Opening next weekend is director Mikael Hafstroem’s (1408) supernatural thriller The Rite and it stars Anthony Hopkins, Colin O’Donoghue, Alice Braga, Ciaran Hinds, and Toby Jones. “Inspired by true events, The Rite follows skeptical seminary student Michael Kovak (O’Donoghue), who reluctantly attends exorcism school at the Vatican. While in Rome, he meets an unorthodox priest, Father Lucas (Hopkins), who introduces him to the darker side of his faith.” For more on the film, watch some clips here.
Anyway, I recently got to sit down with Alice Braga and we talked about how she got involved in the film, what it was like to work with Anthony Hopkins, filming in Rome and Budapest, what she recommends if you visit Brazil, and she also told me about how she got involved in Walter Salles’ adaptation of On the Road, who she plays, and what it was like to make the film. Hit the jump to read or listen to what she said:
Collider: So, how are you doing today?
Braga: I’m great. Talking a lot, but it’s great.
Exactly. Do you enjoy – I might have asked you this in the past, but do you enjoy their promotional process? Is this something that you’re into, or is it sort of like – Some actors I speak with say they act for free and they get paid for promoting.
Braga: [laughs] No, I really like because you get the chance to hear the input of journalists or people that are making opinions about the film that you made. It’s interesting, I think it’s the first time that you connect with people that watched the film before the audience and you can discuss. It really gives you an input of the work that you did and the film that you’re involved. And I like – and I love talking, so for me it’s not a problem. My mom was like “you’re in paradise, right? You spend the whole day talking about what you most love, which is films. And you can talk!” But I have fun, I don’t mind. It’s part of the job. I think it’s a great opportunity to show your work, and to show the film that you’re passionate about.
With this project, you mentioned in the round table room that you were involved with this for a little while, waiting for it to go… Could you sort of talk about what was it about the material that attracted you and really said “I really wanna be involved in this thing?”
Braga: When I read the script, I was curious about the theme and as soon as I finished the film – but when they told me about it, I thought it was going to be just a horror film. And when I read the script, it got my attention that it had some suspense, and a thriller. And that thing of questioning and the research of the character of why she’s researching this, and her doubts, and her beliefs, and all of that and, towards the end of the film, why she’s involved in it. It got my attention because it’s a completely different character that what I’ve played before, and that also got my attention because I thought that I could do something with it, and it would be interesting to discuss this subject. So, as an actress, I had a desire to play something different and apart from the that, the script got my attention for not being just exorcism-horror film, but having a different, you know, a different look on it.
When you first got involved, did you know you’d be filming in Rome and in Budapest?
Braga: Not in the beginning, because they were still thinking about Prague and different places, but Rome definitely I knew we were going, and I was very excited. It was the first time that I worked in a film that was shooting in Europe, so I had fun, and it was summer, so… I couldn’t ask for more, I had fun, I must say. But it was the first time that I shot there. It was great.
The cats that are displayed in the film are very… I mean, if you’ve been to Rome, you see cats. They’re everywhere. Or did you not see cats?
Braga: I didn’t see much. I saw a couple of it, but not much.
Really? I’ve been to the city, I’ve been very fortunate, and there are some old Roman ruins like, near the center of the square. In the ruins are like, 500 cats. Just like wondering on. It’s like a crime – it’s like a hate crime to go after cats.
Braga: Really? That’s crazy.
That’s why, you know, in the movie…
Braga: I didn’t notice that. That’s insane. I’m glad.
But what about Budapest? Did you like the city, you must have been there for a little while.
Braga: I liked it, I think it was a great city. It’s interesting that the communism even was like ’91, it’s a still present, so… It’s a – it’s not a dark city, but it’s very intense. So, it was great to be there during the summer, thank God, because in the winter it must be very depressing, very dark. But pretty interesting crew, really nice people I met there. It’s a really beautiful city. Very, very beautiful. I heard a lot about it, but when you’re there, it’s just like… It’s beautiful.
