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:: Spotlight :: A Bigger Splash - Interview with Dakota Johnson

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

Q: What was it like watching A BIGGER SPLASH in Venice?

A: It was incredible. I mean,being in Venice; the whole trip had been extraordinary. Watching the film was so exciting and completely different than the way I saw it originally – it was a lot tighter and quicker. It’s great. I was pleased and I’m proud of it. It’s a different film; it’s weird and uncomfortable and it’s shocking and it’s vulgar and I like that.

Q: How did it start for you?

A. I read the script about a year prior (to filming) and it just kept appearing and then disappearing and then appearing. And then the cast was in constant change. I was travelling around Europe with my friends who are musicians and I got a phone call from my agent and I was on a tour bus in the middle of France and it was like ‘can you fly to Italy to meet Luca?’ And I love his work. I think he is an extraordinary filmmaker and I think he has a vision unlike anything else. And it brings me back to real cinema – when you watch his films it’s a real film and it’s glorified and it’s beautiful. So I found my way to an airport and I flew to Milan and I drove to Cremona and I met with Luca.

Q. What was that first meeting like? Was Luca how you expected him to be?

A. No. He’s a magical, magical man – he’s mischievous and kind and generous and ving and extremely intelligent. We met and he walks with his hands behind his back, which I always find really interesting when men walk that way. And I don’t know why I thought of that. It’s as though he’s brainstorming and thinking constantly. It was sort of love at first sight. But then I had to go to London to a bit of prep and then a few days later I flew to Pantelleria to do a (script) read through and the whole cast was there and I was petrified.

Q: Why?

A. I felt like I didn’t have enough time and I was handed this gift of a character who is so insane and the words that I would be able to say were so beautiful and important to me that I felt like I would damage it; I felt like I would completely f**k it up so I didn’t want to do it. And we did the table read and I was trying not to cry. And then I said, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t do it.’ I wanted to just run away. I mean, I was not in the mindset to work; I was not in the mindset to move to this island. I had things happening at home. I was just not prepared and then Ralph just took me aside and talked me off the ledge. Actually first it was Ralph and then Tilda made me feel very, very nurtured and loved and capable of doing this job. So then I went back to New York for a few days and picked up some clothes and then moved to the island.

Q. How did you see your character, Penelope?

A. I saw Penelope as a young woman with an incredible insight into her sexuality and the power that that has without fear. She’s a young girl who relishes awkward moments and want to start fires and press buttons and isn’t easily excited by the normal things; she needs more and wants more. There’s a shirt that she wears in the film that says ‘I Want More’ on it but it’s inside out and backwards and that was a special thing for me. She’s a hedonist and she’s selfish and she’s a bit maniacal and she has a lack of empathy and a disregard for people’s emotions until it’s all thrown back in her face and it’s like a snap to reality. She’s put in a situation with this man, who is her father, and they are trying to figure out who the other one is and what they mean to each other and what their relationship is. And they have been traipsing around Europe and she has sort of taken on an identity and then real life happens and it’s not a game anymore and she is playing with people’s emotions until she is just completely heartbroken.

Q: The claustrophobic location – the villa on the island – and the sexual tensions are playing out amongst these four people who are thrown together there. it becomes explosive doesn’t it?

A: It does. And if you put four people in a contained environment something weird is bound to happen; there’s going to be something uncomfortable. And it’s a study of these relationships and the ever changing dynamics and the island definitely lends its own energy. It was mayhem sometimes, it was constantly changing and the energy was always in flux.

Q. Tell me about working with Ralph who plays Harry, your character’s father. As you said they have only recently known each other and that too, is an uncomfortable, tense dynamic. What was that like to play?

A. I think they have just met maybe a year prior (to when the story starts) and this is the first time they have spent any real time together. And it’s awkward and she’s seeing the effect that her looks have on people and finding her femininity and figuring out her sexuality whilst he is a man who knows what pretty young women are. And he’s feeling a sense of responsibility for this young girl. Working with Ralph was just great. He’s so insanely talented that it’s shocking. It was a real gift to watch him work

Q. Tilda and Luca go back a long way. So what was it like to work with those two who have this creative history together stretching back over several films?

A. That was incredible as well because it showed me that you can have such a creative, artistic relationship with someone. You can develop things with somebody else; you can see eye-to-eye, you can elevate each other. They elevate each other; they are constantly discussing and creating and imagining and shifting and that’s the most special relationship.

Q. Did you enjoy it?

A. I did enjoy it – so much.