DEBBIE ROCHON: BEAUTY AND THE BEASTS

You know, your fans are always saying that you should be a bigger star, but you don’t seem to want any part of the Hollywood scene.
Not true – I want their money! I don’t want their storylines. I don’t want their egos. I don’t want their politics. I don’t want some – and underline ‘some’ – of their work ethics. There are some brilliant people working in mainstream movies, that’s for sure. I don’t want all of that. It would be nice to have my movies seen by a lot of people, instead of a small group. It would be nice to be able to make enough money to, you know, have a reasonable life – and afterlife… I don’t know! Least of all, you want to be able to buy a nice tombstone! (laughs) That’s my new philosophy. That’s all I’ve ever wanted. Have a reasonable life and be able to buy a nice tombstone.

On the other hand, the indie scene seems to keep finding you and bringing you a lot of really good work.
I think so.

American Nightmare a few years ago, and now you have “Nowhere Man” coming up.
Yeah! Yeah! “Nowhere Man.” That movie just kicked my ass in the best way. We had to choreograph really rough physical violence. For days, (lead actor Michael Rodwick) just beat the crap out of me. It was just so violent! Then you have the rape scene. And we had to do it a few times! After the first time it was thoroughly exhausting and we had to shoot that scene in one long take. I think we broke up that scene at only one point. When I’m sort of crawling, hanging onto the toilet, crying. Then I come out of the bathroom and he rapes me. It was so brutal and exhausting.

Tim McCann had nothing but good things to say about both you and Rodwick.
Michael Rodwick – if this guy doesn’t become a movie star, then I am sickened by all of Hollywood! Seriously, this guy is the best actor I have ever in my life worked with. I can only aspire to work with people who are as committed and inspired and talented as him. That’s just it. I mean, when you see it – it will be amazing. So you can imagine an actor as intense as him doing a really intense rape scene. Before we did that scene, he had a lot of problems doing it. He was saying to Tim, “I think this is wrong, I don’t think this character would do this. I don’t think we have to do this to get the point across.” But we’re leading up to her cutting off his penis – that’s what’s happening.

That’s the whole crux of the movie – it actually begins with the castration and works backwards to an extent.
Right, so there have to be such horrible things that lead up to that so the audience just doesn’t write her off as insane. So you have to really build it up with a lot of investment. And this was the shining moment where all things turn. And you would buy a response like that. So he really tried to talk Tim out of it. He was extremely uncomfortable doing it. And I was too, but I don’t know if it was the writer in me, or what. The scene scared the hell out of me as well, but I really did know how important it was. I saw the movie in my mind and I saw it without the rape scene and I thought, ‘Ok, justified, but she’s definitely crazy for doing it.” You just leave someone like that. But when you completely demolish someone, emotionally, physically, and then you rape them on top of that, you could see this person snapping. And that’s where it needed to go, and it was very, very intense.

How do you recover from something like that, acting-wise?
After it was over – in all my years of acting, I have never had that feeling where … Afterwards I just sat in this spare room where we were shooting – we were sitting there, (Michael) had a beer, I was sipping one – and I don’t even drink! I just couldn’t speak; my mind was just so numb from the experience. And yet the artist in me was elated! It was this split thing where you were just demolished, and you were so into the scene that you were deeply affected by it. Deeply. So it was that sort of intense stuff – and yet it was a dark comedy. Most of the stuff that I did in the movie served to build up the story, as to why he got his penis cut off. And then a lot of the stuff that happens later…

…Or earlier.
Right, yeah – it’s not linear, it’s not the kind of story told in order. It’s almost backwards, exactly. You don’t see it in the sense of what happened. But believe it or not, it really is very funny – which is weird to say after you’ve just described a brutal rape. But the way that Tim is, what makes him so great as a director, is that he’s able to take subject matter like that and yet truly make the audience laugh. Before and after. Both these people do really bad things to each other, but their both sympathetic characters. And that is just really impossible to do. You have to really know what you’re doing to pull this sort of thing off.

I’ve talked to Tim. He seems to have the same love-hate relationship most serious artists have.
Yes, it becomes about the money – not in a sell-out way, though. Yes, we’re all struggling to pay our rent. It’s just a living thing. But besides that, we want as many people as possible to see our movies. That’s the big part of

it.

How is he to work with?
Tim! (laughs) Tim is very funny. His style of directing is very ‘old school’. It’s how you would view someone like Kubrick, someone like that. He’s really tough on you. When you’re in the trenches, there’s no handholding. There’s no coddling, there’s no ‘are you okay?’ It’s like he pushes you to the limit by demanding it from you. He is as important in the scene as a character. He’ll come up to you between takes and say to you “What you guys did really sucked.” But when he’s dealing with real actors – not non-actors – but real actors who have technique, that will fire them up. “Okay, let’s do it again. This part here, I didn’t believe any of this. This is what you need to work on.” But his energy will be just as high as the actors in the scene – he’s like another character in it. So then you go and do it, and it’s there. He’s pushed you, he’s challenged you, but he’s done it in such a way that he throws you off-balance. And by throwing you off balance, you’re not going to do some stupid by-rote acting thing. You’re not going to fall back on habits, you’re not going to sort of just act it and feel like you did it well. He’s going to throw off your center in a good way, so that you are vulnerable, you’re present, you’re in the moment. You’re edgy and you’re on. This is why he’s so, so good. Most directors don’t do that. A lot of directors barely give you direction! After it’s shot and all done, you will know you’ve never before done work on that level.

Do you like when directors beat you up like that?
I like when they know how to get good work out of me. If I didn’t respect someone, if they didn’t know what they were doing and were just an asshole to me, that would close me down. That would just shut me down, and I would have no respect for this person. I would do my job, leave and that would be the end of it. I’m probably over-simplifying it. You just trust him. You really trust being in his hands. It’s so special. It’s such a rare, rare thing. You can count on one hand the times you get that. You work in the indie field either with people who have been around for a long time and they have a basic formula of how they approach things, or you work with first-time directors where they respect and love the genre, but they don’t know what they’re doing – they’re learning. That’s okay too. It’s a different kind of collaboration. But when you get someone like Tim who takes you to another level, you can’t thank them enough. You just can’t. They have given you an experience, regardless of what comes of the movie; they have given your life an experience that was so good. If you walked away from acting on that day, you can say “This is an experience I can take to the grave with the expensive headstone.” (laughs)

The interview continues in part four of DEBBIE ROCHON: BEAUTY AND THE BEASTS>>>




Posted on August 17, 2004 in Interviews by

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