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One True Love


Office — This is my first print interview so you’re just gonna have to bear with me on this.


Karl Glusman — I’m gonna pop your interview cherry.


O — As far as jump-starting a career goes you’ve kind of accomplished a Herculean feat. In your first three films you’ve worked with Roland Emmerich, Gaspar Noé and Nicolas...I can’t pronounce his full name.


KG — Nicolas Winding Refn.


O — It’s kind of a weird bunch.


KG — It’s definitely bizarre. It’s literally exactly the path that I would dream of. These are guys who have their own voices, who I respect tremendously. I still have trouble believing that I shot those movies and that Gaspar called me up out of the blue on Skype. In my mind he was like Stanley Kubrick and then he called me. I was shaking, like never would I think that it could actually happen, but it was all I could hope for.


O — So how did that come about? How did you get in touch with Gaspar, from what I know there wasn’t a script for Love, there was an eight-page treatment and they just called you. Or did you have to audition?


KG — Long story short, I went to France to kind of get over an ex, and when I was there I met a girl in a club who was working the door and we got to talking. She found out I was an actor and she said “Do you like French cinema? What’s your favorite movie?” I said Enter the Void. Which is an English- language movie shot in Tokyo with French production and an Argentinian-French filmmaker. And she was like oh, Gaspar — That’s my friend. Of course I didn’t believe her. Then six months later she texts me—her name is Amber by the way, and she’s changed my life. But six months later she texts me and says “Babe send me a selfie, Gaspar wants an American for his next movie.” So I sent a picture on my phone the day before I moved to Los Angeles and then pretty soon he Skypes me and we’re just talking and emailing back and forth and I’m sending him videos that I made back in New York with my friends. We were talking and writing every other day. Pretty soon he was like “Can you come out to France?” I said “Yeah,” and he said “Great, you have a flight at 4:30 today.”


O — That’s not something you really can say no to.


KG — I was like, “Okay I’ll pack a back-pack.” I went out there for two days. We hung out, we went to a lot of cafés and bars and went dancing a couple times. I think he was just seeing if he liked being around me, and then finally he let me read the outline. He was so secretive about the thing. So he finally let me read it and we did some camera tests, and we shaved my head. Well, he shaved my head.


O — Gaspar Noé shaved your head?


KG — Well, first this English supermodel started shaving my head in this shower in Hôtel Amour. But she was doing a really bad job.


O — I guess you can’t be beautiful and capable of shaving someone’s head all at the same time. I guess you can’t have it all.


KG — Exactly. She was shaving my head and it was hurting so Gaspar took over.


O — So let me get this straight. You get a phone call from Gaspar Noé and he’s like “You’re getting on a flight to Paris today.”Then you get there and you’re just chilling and partying and hanging out in hotel rooms with English supermodels.


KG — Yeah.


O — English supermodels who end up shaving your head?


KG — Yeah.


O — I’m sorry but I call bullshit. I’m calling bullshit on that.


KG — This actually happened. I mean I’m not going to say her name, because she was originally supposed to be in the movie but for personal reasons had to drop out. But yeah, she’s shaving my head and she was doing a really bad job and then Gaspar took over and he shaved my head. He also shaved my head at one point in the movie. You’ll notice that in one third of the film I have a really bad haircut and that’s the time that Gaspar cut my hair. It’s like really terrible and really noticeable. I look like a Neanderthal. My head looks really misshapen. So he shaves my head in this hotel and we did some screen tests. But then all this crazy stuff happened where the funding for the movie fell through days before we were actually supposed to start shooting. It got so down to the line whether or not the movie was happening, whether or not it was going to be in 3D. Then the lead actress dropped out. 


O — But isn’t that the nature of the film business?


KG — I guess so. It was so stressful for me to hear the updates. It was literally a fine line between you’re doing a movie in 3D, the most insane movie in 3D with your favorite director, or you’re not.


O — So when he sold you on the idea, did he tell you how explicit it was going to be, did you have any idea of that? 


The first question is “Hey, how are you doing?” The second question is “So, how do you feel about your cock in my movie?

KG — When Gaspar Skypes me, the first question is “Hey, how are you doing?” The second question is “So, how do you feel about your cock in my movie?” I said, “...what? Can you repeat the question?” Then I said, “Well I don’t think I’ll be inviting my mother to the premiere.”


O — Has your mom seen the movie?


KG — No, and I had originally asked her to never watch it, along with my sister because it was just too weird for me. The idea of them seeing sex scenes...


O — Yeah that’s understandable.


KG — But in the end Gaspar offered to fly my mother out to Cannes and pay to put her up, so I did end up inviting her. However she already made plans with my stepdad and she was in Quebec City, so she didn’t come.


O — But is she allowed to see the movie?


