Olivier Martinez Interview, Blood & Chocolate

Posted by: Sheila Roberts
Movies Online recently sat down with actor Olivier Martinez at the Los Angeles Press Day to promote his new film, "Blood and Chocolate,” a darkly romantic thriller that explores the limbo between the human and the inhuman worlds. Directed by German independent film director Katja von Garnier ("Bandits”), the film stars Agnes Bruckner ("Blue Car,” "24”) and Hugh Dancy ("Basic Instinct 2,” "Elle Enchanted”) as the two young lovers who risk everything to cross it, and Olivier Martinez ("Taking Lives”) as the powerful shapeshifter whose survival hinges on stopping them.

Blood & Chocolate Clip: What Have you Done?
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Blood & Chocolate Clip: Werewolf!
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The story takes place in modern day Bucharest and tells the tale of nineteen year old Vivian Gandillon (Bruckner) who has spent her life on the run from the truth…that she is a werewolf. When her affections for a visiting American artist (Dancy) threaten to expose her family’s secret society, she must choose between her love for an outsider and betraying the secret vows of her family. Others may have secrets but none as extraordinary as hers, for Vivian is among the last of her kind, leading a tenuous existence under the protection and control of Gabriel (Olivier Martinez), the powerful and enigmatic leader of one of the last packs of loup garoux on earth.

This pack of loup garoux is led by Gabriel, who despite his youthful appearance is perhaps as ancient as he is powerful. Close to extinction, the werewolves must maintain their close-knit ways to persist beneath humanity’s detection. "Gabriel’s driving concern is the survival and unity of the pack,” says producer Hawk Koch. "Having already witnessed what happened to those who strayed, such as Vivian’s family – who relocated to Colorado only to be tracked and murdered by the hunters who discovered their identity – Gabriel will do anything in his power to ensure the survival of his loup garoux in Romania.”

Vivian is marked for marriage to Gabriel because he can see plainly her urge to stray away from the pack. "She’s not from the pack,” says Martinez. "She was raised by our pack but she doesn’t really belong to it. She doesn’t think that she belongs to any kind of society. She’s free. And Gabriel knows that if Vivian leaves the pack, it’s going to be the beginning of the end. It would be anarchy and would create an example, which would endanger the unity that has kept them alive.”

As is their custom, every seven years the leader of the pack picks a new mate. This time Gabriel picks Vivian. "She represents a new point of view about the rules and the traditions and my character is sticking with tradition because he thinks this is the only way to survive,” Martinez explains. "Gabriel thinks that she is betraying the cause by resisting. He witnessed the old way and believes that the loup garoux have to kill or be killed.”

The filmmakers consider the casting of Olivier Martinez to be the linchpin of the romantic triangle formed in the film. From their first meeting, producer Gary Lucchesi, director von Garnier and the renowned French actor were very much in synch. Martinez recalls, "For me it was obvious from the beginning how interesting the project was.”

"Olivier is like a wolf,” says the director. "He looks like one and his spirit is like one. That became apparent when Gary (Lucchesi) and I first met him. These characteristics contributed a great deal to the film. We soon realized he was the only person we could imagine playing the leader of the loup garoux."

Educated at France's Conservatoire National Superieur d'Art Dramatique, Olivier Martinez (Gabriel) has garnered acclaim for his work in theatre, television and film.

Martinez most recently co-starred in director D.J. Caruso's thriller "Taking Lives," with Angelina Jolie, Ethan Hawke, Kiefer Sutherland, and Gena Rowlands.

Martinez created a stir as Diane Lane's lover in Adrian Lyne's "Unfaithful," with Richard Gere; and "S.W.A.T.," alongside Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell and Michelle Rodriguez. Martinez also co-starred in Robert Allan Ackerman's retelling of "The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone" for Showtime. In a role originally created by Warren Beatty, Martinez played the Italian gigolo Paolo opposite Anne Bancroft and Helen Mirren.

