What it’s like to play with a puppet in an avant-garde French rock opera
What was it like playing in front of a puppet?
I couldn’t wait to meet this puppet. It’s hard to say “puppet” and sound serious in any way. I thought in French, at least we can have a little hope, but no, it’s “the doll”. So it’s even dumber than the word “puppet”. But when I was introduced to him, I was taken to this sort of back room where these brilliant puppeteers had been working on its construction for years. I was really moved the first time I was taken into a room with her and looked her in the eye.
I feel like this is part of the desired effect of throwing a puppet in this movie. The amount that we as an audience can infer from that face and what we read in it and what we bring to it from our perspective as part of our experience is in some ways deeper than when we are guided or told what to think or feel. This is how we interact with this lifeless creature. There is so much emotion when you look at that face and ask yourself, “Well, is it there? Or is it me and what do I bring to it? “
I found these scenes to be exciting and like everything else in the movie, insane and empowering. These puppeteers are brilliant and knowledgeable at what they do, and they’ve worked their entire lives. And all of a sudden, they have to be brave and altruistic enough to hand that puppet over to these actors who have no training in it and have no experience, really. And then all of a sudden you’re there and you’re ten minutes away from the shoot. And they are trying to teach you in French how to operate this puppet while you are singing or while you are in a scene working with Adam and Marion.
And they say, “Okay, so you turn to Adam and we can’t ask you to manipulate the puppet with the controls because the camera is going to bypass you so you can hide your hand behind his head.” And when you turn, you press down slowly, even with your pinky finger, and her whole head will spin. But you have to make sure that the eye area works with Adam’s. And if you move your arm here her elbow will and it’ll give her life and you can bounce her leg with the other side of your hand while you hold her that way.
I feel like all of my questions are about the difficulty of making this movie, but we need to talk about the musical fight scene.
It was another obstacle. There is a French way, I think, of doing certain things. Or at least that’s my experience on this film, which is very [in French accent] “Ah, pssshh.” It’s a lot of “Don’t worry”. “Well, what if when I’m thrown in this table like, I die or something like that?” It’s a lot to spit on the floor or breathe out. “We’re just going to find it, and if you die, at least it’s on camera.” I mean, it’s overkill to a degree, but there was a real quest to capture life in this movie. This state of the unknown and this sense of danger, I think, is really the recipe for good acting and in many ways an experience watching a movie that I think we all identify with, that is, when he feels alive in one way or another.
When I got on set that night, there was a stuntman that I hadn’t been told about and who was waiting there to talk to me. He was apparently the stuntman of Jean-Claude Van Damme. I felt somehow comforted by this and also confused. And then he left, which certainly wasn’t heartwarming. But before he left he gave me all those thick rubber vests, hip guards, tailbone pads and things like that. And I didn’t even know why. I didn’t even know why he was there. I knew we were going to have some kind of fight, and I knew Adam had to put me in the pool at some point. So like everything, you walk over to the set and Leos tells you, or someone just casually mentions, that it’s all going to happen in one fell swoop.