Your new movie Olalla
- in a few words, what is it about, and what can you tell us about your
character in it?
is based in the story written by Robert Louis Stevenson, it tells the
gothic tale of Olalla and her ancient family who need human blood to
survive and live long. Olalla cannot control her urges, paying a heavy
price for it. A hundred years later her daughter, also names Olalla,
seems to be headed for the same destiny.
I play de role of Felipe, Olalla’s and Ofelia’s uncle and some might
say, their father, that’s not very clear although it is suggested.
Felipe is a bit “victorian” in his behavior and outlook of life; he
suffered the tragic loss of his sister/lover (the first Olalla) a
century before, so he’s very concerned about his niece’s lack of
What did you draw upon to bring your
character to life, and how much of Jac Avila can we find in Felipe?
Felipe was not a very difficult character for me to play. All I had to do
is play the opposite of me. I’m fairly liberal, open-minded, sort of
permissive in many ways. By becoming a hard ass, strict to the extreme
kind of gentleman, I projected something I wasn’t, which scared and
freaked out Amy [Amy Hesketh
interview - click here] during the scenes where I beat and rape her. She was
pleasantly surprised in a gross kind of way.
did the project fall together in the first place, and who actually found
the Robert Louis Stevenson story this is based on in the first place? And
were you set to play Felipe from the get-go actually?
had the story for some time, after she directed Barbazul and
de la Croix, she was looking for her next story and she came up with
Olalla, a story she read a while ago, she’s into gothic novels since
childhood. I thought it was a very good subject for her fourth movie. We
were not planning to shoot it before other projects we had in
pre-production, it was in the back burner, as they say, but a friend of
ours, Rodrigo, who wrote his thesis on another of my movies, Martyr, was
very insistent about us going to see his house. He kept saying that we
would love it. So one day we decided to go and pay him a visit.
Amy Hesketh, Mila Joya, Jac
we walked in we knew, immediately that we found Olalla’s house. We
brought the script to the front. We also needed a hacienda for the
“old times” part of the story and Amy had found a place in Potosi
that fit the bill. I went there to see it and talk to the owners. It was
perfect in every sense and a deal was made.
and I had already decided to play the roles of Olalla and Felipe and we
also had Mila Joya in mind for Ofelia, in fact, we had the entire cast in place
for some time except for two of the characters and the extras. And
again, Rodrigo came to rescue introducing us to Luis Almanza, and
through him we met Christian Del Rio. It all came together like that.
Loayza plays a younger version of your character - so to what extent did
the two of you align your performances?
played the young priest in Maleficarum and a handsome soldier in
But Dreaming. He is a Delon type, for those familiar with French cinema,
and I needed a handsome younger version of me, much younger of course,
at least 100 years younger. So Alejandro was the inevitable choice.
There’s also the fact that he asked me to play an older, handsome
version of himself for a short film he was making back then, and I did.
So, I can say that it worked well.
Alejandro Loayza (center)
gave him some tips about what I normally do to bring out certain
attitudes to my character, head movements, eyes fixing in something
specific point when talking to someone, the way I smile and why. Things
like that. We had a hairdresser in the set to give him the proper hair
look, his hair is very straight, mine, in the other hand, is kind of
wavy in a sexy kind of way.
What were the
main issues with Olalla
from a producer's point of view?
look of the movie was important, the locations, the sets, the costumes,
and so on. So organizing the shoot of the far off location was the most
difficult, we had to go there, a 12 hour trip by bus, stay there for 1
week, shoot everything during that week, find local extras, lots of
them, and two young girls to play the younger versions of Olalla and
very first task after we settle in the hacienda in Cayara, was to go to
the city of Potosí, 30 min. away by car, to meet our fixer. I was eager
to find out about the extras and the two girls. There were plenty of
extras lined up but there weren’t any girls. Panic! To give me some
relief, the fixer mentioned that a friend of his was coming to meet with
us and that he had a daughter. I waited. Patiently. The friend arrived
and showed me the picture of his daughter, it was amazing, she looked a
lot like Mila Joya, very pretty, tall, and a deadly serious look in her
eyes. I told him to take his daughter to the set next day. I felt we
found our young Ofelia, but was pretty much worried about our young
arranged, our man in Potosí brought his daughter to the location, along
with a younger daughter of his. To our utter surprise, the second
daughter looked a lot like Amy! It was amazing to say the least. The
first morning of the production we had everything in place.