Martinez first gained international attention for his performance as a dashing 19th-century Italian cavalry officer who falls in love with a married woman (Juliette Binoche) in Jean-Paul Rappeneau's "Horseman on the Roof." His credits also include Julian Schnabel's critically acclaimed "Before Night Falls," with Javier Bardem; Bertrand Blier's "Mon Homme"; Bigas Luna's "The Chambermaid on the Titanic"; Mario Camus's "La Ville des Prodiges"; and Eric Barbier's "Toreros" with Claude Brasseur.

Martinez made his motion picture debut in Jean Jacques Beineix's "IP5” (1992), co-starring Yves Montand. In 1994, he received the Cesar Award for Most Promising Young Actor for his work in Bertrand Blier's drama "1, 2, 3 Soleil," starring Marcello Mastroianni.

Here’s what Olivier Martinez had to tell us about his latest film, "Blood and Chocolate,” a love story wrapped in a thriller:

Q: Are you Catholic?

Olivier:Traditionally, yes.

Q: But you don’t follow it?

Olivier: But I don’t confess, for example. The only time I go to church is for a wedding or when somebody’s dead.

Q: You had long hair in the film. Now it’s short. Did you cut it for a role?

Olivier: Maybe one day I’ll have it long again. I just cut it one morning because I was sick every morning of too much maintenance on my hair.

Q: Were you attracted to the script because the werewolf transformations weren’t grotesque and the wolves are somewhat sympathetic?

Olivier: Yeah, that’s part of what convinced me to do the part because, as an actor, you never know how the special effects are going to end up when you deal with horror make-up so, sometimes, it works extremely well and sometimes it looks ridiculous. At least, in that case, I knew that my part would be done by a real wolf and I thought that was cool.

Q: What was the most fascinating aspect of the role? What attracted you?

Olivier: Honestly, the wolves. Of course, I was very happy to work with the team and be involved in it and I was very happy with the story of the movie and my part. But, I think if I had to play a cheep, uh sheep (he "baaaa’s so we’ll know what he’s talking about), I wouldn’t be fascinated and I wouldn’t do it. I like wolves. I have a thing for wolves, even before doing the movie.

Q: Did you get to get close to them or pet them?

Olivier: It’s not dogs. You don’t pet wolves much. You must respect and have no fear. You cannot mess with them and that’s what I like.

Q: Were you into werewolf legends growing up?

Olivier: Yeah. It’s a metaphorical way to explain the animal part which is inside us. It comes from the Middle Ages in Europe. It was not invented in Romania. I think it comes from human beings wanting to transpose their wild side through supernatural characters in a very naïve, but also metaphorical way. In Europe, the wolves had a very negative image because they were competitive to human beings in hunting because they are great hunters. But, if you go to other civilizations like [American] Indian, it a totem animal and extremely positive. It depends on which area you are in.

Q: Do you always research your roles a lot?

Olivier: You’d better study what you do. Otherwise, what’s the point? If I play a biker in a movie and don’t know how to ride a bike, I’m not doing my job properly. If I do a role, it’s because I’m going to learn through that role. It’s my way to experience stuff sometimes. It’s a gift for an actor. We are playing bullfighters, sailors, cooks, presidents and of course we’re not. But that’s a way to get a feeling of it and I love it. I think I have many lives because of that. Even if not a true life.I’m very clear about who I am and what I’m doing in movies which is not the case for everybody. It’s what is interesting. It’s experimentation through the role. In this case, it was about wolves.

Q: Did you have an opportunity to adopt a wolf?

Olivier: One of the producer’s adopted a wolf in my name. So, there’s a free wolf running in America, called ‘Olivier’. In Romania wolves are not adopted. They don’t care about them. In America you have to take care of them otherwise they’ll be extinct. I think my wolf is in a natural reserve in Wyoming, a big one.

Q: Is that one of the most bizarre things that ever happened to you in a film, to have a wolf named after you?

Olivier: That’s what I like. Unexpected stuff. You do a movie, you never know what is going to be the result but you know what you are going to leave on the set. One of the reasons to go on a movie is the experience you are going to have on it. If you have a chance to study wolves for a while and play a wolf on screen, that’s exciting and very different than what I’ve done before. I love to change a little bit.

Q: Were you scared of the wolves?

