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Splice – Exclusive Sarah Polley interview

by Andy Gibbons

When I was in the US recently I got the chance to speak to Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley and Delphine Chanéac, the stars of upoming sci-fi / thriller / horror Splice. I’ll post the rest of the interviews over the next couple of weeks but let’s kick things off with Sarah, who plays a scientist who makes a fateful decision…

Tell us a bit about Elsa…

Elsa and Clive, who she’s married to, are two geneticists who decide to make a creature that’s a hybrid out a human and animal DNA. They call her Dren and they raise her as a child but of course the experiment gets out of control.

Still Photography by : Steve Wilkie

They both make some rather questionable decisions during the films. Did you find it hard to have much sympathy or empathy for them?

Well she’s certainly one of the most ruthless, manipulative, complicated characters I’ve ever seen but I think she’s also someone who is full of life and had a real joie de vive. She’s passionate about her work but she’s also someone who’s incredibly damaged by her childhood – she’s running away from that so I tried to focus on that to remain empathetic to her in some way. When I see the movie there are definitely moments when you lose your capacity to empathy for her but I think, as an actor, it’s important to remain empathetic to the character you’re playing.

The world she operates in is a very technical one. Can you tell me a bit about the research you did to help get under her skin and how much of the technobabble you actually understood?

I spent some time in a lab with a geneticist named George who was really, really helpful and was a consultant on the film. I read a lot about it but there’s only so much you can absorb as an actor with no science background but I thought it was really important for us to at least understand the basic science behind what we’re saying dialogue-wise. We’ve all seen movies where the actor clearly doesn’t understand the corporate speak or the science speak so I kinda wanted to avoid that but I can’t pretend to fully understand the science that’s for sure.

From your perspective how much do you think we see on screen is science fiction and how much could be science fact?

I think its science fiction in that I don’t human beings would be allowed to do something like this – I think right now scientists and geneticists are so closely scrutinised, monitored and regulated. I think the science probably could take us there but I’m not sure that it would ever be allowed. I do think however that there’s an allusion here to Big Pharma (the company Elsa and Clive work for in the film) and the profit motive and I do think science like this should happen in a public system that is heavily regulated and monitored and where there is no profit motive. But even then I hesitate to claim that this could actually happen.

Biotechnology and genetics is an incredibly contentious field – has this film affected your perspective on the subject at all?

Well I think generally I’m someone who doesn’t have huge amounts of fear or scepticism about medical science research. I’m not a religious person so for me something like stem cell research is extremely important and could save millions of lives so I’m generally someone who doesn’t have a lot of scepticism about these things. Although I know some religious people who think stem cell research is really important too.

Can I ask you a bit about Delphine and how you and she worked on the relationship between Elsa and Dren?

She’s a magnificent actress and to get to work with someone so compelling and dynamic and so expressive without words, it helped me and Adrien so much in terms of being able to be in the scene and not working with a tennis ball which a lot of actors have to do when they make like this.


You mentioned Adrien. Can you tell me a bit about the relationship you formed playing Elsa and Clive?

We did spend some time together beforehand and the great thing about Adrien is that he has a great sense of humour so we were able to laugh through most of the film which is always a relief with a film like this which can get quite intense.

Splice is very much a pet project for writer / director Vincenzo Natali. Could you feel the passion in him day to day?

Yeah, absolutely. Vincenzo has been thinking about this movie for many years and so was so thrilled to be getting to make it. Visually he’s just one of the most staggering filmmakers out there so to get to watch him with this scale and this palette was amazing.

Some people will call Splice a science fiction, some will call it a thriller while Delphine has described it as a love story. Where do you stand?

I think it’s so many things. I think it’s a drama, I think at times it’s a black comedy, I think it’s science fiction, I think its horror. It’s not a film that easily categorised in many ways. I think the thing that really defines it for me is how shocking it gets. There are moments that shock audiences and cross boundaries I haven’t seen before.

Splice opens across the UK on July 23rd


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