Unknown to mainstream audiences, Rie Rasmussen is anything but a movie debutant: her first short film as writer-director, Thinning The Herd (2004), was selected for the Cannes Festival 2004. After a small part in Brian de Palma’s Femme Fatale (2002), Angel-A is her first lead role.
Where are you from?
I was born in Denmark but I spent my teenage years in southern California. I have also lived in a lot of other countries (France, England…) so I feel kind of international. I chose to build my culture by taking the best from all these different societies.
What do you do when you’re not acting?
Actually, my goal is to become a writer-director. A lot of people choose a movie to see depending on who’s in it, but for me it’s always for the director. What I love about directing is the chance to tell a story. I can’t understand directors who don’t write… not to mention actors who win a prize for speaking dialogue that they didn’t even write!
What kind of “movie buff” are you?
I’ve been watching movies ever since I was big enough to switch on the TV at home! I remember the first film that really stayed with me when I was a kid: Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960). In Denmark, I grew up on Dogma movies – by unknown directors long before it became such a hugely publicized concept. When I discovered American movies, I fell in love with film noir: The Big Sleep (1946), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Key Largo (1948)…. They are some of my favorite films. There’s also Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969) and the incredible way he uses slow-motion. And my father passed on to me his love of Sergio Leone, Woody Allen and Clint Eastwood.
How did you meet Luc Besson?
Through the short features department of his company, Europa Corp. I had written a feature-length script, which I sent them. They got in touch, recommending that I write a short first, which I made with their help and which was selected for the Cannes Festival.
Frame by frame, shot by shot! He’s one of my favourite directors, up there with Orson Welles, John Huston, Howard Hawkes, Sam Peckinpah, Bob Fosse and Brian de Palma. The Big Blue was one of the first films I bought on video. I first saw it in Denmark and my whole family was crazy about it. I also fell in love with Nikita, especially the lighting.
How did Luc Besson talk to you about the film and the role of Angela?
As soon as he completed the script, he mentioned it to me, that’s all I can say. And also that I cried when I read it… even though I’m a gutsy girl – I don’t cry easily.
Do you feel close to the character?
You couldn’t say that she’s like me but I feel close to what Luc wanted to achieve: create an ideal woman, a character who only ever wants to do good.
Did you see Paris in a new light on this film?
I already knew Paris very well, including at four in the morning! I’ve been coming here regularly for the last ten years. On the other hand, I really did get the sense of helping to write a page of film history after A Bout de Souffle and Bande A Part. I think Paris should always be filmed in black and white.
As a director yourself, what did you pick up from Luc Besson?
The big lesson I learned was that you have to know everybody’s job better than anyone else to be able to delegate with finesse. Luc knows how everything works on a shoot. It’s great to watch.
Do you have other projects with him?
That’s not important. If I were to die today, I’d die happy. I’m so proud of doing this film that everything that is to come will be like a cherry on the cake! Angel-A is like no other movie. You’re in for a big surprise…