Now, as soon as you’re in Budapest, you’re filming with Anthony Hopkins, Sir Anthony Hopkins. Are you sort of just like, pinching yourself everyday, posting on Facebook “I’m working with Anthony Hopkins today.”
Braga: [laughs] Pinching myself everyday, because I think for every actor – for any actor, it’s a dream. It’s like and acting class… You know, with him. It’s just an amazing chance to admire his work and to learn from it. He’s such a generous and kind actor on camera, and someone you can learn about a lot off camera. He has such a journey, such a beautiful life, with up and downs and story to tell that to get the chance to be there and admire this person close is… It’s just an honor.
I would imagine you work a certain way, he might work a certain way, the rest of the crew might work a certain way. What do you – for you, how many takes do you enjoy doing, and was it a lot different than, say… Some of the other people that you were working with, and how do you balance what you want versus what everyone wants?
Braga: I don’t think much, I just try to be in the moment and connect myself with the director. I love directors, because I do think they really direct you in the journey that you’re living. I try to connect with him and see what – like Mikael, he never stops until he gets what he wants, but if he gets what he wants in the first take, that’s it. And I try to build that trust. So maybe if I want another one, he would give me, “definitely, yeah, do it.” But I’m not – like, it depends in what project. Sometimes I feel like I need to do a lot, sometimes I think “okay, maybe this was nice” and if he’s happy, let’s keep moving. I think with other actors is great, because being in acting is a dance, you need to be connected to the other actor, because we’re telling the same story. So I think as soon as you’re in the scene with someone, you need to really listen and be together to build that. So I try just to connect with everyone and be open for whatever it comes.
You’re from São Paulo, Brazil. I’ve been to the city numerous times, my partners do the website Omelete.
Braga: That’s great! They’re really nice website.
I was gonna make a joke, but I’m gonna shut up. They’re good people, I was there recently. When you get back to São Paulo, if at all…
Braga: I just came, and I’m flying back on Friday. I live part time in São Paulo, part time in New York.
I did not know that. But for people who never been to the city, what’s like the one or two places that you would tell them “you need to go.”
Braga: That’s a great question. I’m gonna pick it right.
[laughs] ‘Cause there’s nobody in Brazil who would actually be listening to what you’re saying right now.
Braga: Well, I live – it’s very sad that this museum is kind of… Two museums that I love, MASP [São Paulo Art Museum], which is in Paulista Ave., but it’s a bit abandoned. It’s just nice to see Paulista Ave., which is the main thing, which is a very touristic spot, but anyway. And I love this music hall that we have in Ibirapuera Park, which is the Central Park of São Paulo. There’s a great spot for you to spend the afternoon. It’s a beautiful park and it’s in the middle of the city, but what I love about this place is that – the stage, behind the stage, it opens. So it’s a see through, and so – when you’re watching the concert, right behind it is the whole park, and people, and everyone else. So it’s a beautiful architecture, and it’s a great place to spend the whole day. Apart from the nights. I love, like, bars, I’m very – I’m not much into night clubs, but I love sitting down with friends in bars. So there’s a lot of good bars.
I did notice that myself.
Braga: You did?
Braga: Everyone likes being in places like these – I don’t like much night clubs, so I really enjoy, you know, going to these places, so… I think so. And MASP, it’s not advised to go there, because now it’s a bit abandoned, but it’s a place that I like. The old film theatres that I used to go… Midtown is great. The central, like, do you know? Have you been to downtown? It’s abandoned as well, it’s very, very poor, and very pretty, but…
I was actually there in August or September and I went to the – I walked on that main street near that cinema that maybe Fernando [Meirelles] bought?
Braga: Yeah, that’s Paulista, that’s Paulista Ave.
Yeah, I walked that street.
Braga: It’s great, that’s the one that I’m saying.
Oh, there you go.
Braga: Yeah, it’s very nice.
I had a very good day walking from the beginning to the end, where the mall is.
