Paz and Love
You’ve said many times you’re comfortable with nudity, and that’s certainly something that’s been brought up a lot in profiles on you.
Yeah, I mean here’s the thing, I’m really comfortable with it as long as it is done tastefully and beautifully.
My favorite photographers always took really great photographs of women naked. And my favorite actresses were always not worried about that sort of thing. And I just think that I’ve always been an exhibitionist. But I understand now I’m in this new series and they want me to present myself with some more clothes on, more of a political thing, but I respect it and I like wearing clothes too, as long as they’re pretty and sexy.
Jim Jarmusch said something about you along the lines of “being naked and confronting your fears is what makes you a great actress.”
Well, I feel like if you do things that you’re afraid of, and you’re courageous… I always try to find roles that challenge me in some sort of way, and nudity for a while was something that maybe I wasn’t comfortable with. I needed to face that fear and I do think that part of being a good actresses is being able to be comfortable naked because you have to be naked emotionally and in every other aspect, you know? You have to be comfortable bearing your soul, which is more than being naked. And I practice Kundalini Yoga, which has completely changed and saved my life. It’s a very spiritual form of yoga that is also very good for being an actress because it really opens up your heart. It just keeps you pure in a way that I’ve never experienced, in the most realistic way there is without drugs, without alcohol.You know, people say they do drugs to feel this kind of pure experience — it’s not pure because it’s not real, but their intention is to experience something pure, and Kundalini Yoga… I’ve never experienced so much truth and I’ve never healed so much in my life. I have a tattoo of a snake; it’s kind of like the snake keeps shedding its skin, which is why I got that tattoo — I relate to that.
Is there any role you have your sight on?
Yeah, there’s a lot of roles I feel like I could have played and there are roles I wanna play, like Karla FayeTucker, who was a woman years ago in the early 80s, [who] was given the worst set of cards: she came from a family of drug addicts, by age 10 she was shooting dope, she was prostituting by age 14, and by age 22 she was just an insane person, never sober, and one night with her boyfriend they did a lot of drugs and they were kind of in that manic [state of] like, “What do we do tonight?” you know, for excitement. She was in this haze of drugs and they ended up murdering this couple, and she got sentenced to life. While she was in prison, she started studying and reading the Bible and took prison as what it is supposed to be meant for — to transform people, for people to get better, for people to heal, for people to really change, and that’s what the system was set up for, right? It doesn’t seem like that anymore, but she actually was a perfect example of how the system could work. She became head of the ministry there and started inspiring all these people to get better. She became this woman that everybody loved and everybody wanted to be around — she was transformed. She had never been sober a day in her life, and so she finally got sober and realized these things that happened, that she did, they weren’t her because she was under the influence. And in the end, the most hated man in the world, in my opinion, George W. Bush, who was governor of Texas at the time, called the shots and sentenced her to death. And it became really controversial because people argue that isn’t this what the system is about, reforming people? It was very devastating and I want to tell that story, that’s one role I would love to play, it’s about how people can change. Also, I would like to do Laughter in the Dark by Nabokov. I’m working on getting the rights to it and having Salman Rushdie adapt it to a screenplay, because I feel that with a writer like Nabokov, you need an equally great writer to get his sensibility into a screenplay. And I have so many ideas of my own. I’ve directed two films and I’m about to direct my third film this summer.
Can I ask what it is about?
It’s about… I don’t wanna give away the ending, but it’s about a woman who’s about to do something nobody expects. And it’s inspired by Cocteau’s The Human Voice with Ingrid Bergman which is just a woman on the phone with her lover for an hour. And I also want to take The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant and do a play version of it, playing Karin. And I know lots of actresses that would be great for the role of Petra. I have many ideas. I’m also fascinated with women and how obsessed they are with their hair.
Chris Rock just came out with a documentary on black women’s hair, have you seen it?
