Vera Farmiga Talks 'Henry's Crime,' 'Higher Ground'
Vera Farmiga is known for her serious roles, but she finally gets to show off her comedic timing in "Henry's Crime." Playing Julie, she's a diva actress in Buffalo playing the lead in a local production of Chekov's "The Cherry Orchard," and since her theater is next to a bank that is about to be robbed by Henry (played by Keanu Reeves), she has quite a few run-ins with him -- especially when his scheme requires him to take a part in her play. Naturally, the two fall for each other. Farmiga talks about the parallels between "Henry's Crime" and the play-within-the-movie, and the passion she shared with Reeves on set.
Q: You guys shot a few possible happy endings?
A: They did! We shot some syrupy sweet endings, and I'm glad they didn't choose that. It is more ambiguous, more of a Choose Your Own Adventure scenario. And regardless of which ending, I think the film leaves you with the new possibility of new beginnings, new awakenings, and maybe that's what the film is about -- sleepwalking through life until you get a call to adventure.
Q: Do you think there are some parallels to between "Henry's Crime" and "The Cherry Orchard"?
A: I think it's completely analogous. My character Julie is kind of on the same trip as her character, Madame Ranevskaya, pretty much echoing each other in terms of being in a state of indecision, and not being proactive in saying goodbye to an old life and hello to the new. I think both my character and her character that she's embodied on stage show weary displays of being caught in that state of indecision.
Q: What about between "The Cherry Orchard" and Arthur Miller's "A View from the Bridge," since that's your next theatrical adaptation on screen?
A: Oh, god -- do you realize this week I've talked about "Source Code," "Henry's Crime," and "Higher Ground"? [Laughs] It's so hard to keep them all straight. I'm actually starting to see a theme of awakening in all the films I do. I do think I'm inherently drawn to stories about people who are sort of shocked into some sort of enlightenment, awakening, perseverance, in a spiritual way. At least, I think I am.
Q: "Higher Ground" is your directorial debut -- what did you learn from the directors you've worked with so far to apply to it?
A: All the great directors have rubbed off on me in some way. In a simple way, I know how my favorite directors have worked and how they've affected the crew, and so I know when the crew gets tired how to lighten them up. Hopefully I've incorporated the traits that I admire most, in the way that I direct, the way I take leadership. I don't know if it's changed me as an actress, but it was a surprise in the editing room, because as an actor, you're never there. It's just wild, because tonally, you can make 20 different films from the same footage -- it's a comedy, it's a drama, it's a melodrama, it's a musical. So maybe that's where a director makes his mark, from that editing. It's made me more conscious of continuity, which is something that irritates a lot of actors, because they view it as an impediment. They're concerned about the freedom of the performance, not how you held the pen and in what hand.
Q: You were approaching directing for the first time as Keanu was producing for the first time. Did you guys have any discussions about that, and what was he like as a producer?
A: We didn't discuss it per se, but I certainly watched him. It was more of the idea of directing, because I hadn't committed to it yet when we shot this. I think I was on the fence about it, and then financing came, so I had no choice -- three weeks later, we were in pre-production. But I did watch him as far as from a production standpoint. Look, when you develop something for yourself as an actor, or for other actors, and you produce it and you're at the helm, it's a labor of love, and it was for him. He was passionate about it. And it was more of a joy to work for him, because he genuinely cared, and wasn't just punching in, punching out. He cared about the story. And so it was really nice to be around that energy. There's a whole other level of commitment, and that's fantastic to experience -- not just having him as a scene partner, but having him be responsible for every aspect of production. You know craft services is going to be great! [Laughs]
Q: Did you ever tease him about "Point Break", since that's also about bank robberies?
A: [Laughs] No. No. No. No "Point Break" jokes, no "Bill & Ted's" jokes, no nothing. [Laughs]