By MICHAEL GINGOLD
Currently playing select theatrical dates around the country (it next opens in Los Angeles and Ithaca, NY on Friday), Agnieszka Smoczynska’s romantic musical/horror/fantasy THE LURE is unlike any mermaid movie ever made. The same goes for its two half-human sisters, Silver (Marta Mazurek) and Golden (Michalina Olszanska). Read on for an exclusive RUE MORGUE chat with Mazurek about her fish-tailed role.
As THE LURE (reviewed here) begins, Silver and Golden are attracted the music of a band playing on the seashore and follow them to a nightclub specializing in adult entertainment. Their long tails become legs on land, and they become a popular singing act at the club, while Silver falls in love with bass player Mietek (Jakub Gierszal). One problem: the mermaids are flesheaters, and Silver isn’t always able to contain that hunger (you can see her claim a victim here). Under the direction of Smoczynska (who talks about THE LURE here), Mazurek conveys both a primal quality and a longing to be human, in a storyline (scripted by Robert Bolesto) that puts a tuneful yet frightening spin on Hans Christian Andersen’s original “The Little Mermaid.” And according to Mazurek, it’s a role she was born to play…
Were you a fan of mermaids growing up?
Yes, totally. I was fascinated by THE LITTLE MERMAID when I was a little child, and it was with me all the time from there, especially when I was 14, 15; I watched LITTLE MERMAID every day one month! My friends from school will tell you that I was always talking about it, that I would like to be a mermaid [laughs]. So this was a dream come true for me.
Were you fascinated just with the Disney movie, or with the Hans Christian Andersen short story as well?
Both. I was reading the story and also watching the movie, and what’s more, I was playing the soundtrack, and I had some different tapes where they read the fairy tale and played music. When I listened to those, I was a mermaid! I pretended I was in the water. So this was kind of like destiny.
Were you familiar with the movie first, and if so, when you read the story, were you surprised by how much darker and more tragic it is?
I don’t actually remember which was first, and whether I was sad that in the Disney movie she’s alive at the end, and in the fairy tale she’s not. What I remember most from the story was a picture of the mermaid holding a knife and looking at the prince, and she’s wondering whether to kill him or not. That was a scary and intense thing for me.
How was it dealing with all the prosthetics you had to wear while playing Silver?
It was a very exciting moment when I first put the tail on. I was really crazy about it, because then I was imagining that I really didn’t have legs, and I was really 10 feet long, and I finally had a mermaid tail—a dream come true! I really loved being in the tail, even though it was very heavy. Michalina and I couldn’t move or sit in them for more than a few hours, but it was an exciting feeling, to be a mermaid. It was a big adventure doing that.
How was it acting alongside Olszanska?
It was great, because we were like yin and yang [laughs], two opposites making one whole. Michalina was also crazy about mermaids, so that was one thing we had very much in common, so we felt that this was just right. We would get together, talking and even having little secrets, just like sisters. We had many rehearsals, not only to find the characters of the mermaids, the predators, but also to work on our relationship as sisters. We were searching for that deep bond, where we were not human sisters, we were mermaid sisters—the only ones in the world.
The role called for a lot of nudity; did you have any issues with that?
No, because the more natural state for us is to be naked. For us, wearing clothes should be uncomfortable; it should be the opposite. We feel more comfortable wearing clothes, but we should feel that way without them.
Had you done any singing before you took this role?
Yes, I attended music school and my parents are musicians, and when I was younger, I always wanted to sing or act or do both. And I’m very happy that I’ve managed to do both. I’ve been singing all my life—in school, on the stage and in the shower [laughs]!
What was your favorite musical number?
The most important song in the movie for me is the one where I hypnotize the bass player; that was the one I really felt in my heart, and I loved it. The first version of this song was different from the one that ended up in the movie, and I liked the original even more. When I’m preparing for a role, I always pick a song for the character, and here, I also had one that wasn’t from the film, but that early song really got me into the part. I love every song from THE LURE, because they’re all so different—the one where we’re in the shopping mall, the one I sing toward the end—but the most important song is the one with the bass player, because that’s a big deal for my character.
How long did it take to film the operation sequence where Silver’s tail is removed?
That was actually the last day of shooting, and it was a long one. It took several hours, and I was lying on this special table with my legs under it, and on the table was my fake body. After a few hours, it was so exhausting to lie in this strange position. I was very nervous, because it was a very important moment for the character, and we had one shot to cut the tail off and get it right. When we started shooting it, suddenly everybody was shouting, “Stop stop stop! Don’t do it, don’t do it!”—for the actor not to cut it. Everybody was panicking.
Director Agnieszka Smoczynska chimes in: Everybody was so stressed, and the actor with the saw was so nervous that he didn’t hear the “Stop stop stop!” The director of photography had to pull the saw’s plug out!
What are you doing next?
I’m waiting for the debut of a TV series I did last summer, which will be airing in March; hopefully we will have a second season, if people like it. And also, I’m doing a play, ANNA KARENINA, this autumn. That’s a fresh thing for me.