Olivier: No, lucky me. Because they smell your fear and you become potential prey. I’m scared to death of crocodiles, for example, but not with wolves. I’ve seen them. I’m fascinated. I’m so scared by crocodiles. I got to go see them in the wild but on a boat.

Q; Were you frightened by one as a child or something?

Olivier: Maybe, in another life, I was eaten by one. You can’t explain. You have people who have a phobia of spiders or snakes. When you face a crocodile of five or six meters….. I don’t know but awolf is okay.

Q: Were there any accidents on set with the animals?

Olivier: I don’t think so. Nobody was bitten. It was trained animals. Even if they are wild, you are taught they are unpredictable. Actors are fragile. If we twist our own ankle, it can mean money for the production so everyone was cautious and professional.

Q: What was it like working with a German, woman director?

Olivier: You mean that is a lot? I never take a role because of the nationality of anyone in the movie. If she’s German, good for her. If she were Italian, it would be the same. Of course, it’s a different sensibility and culture but I liked it. I like to work with people who are different than I am. To work with a woman [director], it was my first experience and I like it. As a man, I’m not dealing with a woman, even professionally, [the same as] I’d deal with a man because we don’t have the same way to communicate. With a man, it can be more straight and tough. With a woman, it’s a different feeling. I know we’re all human beings but I believe in differences. Women are different than men. They’re different and that’s what’s better. [he smiles and laughs].

Q: What was it like shooting in Romania away from family and friends?

Olivier: Well, you do that all the time but I’m a big boy now. If I don’t see my mom for a couple of months, it’s okay.

Q: The director said that you look like a wolf and you are like one. What do you think she saw in you that is like a wolf?

Olivier: Thanks. That’s a compliment. It’s difficult for me to picture myself. I can only see myself through the eyes of others and as an actor especially. Katja told me that. I have a natural feeling for wolves. I think it’s important to keep the animal [in us] alive. I never submit to anyone ever. You can kill me but you can’t submit me. We are a breed on this earth. We decided because we are human beings and we have a great capacity of intelligence and adaptation and we have a civilization to put ourselves above animals. But quite frankly, when you see the story of the human being, we are the baddest by far. I try to work with humility. I don’t think I’m more important than a wolf. We are all important.

Q: So are you a vegetarian?

Olivier. No. I eat meat. I’m not an ecological kind of person. But I think, if it’s not too late, we have to take care of our house, which is the earth. I guess the plan is to start to live on other planets but I like mine. I’ve seen pictures of others and they don’t look fun.

Q: Your character is quite traditional. Are you a traditionalist or a modern thinker?

Olivier: You can be traditional and modern at the same time. You can find the happy medium between tradition, meaning what you are and what you come from and modernity, what you want to be. As a human being, I think I’m traditional in some areas and extremely modern in other areas.It’s probably about what you choose to do or not and that’s what makes you who you are.

Q: What are you and Kylie Minogue looking forward to in 2007?

Olivier: I’m like an iceberg. The part above the water is acting life, the part below is private life. Usually, under the iceberg is much bigger.

Q: You’ve played an evil character and a sex symbol. Would you like to be in a comedy?

Olivier: Yeah. I’m an actor. I like to change the image and I like to change the role but I have to get the right offer. Comedy is difficult. It has to be funny. As an actor, I can be very funny but it has to be a very good script. When I find a role that is interesting and funny enough, I will do it. I have nothing against any genre. You see through my choices that I work in many areas and I like that. I don’t want to be typecast in anything.

Q: So is the character Gabriel in this movie evil?

Olivier: Maybe, from the point view of a human being, maybe my character is bad but from the point of view of a wolf, I think I’m a hero trying to survive when humans want to make your breed extinct. Human beings kill millions of wolves. Wolves, in this story have killed maybe dozens of human beings. I don’t think the balance is equal. I’m acting like Gabriel now but if you’re a wolf, you hate men. I’m like a commander in a war. We are very few and we have to stay by the rules otherwise we’ll be extinct.

Q: Are you more of an Alpha Male?

Olivier: Well, I don’t come into a room and pee in every corner to mark my territory. I’m quite cool with other human beings based on love and respect and I try to be civilized. When I’m around other human beings, especially the one I love, the one I choose to be with, I’m not a tyrant. It’s not ‘follow me guys, I have an idea.’ No. What I do for me, I try to do for others.

