Interview by Christine Thompson

Still shot of Keanu Reeves and Ana Ularu in SIBERIA (courtesy Youtube)

If you’re looking for John Wick 3, you’re in the wrong place.  The unfortunate and inevitable comparisons to that series will convolute the story of SIBERIA, which is a different vehicle all together.  Whereas John Wick is confident, Keanu Reeve’s Lucas Hill is a diamond broker in trouble, puzzling his way through a deal gone bad in Russia.  When he meets a woman and falls in love (Ana Ularu), Keanu gets to spotlight a more subtly-nuanced character, and along the way reveals a strong performance by Ularu, who shines….oh yes, i have to say it…like a diamond.  (See what I did there?).

We talked to Ana about the movie, and she revealed the acting dynamics between her and Keanu Reeves.

Hi Ana, last time we talked to you it was for the movie “The Man Who Was Thursday” at SXSW 2015. How are you?

ANA: Great Thanks! Nice to talk to you again.

AMFM; I enjoyed the movie, it was fun to watch, and congratulations on working with Keanu Reeves and Molly Ringwald. What can you say about the plot without giving any spoilers?

ANA: I can tell you that it’s a very exciting movie, and well-balanced between a thriller and a film about romantic love. It is fast-paced, dynamic, but at the same time it has a lot of tender moments intimacy and wonderful soft, almost poetic side.

It’s about a diamond tradesman who makes a bad deal, and along the way falls in love, and has someone fall in love with him. In many ways it’s a story about being in the right place at the wrong time.

AMFM: Can you talk about the character development between Katya and Lucas and specifically I’m talking about the one intimate scene where there was a metaphor between the diamonds being rare, beautiful and tough. You asked Lucas why he liked the diamonds.

ANA: They start out being attracted to each other, but very soon something turns into a lot more powerful and a lot more profound because their paths, their trajectory, is not an easy one. It’s not your usual boy meets girl situation…so their love is tried and tested and keeps coming back. They keep their love in amongst all that cruelty.

So Lucas appreciates Katya’s resilience, and how steadfast she holds on to that love, and her toughness.her fierceness, at the end of it all. The fact that she, like the diamond, is found in this remote, rare and tough part of the world. So I think it’s a beautiful metaphor, which he likens their love to diamonds.

AMFM: What was it like to work with the Director, Matthew Ross?

ANA: He’s great, a very young director, very energetic and full of ideas. It was basically a friendship, this camaraderie between the three of us and it was a pleasure to go on set every day, discover a scene and work on dialogue and all the subtleties. With something like this, you need a lot of back story, and there needs to be a lot of discussion andi interaction between fellow actors. There’s a rhythm to every scene that needs to be carefully put together and it was just lovely doing this with him, working out the architecture of this film.

AMFM: What was it like to work with Keanu?

ANA: He is absolutely amazing, just the most wonderful partner anyone could ask for. We spoke a lot, and we worked out back stories for our characters. It was such an immense joy and an honor to get to imagine all of these stories with him. Of course I was honored to be in a film with such a big star and one of Hollywood’s most important people, but a the end of the day he’s just a wonderful actor, created in theater. I find that very important, We had a special language between us, a very special way of dealing with things, a lot of courage and a lot of trust in each other which is essential. We would just immerse ourselves in the scenes and trust each other, and be vulnerable…be together, be an island.

AMFM: I have the impression that he is a very kind man.

ANA: He is absolutely. He is kind and he is funny, but all of these things have been said about him and every time I feel I say it, I’m just adding to something. It was a wonderful experience being with that crew and that person on set for two months. Talking everything through…we’re very similar in the way that we build a character, we function in a similar way, we’re very attentive to details. He is just amazing…and might I add one of the most cultured people I’ve ever met. It was a lot of fun to talk about books and movies and joke around.

AMFM: And that’s what I remember about when I spoke to you at SXSW. I was impressed by your intelligence and I realized you were the brains behind a lot of what was going on in “The Man Who Was Thursday.” So can you tell me about any special times that you had on set?

ANA: There was this one scene (and I don’t want to give too much away) that happened in St. Petersburg, and it was at the end of the day and we were losing light, slowly but surely. We didn’t really know how to go about it, but we had this one special moment where without discussing with each other and planning anything, we just had a moment where we clicked and we just said “should we just try it? Ok, let’s just do it.” We told them (the crew) “Just follow us.” They asked what we were going to do and we just said “We don’t know.” And it all turned out to be a beautiful and emotional scene. But we didn’t know – that’s the kind of courage, and that’s the kind of bond I’m talking about. You just trust someone to go into a scene, and a very difficult one, that follows a very crucial moment in the film. You throw yourself into it, and have something wonderful come out. By that time, you’re so entwined and so in tune. You know your characters so well. It’s like you speak your own language.

So that was beautiful and I find that to be one of the most wonderful moments of my career, from an artist’s point of view.

AMFM: You have to top that with your next role.

ANA: I don’t want to top it, I love this film very much, I loved my experience on it. I think nothing will be the same, but things will be wonderful and different.

AMFM: So what would be your ideal role? What is a wish list of character types you’d like to play? I know there’s probably many, but think of one.

ANA: I think I’d like to play a funny kind of cheerleader or hippie or something with a different type of intensity (laughs) I’ve been working for a long time so…

SIBERIA stars Keanu Reeves, Molly Ringwald , Ana Ularu, Aleks Paunovic, Pasha D. Lynchikoff, and Veronica Ferres. It was written by novelist Scott B. Smith, the Oscar-nominated writer of A Simple Plan, and directed by Matthew Ross (Frank & Lola).   You may have seen Ana Ularu as West in NBC’s Emerald City series.  Saban Films screened Siberia at the Metrograph Theater in New York last night, and will be in theaters and On Demand/Digital HD July 13th.

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