Braga: That’s great!
Switching subjects completely, I believe that you have been filming On the Road.
Braga: I just finished, yeah.
Kind of an iconic book, kind of a big project, a lot of people involved, it was filming for a long time. For the people who don’t know: who do you play, and what was the experience like making the film?
Braga: I play Terry, she’s a Mexican that works in California in cotton fields. She’s a character that Sal Paradise, which is Kerouac, he meets her in a bus and then they stay for a little bit together – it’s a small part like everyone else because he’s on a journey, so each person has a different participation in it. It was an amazing experience because it’s such an important famous book, so many people were involved in making this project – Coppola owns the rights. It’s been trying to be made like, forever. So being a part of it’s an honor, it’s a great experience. And it’s Walter Salles that is a really great Brazilian director that I love, that I always wanted to work with him. Every point of it got my passion to be a part of it.
Did you go – ’cause obviously once word hit that he was gonna make this thing – did you go after the project or did they come after you?
Braga: No, he came after me actually. He invited me, I was very honored that he thought about me for that, because I always wanted to work with him, and it’s a dream come true to be part of this specific one – specially because he’s been trying to make this film for the past five years. He researched, he’s very passionate about the Beat Generation, so… Being a part of this dream come true moment of his life, that is a Brazilian director, someone that I admire it’s – it was priceless.
When you’re getting ready to do a role like that, and you’re dealing with the material that’s so iconic to so many people… Do you study the book, do you study the Beat Generation? Talk about your preparation for playing such a part.
Braga: It’s fun, because I always – I love to do a big preparation like, I read the book and all that, but because the character was very much connected to that. But as my character in On the Road, even if I read the book when I was younger – but my character in On the Road it’s a – she doesn’t know much about the Beat Generation, she’s not part of that because she works in a cotton field, she works in California, on the border. She’s poor in a sense of “that’s her life” – she has a son, she works with her parents… She wakes up, she works, she goes to bed. So that’s her life. I didn’t go much deep into the Beat Generation just because I didn’t have… You know, I did myself under curiosity, I’ve done it before – even way before doing the film, just under, you know, curiosity and the interest of what that generation was, but… For the film, I didn’t want that because – specially talking to Walter – she’s a completely different part of his journey, and actually when he meets her, she goes away from that and learns something him. That’s something that Walter wanted, so I wasn’t much concerned about knowing a lot about the Beat Generation because of that – because she’s not a part of this world.
With the amount of actors, did you shoot your sequence like in a span of like a week or two? Or were you sort of in-and-out – like, were they calling you back every once in a while?
Braga: I was supposed to be there for a week, but then it ended up being three weeks because we had to change locations, but I loved it, because I love getting connected to the crew and living, you know, with them, and being a part of it. So it was great, but it was three weeks, I had to shoot different days… But it was great, because I wanted to gain a little bit of weight because the body in the forties was different, and I wanted to be tan because she works in the cotton fields, so I got a lot of sun…
[sarcastically] It must have been tough.
Braga: [sarcastically] It was so hard. No, I’m kidding. But it was great, it was a great crew from all over the world, like makeup from France and Argentina , different type of actors, director… So it was interesting, I loved it.
I have to wrap with you, but I have one last question: 2011 is just beginning – are you already thinking about you’re gonna be doing for the rest of this year?
Braga: I wanna do… War films? As much as I can. I have projects in Brazil that I really want to make. I hope it comes out, because they’re still financing, so I hope it works. I wanna work, I love so much making films, I hope I can do one after the other. Being on set is what makes me happy, so… The more I can, the better.
So basically you’re free and clear right now, so it’s just a question of…
Braga: Yes, I might have a participation to do in a film, probably I’m gonna lock that this week. There’s a couple of thing happening – still not locked, but I’m pursuing, and…
In other words, contracts are being worked out.
Braga: Yeah. And scripts are being read.
I completely understand. I will hit stop and say thank you so much.
Braga: Thank you!