I interviewed Helen Bonaparte earlier this week regarding her role in A Public Ransom and given below is an excerpt from our online conversation.
How did you approach the role?
To be honest, I didn’t “approach” it in any particular way. I kind of just showed up with my lines memorized, and we hashed out the delivery during rehearsals. It was rather easy for me – given that I live with the writer, and he knows me very well.He essentially just wrote the character based on me from the outset. I feel somewhat like a fraud since I didn’t have to do too much “acting” per se, except perhaps in the last scene, where the director wanted me to stand still to illustrate Steven’s flailing about behind me. It was difficult to stand still, in fact. What I really wanted Rene to do was to beat the shit out of Steven, which is what I would probably really do in the situation, had it happened to me. At least I got to slap him.
How did you prepare for the role?
As mentioned already the preparations were mostly just memorizing lines, although I did have endless conversations with the writer as the script was in development. I pretty much knew the role Rene was supposed to play in the narrative, which is the “voice of reason” so-to-speak, to further show Steven’s isolation in a world of his own creation, completely detached from tangible reality. Steven charms Rene; she’s both attracted and repelled by his verbosity, his endless storytelling, his narcissism. He entertains her. I suppose in a strange way, if you wanted to delve deeply, Rene is the inverse of Steven. She uses him for his entertainment value in the same way Steven uses the kidnap and murder of a child. Oddly, Rene is the only character Steven doesn’t use for his own amusement. It’s an interesting reversal of fortune for Steven that she plays his own game back at him. Until she gets actually hurt, at which point she’s done with him entirely. Although I secretly think (and don’t tell the writer) that Rene would never be really done with Steven. His amorality only bothers her at a very surface level. They’ll make up and have a jolly time of it again.
Challenges you faced while shooting
The most significant challenge came the first night of shooting. I had burned my finger very badly that day cooking dinner, and had to keep my middle finger submerged in lukewarm water or else my finger was in frightful pain. I had my hand in a cup of water the entire time the camera wasn’t rolling, and would be wincing by the end of the scene wanting my cup of water back. In fact, you can see the cup on the bookshelf in the first scene. I was never far from it that night.
How do you feel now that the film has been released to the public
It feels great, although strange at the same time since I’m not an “actress” really. I’m a doctoral student, a teacher, and a writer. I was terrified I’d ruin the whole film by not knowing what I was doing, but it came off so great that I just feel proud to have been a part of it. I love that it’s getting “love it or hate it” reviews. It’s seeming to provoke discussion about art and aesthetics – exactly the kind of dialogue good cinema should incite. If only I could get a role in a film that, like, causes a riot or something. That’s how I aim high.