Interview: Oldboy's ass kicking, earth moving Pom Klementieff
There's a first time for everything they say. Well Oldboy is the debut American film for French actress Pom Klementieff. It's also the first time I've spoken to her in L.A. It's the first remake she's appeared in and it's her first time working with Spike Lee.
Oh, and it's also the morning of her first earthquake....
"We had an earthquake in the morning when I woke up! I was sleeping and I heard my neighbours yelling – it's really shaking still! It was my first earthquake!" Pom explains excitedly. Usually, a welcome to the neighbourhood party would consist of a variety of drunken house guests, maybe a basket of flowers and some cupcakes, but an earthquake? Only in L.A. "It's a great alarm clock" she confirms.
For Pom Klementieff, taking the extraordinary in her stride is par for the course. With a fabulous background of a French & Russian father and Korean mother, her exotic looks and offbeat charm have helped her establish roles within French cinema. Many nights were spent in Paris watching films on the silver screen with one film in particular hitting home the hardest.
"I've seen the original Korean version of Oldboy many times and it was one of the very first movies I saw in the theatres in Paris. I was 16 and I loved it – I wanted to be inside the movie and I felt that the story was so crazy and intense and beautiful, that I was obsessed with it. My mother is Korean so everything was linked in my history." I ask her how she felt when she received the call from Spike Lee about appearing in his version of Oldboy, "Well you know, working with Spike Lee, you would be happy with just being an extra or in the background, - you know, I'd say when can I do it! I love him."
Haeng-Bok, originally a male role in Chan-wook Park's 2003 Oldboy, seems to fit Pom like a glove, combining a cobra like stillness with a groovy selection of fighting moves. "I'm a pretty goofy person in real life but I have these Asian roots so for me I'm half half. For me it's not that hard to keep still and quiet – with Spike, we talked about the character and her relationship with the villain and how it would be interesting to talk about this S&M relationship going on with Sharlto Copley's Adrian character. And she doesn't age – she's Asian, she doesn't age over the 20 years Josh Brolin is in captivity ...yeah sure! She is in love with Sharlto, and their relationship is strong because they're obsessed with revenge."
"Sharlto's amazing. I'm a huge fan of his. I'm more instinctive, working with my gut, but he's really more about the detail and really prepared. We had rehearsals together, but didn't hang out a lot together. I actually spent more time with Josh Brolin. He would come to my rehearsals and train with me, sometimes he was cheering me up when I was 'aarrggghh! I'm stressing out'; and he was like 'don't worry, you're ok' helping me with my choreography and the movements that I had to learn. He was so different in movement from the stuntmen, he was coming towards me like a bull, he's really strong. I had to be careful not to hit him in the face."
I can imagine an angry Josh Brolin coming at me, and it's not something I'd stay around for! "Absolutely, but he was coming so fast at me! Just doing it – I almost hit him in the eye at one point. I trained three hours a day for two months – I had bruises everywhere. I had to train in sneakers, but at the end I had to train in high heels. So much harder and everything is different."
Ah yes, the training. Stories tell of Pom training for two month's just to audition for the part, which must have impressed Spike. But does she have a secret dancer or ballet background that would have helped with the ass kickery? "Not at all – I danced on tables sometimes in nightclubs! I wish I'd had done classical dancing when younger, it would have helped, yes. I trained in martial arts, but it's all new for me – I started MMA a few weeks ago and I love it. It's really interesting as a girl to do that, to be stronger, it's more interesting to be able to defend yourself."
Hollywood male actors have it far too easy nowadays - could you have asked Josh Brolin to fight in high heels too?! "Can you imagine! The long corridor one shot scene with high heels – we should have filmed that for the DVD!"
Now she's firmly set roots in L.A (barring any future major earth moves), I asked her how she sees the French movie industry and how it relates to the kind of roles offered in Hollywood. "I like to do both – to do French and American movies. Right now when I'm auditioning in LA I have much more powerful and fun parts to go for. I'm auditioning for better parts here and it's kinda fun you know. In Paris, there aren't as many cool auditions or parts for me. I just auditioned for a TV series produced by Luc Besson though – it's such a weird job! We shot a movie called Hackers Game – shot in LA, and it's a love story between two computer hackers. I play the kind of Lisbeth Salander, Girl With The Dragon Tattoo type role. Computer in her backpack etc. Always on the move. It's a great part.
The multiplexes are still the place to find the big name actors, the true movie stars, yet TV and on demand services such as HBO and Netflix are boasting Oscar winning actors like Matthew McConaughey (True Detective) and creating event television in shows such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. "TV is the future of cinema," Pom enthuses "it's really changing the movie industry production wise and there are so many amazing TV shows. I'm obsessed with House of Cards, Girls – I would do anything to be on that show, bake cakes for Lena Dunham, I love her!"
With her performance in Oldboy gathering great reviews, Pom's sure to keep the earth moving (or at least bake a few cakes for Lena)...
Oldboy is out now on DVD & Blu-Ray