KG — No. It’s too... I mean, would you want your mom to see you performing sex scenes?


O — No, I wouldn’t want anyone to see that, let alone my mother. But it’s not just like regular sex scenes.


KG — No. They’re in 3D.


O — Yeah it’s 3D sex scenes and an ejaculation shot. At this point it’s the ejaculation heard around the globe.


KG — There are a few ejaculations in the movie. O — Is that really you or is it a body double? KG — I’m not going to tell you...

O — If it’s you or not?


KG — I don’t want to tell you what’s real and what’s not. O — Are there fake ejaculations in the movie?


KG — Well there is a shot which is mostly reused from Enter the Void, which is a composite shot of real flesh and CGI.


O — Oh, okay.


KG — And I believe they had to do some stuff to kind of, make the ejaculation pop a little bit.


O — I’m sorry—What?


KG — I think they had to use some computer effects to enhance one of the ejaculations.


O — So there is CGI ejaculation in this movie.


KG — Yes. You as an audience member get a 3D facial.


O — Okay, wow. So, to do full frontal I guess you have to be completely comfortable with everything that’s going on down there.


KG — Well yeah, or just really uncomfortable and say fuck it here we go.


O — So this is going to go down in history as one of the most explicit films that has ever been released.


KG — I mean its not the first, there’s another film that exists called In the Realm of the Senses which is a Japanese movie. It’s a French production but a Japanese movie.


O — What’s with the French, they love their sex, huh?


KG — Actually we got the equivalent of rated R in France now. It’s a -16, so sixteen-year-olds can go see the movie. Which is a huge victory for the film because it was seriously going to hurt distribution, VOD and DVD if we got an NC- 17 equivalent. But yeah I would say it’s going to go down as one of the more risqué films in history and the 3D aspect, I mean there’s 3D porn but you’ll see when you see our movie it’s not vulgar at all. It’s a movie about relationships, and about love, and about love failing, and relationships falling apart. It’s a love story but yeah, the sex scenes are in 3D. I may be the first full frontal in 3D, not porn but in a feature film.


O — Did they do any enhancing after the fact? Did you say, “Hey Gaspar I want you to give me a bigger schlong?”


KG — There were times when we were laying on the bed and it was kind of cold in the room, and I was getting kind of self conscious about that and he said, “In this shot your dick is small, in the next shot it will be big. There’s dick of all different shapes and sizes in this movie.” My dick has it’s own character arc. So there was no digital enhancement, there were no weights added.


O — So it’s all you.


KG — It’s all au naturel.


O — What was it like getting to know your co-stars? There wasn’t really a script and you guys improvised a lot, so was there a lot of rehearsal before hand?


KG — No. Like zero rehearsal. There was maybe rehearsal for one shot, which was a long Steadicam shot. Because of the weight, since we were shooting in 3D the cameras are twice as heavy cause you have double the equipment. It was about a seventy-five-pound rig with two RED’s and lenses and everything. We didn’t even know what the shot was going to be when we showed up to set. Gaspar and Benoît Debie the DP, would figure it out and then first play with the light for about an hour before putting us in place. Then Gaspar would ask us a question, “So maybe you did this or maybe she did that...and what would you be talking about?” And that’s the kind of preparation we would have. He wanted the most spontaneous most immediate thing he could get.


O — Was the onscreen threeway your first threeway?


KG — One time in high school...


O — One time at band camp?


KG — On New Year’s I know I kissed two girls at once, but this was the first time I’ve been naked with two girls in the same bed.


O — So now that you’ve done this on screen, has this happened in your real life? Now that you’re this up-and- coming Hollywood heartthrob. 


KG — Um.


O — Well I guess I wouldn’t call you a heartthrob, I would call you...


KG — Yeah, I don’t know if I’m gonna qualify for the Teen Choice Awards.



O — No, definitely not.


KG — Well sometimes after the movie plays, like at Cannes the energy in the room at the after-party was a little strange. I mean everyone’s seen what you look like naked so...I don’t know if that’s an advantage or a disadvantage.


O — When did you start acting, and what drew you to it? You went to business school first, right?


KM — Yeah, in college I started out taking business classes cause I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I thought I wanted to be rich, cause that seemed like what made people happy. My friend Ben said let’s take an acting class as an elective. I had a blast. I started taking more acting classes and pretty soon I dropped out of college and moved to New York. I started off at Stella Adler, I did their summer program and ended up at William Esper for about three years before landing my first play.


O — You started in New York and now you’re in LA, do you find that things are coming easier to you now that you’ve been in three films?


KG — The challenge has been that none of the movies are actually out in the US, so no one has seen them. I can get in the room more easily now with producers and casting directors, however I’m not getting straight up job offers right now. I’m auditioning and going to callbacks, it’s just like everybody else right now.