No, I’m more curious about white women’s hair and how they bleach it and blow dry it, and how old women, instead of having their gray hair, they go blonde. Hitler always wanted Eva Braun to have blonde hair, and he’d literally whip her if it weren’t blonde enough. He wanted her to look as Aryan as possible. And not a lot of people know this, but she had Jewish blood in her. He gave Eva Braun a camera, and she filmed him from her point of view and literally it’s just like watching a home movie of a woman in love with her husband. It’s as if you’re watching your own home film, except that it’s the most evil person ever. And it just goes to show you that women can fall in love with whomever for whatever reason and…
Don’t you think it goes both ways?
Of course, but a woman tends to be attracted to power, and a woman can be so in love with someone that you’re completely unaware and blind to the situation, like you don’t have a clue. We’re in denial of all the horrible things they do. I’ve been in abusive relationships, and my god, when I was in them, you know, I was in love, but this [situation is] beyond that — he was killing millions of people, and Eva just wanted a peaceful life. He was very eccentric, —he used to make her read Alexander the Great to him every night, and she had to exercise in front of him, and just some other bizarre facts that may or may not be taboo.That documentary of her films is just fascinating. Like, you see him playing with his dogs. It’s bizarre. And of course, a man as evil as Hitler is gonna have a dog as his best friend; the dog is never gonna judge him.
Are there any other historical figures you’re interested in?
Jane Fonda, a sex symbol who was always a great actress and who became an activist, standing up for women’s rights and civil rights. And I admire her because she grew up in the public eye, but she went through her phases gracefully. And I admire Angelina Jolie; I feel like she’s a woman who is able to continue being a great actress, having a family, having a husband, having a life, helping people, and being a movie star all at once. Wow. It’s amazing.
You admire these activists and people with causes, and now your mother works in the U.N.
Yeah, my mother works for women’s rights all over the world. She sets up schools and organizations where kids can go and learn about sexual education so that young girls aren’t getting married at 7 years old and dying from their first time having sex because their bodies aren’t ready yet. That’s something I admire about my mother.
Is there any cause you stand behind? Are you working on anything?
Yeah, I am working on a few things. I’m going to Haiti sometime this summer to teach acting classes. And, I know, you might as well say it: “Why don’t you build houses?They’d be more useful.” But these kids need some fun and distraction. So, I’m gonna do a workshop. And then I’m also going to paint a mural with a bunch of poor kids in El Salvador for their school.
You ever had exhibitions?
No, It’s crazy because I direct films and I paint, yet those are the two things that I haven’t felt ready to show the world. I hope that I can be successful in what I do and do good things with my success if I have it. I’ve done art therapy, and it has really helped me. Apart from being an artist, I would love to be an art therapist.
What are you intimidated by?
If I’m around mean people, it’s time to leave. I’m not intimidated by them, I just don’t wanna be around them. I just don’t like mean people.You can have a big ego and that’s fine, but if you have no heart and you’re a mean person, it’s not like I’ll give you even the honor of letting myself be intimidated by you, I’ll just leave. I’ve learned that you can always just leave. There’s always the door.
What was the experience of filming Enter the Void like?
That was amazing. I had just turned 23, and Gaspar Noé (the director) is one of my best friends, but when we were filming that was a different story because he really didn’t talk to me. One day, I said, “Why are you not talking to me?” and he goes, “I casted you because I trust you.” And I said, “Alright then, just don’t try to direct me because every time you try to direct me the words come out all wrong,” ‘cause his English isn’t very good, and he speaks from a very superficial level, which isn’t good for an actor. So I was like, “Okay, don’t talk to me. I’ll take care of the emotional work, you take care of the technical work,” which is not necessarily a bad thing, it was actually quite freeing. I mean, Alfred Hitchcock never directed his actors, and look how brilliant he was.
Did you find it was the same for everybody, or was this just you?
The other people weren’t even actors!They didn’t know what they were doing, and that’s one thing I’m still frustrated at Gaspar for. But, I let it go, it’s his movie, that’s what he wanted. But it would have been nice if I [had been] working with actors.
