Interview: Sarah Polley of Splice

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Opening in theaters June 4

This week, audiences will see Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody jump off the ethical deep end – with some wild and disturbing results – in Splice, director Vincenzo Natali’s creature feature that was picked up by Joel Silver and his Dark Castle Entertainment banner earlier this year. Polley, returning to the genre scene after her turn in Dawn of the Dead, plays Elsa, a geneticist seeking solutions when her job is at stake, who creates a new organism, named Dren (Delphine Chanéac), made from animal and human DNA. Shock Till You Drop spoke to Polley about her role in Hollywood recently.

Shock Till You Drop: Clearly there are no geneticists as cool and hip as Clive and Elsa, that wear cool t-shirts and have a geek den of an apartment. Did Vincenzo have you look at anyone in particular as a model for your characters?

Sarah Polley: [laughs] We had a lot of freedom but we got to follow around geneticists for a while. I was in a lab for three weeks. The truth is, Clive and Elsa aren’t that far off. They’re far off from their lack of ethics and their crazy ambition, but in terms of being young and alive, I saw a lot of that. They’re doing important work, they’re trying to cure cancer, so you have a certain motivation when you get up every morning.

Shock: Are they creating weird, pulsating animals?

Polley: [laughs] No, these people are pretty ethical and knew what boundaries their experimentation should go in. That’s where Clive and Elsa are movie characters.

Shock: How much of a relief was it to learn that Dren was going to be an actor and not something entirely CGI?

Polley: That was a huge advantage. I think that’s something a lot of actors don’t get. They’re playing with a piece of tape on a grip stand. Abigail Chu and Delphine Chanéac, who play young and older Dren, are amazing and compelling actresses. To be able to look into their eyes and see them instead of imagining a CG creation is incredible.

Shock: Reading the script, what shocked you? Surprised you?

Polley: When I was reading it, it’s really, in so many ways, the strangest script I’ve ever read and certainly the most shocking script I’ve ever read. I just felt that every time I had an idea of whatever subliminal, dark thing could happen ten pages later it happened. It was astonishing how many boundaries it crossed. I’ve known Vincenzo, peripherally, through his work and this script, in his hands, would be an amazing thing.

Shock: Were you surprised when a big studio snatched it up?

Polley: It had been a long time. You make a movie and nothing happens for two years you think nothing will happen. But it seemed surprising to me because it seemed like a film that occupied space no one else has occupied. You can reference other movies, but this seemed liked its own thing. So it seemed like an oversight that it wouldn’t get a big release, but then it did and it’s really bizarre.

Shock: It’s ballsy.

Polley: Yeah, yeah, it is. Because it’s pretty crazy.

Shock: What was your first meeting like with Delphine?

Polley: I was fascinated and interested because I think, in some ways, she has the most difficult job in the whole film. She’s the main character in the film, but she has no words. To find out, quite quickly, that she’s just a brilliant actor to pull that off was…if she hadn’t, the film would have fallen apart. She’s raw, intense and human.

Shock: Do you have any personal thoughts on the ethical thoughts on what happens in the film? Just as a woman and the things that occur to you in the finale…

Polley: Hmm, [to shoot that] was awful. I’m not going to be diplomatic about it. To have Delphine there with me was fine, but that actual part of the shoot was awful.

Shock: Was Vincenzo up front with what Dren would look like? What did you think of the various stages and designs?

Polley: We were able to see a lot of what she’d look like, which was helpful. But, again, it was just great to be able to look at Delphine’s face and not have to imagine that much.

Shock: There’s a terrific scene involving two of your organisms and an audience that ultimately gets splashed with blood. Take us on the set…it could have all be serious-minded that day…

Polley: It was pretty hysterical. There’s actually a shot where we’re about to go on stage and we’re laughing really hard and I’m running. We were so hyper, Adrien and I were pushing each other and he gave me this shove. That ended up in the movie.

Shock: In general, what was it like working with Vincenzo?

Polley: It was amazing for me because he’s such a genius visually, so to be able to work with someone with that skill set and that eye was really fascinating. I’m never going to make a film like this myself and to be able to work with someone with his skills is amazing.

Shock: Do you think a film like this warrants a sequel? I mean, the film I equate this to is something like Cronenberg’s The Fly and that paved the way for another chapter…

Polley: I don’t know. Generally, sequels are not as good, but there are exceptions to that. I haven’t really thought beyond this one and I haven’t heard about any sequels.

Shock: Was there anything specific, like The Fly, Vincenzo asked you to check out?

Polley: No, and I think that’s a good sign when the director isn’t asking you to do that. Obviously, he’s very inspired by Cronenberg but I don’t think…there was, weirdly, an electrician on this movie that looked like David Cronenberg. I was able to tease Vincenzo a few times on the set, “Oh my God, David Cronenberg is here, and he’s really mad!” [laughs] I think that’s what is great about the film, there are directors who obviously inspire other directors but there was no referencing of other movies.

Shock: It might have been Cronenberg…

Polley: [laughs] Exactly, checking it all out…

For more Splice interviews: Director Vicenzo Natali, Producer Guillermo Del Toro


Source: Shock Till You Drop