O — So it hasn’t changed overnight like one would expect?


KG — I still walk around and no one knows who I am. I feel totally normal.


O — What are the people like in LA compared to New Yorkers, do you find them to be real or kind of whack? My impression of LA is that everyone is kind of not cool but that might not be the right impression.


KG —Aw dude, I miss New York.


O — Do you really?


KG — I mean my neighborhood is cool. I live in Echo Park, you can walk around, it has cafés. It definitely has a bit of a Brooklyn vibe. But New York—nothing beats New York. I mean you’re so isolated here, you know. . . You’re in car s here. You bump into people on the street in New York. I miss that. There are some cool people here. I would say in general people’s voices are more nasally here. Higher pitched and more constricted. Sadly there’s not really a theater culture out here like in New York. 



O — Do you miss that?


KG — I do miss that. I do miss that about New York. But cool people do exist out here, it’s just hard to meet them.


O — So of these three things what’s most important to you right now: money, fame or power? No matter what you say it’s gonna sound dickish, but which one is the most important to you?


KG — Well I’m not chasing money, because I think that can be a trap, I have friends who need their careers to go in a certain way to get money to continue the lifestyle that they think they want. I also don’t have any money right now, so it’d be great to get some. I think power...I recently got a new manager, her name is Ilene, and one of the first things she said to me was, “You need to learn the most powerful word in this industry, which is no. You need to learn how to say no.” I think saying no to something is power, right?


O — It’s all about the choices you make.


KG — I think it’s really important in this business because people are going to judge you on the very last thing you did. Was it good, was it successful, was it interesting. People are going to hold you to that. So it’s a game, you know it really is a game of strategy and timing. It’s one that I’m getting an education on quickly. 


I think saying no to something is power, right?

O — Let’s be honest, you can be the best actor and be so fucking talented and not get any recognition or work...I guess that’s the risk that you take. Which is really important if you’re acting or doing anything, that you take a risk. It seems like you’re taking some huge risks. It’s almost like what else can you risk? You’ve done full frontal in your first movie that’s going to be out, that’s a ballsy thing to do.


KG — Honestly the thing about the full frontal is, I really wanted to work with Gaspar. I was up for anything Gaspar had in mind because who knows if I’d ever have another chance to work with him. And Gaspar demands a lot, he wants daring people. As an actor you have to be willing to do things that are frightening and make an ass out of yourself and fall on your face. But I think I just need to try challenging things. Not to be extreme, but interesting characters that require dialects and more work I think. When I say more work I mean things that people wouldn’t necessarily expect from me next. Like whether it’s a comedy or a British period piece, those are things, that’s where I think that I can go. Honestly though, it’s a relief every time I tell my mom I have a job. 



O — What’s the scariest thing you could do next?


KG — Another play. Either that or just do like a real life snuff film where I actually die for real at the end.


O — I don’t think your representation...

KG — You don’t think my agents will go for it?


O — No. I think their response would be, “What the fuck are you doing...” Question mark. Exclamation point.


KG — You might be right.


O — You’re also in Roland Emmerich’s Stonewall and Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon, what roles do you play?


KG — In Stonewall I play a closeted football player in love with Jeremy Irvine’s character, and in The Neon Demon I play a photographer romantically burned by Elle Fanning.


O — Have you been star-stuck at all?


KG — Yeah! I got super nervous when I did a scene with Keanu Reeves.


O — Seriously?


KG — I got so nervous. Because how many times have you seen his face? You feel like he’s in your memory, like he’s almost one of your crew. He’s so recognizable and then suddenly he’s up there in front of you and it’s Neo. He’s also in one of my favorite movies, My Own Private Idaho, and he’s also great in the Bertolucci film Little Buddha, but I got so nervous and the hair and makeup people were making fun of me. I think they told him how scared I was.


O — Did he say anything to you about it?


KG — Yeah, he told me how nervous he got when he did a scene with Al Pacino.


O — Oh yeah, in The Devil’s Own.


KG — Yeah in The Devil’s Own. He’s looking at me and I was trying to act all cool and he knew I was freaking out. And the day before, Refn yelled on set, Nic yelled, “Tomorrow you’re gonna kick Keanu’s ass Karl.” And everyone knew that I was scared shitless.


O — So for the most part are Hollywood people, are movie stars assholes?


KG — Keanu Reeves was the nicest person I’ve ever met.


O — Really?


KG — He was the nicest guy. You want to work with people who are nice. It helps if you’re talented and people like being around you. You know I don’t under stand those people who are actors, especially the young rising stars who you hear really bad stories about, who are just not nice. I don’t understand what that’s about. Whether it’s about power or just proving yourself.


O — Well let’s not jump the gun here, you’re just starting out. Those sound like famous last words.


KG — You think it’s too soon to call it? I hope not. 


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