perfect little Hollywood-sized Matt Damon, Affleck couldn’t help but look like the big dumb galoot along for the ride. Then Damon proceeded to go on one of the more interesting career arcs in recent memory, careering from art house disaster (noooooo, All the Pretty Horses!) to Bourne billions, ultimately becoming one of the better-liked A-listers in Hollywood. All of which only made Affleck look even worse in comparison, when people even bothered to think about him at all. (Never mind that while Affleck was getting slammed for cashing a paycheck on a movie actually called Paycheck, Damon wasn’t exactly covering himself in glory as Greg Kinnear’s conjoined twin in Stuck on You. See? You’re starting to feel a swell of sympathy for Affleck even now, aren’t you?) Then, in 2007, Affleck made the dubious-seeming decision to step behind the camera, and the result was the quite good Gone Baby Gone. So good that it nabbed an Oscar nomination for Amy Ryan and at least made people stop chuckling when talk turned to "Ben Affleck: Director." Three years later, Affleck directed The Town which, this writer’s contrary opinion of it notwithstanding, was very well-received by critics and was generally considered to have missed the Best Picture top ten that year by a hair’s breadth.

And next weekend, Affleck will see his third directorial effort hit screens with Argo, the "based on recently de-classified documents" political thriller / Hollywood farce (like chocolate and peanut butter, those genres!) that sees Affleck co-starring with a serious ’70s beard as a CIA operative who gets the bright idea to impersonate a Canadian film crew in order to infiltrate Iran and rescue six Americans during the 1979 hostage crisis. By the way, if the logline doesn’t sell you, Argo might end up being worth the ticket price for the sheer volume of character actors alone: John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Chris Messina, Bryan Cranston, Kyle Chandler, Phillip Baker Hall; I could go on (Clea DuVall!) and on (Titus Welliver!). This is classic Hollywood mythmaking (Zeljko Ivanek! Sorry, last one), where the very idea of The Movies is the apparatus that will free six American heroes during one of the darkest times in American history. Who’s NOT nominating this thing?

"Sure, for Best Picture, maybe," you say. "There could be ten nominees. How can you be so sure Affleck will be one of five directors so honored?" To that I say: ARE YOU SERIOUSLY CRAZY? You’re seeing all the ingredients here, right? Actor-turned-director. A wet dream of a campaign narrative. The slight air of being "owed" for his previous movies coming so close. Oh, and also, everybody who saw Argo at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals freaked out and started screaming "OSCAR!!!!" out their hotel windows into the late-summer air. Not every movie currently sits atop the "Gurus o’ Gold" Oscar prediction charts, you know. Argo also sits comfortably in the Best Picture ranks on both Hitfix and Vulture, though Vulture is RIDICULOUSLY blind to his Best Director chances, which is just too preposterous to consider. This is HAPPENING! Accept it.

Argo opens in theaters on October 12th. Oscar nominees are announced on January 10th. Which leaves Ben Affleck almost exactly three months to figure out how to convince us that he didn’t even know he was nominated until his agent called.

Follow Joe Reid on Twitter.

Too Excited For ‘Seven Psychopaths’ to Care What It’s About

To be honest, I don’t even care what Seven Psychopaths is about. I mean, yes, I care. But it’s Martin McDonagh, I am sure it will be wry and brilliant, and of course I will see it. But it’s not so much the exact plot points I’m interested in as the bizarre characters that seem to inhabit the film, played by a cast of manic weirdos whose presence alone is enough to make me want to shell out $14 on a movie ticket. But from what I’ve cared to gather, the film is a dark comedy that has something to do with the kidnapping of a mobster’s shih tzu, a struggling screenwriter, but most importantly, Tom Waits stroking a pet rabbit.

The promotion for the film has taken shape in a viral marketing campaign that seems just as odd as the characters in it, which I find thoroughly amusing. Two new clips have popped up online; the first, a scene between Sam Rockwell and Olga Kurylenko featuring this quote: “It’s a kidnapped dog. You don’t give back a kidnapped dog. It defeats the entire object of the kidnapping. They didn’t give Patty Hearst back, did they? This dog is my Patty Hearst.” 

The second clip features said rabbit-stroking Waits, in what appears to be his introduction to the other fellas.

And then there’s this:

dog

Seven Psychopaths is in theaters October 12, and until then I will be distancing myself from reviews or criticism because, if you couldn’t tell by my apathetic tone, I am inappropriately excited.