Vicky Krieps has just won the biggest award of her career. She feels conflicted
Every year since the Toronto International Film Festival Tribute Awards were launched in 2019, at least one of the honorees has gone on to win an Oscar: Joaquin Phoenix, Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Chastain, Brendan Fraser– you get the idea. On Sunday night, Vicky Krieps she will join TIFF’s distinguished class for her outstanding performance in Viggo Mortensenand romantic West from the 19th century Do not die of hunger (currently seeking distribution). The Luxembourg-born star’s position here makes all the sense in the world – she has been gradually building her image on the world cinema stage, since she started there Paul Thomas Andersonand Ghost Thread to its famous direction turning in Bergman Island and Corsairas she reaches new heights as a French-Canadian immigrant paving her own path on the American frontier in Do not die of hunger. But I’ve known Krieps for a few years now, and in particular I learned about her aversion to attention. Given the history of this award, when I saw TIFF naming her as this year’s recipient, my first thought was: Is she ready for this?
Over morning tea in her Toronto hotel, Krieps argues in the affirmative—mostly. There’s a part of her, she tells me, that’s ready to “jump off the boat,” to hit the stop button before her stardom rises too high to turn back. But little by little, she is learning to navigate public business, full of scrutiny as herself without apology. It is confidence that shows itself in her performances as well. Watch Do not die of hunger and you will see one of the best actors of his generation only getting better, more interesting, more alive. She is done hiding.
Vanity Fair: I really liked this movie. I was surprised.
Vicky Krieps: But, yes. Right? It’s so good that you say that because I feel bad for thinking like that. You go, “Okay, another western.” Viggo is a man and he has been in these classic Western-man stories. Even it is said; it is not a fault. But in the film, thinking is very masculine. Doing it, I sometimes wondered: Is it strong enough for the woman? In the end, she is still just a woman in a man’s world. Viggo and I have never fought, but we can be very strange and very soft. I think we both have this duality. I always want to say what I think, and I always believe that no one can tell me what to do. Then when I saw the movie, I was hit with this, I don’t know – a wave of love. I understood. Now, I must say that I am glad that it is this way and not any other way. Because any other way would have been, I think, not to be honest. It would not be his film.
Since you had that initial feeling about it, what made you want to do it?
I was in Arizona shooting a movie the year before, and I would always drive around in the car to the set across this great desert. All of a sudden I started getting these visions of blood in the ground. I thought a lot about how much blood has been spilled into this same soil on both sides. The USA is built on this terrible, broken chaos where everyone lost so much blood on both sides. You can’t even begin to try to understand. This led to – and what I’m about to say is true, and I know it sounds crazy – I thought, “What would I want to do next? The only thing I think I would like to do is the West. ” I’m not kidding, I really thought that. I saw myself in this desert on a horse, and the same week I received an email from my agent: “Viggo Mortensen wants to talk to you.” I felt like I had to do it.
I read it and really liked the scene. It’s not normal, and I always need something that has to be unconventional. [Laughs] Then again, even on the first reading, I had problems with the typical, typical western side of the story, that the woman is raped. Part of me is always like, “But why? In fact it can be stronger. Why doesn’t she go out?” I got those feelings when I was a kid watching movies, every second, like, “Why isn’t she here?” Do you know what I mean? In the old movies, they were very bad. I would be so angry. But I went for this because I believed, if anything, that’s why the movie needs me. This may sound like I think I’m important but I’m not. I know I can’t be corrupt. That’s worth something.
Tell me if I’m off center here, but I thought of the character in some ways as a metaphor for your career a little bit. The last time we talked, we talked about what happened next Ghost Thread and you’re going against the grain of Hollywood. In this movie, we meet Vivienne in a higher society with this guy, and she’s just like, “No. That’s not for me.”
Yeah, absolutely. It felt very personal. Also the suffering: A lot of suffering is alone. She only cries when Olsen is gone. That is something I know very well because as an actor you are not allowed to suffer. You can suffer in the roles, but everything outside, you come on set and it’s like, “Let’s go!” I’ll bring the good energy no matter what happens – if the ship is sinking, I’m going to keep playing like the orchestra on the Titanic. That’s how I often feel. And this is not because people are smart. People Yes means too, but let’s leave that aside. As an actor, you are the character. And then as yourself you have to carry everyone. And as the character, you have to carry the film. There is no more room for you to have real feelings. And that’s something that I think is very much in the film.
I thought about my other films. I had one take where I stood there and thought, “Wow, this is the first time I’ve allowed myself to be shown. ” I don’t think I ever showed it. I rarely get this outside view so I thought, “Wow, I’m really letting go. I really let something show.”