Cranky Critic 2000
...captivated us all as the Godhead with the wide eyes in The Fifth Element. But she also caught the attention of the tastemakers at MTV with the release of her first album, a couple of years back. We talked about all that, plus the forthcoming Joan of Arc and her most recent work with Spike Lee, He Got Game . . .
CrankyCritic: Tell us about working with Spike Lee.
Milla: Spike is really hard core. He makes certain choices and he makes them for a reason. I respect him as a director so much. Spike pushes everybody's buttons when it comes to the actors, first, and then the audience. He was just harsh. It's funny 'cuz the script isn't written that way. Me and Denzel have this scene where I tell him I'm breaking out and maybe [if the audience] had seen it there wouldn't have been such a violent reaction to the love scene. You wouldn't have got people screaming or laughing or going "no way!" There were so many reactions to it, from disgust to anger to laughter to frustration. Really insane. I'd seen that in all of Spike's movies. A lot of people want to close their eyes to things they think "offensive" and Spike won't let you close your eyes. He wasn't nice to anybody [in the story] all the characters. You liked them and then you didn't. He made a very big point of being very degrading to the family. Spike is like that. In a lot of his movies he takes very strong opinions and chooses to direct your attention to one point.
CrankyCritic: At the screening, the black women in the audience went ballistic over your love scene with Denzel. Your reactions?
Milla: It was pretty intense. I think a lot of people took it very superficially. I think any kind of racism is sick. I think that, in the relationship Denzel's character has with Dakota, this man has been in prison for a long time. Spike could have made the hooker black, but he made her white and he did it for a certain reason. He knew what kind of emotions were going to be brought out of it. If you see the movie again, after getting over the first reaction you might see something deeper in his point. I think he made that point to show that, at some point, you just want to reach out to somebody. It doesn't matter where they're from or what taboos your breaking; it's just like he needed someone to be real with him and they had a connection and he went for it. It was a natural thing and sad at the same time 'cuz he couldn't consummate the act.
CrankyCritic: Did you do this role because you liked the role or because you wanted to work with Spike?
Milla: I wanted to work with Spike. I wanted to work with Denzel and Jim Brown and all the people that I really respect. I think the role was important after The Fifth Element, people were just not seeing me in roles that were real. Always expecting me to come in with a Russian accent. People had stopped looking at me for something normal. This part is far from normal but at the same time you see a completely different side of me. I love to play. I love to work. I love to step into other peoples shoes.
CrankyCritic: You're about to play one of the greatest women of western civilization, Joan of Arc. Is that a daunting prospect?
Milla: Not really. I've been thinking about this character for so long. She's so much a part of me already. I've been working with Luc on this preparing; he's my husband so we've spent a lot of time together talking about it and thinking about the scenes and thinking about her. I know her. I sympathize with her. She was used in such a way a disgraceful way by the government of the time and the church and so many questions remain.
CrankyCritic: What stage are you at with that film?
Milla: I still have to learn 14th century horseback riding and I've got a few months of pain ahead of me which is great. I'm ready for it. I go from that to, like, taking pictures. Richard Avedon invited me to clean his floors until I'm able to serve him sandwiches until I'm able to get into the studio and assist his assistants. He was like 'you gotta start from the bottom' and I was like 'I'm gonna clean floors for Richard Avedon! He's accepted me!' He's such a great photographer. Between this film and that film I'm going to work my way up the rungs of the Avedon studio. I've got a lot of different personalities and things that I get into and a lot of experience that I want to have.
CrankyCritic: How about the second album?
Milla: I'm working on it. I'm writing a lot of new material and working with really cool people. Not a big studio production, just really cool music. Fun and cool and groovy' it's everything put together. It's real honest. The only place I can be real honest is with music. It's nice to have a project where I'm making peoples lives difficult. [laughs]
CrankyCritic: It's good to be the king!
Milla: Yeah. It's good to create.