SYLVIA HOEKS ON BLADE RUNNER, PLAYING DIFFERENT CHARACTERS, AND HER DREAM ROLE
PHOTOGRAPY AND INTERVIEW
by TATIJANA SHOAN
by JEENA SHARMA
When actress Sylvia Hoeks was growing up in Maarheeze, a small village in the Netherlands, she escaped by watching television. The characters in American episodics, like Charlie’s Angels and Knight Rider inspired her to daydream; they took her on journeys to faraway lands, and she lived vicariously through them. When at 14-years-old she was scouted to be a model, and got a taste of what the big world had to offer, what it was like working with creative people, and what it felt like to transform into someone else, Hoeks knew she must become an actress. And she did. After her graduation from drama college in 2007 she landed her first film, Duska, which earned her a Golden Calf Award at the Dutch Film Festival, a very high honor in the Netherlands. In 2011, she was presented at the Berlinale as a Shooting Star, which puts a spotlight on Europe’s best actors—and those are just two of her many European accolades. As for American cinema goers, fans of the cult film Blade Runner may know her face from Blade Runner 2049, but Sylvia Hoeks is a far cry from a household name in the US—for now. The actress is now starring in The Girl in the Spider’s Web opposite Claire Foy, the much-anticipated sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, followed by All the Devil’s Men with Milo Gibson proving that her talent is universal.
AS IF: When were you first attracted to acting?
Sylvia Hoeks: We didn’t have a cinema in the small village I am from, so I was always glued to the TV watching reruns of Charlie’s Angels and Knight Rider. Even though these shows were frivolous, I felt I could view the world through someone else’s eyes and go on a journey. I got lost in watching these characters, and I escaped into their world. Somehow, it made me feel closer to the answers I was searching for, like what life is all about, how we live, why I’m here, etc. I learned something looking into these characters’ eyes. If I didn’t become an actor I think I would have studied child psychology
Your American debut in 2016 was Blade Runner 2049, a film classic. Tell me about the journey and the pressures of taking on a project like that?
It was absolutely wonderful! I was so very excited to get the part, mostly to work with one of my favorite directors, Denis Villeneuve, and also to have the opportunity to work with talents like Harrison Ford, and Ryan Gosling. I was a fan of the original film because Rutger Hauer, who is Dutch, played Roy Batty. There was an amount of fear and pressure going into it because the original is such a cult classic with a dedicated fan base, and we wanted the new film to honor the original. I think what got us through the fear was focusing on how to tell the story the best way possible. Denis was such a great captain, and together with Roger Deakins, the cinematographer, everyone felt secure and safe. The whole experience was magical and I’m very grateful for that.
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You are now starring opposite Claire Foy in The Girl in the Spider’s Web, another successful franchise with a devoted fan base.
Fede Alvarez is a very interesting director who has his own clear view and passion for the story, but he’s not afraid of other people’s opinions. I loved working with Claire Foy, who is a strong woman and down to earth. My character, Camilla Salander, is Lisbeth’s sister (played by Claire), they grew up together and Camilla always looked up to Lisbeth. I think Camilla’s the more emotional sister, the more faithful sister to her father, and she was a shy and introverted child. In this movie Lisbeth’s history is coming back and she cannot ignore it. The sisters were separated for a long time and now Camilla is coming back into her sister’s life. Whatever issues are there Lisbeth knows that she can’t run away from them anymore.
I want to talk a bit about the pressures of playing in these internationally prized films. You’ve worked in films that are very small in comparison, so I want to know if there was a greater need to make a film a success when there are so many high expectations.
Of course, you are aware when you are in a big movie because there’s more people involved, and the studio is very present on a big film so you notice the importance of it. There’s more luxury in a larger film when it comes to hotels and the trailers, you’re pampered much more, and that is the biggest difference between smaller movies and bigger movies. Other than that, every movie set has a director, actors, and we’re all trying to tell a story the best way we can. I can’t allow myself to think of the pressures; I just have to focus on telling the story, a truthful story, because that is what audiences want to see.
We’re going to see a different side of you in the film, All the Devil’s Men. Can you tell me about this film?
It’s about a CIA operative who has gone rogue. The lead actor is played by Milo Gibson, who is Mel Gibson’s son. He plays a private contractor who once worked for the CIA, but after the war in Iraq he is traumatized and tries to keep his head straight. He gets paid to kill operatives that have gone rogue. He is focused on his job while running away from all other aspects of life, and I think the question in All the Devil’s Men is: what are the personal costs of war and how much war trauma can a person endure? I play the CIA operative who hires Milo’s character for a job. I’m a very focused, tough woman, and I’ll use everyone and everything to achieve my goals.
Sally LaPointe gold crinkle silk velvet pleated jumpsuit | Rene Caovilla Audrie pump | Tom Ford fishnet tights Bakari Vander earrings | Eye M by Ileana Makri Ziggy Chained Cuff and Ziggy Chocker | Alexis Bittar (bottom arm) Golden Studded hinge bracelet with hand crafted Lucite, Fancy Pyrite studded hinge bracelet
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You started your career as a model when you were 14-years-old before studying theatre in the Netherlands. Have you taken any lessons you learned as a model and applied them to your acting? And, what were the challenges of making the transition?
