Interview by Paul Salfen
After receiving worldwide praise for her one-take unscripted performance in her debut film, Victoria, Spanish actress Laia Costa has been on a roll ever since in interesting American indie films and continues the streak with Maine, a story about a married woman named Bluebird that goes solo hiking along the Appalachian Trail that meets another solo hiker named Lake (Thomas Mann) that gets in the way of her journey of self-identity when they fall for each other. The sweet and subtle movie relies on the strength of Costa and Mann, who are essentially the only two real characters and they did spend a very non-Hollywood shoot with only the writer-director, Matthew Brown, for an intimate and touching outcome.
This year also saw the films Only You, Duck Butter, Life Itself, and Piercing pop up at screenings and festivals with Costa in it, with a couple of those releases out this next year for general release. Calling from Italy where she’s currently shooting a television show called “Devils,” Costa fondly looks back at Maine and the last few stellar years.
AMFM Magazine: This is such an interesting and complicated character. When you read the script, did you think, “I have to do this?”
Laia Costa: [It was] Not the script because I didn’t get her. I called Matthew [Brown, writer-director] right away and said, “I can’t understand what’s going on with her. Why is she doing what she does and why is she saying what she says?” And it was interesting because I thought there was something to learn here because I was not able to get it. And I think when that happens, you have to do it. Then shooting it with Matthew I saw he had a lot he wanted to talk about.
AMFM: So what was it about the character that made you not understand her? And then what made it OK?
LC: I don’t understand this hygiene thing. I thought it was going to be fun and it was going to be great being with Matthew and Thomas for a couple of days but it was rainy and I was sweaty and I was thinking, “Why do people want to do this for months?” I don’t understand it. So first I needed to understand why someone would want to do this kind of activity, you know? And there’s a lot to it and once I got that, I could talk to him about her past because I could not see anything of her past. When you understand that, you can talk about the story of the movie. So she’s very different than me in every way but I want to make sure I can be real with my characters so when I get the feeling that I’m not getting the characters as an honest human being, I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to portray them correctly with honesty so I was just making sure that I had all of the information and having the right questions, not just the questions I should have. That was a very interesting part to get together. AMFM: Is it harder to play a character that you don’t relate to? LC: I think more interesting. I think it’s harder but it’s a good harder situation. I think if you play yourself, you’re boring. You’re just going the easy way somehow. But if it’s a demanding character, you have to work on it 24 hours. A lot of people say the biggest pressure comes from the biggest challenges so you have do something with a lot of effort and conscience. You take the pleasure out of it if it’s something you know you can do.
AMFM: You seem to have an interesting life. Just as interesting as a character in a movie!
LC: Yeah, I don’t know. I think I’m still figuring it out. [Laughs] I think this world of storytellers is a very interesting life. I think that we’re changing roles and stories over and over again is a very interesting profession, but it’s a weird one. I like to talk a lot to older actors and I feel like some people lose their minds in roles back to back and it depends on how you work but I’m just very involved in the projects that I’m in. I like to really go there but then you have to go back to your real life and make sure it’s as interesting as the life in your project, you know what I mean? [Laughs] To make sure when someone asks you if you’re having an interesting life, you can tell them, “Yes, I’m having a very interesting life.”
AMFM: What was the path for you from Spain to Hollywood? Did you see a certain movie that made you want to do this?
LC: It was something that I never decided, it just happened in a very different way. I did a German movie called Victoria three years ago, and this movie was a very big movie internationally… and it was nice. But then I had to move to the States because my boyfriend had started working in the States, and I was not sure about moving there, because I wasn’t sure if I would be working there. But it all happened at the right time because Victoria was coming out when we were moving and that gave me a chance to show my work outside the country – and then that’s when I started working in the American movies. So far in the last few years, I’ve just been doing American movies. It was not planned at all. If in 2015 you would have told me I would do six American movies, I wouldn’t believe you, but it’s what I have done. But you have to go with the flow. Sometimes you choose the projects and sometimes they choose you.
AMFM: This year alone you’ve had so many great projects.
LC: Yes, and I love every single project that I’ve done. I’m so happy. All of the people that I’ve met in this project – I can tell you why I’ve done every single movie I’ve done in the last few years. I can promise you it’s been the way I’ve wanted it to work. The people I’ve met have been incredibly inspiring and I’ve been very lucky so I’ve been giving them my very best to learn and make them very happy of course. If I could spend the length of my professional career the way it has been the last few years, I would be the happiest human being in the world. So let’s see how it works.
AMFM: We’ve interviewed Thomas before and he’s great and and Matthew seems like a fantastic director, so what was it like being away in a remote location with just them?
LC: It was incredible. Because it was just Matthew, Thomas, and me 24 hours in the middle of nowhere so it’s not like we were shooting in a city with a lot of destruction and a lot of people on the crew. It was just us working 12 hours in a day but the other 12 hours there was nothing to do and we were together the whole time so what do you do? You keep working all of the time. It was very funny the three of us together because we got a chance to be very good and work together a lot and to know each other a lot. Matthew and Tom are very young for their talent. Matthew has already written two more scripts and they’re amazing. I said to him, “Oh my God, this is even better than Maine.” He was laughing at me. But they’re very young. I wish I could work with them in 20 years because that’s going to be very interesting to work with the young talent and see what has become of them with the time, you know? I was very lucky to meet them.
AMFM: They say you discover yourself in nature. Did you find that to be the case?
LC: Oh, totally, totally. There are a lot of books that talk about it. Just to walk in the middle of nature is very meditating experience. You know the book The Little Prince? [Antoine de Saint-Exupéry] wrote another book about the desert [Wind, Sand, and Stars] and he said that you need to be away from people to start listening to your inner voice and actually you need to be isolated not just for a week but for a month to stop listening to the voices of the other people and start recognizing your own voice and I think that that’s something that’s very simple but very challenging because you have no commodities, which we take for granted nowadays. So you confront yourself in a very healthy way. I did a trip to India this summer and I learned a lot and I was thinking about Maine because some of the feelings were new for me because I’ve never experienced what I’m experiencing right now and it’s confronting my comfort zone so I recommend it a lot. I would not go hiking – it’s not for me, I tried it, but I’m very glad I did for the movie.
AMFM: It looks like we’ll see a lot of you soon, including a show you’re working on now – a TV show called “Devils?”
LC: Yes, I’m going between Rome and London shooting a TV show called “Devils” about the financial crisis and I’m shooting with Nick Hurran, the director, and I’ve learned a lot about activism and how shitty the world is in terms of financial numbers and how little the world knows about it. It’s very different than hiking [laughs]and I’m also doing promotion for Only You, which is another one going to the London Film Festival and will be out next year. It’s something different and I hope people will enjoy it like they have been with Maine.
Maine is in select theaters and is available on VOD and digital HD today.