Interview: Stacy Martin Talks About Her Lifeless Performance In ARCHIVE

French actress Stacy Martin (High-Rise, Nymphomaniac: Vol.1) gives an astounding performance in Archive (review HERE) playing three separate versions of the same character. We see her when she’s flesh and blood, when she is being rebuilt, and in her final stage as a fully cognizant AI that is probably more ghost than machine. Speaking with her about the film, it became clear that working with director Gavin Rothery and actor Theo James (Divergent, Castlevania) in such an intimate science fiction setting was one of the highlights of her career.

Martin has been called an indie darling, an actor to watch, and now she may start being referred to as a modern sci-fi icon because of her turn as the robot J-03. In our conversation below, we talked about Martin’s outcast upbringing in Japan, the very real pain of being in robot make-up, and how we both don’t really care if Artificial Intelligence ever becomes a reality. We also touch on what Hollywood franchise she’d most like to be a part of. (We both agreed it’s A L I E N).

Synopsis: 2038: George Almore is working on a true human-equivalent AI. His latest prototype is almost ready. This sensitive phase is also the riskiest. Especially as he has a goal that must be hidden at all costs: being reunited with his dead wife.

Dread Central: You grew up in Tokyo. You’ve said you felt like an alien there. Excuse the pun but do you think you’ve maybe been wired to play a robot? To play the other?

Stacy Martin: Maybe. I remember as a kid when I arrived in Japan they gave me the visa card…and it was called the Alien Card. As a child, when you read that, you have this sense of not belonging and the sense of trying to fit in. There was definitely a lot of parallels in terms of playing J-03 because she’s constantly trying to figure out who she is even though she has a strong sense of memory. It’s almost like she’s trying to catch up with herself.

DC: I like how George’s character is creating his own twisted family in a way with J-01 and J-02 and of course with you. You’re essentially playing three different versions of the same person. Did you approach it that way or did you want to make sure each version of you, or Jules, didn’t have too much in common with the other iterations?

SM: They were at different stages of the characters life. So I almost took it as J-02, who I work with Gavin [Rothery] more in post production rather than on set. J-02 was a lot more about her voice and her tone but she was a lot younger. She’s more teenage like whereas J-03 is more of an adult version of herself. What was weird was then playing Jules as a human being. Suddenly, I didn’t have costumes or a set rulebook of what I could do and what I couldn’t do. I thought it would be quite easy and quite liberating but I really enjoyed the fact that J-03 has all these parameters that she is limited by.

DC: How was the experience of applying all of the android prosthetics? It looks incredible but that couldn’t have been very comfortable.

SM: I definitely wanted to experience something like that, I don’t know how much of it I really actually enjoyed. Because it just took so much physical time and energy. Everyday it would take about four to five hours depending on which phase I was in. A lot of the costumes are practical effects, they’re not CG. My shins were painted in black latex which means that you don’t have to take it off. My whole face had prosthetics on. It helped a lot to build the character but it was definitely something that on the page I was very excited about – and then by Day 17 I was getting grumpier.

DC: Do you care, just you personally, about getting to a point where we actually achieve Artificial Intelligence? It’s such a common idea in sci-fi but I don’t think I really care if we ever get there. I know you worked with Ridley Scott and he seems obsessed with the idea of A.I.

SM: I think I’m a little bit like you where I’m just not entirely sure how much we’ll be able to push it. I think I have a lot of cynicisms around it. It could be this amazing thing that could help so much in terms of education, in terms of poverty, but I don’t know if that’s me just being idealistic and hopeful. I don’t know if it could ever reach the potential that I’m thinking it could.

DC: You’ve mentioned before that being in a huge Hollywood blockbuster is something that appealed to you at one time. What franchise would you want to be in? Star Wars? A L I E N? The Marvel Universe?

SM: I never thought about A L I E N. That is a genius idea. Yeah. Also, I haven’t seen all of A L I E N because I’m terrible with being scared and all of that. It definitely appeals to me. You’re entering such a specific environment and a specific type of world. It requires not only you as an actor to do your job but there’s such a physicality to it that I’m really drawn to. I’d love to learn Kung Fu for a film!

DC: One thing I started thinking about, and I asked Gavin about it, was watching George work creating this family and this almost perfect version of you as his dead wife, it started feeling like this male fantasy. This quest for ultimate control but there’s nothing sexual about the movie. It would be the total opposite of something like Nymphomaniac. Would a role reversal work in Archive? Would a brilliant woman do this to her husband?

SM: That’s a really good question. I think there’s a tendency in narrative of seeing the sort of strong male scientist who can control the world and that can do everything. What I liked about Archive is that there’s such a massive crack in the story. If you really look at what he says and the way that he talks to the robots, some of it’s quite chilling. What do we take for granted as human beings and what is discarded? I definitely think that a female scientist would be able to do the same thing.

DC: Me too.

SM: I really think gender excuses a certain type of behavior. If the role was reversed, people might see her bad behaviors because she’s a woman. I think it’s more excused when it’s a man.

DC: The final, almost ghostly version of Jules, you’re very creepy. Was that version of her that was more mischievous and otherworldly the most fun to play for you?

SM: I really loved playing creepy. I don’t know why. There was just something so freeing, kind of playing with that perception of how people view what a woman is and going against all of that. You want to show a lot of different facets in a character but there was definitely a part of me that enjoyed going down the route that I’m not given the chance to very often in my work.

Archive will be in Virtual Cinema Screenings, On Demand and Digital on July 10, 2020.



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