Are you happy with the result?
I haven’t seen the final cut version, which some people say is really good, so I’m excited to check that out. I wasn’t happy with the first cut at Cannes. At Toronto, I was happier, and apparently there’s been more work done, but I’m so critical. And I have to say that Gaspar is a genius, and I really do feel the film is going to be a cult classic.
What happens when you, Paz, are in an unknown land, Japan, with an unknown language?
I was really lonely. But I loved the quietness of not understanding the language, to be honest. It’s so interesting, because ultimately you relate to people on energy levels. Words don’t mean anything. They really don’t. You just pick up on people’s energy, and it was a really beautiful way to work. I loved not knowing what people were talking about.You know how in America people are always so chit-chattery, and I’m always like, “You say something about me?”, and there, I loved not knowing if someone was talking about me. And I loved the peacefulness of it, but it also contributed to my character and how lonely she feels. I was very lonely. I didn’t hang out with the French crew because it was all a bunch of guys drinking beer all night, and I had to keep healthy. I was dealing with a lot emotionally, and I didn’t wanna drink. I knew that if I drank, it would not end up good.
Did the whole experience feel a little bit like Lost in Translation?
That movie, for me, after having the real experience, is the sugarcoated experience. But I love Bill Murray, props to Bill Murray, he is my friend. He knows how to make you smile.
Do you ever find yourself stuck in a role and not being able to step out of it?
I was a bit traumatized after Gaspar’s film and I went to an ashram and I wept for 15 days. I just let the whole experience out of my system and released everything.
And being at the screening, did it bring some of those emotions back?
I felt really clean and in a great space. I felt like I wasn’t a part of it any- more. I felt like a voyeur, like someone in the audience, because I had cleaned up this connection to everything, I had wept this whole experience out of me. And that’s how I like to work, I like to do things and move on. I then did Jarmusch’s film, which was totally different. He is amazing. And then I just did (the series) Boardwalk Empire, where Scorsese shot the pilot. It was like a dream come true.
What’s it like taking orders from Marty?
He’s actually the most relaxed, fun-loving guy, and he really knows how to have a great time on set, except he gets really serious, but not in a way that’s manic or crazy, rather more in a natural, beautiful way. He loves what he does and he approaches it like a little kid fascinated by film, which he is. It’s the quietest set I’ve ever been on, and he really creates the atmosphere with you and for you. And since this was a period piece, you’d walk into the room and you’d be in that time. And Marty lets you take it in, and he does a few rehearsals but he is not married to anything, so he lets you improv too, which is my favorite thing to do. I’m very free, but some of the other actors really didn’t like it, they felt uncomfortable. I remember Steve Buscemi was like, “Wow, have you worked with Marty before?You’re so free around him!” and I said, “Well, he’s a nice guy! This is what it’s about, it’s a fun scene!” In improv, you create relationships, and we created this whole thing [among] me, Steve, and the guy who plays Steve Buscemi’s butler, this comical tri-dynamic that’s quite funny. And that all happens in improv, and because Marty let us be free.
Have you learned anything from working on big productions?
It taught me how to be really professional in a big budget set. In independent film, you can tell a person right before your really emotional scene, “Don’t touch my face! Nobody touch me! I want my makeup to be fucked up!” But here you have a makeup artist who is like the best makeup artist in the business, you have a hair person who’s the best at it, and everybody’s doing their job their best, and you’re not gonna tell the makeup artist, “Don’t do your job.” Even if it’s the most emotional scene, even seconds before I’m doing an emotional take, the makeup artist will be doing something with my hair, or will be touching me up, I mean you really have to meditate and keep your focus.
What’s it like working with Steve Buscemi?
He’s really great, he’s super funny, he makes me laugh, he’s so real. And I feel so grateful for that experience, and I hope I don’t get killed off in the show. [Laughs]
Did you ever feel like calling him Donny and telling him to shut the fuck up?
