Vicky Krieps Gives Hollywood Another Trial. It Wasn’t That Bad.


RAMBROUCH, Luxembourg — Four years ago, Vicky Krieps was nominated for Hollywood stardom. The Luxembourgish actress came out of nowhere to star in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread,” in which Daniel Day-Lewis plays the tormented muse of a domineering fashion designer. His performance – vulnerable, prickly, painful – garnered critical praise and suggested the arrival of a major new talent.

Then Krieps disappeared, turning down a number of Hollywood offers, including a big-budget action movie, and instead taking on smaller roles, mostly in European art film films and German television.

“I needed two years,” he said recently, sitting in the backyard of his family’s 200-year-old house in the Luxembourg countryside. The experience of being in public was “almost traumatizing,” he said.

But this summer, 37-year-old Krieps is back in the spotlight, starring in two films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival—Mia Hansen-Love’s “Bergman Island” and Mathieu Amalric’s “Hold Me Tight”). And in a move that puts an end to her self-imposed Hollywood exile, she’s also starring in M. Night Shyamalan’s shiny new horror tale “Old,” which hits US theaters on July 23.

Self-condescending and personally friendly but prone to serious tantrums about art and nature, Krieps said that showing the concept of “Old” in so many theaters stressed her out.

“I carry this great paradox: I became an actor but I don’t want to be seen – it makes no sense,” he said. “I’m really afraid that people will recognize me.”

In the movie, which also stars Gael García Bernal, she plays a mother of two who is stranded on a beach where people age very quickly during a family vacation. His character, who witnessed his children grow into adults within hours, is the emotional anchor of the film, and Krieps has been widely praised for his performance.

In a Zoom interview, Shyamalan said she’s been a fan of the actress since “Phantom Thread” and was drawn to her “classic reputation”. “It’s so nice to have someone of his caliber so vulnerable at the center of a genre movie,” he added.

He said the decision to make the movie was due to a combination of factors. In the midst of the pandemic, she had thought a lot about the nature of time: “The movie tells us, as humans, who run from A to B, but really ourselves.”

But he also said he’s increasingly coming to terms with the concerns raised by the release of “Phantom Thread.” At the time, she said she approached her career — and her life — without much planning, and was unprepared for promotional demands and industry attention.

Krieps, who now lives mostly in Berlin with her two children, said her desire to erase herself was largely due to her upbringing in Luxembourg, a small duchy sandwiched between Belgium, France and Germany. The size of the country is conducive to humility, he said.

A self-described “dream-like” teenager left Luxembourg after high school to go to South Africa, where he spent a year as a volunteer teacher for children with AIDS. While there, Damascus about a low mountain he saw from a road suddenly had a realization to pursue an acting career. “I had a deep connection with this mountain and its energy,” he said, “and I decided to become someone who could capture that emotion and maybe release it in a scene.”

After enrolling (and dropping out) from acting school in Zurich, he made a living making mostly minor roles in German television and films. Then one day, a student receives an email with a request to select a video on his phone that he’s distractedly misread as an invitation to try out his film project. “I was sitting on the bus and starting an interesting conversation with a stranger – you know how it is,” he said.

He sent an application that he had saved on his phone and realized that the video was for “Phantom Thread” until a call from his manager informed him that Anderson liked the video.

He said the film’s press tour was a culture shock. He had never had a credit card before, and when he arrived in Los Angeles he was surprised to learn that he needed a credit card to gain access to his hotel. “I said, ‘I’m going to a campsite – I don’t care’.” (The hotel eventually relented.)

Then came the media education: “It was a woman who told me what was wrong with me and didn’t speak my mind,” she said. I walked through Los Angeles in shock and was like, ‘Oh my God, is this what they want from me?’ I thought.”

This experience reinforced his decision to escape international scrutiny by returning to Europe. His work there included a supporting role in the German TV series “Das Boot” and more recently in French “Hold Me Tight” and Hansen-Love’s long-running English project “Bergman Island”. This movie, which will hit theaters in the United States on October 15, centers on a filmmaker couple (played by Krips and Tim Roth) who visit the Swedish island of Faro, where director Ingmar Bergman once lived.

French film director Hansen-Love said in a phone interview that Krieps experienced a “very European melancholy” and compared her acting style to that of Isabelle Huppert.

There are a series of encounters in “Bergman Island” that make Krieps’ character question her role as a mother, wife, and artist. Krieps said his character’s search for an identity also helped him overcome some of his aversion to Hollywood.

“This woman said, ‘Who am I?’ trying to find a solution to the question. and ‘What is truth?’ The answer is: There is no truth,” he said, adding that realization pushed him to be more open-minded about the projects he wanted to pursue.

Krieps said that while his post-pandemic schedule is already full, he will be willing to make larger-budget American films in the future. She recently wrapped filming on “Corsage”, the German biography of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, and her upcoming projects include an adaptation of “The Three Musketeers” and a movie starring Belgian director Philippe Van Leeuw in the United Kingdom. States border agent, first on-screen attempt at an American accent.

She added that her return to US filmmaking felt a bit like closing an unopened book. “I thought Ghost Thread would go again, that people would forget about me – but I can’t take this movie back,” he said. “It’s like taking back who I am.”


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