Stacy Martin On The Anxiety Of Film Festivals And Her Reflections On 'Nymphomaniac' (2024)

While most emerging actors start off as extras or with bit parts in TV soaps, adverts and sitcoms, Stacy Martin's first role was a main character in a Lars von Trier film that became the subject of headlines around the world.

In the eight years since the release of Nymphomaniac, Martin has learnt a lot about the industry, the kind of roles she wants to put her name to and the pleasure in taking her time, letting go of pressure and only signing on to projects she is passionate about.

Under this umbrella there have been Vox Lux (2018), in which she played Natalie Portman's sister, Ridley Scott's All the Money In The World (2017) alongside Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg and a short for Miu Miu (she was also the face of their L’Eau Bleue fragrance). She is also regularly seen on the fashion week front row.

Now Martin has two more exciting, yet contrasting projects you need to know. The first is the futuristic Indie sci-fi film Archive which (without disclosing too many spoilers) sees her play an artificial intelligence android prototype on its journey to human status. Though it may not sounds like it on the tin, the film is timely with themes of grief, isolation and separation from loved ones running throughout.

The second is the BBC's big 2021 crime drama, which even nabbed the coveted New Year's Day launch over the Christmas holidays, The Serpent, in which Martin stars alongside British stars Jenna Coleman and Ellie Bamber.

With a big year on the horizon, we chatted all things culture for ELLE UK's My Life In Culture series with the 30-year-old British/French actress.

As an actor, I find presenting the film the most challenging and nerve-wracking part of my job.

I’m extremely grateful that a lot of my films are presented at festivals. It’s such an incredible honour to go [to them] but suddenly you’re presenting the film in a room with people from the industry you dream to work with and respect, have watched and grown up with. In that moment, when the film ends and the credits roll and they put the lights on, it’s utter panic.

My most recent example was for Lovers, a French film, at the Venice Film Festival. [The premiere took place] in the middle of the pandemic and everyone felt so lucky and happy to be there. Cate Blanchett was on the jury and I remember walking down the steps thinking ‘Cate Blanchett is watching this film. I’m here, she’s here, we’re all here, this is weird!’ When the lights came on, I couldn’t look at her. I couldn't turn my head towards the side where I knew the jury was [seated] because I was petrified. I couldn't contemplate the fact that Cate Blanchett had watched my work.

Preparing for Archive was one of the most extreme processes for me

...and the strangest, in the best of ways, because as much as I could do my prep before arriving on set, it only really kicked in once I did the costume fitting. I put this bodysuit on and my face was covered with prosthetics. My ears were covered so I couldn’t really hear. I couldn’t really communicate like I normally would. When I [usually] talk I can be quite expressive - I move my arms, my face moves and I smile a lot. I didn't have any of those resources. This was great for the character [named J3] because when I tried the costume on it immediately positioned her in a very limited way of communicating - everything she does has to be extremely clear and weighted. I physically couldn’t sit down in one of the first grey suits so I would spend hours just standing and not really being able to move or hear properly. It was quite alienating and it all really fed in this paranoia one can have when they’re struggling to understand a situation, who they are or why they're there.

I didn't realise how big and impactful Nymphomaniac really was...

I was so familiar with Lars’ work and world. For me Nymphomaniac - yes, it was daring in the way he addressed a topic that hadn’t really been done in that way before in cinema – but it wasn't any different to how he would usually do a film or talk about things. For me, I just felt I was doing a Lars von Trier film. I hadn’t quite grasped the impact the film would have [on cinema] later on or on discussions around nudity.

Looking back, I can’t blame anyone for asking questions around the nudity but I think I probably would have just told them to 'eff off' a bit more...

The film had so many wonders and incredible performances that spending an hour talking about the nudity contract that I had… really? Out of every question you want to ask, that’s it?

Stacy Martin On The Anxiety Of Film Festivals And Her Reflections On 'Nymphomaniac' (2)

Lars von Trier, Uma Thurman, Christian Slater and Martin

I definitely think [the film's nudity] affected the way cinema perceives sexuality and created a little explosion of something that was probably quite necessary. It's a discussion that was needed and has been growing with the #MeToo movement. I’m not saying they’re linked but I do think that culturally they are stepping stones.

It felt like [the cast and crew] were arm in arm all together, like we really had to defend the film and Lars. Now I think there’s a lot more [of a] thought process. I’ve spoken to journalists who have watched the film since its first release and now view it in a completely different way. Of course, it’s not an easy film to watch by any means but Lars never meant to make a Disney musical comedy.

I’ve had a lot of bad advice

With people saying: ‘Oh just do any job - you should consider yourself lucky’, and all that spiel which is infuriating. I think the most helpful piece of advice I got was to ‘just wait’. It was at a time when I was working and really happy but had this sense I wasn’t working enough or doing the right jobs. You can have a sense of frenzy very easily as an actor because you start comparing yourself [to others] and wanting what someone else ha. Actually where I was was absolutely fine - I just didn’t realise it. I want to be an actor my whole life so I see it as a marathon and not a sprint - that good old saying.

I love speaking French in my films (like Archive)

I love confusing people, having a very British accent and then going into French. It always jars people a little bit.

I love anything to do with True Crime...

And so I can't wait for people to watch The Serpent. Usually I’m quite modest and discreet about when my projects are coming out and don’t tell my family or friends but with this, because the story is so unique and I love anything related to true crime...

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I have a weird rule about not re-watching films and TV shows

I’m too scared that it’s going to ruin the initial experience. Although I have rewatched Jurassic Park a few times (it’s so good). It’s the one film [for] which I break the rule. I saw it as a teenager in the cinema and it definitely implemented my decision to work in cinema.

During lockdown, Seinfeld brought me comfort

I’d never seen it before. I watched the whole series and it’s incredible - so funny and witty. A lot of the cultural references my friends have said or that I'd hear around are from Seinfeld which explains why I'd always be confused and lost. Now I understand... I know who Kramer is! Elaine is like a f*cking messiah - I love her.

Stacy Martin stars in Archive, available to watch on VOD from January 15, and The Serpent, available now on the BBC.

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Stacy Martin On The Anxiety Of Film Festivals And Her Reflections On 'Nymphomaniac' (4)

Olivia Blair

Entertainment Editor (Luxury)

Olivia Blair is Entertainment Editor (Luxury) at Hearst UK, working across ELLE, Esquire and Harper's Bazaar. Olivia covers all things entertainment and has interviewed the likes of Margot Robbie, Emma Stone, Michaela Coel and Ryan Gosling over the years.

Stacy Martin On The Anxiety Of Film Festivals And Her Reflections On 'Nymphomaniac' (2024)


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