John Malkovich

The Dancer Upstairs

Interviewed by David Michael

Why did it take you 17 years, from when you were first offered the chance to direct a film, to finally direct one?

First of all I was never burning to do it. I have plenty of other things to do and I get to direct in the theatre whenever I want. It's not something I ever worried about that much.

Were the actors intimidated by having you, and your reputation as an actor, behind the camera?

I don't think so. I never felt I had to reassure them. I felt whatever they felt, they learnt to ignore in a day or two once they saw how I worked. I like my actors and I give them a lot of freedom. I watch them very carefully. I think with actors, if you just don't set about trying to crush their confidence immediately, you're usually OK.

I heard you had problems with the censorship board over animals?

Yeah, they have certain requirements that I think the production didn't fulfil. They decided it wasn't a problem because no animals were harmed. It's not an English production, it's a Spanish film - shot between Spain, Portugal, and Ecuador. You know, it's great that some films can afford chicken psychologists but, if you make films in other countries, you may not have a chicken psychologist to tell you if the chickens walking by are happy or not.

Would you say you're fonder of this film because you've directed it, in comparison to ones you've acted in?

I think it's wonderful. I think it will be around for a long time, and I don't really care what anybody says. I'm not often wrong about these things. I wanted Javier Bardem [the lead in "Dancer Upstairs"] seven years ago. I love this film. I'm not proud of it, because I don't know what that means. If so-called 'I' so-called 'directed it', then 'great'. But that doesn't do anything for me, or mean anything about me - I just like the film.