Jacob Mendez
Jacob Mendez

Joanna Kulig: A Polish woman alongside Hollywood stars! “It’s worth the risk”

Joanna Kulig Today, she is the most recognizable Polish actress in the world who sets out to conquer Hollywood. She was 16 years old when she delighted the “Szansa na success” jury with her performance of Grzegorz Turnau’s song “Między Cicisz”. After graduating from the Acting Department of the State Drama School in Krakow, she immediately started appearing in films and TV series. We could watch her on Polish screens in productions such as: “Disco polo”, “Sponsoring”, “Million dollars”, “Innocent”, “Clergy”, “Dont care about me”, “Spider’s web” Whether “Trap” and, of course, in the Oscar-nominated one “Cold War”, thanks to which her international career gained momentum. The actress appeared, among others, in such foreign titles as “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters”, “Knox Goes Away”, “Masters of Air”she also played one of the main roles in the Netflix series “The Eddy”.

“Love Without Warning” this is her latest film. In the romantic comedy directed by Rebecca Miller, the Polish actress played alongside Hollywood stars: Anne Hathaway (“The Devil Wears Prada”, Marisa Tomei (“Spider-Man: Far From Home”) i Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”).

Rafał Pawłowski talked to Joanna Kulig about the film “Love Without Warning”, but not only about it.

Rafał Pawłowski, Interia: Apparently, the director of “Love Without Warning”, Rebecca Miller, noticed you in “Cold War” by Paweł Pawlikowski. And it was this film that inspired her to offer you the role of Magdalena.

Joanna Kulig: – I received an e-mail with an invitation to a Zoom conversation. Rebecca called and said she loved my role with Paul and would like to send me the script. This is interesting in general, because the main plot of “Cold War” is somehow inspired by the romance between Rebecca’s father – writer Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe. I remember Paweł showing me and Tomek Kot photos of Miller and Monroe, describing what a beautiful couple they were.

And suddenly THAT Miller’s daughter talks to you.

– Whose work I knew well. And her whole story. I saw a very interesting documentary she made about her father, in which there were shots of them living in the countryside and him sitting little Rebecca on his lap, talking about how writing is like building a house of wood. We talked about how she went from being a painter to directing because she wanted to tell dreams. And about how extraordinary her films are, which I appreciate very much. I was especially impressed by “The Ballad of Jack and Rose”, which she made with her husband Daniel Day-Lewis. “Maggie’s Plan” was also amazing, in which Julianne Moore plays with such a strange accent. These the films are somehow subversive and interesting, and they also have some kind of good energy in them. And it is an intimate independent cinema in which really great names appear not for money, but out of the need of the heart. Rebecca’s cinema is much closer to European arthouse than to Hollywood productions. I’m glad I could become part of it.

In “Love Without Warning” you are indeed in great company: Peter Dinklage, Marisa Tomei and Anne Hathaway, who is also a co-producer of the film. But let’s get back to the script. The character you play seems a bit hackneyed – an illegal cleaning lady from Poland who trembles at the thought of deportation.

– I thought so too at first. But when I read the script, it turned out that there were a lot of intriguing things to play. That we look somewhere deep inside the character and that she is undergoing her metamorphosis. Just like each of the characters in this movie. I was particularly interested in the relationship between mother and daughter. A story about a strong bond, but also about the fact that when you nurture your fears too much and transfer them to your child, the child stops sharing his life with you and confiding his emotional experiences. This daughter’s maturation gives the impulse to my heroine to become more independent and stop dwelling on the past. This is a story with its roots in reality. The prototype of my character was a girl with a gambler husband in Poland who lost everything. She had to emigrate with her daughter. She came to the USA, where she worked hard and one day it turned out that her daughter fell in love with the son of the couple for whom she was cleaning. There are many such prosaic stories among Polish emigrants. I thought it was worth taking a risk for such a director and this script.

