How did you work with Justin and the young Sydney Kowalske to create the family chemistry? What was the key behind it?
It kind of went very fast after I had a chat with Justin that we ended up being prepped. It was a few things, it was a lovely thing how it just end of snowballed. I went out to New Orleans as soon as I could because I had never been there, and I was very happy for a very long time I’ve always wanted to go there. So I went out and just kind of engrossed myself in the culture and meet local people, go out and listen to music, hear different voices, hear people talk. And then also to spend time with Sydney, our daughter. I know this now, but if you work in a film with children, especially with subjects like the ones that are in this film, it’s so important to get to know each other, for them to feel extremely safe. And for them to know what the film’s about, for you to have both profound chats with them and their parents, or to just get time to really hang.
Sydney is incredibly clever, and she understands. I think you need to get her prepped, and you of course handle or choose to … lead the conversation in a certain way. But actually the story is about children and the situation they’ve been put in.
You mentioned earlier about directors having a language, and that makes me wonder how you like to be directed.
Well, it’s funny when I say, “language,” it’s very often that good directors talk very little. It’s true! And what happens is, the best directors I work with is that you give them a take, and obviously sometimes you come prepped, but the beauty and the magic that happens when … it’s amazing, you can do a scene and suddenly when it’s right, everyone, like the boom guy, knows it was the take. Everyone just feels it. And a good director will say, “Ah, Alicia tried something new there,” and when I do it, I feel, “Something happened there. I should have followed that instinct more.” And a good director, I feel, sees that. And you just look at each other, and they look at you and you understand that they saw you were doing something, and they’ll say, “Do it again.” That is magic to me, someone who has that emotional intelligence, and has that eye, and is able to communicate or make a space where the actors get to explore and stretch whatever they have, to dare and accomplish something and not to feel scared. And then sometimes it’s the little things that make you go in a new direction.
Did you have any moments like that during your singing scene in “Blue Bayou”? It seems to require a certain kind of peace, a certain gentle air when filming.
It was good, but I didn’t see too much because I was so nervous. I had a shaking hand in that scene, which I haven’t had since I did my first English speaking day on “Anna Karenina.” And I stood up and I said, “Wow, you’re a professional! And I’m going to have my hand behind my back, and then pretend that I’m fully in control.” I was talking to myself, like Wow, you are really nervous. [laughs] I hadn’t sung in front of people like that. I did when I was a kid, but not as an adult, and not on a film. And also it’s the title of the film, and it became quite a profound scene. It became more than I thought. Because I think that, with Antonio and Kathy in the scene, with everything that just happens, it’s the place they’ve fought to be at, and at this time in the film they have had a very hard time to connect as a couple. And to communicate. And this song kind of becomes a direct way for them to connect, for her to pass on some of the feelings she has for him.