“At the beginning it was odd,” admits director Pablo Larrain during our recent webcam chat (watch above) when asked about his new film “Jackie.” This Fox Searchlight release chronicles the life of former First Lady Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) in the days following the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy. “It felt distant,” adds Larrain, “this story of Jackie and the Kennedys, and all those events that are so well known. But then I discovered the story of this amazing woman, and what she did under those circumstances.”
Larrain, a Chilean-born filmmaker whose “No” contended for the 2012 Foreign Language Film Oscar, made his English-language debut with “Jackie.” He reveals that his biggest hurdle wasn’t the language barrier, but rather the gender gap. “All the movies I’ve made before are with male characters in the lead roles,” he explains, “so that was my biggest challenge, to sort of try to get into that sensibility, and understand this story of a mother (who) went through this process in a very particular way.”
He has high praise for Portman, his first and only choice for the role: “There’s something so mysterious,” about Jackie Kennedy, “not just in the way she spoke and behaved, but to me, it’s in her eyes, and that’s what Natalie has. It’s not just the resemblance of sophistication, beauty, or elegance that Natalie of course has, but probably even more interesting and hard to find (is) that mystery.”
He also spoke about his second directorial effort from this year, “Neruda,” Chile’s official entry for the 2016 Foreign Film prize. It stars Gael Garcia Bernal as an inspector hunting down Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) who became a fugitive in his native Chile after joining the Communist Party. “Neruda for us is so important,” Larrain divulges, “someone who could describe our country, our society, our idiosyncrasies, through poetry.” Like “Jackie,” the film is less a traditional biopic and more, “about his cosmos and about his world.”
Could Larrain become a double nominee at this years Oscars? Check out our full interview above for more about his work on “Jackie” and “Neruda.”
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