Interview: Gael García Bernal Discusses Making OLD During the Pandemic and More – Daily Dead

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Beginning tomorrow, M. Night Shyamalan is set to take audiences on a vacation from hell with Old, his adaptation of the graphic novel Sandcastle, written by Pierre-Oscar Lévy and Frederick Peeters. The story revolves around a mysterious beach where those trapped on its shores are aging rapidly, and they have to quickly find a way to escape before it’s too late. 

Old stars Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Rufus Sewell, Alex Wolff, Thomasin McKenzie, Abbey Lee, Ken Leung, and Nikki Amuka-Bird and is being released in theaters courtesy of Universal Pictures.

During a recent press day for Old, Daily Dead had the opportunity to speak with Gael García Bernal about his involvement with the film, and he talked about the initial appeal of the project, collaborating with Shyamalan on his latest horror endeavor, and how production on Old put a lot of his own experiences during the pandemic into perspective.

So great to speak with you, Gael. Coming into this project, and what was the initial appeal for you? Was it getting to branch out and work in the genre space? Was a working with Night? Or was it a combination of these things? 

Well, initially, what excited me was working with Night, because that’s all I knew about the film. I received an invitation to read for a part of a film that Night was preparing and that’s all I knew. And then the other things I learned about it was that it was going to be shot in the Dominican Republic, that it was going to be shot on a beach, of course, and that Vicky Krieps was involved. I was like, “Okay, this sounds amazing. This sounds great.” And then, afterward, when I was offered the part, I read the script, and everything came together and it was such a great opportunity to work in a very uncertain moment for the world. This happened in June of last year, so it was at a moment where I didn’t know when I was going to pick up work, and nobody knew what was going to happen.

So, I started to get involved in the concept of doing the film and then all the pieces fell into place, and it was very exciting. It lived up to the expectations as well – not only the result of the film, but the experience was amazing. It was really, really fun to do and it was great to be exploring these themes in this tropical space, all of us there, isolated as a group. We were like a family and just having a lot of fun without shoes for like three months.

You mentioned the themes and what really impressed me about this is that there are the horror elements to this film that make it really unsettling and really disturbing at times. But what I really appreciated about this was that it taps into I think a lot of things that many of us were thinking about during the pandemic, in terms of reprioritizing what’s important in our lives and cutting out some of the things that may seem like they matter, but ultimately they really don’t when the clock is ticking. And I’m curious, when you were you going through this experience and working in this story and in this space, did it change your perspective at all? Or did it heighten the things that you were already experiencing through the pandemic?

Oh yeah. There’s always an element of an opportunity to sublimize something that goes on in one’s life. And here, not being able to escape from this beach, obviously we all had something to say about that, because we were all experiencing this during lockdown. And so yeah, it did. It gave us a chance to put things there, in a tangential way, not in a very direct way, because again, the poetic interpretation of reality is what the artistic expression is, no? It helped us put things into perspective, and it helped us wonder freely about certain things we were living all through. So, yeah, I think in a way making this film was like therapy.

I know when I spoke with Vicky, she mentioned, it was, for as idyllic as the locale is, to make this movie and you’re on this gorgeous beach and you’re in the Dominican Republic and everything like that, but there were a lot of challenges. I’m just curious how working on this project challenged you as a performer?

The main thing that represented a big challenge, and I think for all of us, and it was a very daunting challenge, was how are we going to interpret all these extreme things that happen in such a short amount of time? That was complicated to figure out, because there was no definite answer to that question. So we had to just experiment and try out things and sometimes we’d fail. But that’s the only way that you can find out where to go and what the direction is. So that represented a big challenge. And the rest, like the normal limitations that working on a beach in the open-air with all those natural elements like sun and rain, we just had to incorporate that into the film. 

You’ve worked with so many fantastic directors throughout your career. How was your experience collaborating with Night on Old, digging into your character and finding the all these  beats to this story? 

In this film, and this is something that Night said that he does in every film, but he starts out with a very strong concept and a strong structure for how the film has to be shot and told. And that’s pretty cool because it actually gave us a point of departure as actors. It gave us a place to go from point A to point B, and then we had to figure out how to get there. So, that was something that I really enjoyed about working with him.

Also, Night infused this story with a strong sense of humor and he used that into everything that we were doing. And that was fun. We had a lot of fun doing that. He was very, very easygoing and regardless of all the dramatic things that were happening, he was very laid back about it and Night had a lot of control over what was happening as well, which was pretty nice. I enjoyed working with someone that was taking a lot of care with every aspect of what we were doing.


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Author: Heather Wixson
Daily Dead

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