I never really felt like a model (laughs), I always wanted to be an actor, but when I was asked to model I accepted because I loved the travelling. I come from a very small village, so I loved travelling to big cities and getting to know new cultures, which helped me audition for theatre school, because I had to present myself well. I had to get out of my introvert bubble because I was very shy, and modeling got me out of my shell and gave me guts.
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned on set?
I think the biggest lesson is learning just to keep focused on the story and tell it in the best way you can. What I find distressing, and just wrong, is all the personal stuff that gets in the way of telling a story. I don’t like it when egos become concerned with how much we’re being paid, how big my trailer is, etc. None of these things matter in the end. What matters is what the audience will see. So, I find it really important to work together as a team and tell the story in the best way possible.
What has been the most valuable lesson learned from a fellow actor?
When I was younger and worked with older actors in European cinema, one of the actors was adamant about being open and vulnerable because you need to be in the moment, and you need vulnerability to allow something to happen because truth is what’s interesting on screen. The eyes are the door to the soul, so you have to stay open. You have to be able to react in the moment, so the more you prepare for your character, the more vulnerable you are. I love preparing character, I love digging deep into the material and finding interesting elements in their backgrounds to understand why they became the way they are, and what brought them to this place now.
You speak English, Dutch, German and French, which enables you to take on many different characters. Is the experience of acting different, depending on what language you are speaking?
It is. Language is a fantastic tool for transformation. Accents, dialects and languages help you transform into a character the same way costume, hair, and makeup can. Language gives you a key as to who this person is.
I’ve asked this question to foreign producers and directors, but never to an actor. One producer told me that when he comes to America to make deals, the moment his plane flies over US soil he has to have eyes in the back of his head and his lawyers lined up in a row. I’m sure as an actor there are different things you need to consider.
I have lawyers, agents, managers and publicists working for me in the US, so on a business side, I definitely agree with having to have your team of people lined up. But, I am working on the creative side of the business and don’t have the same pressures. In my career, I worked with Russian actors and find them to be just magical, and I think it’s due to their cultural history that Americans and many Europeans don’t have quite the same way. The Russians were brought up with Pushkin and Chekhov, they have such richness in their cultural background that I learned a lot from. When you look at European cinema, there is a background of cultural history, and the storytelling is rich in a culturally specific way.
Do you have a dream role or character you’d like to play on screen?
One of my favorite films is La Pianiste, starring Isabelle Huppert. In English, it’s called The Piano Teacher. Isabelle Huppert is my favorite actress, and she was so powerful in this crazy, intense, and very dark movie, which I have seen so many times. That’s the kind of character that I would love, love, love to play because it has so many layers. Her character choices are something you will never expect, and it makes you delve into your own soul. Her acting opens windows into your soul, and she takes you on a dark journey. It’s like a great book that takes you on a journey and you find yourself thinking thoughts that you are ashamed of! I would love to play a character that makes the audience dig deep into themselves. That’s one of the reasons I love acting.
“Language is a fantastic tool for transformation. Accents, dialects and languages help you transform into a character the same way costume, hair, and makeup can. Language gives you a key as to who this person”
I’m switching gears here a little bit. What do you love about fashion?
I love fashion and clothes because of their ability to help you transform. Clothes can actually make you feel better. If you had a fucked-up day, or if you don’t feel good in your own skin you can put on a dress and red lipstick and feel completely different.
I felt how you were transformed through fashion while we were shooting. You can really move, girl!
Aw!, thank you! The transformative aspect of clothes and makeup inspire me to play and improvise, and I really love that. Somehow, back in the day, maybe because of my upbringing, I felt that clothes were a luxury, not necessarily a necessity except for covering myself.
Describe your personal style.
I go from the Jane Birkin kind of floral, romantic vibe, to an Audrey Hepburn suit. That’s my thing.
Describe your perfect day.
I would wake up around 11am, walk my dog, get some coffee, then have a car pick me up to take me to the set. I’d play a scene from The Piano Teacher, where I would get to improvise and work with a wonderful director and fantastic actor. At the end of the day I’d head to the beach to watch the sun going down over the water and meet some friends for dinner. I’d eat lasagna, drink wine, and fall asleep on the beach. Yeah, that would be great!
Tell me something about yourself that most people don’t know.
I’m a huge dog lover. I’ve rescued dogs from different countries while I was filming. I’ve always wanted to keep them, but I have a rule that I can only have two dogs at a time. So, I’ve fostered a lot of them, but I have two dogs now that I rescued. Dogs help me stay in the moment, they have nothing but unconditional love to give.
Paco Rabanne Silver Diskdress I Alexis Bittar Stone Cluster soft link bracelet
Louis Vuitton double breasted belted jacket, butterfly print button up knit body, 5-pocket jersey pant, and slingback cross pump
“I love fashion and clothes because of their ability to help you transform. Clothes can actually make you feel better. If you had a fucked-up day, or if you don’t feel good in your own skin you can put on a dress and red lipstick and feel completely different. ”
N°21 Longette Tartan dressI Bottega Veneta Nero cotton lace bralette I Repetto Gabin bootie I Tom Ford fishnet tightsI Max Mara lamb leather glove