In 1996, Olivier Assayas premiered his “Irma Vape” at the Cannes Film Festival. After 26 years, the French director is back at the festival with the same project — but this time, it’s been revisited as an HBO series starring Alicia Vikander.
Vikander stars as a frustrated actress in the upcoming TV show. But in real life she is the rare star who rejected the world of celebrity. In fact, Vikander reveals that she doesn’t even have an assistant, unlike her character “Irma Vep”.
“I, me, have never had a helper who lives with me 24/7 or a cook [or make] coffee for me, but I’ve always been very fascinated by what’s going on because I’ve seen some people in my industry, or my colleagues, have it, and that just…wouldn’t do me any good,” Vikander said in diverse Studio presented by Campari at the Cannes Film Festival in conversation with Assayas. “So, this was very interesting to take advantage of that and see what this dependency relationship looks like.”
The original movie “Irma Vep” starring Maggie Cheung, who was played by the actress who starred in the silent movie, “Vampires.” Unlike the first movie, she will not play Vikander herself and her character has not been named Alicia. Instead, she will play Mira, an American movie star who is disappointed with her career and recently broke up, so she comes to France to star in a remake of the French silent classic.
“I’ve always been the foreign actress in America,” said Vikander, who also serves as an executive producer on the HBO series. “And now I’m a little lost in French-European cinema, and that was very interesting to me.”
The Swedish actress, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Danish Girl in 2016, said there are some similarities between her new role and her career, but in reality there are very few similarities to the character she plays on screen. In real life, Vikander – who attended Cannes with her actor husband Michael Fassbender – is incredibly private and doesn’t seek fame, as does her character in “Irma Vep”.
“I try to be completely detached from that,” Vikander said of celebrity culture. “I love talking about movies and my work, so this is an exciting period in Cannes with her. But yeah, no, I’m very shy.”
Ringing Assayas, “I think that’s what we share.” The director said that the biggest difference with his update of “Irma Vep” is that it explores the huge change that the film industry is undergoing.
“I think it’s also about the mess that cinema is in right now,” Assayas said of his new series. “I think it was really interesting to make a kind of Polaroid for what’s going on right now where people don’t know if you’re shooting a series or a movie or where it’s showing. Where does the funding come from? How should it be called? Should it be shown at a film festival? Shouldn’t it be shown? At film festivals?
Asssayas continued, “It seems that everything in the history of cinema has just exploded, and you are trying to understand what the new image is.”
Noting that “Irma Vape” is about a silent movie star, he added, “I think it’s an exciting moment to make a movie about cinema, especially about going back to basics.”
Vikander—who got her start on Swedish soap operas but has exploded in America with both award-winning feature films and blockbuster movies—said she enjoys broadcasting from home, but also loves the experience of going to the theater.
“I think the evolution is just happening,” Vikander said of the changing state of the film industry. “I’m someone who watches a lot of movies at home now because they’re available, but that’s also not lacking that I still love going to the movies.”