I never sat through that film [The Big Lebowski]. I love old films. I love Isabelle Adjani, I love her in Queen Margot and The Story of Adele H. I love Maria Schneider in The Passenger, one of my all-time favorites. I love Brigitte Bardot, I love studying her because there’s an ease about her that just makes everything so much fun. I also love darker films — I love Irreversible by Gaspar Noé, I love Before Night Falls by Julian Schnabel, even Basquiat; I feel like there are great performances in that film, Jeffrey Wright is amazing.
David Bowie was pretty good as Warhol.
He’s amazing. My favorite movie is Vivre sa vie with Anna Karina, it makes me cry for hours. The Fugitive Kind with Anna Magnani and Marlon Brando. We could be here for days… Paris, Texas, the Billie Holiday movie with Diana Ross Lady Sings the Blues… ¿qué más? ¿Qué más? Jamón, jamón, El Matador by Pedro Almodóvar, also his last one Los Abrazos Rotos. Don’t Look Now with Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, that was the scariest movie ever, I owned it and then I gave it away because it scared me too much. You know, I really think Angelina Jolie was really good in Gia, just gotta put that out there.
Which director are you dying to work with?
I would love to work more with Martin Scorsese, Martin Scorsese, Martin Scorsese, Martin Scorsese, and Martin Scorsese — I want to be in all of his films.
You want me to transcribe it that many times?
Martin Scorsese. I want Marty to shoot me in a film in all black and white.
Why do you think people find you eccentric?
You write poetry, right? What are the present themes in your poems?
I’ll just be writing and a few words will come together and just fit. Like, “He penetrated me with a wolf-like sharpness.” [Laughs]There’s a line. It just came right now.
When are you putting your poetry out there?
I’m working on a book called The Birds Didn’t Die Over the Winter, with photographs of me when I was going through a really hard time, living in this apartment by myself. It’s very cinematic, and I write poetry along with the images, kind of like a diary. I was going through a really hard time, and I remember hearing the birds chirp, and just before that, I had been thinking there had been an apocalypse, everything was dead, and then I heard these birds chirping and I remember I called my friend. I was really freaking out, and I called her up and said, “I thought they were dead!” and I was really believing this, so that’s why the book is called that.
What came first, the poetry or the pictures?
The pictures. And then I just started writing about that time in my life.
So, this issue’s theme is Heroes, and I feel like I have to ask…
Who my heroes are? Well, all the angels that have crossed my path at certain times, I really can’t name names because people come in and out of your life to teach you things, and then they leave, you get the visit and… I’ve been an angel in people’s lives too, I guess. [Turns to the oven in a panic] I think I over baked them! That makes me mad!
stylist GUILLAUME BOULEZ
stylist’s assistant REGINA CHAN
hair WESLEY O’MEARA at The Wall Group
make up MEREDITH BARAF at The Wall Group
Shot at Studio 385 in TriBeCa New York
Thank you to Michael Beauplet,
Ross Kasovitz and Shelley Mintz.
Paz as Paz: Pants and belt by STELLA MCCARTNEY
Paz as Isabelle: Top ( worn off the shoulders ) by OHNE TITEL
Bra by VICTORIA’S SECRET, Knickers vintage, stylist’s own
Paz as Kim: Top by STELLA MCCARTNEY
Jacket by ETRO, Shorts by MATTHEW AMES
Paz as Beatrice: Short by BRIAN REYES
Shoes by BRUNO FRISONI
Paz as Brigitte: Kaftan dress ( worn as a bustier dress ) by REEM ACRA
Paz as Marilyn: Dress by ZAC POSEN
Paz as Maria: Pants by MATTHEW WILLIAMSON
Shoes by JIL SANDER, Hat by EUGENIA KIM
Coat vintage at NEW YORK VINTAGE
Flower ornaments vintage, stylist’s own
Paz as Nastassja: Cardigan by SONIA RYKIEL