You accepted the role and…

– A pandemic has broken out. The making of this film hung in the balance several times. The photos were postponed probably five times. I spent this time polishing my language. Although here I was tasked with speaking with an eastern accent, so in that respect it was easy. But the pandemic added to the problems. Vaccinations, certificates needed when flying from Europe to the USA. I was very afraid of catching Covid. When we walked onto the set in New York in April 2022, I breathed a sigh of relief that it was finally happening. But even though we took all the necessary precautions, I got sick at the very end of the shoot. And I ended up in quarantine for 10 days. And I have one day of shooting left! I had a terrible experience because I was invited to the “Un Certain Regard” jury in Cannes. I thought I would finish filming, fly to my family in Krakow for a few days, and only then to the French Riviera. But because of Covid I couldn’t come back, so I flew straight from New York to the two-week festival.

2 years have passed since then. The film is only now having its Polish premiere. In the meantime, you did several other projects in the USA. On March 15, “Knox Goes Away” directed by Michael Keaton will appear on local screens, in which you appear alongside him, but Al Pacino also stars.

– It was also 2022. And my first movie shot in Hollywood. We also met with Michael Keaton on Zoom, but it wasn’t a casting, it was just a conversation. He wanted to meet before he sent me the script. He immediately warned me that it wouldn’t be a big role – only five days of shooting and would I be interested in it? And since I love his “Birdman”, I almost went crazy with joy. I read the script while on vacation, and I flew to Los Angeles in November. And I had no idea that Al Pacino was in the movie. My manager Tomek and I were sitting in a hotel in LA, still feeling jetlag, and suddenly we got information that the next morning – at 10:00 there were costume fittings. And that Al Pacino will be there too. What? I thought it was really a twist of fate, because it is an icon. And I didn’t even dare to dream that one day I would meet him on the set. It’s true that we don’t have scenes together, but I had the opportunity to observe how he plays and, above all, how he behaves between shots, when he is “in character” and how he creates and works out what he is about to play.

What was it like working with Keaton the director?

– It was an interesting experience. Because he both directed this film and played the main role. It was hard for me to get used to it at first. Because Michael was explaining something, he suddenly stopped to, for example, sit in a chair and show what his character would do. At one point, I even asked him to put an understudy in my place and then he gave me precise directorial instructions. But it wasn’t easy at all. It took me a while to find my way around it.

Recently, you can also be seen in the war series “The Lords of the Skies” on AppleTV+.

– We shot in 2021 during the pandemic. Even outside, masks had to be worn. I had a small role there and when I arrived, the shooting was already well advanced. And it was a gigantic production – a huge studio in London, huge sets, planes, lots of extras. And the people who function on the set are in some creative process. At that time, I was in Poland after shooting the series “Spiderweb” and I had the experience that when you play the main role and you have supporting actors, sometimes it’s hard for them to get the relationship because they haven’t encountered some of the plots during rehearsals. Knowing this, I asked the lead actor Callum Turner for a meeting to read our scenes with him at least once. Because he’s rushing on this train and I get on board for a moment and I have to know exactly what to do.

The list of announced premieres with your participation also includes “Isola” directed by Nora Jaenicke, in which you play the main role alongside the icon of European cinema – Fanny Ardant.

– She is an absolutely wonderful woman. So rock’n’roll and so natural. We spent six weeks together on set in Italy. We both played in English. “Isola” is the debut of a very interesting director, living partly in Germany, partly in Italy, and partly in New York. The film is currently being edited, so you still have to wait a while for it.

This year, for the first time, as a new member of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, you had the opportunity to vote in the Oscars.

– It’s a great experience for me. I myself took part in the Cold War campaign. I remember when you invited members of the Academy, showed them the film and solicited their attention. And now I’m on the other side. The voter does not feel such pressure, but it is an interesting and ennobling experience.

Now that we’re done with the Oscar ceremony, can you tell us who you voted for? How do you evaluate the verdict? Did your favorites win?

– I’m glad that my favorites received Oscars. And I am happy that our co-production “Strefa biznes” won two statuettes.