Q: Did you have fun after work while shooting in Romania?

Olivier: I’m not a party guy. When I’m working, it’s very boring. I’m more like a monk. I don’t hang around the bars. When I’m working I’m on a kind of mission. I’m very faithful to the people I’m working with but in my daily life I do exactly what I want so, at least for three months when I’m involved in a project, it’s teamwork. I try to do my job as best as I can so it’s studio/hotel/hotel/studio. That’s why I don’t have a clear idea of Romania except through the window of my car.

Q: Is that why you don’t work as much as you could?

Olivier: No. If I had a fantastic role every week, I would take it. I don’t have great roles every week or month. Instead of spending my time on a set and I’m not happy about it, I prefer to use my time for something else. I don’t find it necessary to be an actor to feel alive. That’s a big advantage. I know actors who are so addicted to their job they can not go back to their real life. I’m still in my real life, even when I’m working.So that’s helped me to be quite in harmony with myself. If I don’t work for a couple of years, it’s fine as long as I have enough money to live.

Q: How did you prepare for your role? How do you go about conceptualizing your character?

Olivier: Well you have different kinds of approaches. It depends on the role. For this particular film, I had to have a Romanian accent so I had to leave my French accent behind. Aside from the accent, I have to study the wolves’ behavior. I studied them at first at home with books and I have a friend who is a specialist on vampires and werewolves and I went to see him and he was a big help. He gave me descriptions and stuff about how werewolves are represented in our civilization. Then, I have to learn what you can’t learn in a book, going to see the wolves and face them. You try to do as much as you can, but sometimes you cannot do everything that you want, so you adapt.

Q: So you are a research guy. When you get a role, you really try to get into the background of the character?

Olivier: Yes, I don’t take myself too seriously but I take my job very seriously.

Q: Do you like comic books (I guess this was asked because Hugh Dancy’s character in the film writes and draws graphic novels)?

Olivier: Oh yeah. I love them. The Marvel ones I know by heart. I don’t know why nobody has offered me a superhero [role]. Maybe it’s because I don’t speak the language. You don’t have superheroes in France. We have super cooks (laughs). It’s more an American vision. Captain Marvel.

Q: Are you a good cook?

Olivier: I can survive in a kitchen and eat well, but cook for people and amaze them with my cooking, no.

Q: The film is about conflict between individuals and community.

Olivier: You have a lot of conflict. To be in love with somebody from outside your community or religious faith or social level. In Romeo and Juliet it’s a theme. But another theme that’s important is how the wild can survive with civilization and be together in the same space. Mostly, it’s supposed to be an entertaining movie no matter what the message is behind it. So it’s all about how to entertain the audience and how to manipulate the audience like Hitchcock said. It’s about keeping the attention of people on the screen and that’s what makes a good movie. I don’t believe too much in a message. I like old black and white movies on TCM. One of my favorites is "The Kid” by Chapin – a great example of being entertaining and smart. You can be entertaining and smart as long as you reach the human dimension and Chaplin is a master. "The Bicycle Thief” [is another one] and "Roman Holiday” [which is] nice and very light. You know, I love to see old movies before I fall asleep. It puts me at peace.

Q: What was working with Agnes like?

Olivier: What a great experience. She’s a great actress. She’s very young and I think talent doesn’t wait for years. You can work with a very young actress or actor and see them as extremely gifted and we were always fighting in the scenes and always laughing behind the scenes. I love that also. I don’t like actors who stay in their characters throughout the shooting because that’s really annoying. I’m a wolf during shooting but when I’m going to craft services, the canteen to get things to eat, I’m not going to bite everybody. At one point, you have to say, ‘It’s a movie so take it easy.’

Q: How is working with the Brits?

Olivier: Well, I worked with Dame Helen Mirren. I don’t make statements about races or people from one country or another. We’re all human beings with two legs and two arms. We’re the same. We have differences, of course, but mostly we are the same. We cry, we laugh and we love sometimes.

"Blood and Chocolate” opens in theaters on January 26th.


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