You have worked with Olalla's
director Amy Hesketh [Amy Hesketh
interview - click here] numerous times in the past - so what was
your collaboration like on this particular film?
This time I took a stronger role as a producer, she did her part of course,
especially in the production design of the movie, but I did the actual
producing from day one. We work very well together, we trust each other
professionally, that is very important. She can direct without the
stress of not knowing how things are going outside the set. And it’s
the same when I direct, although I’m a more troublesome director,
doing unexpected things all the time and driving people crazy,
particularly Amy, like in Dead
a good director, very calm and sure of what she wants, so I don’t have
to second-guess anything.
can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
first part of the shoot, at the house in La Paz, was a breeze, we had
everything there, no rush, we could work at an easy pace, reasonable
hours, break for tea, which is a must, and so on. At the end of the day
we all went home and were basically happy all the time. There was one
awful event, however, when our cinematographer was assaulted one night,
he ended up in the hospital with a broken jaw, we had to stop the
production for a few weeks.
far off location was another matter. We had to take a very long bus ride
to Potosí, and then another one to Cayara, with all the cast, crew,
equipment, costumes, props, particularly a three meters tall cross that
we had to manage to fit in the buses. The journey
didn’t start well. I tripped, fell on a cobblestone terminal, hurt my
knee, badly, and my thumb and I was in pain all the way to Potosí in
the bus. Hell on wheels.
got there, I’m in pain, and the very first day, after the happy
encounter with the girls, we started shooting scenes with a donkey on
loan from a villager, and this donkey was not exactly very cooperative,
perhaps he was camera shy or something, and at one point the beast of
burden actually dragged Amy a few meters over a rocky ground. She was
badly hurt, but not enough to stop the production. But it was truly
scary. After those two horrible events, everything else went smoothly,
our cast and crew were very efficient, the people at the location were
fantastic, the owner actually had a crew build the cross for us at not
cost, in front of the chapel, an amazing gesture. Fantastic. All the
normal difficulties with the shooting were balanced with a great
attitude, camaraderie, and professionalism in the part of everyone in
the set. Even the village dog became a very professional extra,
repeating his action, which was basically attacking the priest, the same
way in every take. Impressive.
few words about audience and critical reception of Olalla
have some very amazing comments already, as well as your review. Some
fans are emailing us, telling us how impressed they are with the film.
Dean Andersson, the writer, had a great comment on FB: "Yes, it's amazing. Just when I thought
vampire films had exhausted the
approaches they could take, Jac Avila did Dead
But Dreaming and now Amy
Hesketh has done Olalla. Both are unique and both renew my faith in this
still too soon to know how everyone thinks but we have great
expectations. I think it’s making an impact. We still have to see the
audience and critic reaction to the theatrical release in January.
Any future projects you'd like to share?
have a few projects in the backburner, the place where Olalla was long
ago, and we might be having the same experience in finding the location
that will propel the next project. One will be directed by me, De Sade’s Justine, yes, a new version of the famous story by the famous
writer, my version this time, a very free adaptation of the legendary
drama about the virtuous woman who only finds horror in her walk through
life. I’m also writing a very particular version of Pygmalion,
the Bernard Shaw play, Amy will be directing that movie, we’ll both be
acting in it, of course, I’ll be none other than Professor Higgins,
teaching Eliza (Mila Joya) how to behave like a lady. There’s also Aventura, a very clever action film that will be directed by
Erix Antoine, who
plays Bruno in Olalla.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
very sad that a great critic and admirer of our work passed away
recently. He was becoming a good friend and confidant as well, we felt
his encouragement all the time, he saw things in our work that most
people have a hard time seeing or simply overlook. His last words to me
came in an email, a month before he left us, he said:
Jac, Hope Amy is enjoying her down time and gathering her strength. Your
editing approach translates her directorial vision into a digestible
format for mainstream audiences. I'm sure this will be a plus. With what
you have in the pipeline, you are operating at a level of pure
inspiration not seen globally in decades. It promises to be one winner
after the other. Charles"
We can only hope, that those kind words will become fulfilled prophecies.
for the interview!