20 San Diego Uptown News | September 2–15, 2011
Vera Farmiga reaches “Higher Ground” in directorial debut SCOTT MARKS / FILM INTERVIEW
rently playing at Landmark’s Hillcrest Cinema, tells the story of a woman questioning her religious faith. She also stars as Corinne Walker, a Midwestern farmer’s daughter who starts life’s ride as a pregnant teenager married to a religious rocker only to grow and fall prey to the persuasive ways of a close-knit religious community. With the separation of church
and state growing increasingly more narrow, Farmiga wisely opts for a non-judgmental ap- proach that is both respectful and only occasionally leery of its subjects, and one that is never without grace, style, and dignity. All I wanted to know was what
she learned from Prof. Scorsese’s tutelage on “The Departed.” (“What didn’t I learn?” came her wise reply.) After time spent devoted to worshipping him, the conversation shifted to another favorite, Oana the ditzy hooker in “Breaking and Entering.” A discussion on the value of char- acter likability soon led to a quick rebuke over sniffing for satire where it wasn’t intended.
Scott Marks: Damn if you’re not a double-threat, a movie star and an actress. Make that triple threat. You now direct as well.
Vera Farmiga: Thank you. That was a surprise. It really was one of those curve balls life throws at you that you either choose to catch or duck.
era Farmiga’s directorial debut, “Higher Ground,” cur-
SM: If given one Vera Farmiga performance to take with me to my eternal screening room in hell, it would be Oana, “Break- ing and Entering’s” aggressive hooker who crashes Jude Law’s sedan-stakeout wearing noth- ing but a fleece topcoat and a cigarette.
VF: She’s one of my favorites.
SM: How far back into your Ukrainian roots did you reach to find Oana?
VF: Not too far back. [Director Anthony] Minghella actually asked me to consider one of the other gals eventually played by Robin Wright Penn and Juliette Binoche. I gravitated towards Oana. I don’t care how small she was on the written page; I thought she had a big presence. I loved her whimsy. This is some- one whose spirit should be down- trodden with the kind of path she’s taken, yet she’s just light as a feather and has got that sparkle in her eye and a quick wit and candor -- which I always love. Maybe it’s because it’s some- thing I’m still trying to figure out, but I always liked frankness and candor and she’s got this sharp tongue and silliness too. I also got to flex my silly muscles.
SM: I can’t think of too many movie prostitutes who go ignored and unrewarded yet show up the next night with coffee and a mix-tape for their unresponsive
brood Otto Preminger threw my way, but it’s the job of a good cinematic storyteller to make the unlikeable compelling to watch.
VF: I think the challenge they’re in is not whether we agree with Nietzsche or not. It’s not whether God is dead. The word God ex- ists, therefore God exists. We all have our definitions of what God means to us and definitions of God that resonate within us and we don’t ultimately agree with each others concepts and conceptualizations. I get it. I’m asking a lot from people. I’m sur- prised that there is going to be an audience for this film. I am not pandering to anybody’s comfort level. I don’t know what it is that I am trying to do per-se other than I am striving for an openness. I’ve been touched by this woman’s searching. It’s okay not to like characters.
SM: Do you think I want to hang with “Raging Bull’s” Jake La Motta? Again, the fact that you are able to make these characters compelling and watchable says a lot about your ability as a story- teller.
Vara Farmiga stars in and directs the faith-challenging “Higher Ground.” (Photo courtesy Sony Pictures Classics)
John. On to “Higher Ground.” I’ll be up front: I have little if any regard for the characters in your film. When it comes to religious cults that use the Bible as a
at’s, I’m out. It does not mean that I can’t embrace your film. I’m not crazy about the characters in “North by North- west” or just about any of the cold
VF: How can you not like, or at least tolerate, someone who is earnestly them self? That’s the caliber we were going for and the kind of actor I wanted to work with. Anybody who contributed to the film couldn’t be jaded or pos- sess cynicism. I’ve got all walks of
see Farmiga, page 31 S AN D IEGO S YMPHONY
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