Alicia Vikander Breaks Down Irma Vep’s Most Meta Moments

How does one remake a remake? The reply still confuses Alicia Vikander.

The actress is currently producing and starring in the brand new HBO series Irma Vep by director Olivier Assayas, who’s recreating his 1996 French film of the identical name which featured Maggie Cheung (Within the Mood for Love, Hero) within the titular role. Each iterations follow an actress who’s solid in a remake of the 1915 silent film serial Les Vampires to play villainess Irma Vep (an anagram for “vampire”), and finds the character rubbing off on her as she delves into the role—and slips into her famous black bodysuit.

Hollywood has churned out many movies about making movies. The truth is, it loves them. (See: Mank, Singin’ within the Rain, Hail, Caesar!) But HBO’s Irma Vep takes that self-referential element to a mind-boggling degree. Vikander, an Oscar winner and Tomb Raider star, plays a successful actress, Mira, whose profession somewhat mirrors her own. Meanwhile, Vincent Macaigne plays director René Vidal, an analogue for Assayas: René is filming an Irma Vep series with Mira, but has already made Irma Vep, the hit indie film, within the ’90s (referencing Assayas’s 1996 Irma Vep film) with the actress Jade Lee (who represents Cheung). And each of René’s Irma Vep projects are adapted from Louis Feuillade’s Les Vampires. Now read that again.

“I even got lost—still wander away—and it gets worse with every episode,” Vikander laughs on the phone, speaking from Paris, where she’s finalizing the last two Irma Vep episodes and meeting with Assayas and members of the crew. “I feel that’s the great thing about it,” she adds.

In a time when the entertainment industry looks like one big reboot machine, Irma Vep is refreshing, with its cheeky self-awareness, and at times, self-mockery. It’s almost as if Assayas is saying, “I know the way bizarre this all looks.” It doesn’t draw back from the problems with making reboots, either. René voices his insecurities about recreating an iconic work of cinema. Characters discuss whether the story of Irma Vep is fit for a series, whether it’s bingeable, whether it’s too area of interest for a mainstream audience. “It’s the form of conversations that I feel, especially for people within the film industry, should you’re doing that, that’s what you speak about,” Vikander says. She credits Assayas’s “good mind” for writing a realistic-sounding script. “He writes like people talk.”

The director is “really daring to go somewhat completely different,” says Vikander. “And I feel like that shouldn’t be like the rest I’ve seen on this format.”

Irma Vep premiered last month in Cannes (one other meta tidbit: the ’96 film premiered in Cannes too) after which debuted on HBO on June 6 with recent episodes airing weekly. Vikander, who has seen several versions of every episode in edits, won’t exactly be binge-watching; she doesn’t are inclined to watch her own work at her leisure. “I live and breathe my projects and love making them…but as soon because it’s out, that’s after I leave it,” she says. But discussing it’s a distinct story; her enthusiasm for Irma Vep, in all its versions, is palpable over the phone.

Here, she talks to in regards to the bewildering meta-ness of Irma Vep and what remakes are even for anyway.

So simply to be clear, Irma Vep is a remake a few remake; it’s a show a few film about making one other show. Or it’s a show about making a show—

That’s already been made within the series once. From the identical director.

Right. Does that ever trip you up, just as an individual working on this project?

Yeah, I feel that was the enjoyment of it sometimes, getting lost on set. And for me it was even, the crew that you just guys don’t see makes me walk around with two crews on set on a regular basis. I’m like, “Are you the true crew or are you an actor?”

Alicia Vikander as Mira in Irma Vep.

carole bethuelHBO

It also feels rare for a director to recreate their very own work. Whenever you spoke to Olivier initially, what was the intention for this specific iteration of Irma Vep from the beginning?

To be honest, the primary conversation that we had was probably, we had lunch. We talked about film and life, after which he was like, “I actually have this concept.” I feel I used to be surprised at first. He’s such an incredible, famous auteur and French director. And he was like, “I’m pondering…”

And I’m an enormous fan of Irma Vep. So even I almost had the response of, “What? What are you talking about?” And he said, “I’m not done.” That’s something he even said—so meta—within the series that he was like, “It [the original Irma Vep] form of happened.” He was waiting for an additional, much greater film to occur. And this got here about with no money, and with, in fact, this admiration he had for Maggie Cheung.

And when he did it back then, she played herself. And it shows the truth of filmmaking within the ’90s, which is different. And the questions which can be running around in people’s minds then is kind of different from now. And he said, “I just felt like I never knew it happened when it happened, since it was so within the moment. After which it became one in every of my most celebrated movies, and it form of shocked me.” And that little blip is something that stayed with him, obviously, due to relationship he had with Maggie then. He’s also, with the series, very, very generous and open to the general public, telling people his own very personal story [about their marriage and divorce]. And he said, “I need to recreate, I need to open the door to this world of ideas, of getting into discussing filmmaking.”

He said, “I need to create an actress this time.” After which he asked me, “Is that this something you sound focused on?” And I used to be like, “Are you asking me to be a component of it?” He’s like, “Yes.” After which I used to be like, “Yes, I’d.” I mean, immediately. Because I’d like to work with Olivier. After which he said, “Okay, then I’m going to begin writing it.” After which I got the primary and second episode. I got here in, and I even asked him, “So, where’s this heading?” And he was like, “I don’t know.” [Laughs.]

In fact he was like, “Yeah, I actually have some greater ideas somewhere behind my head of what I need to inform. However the journey there, I’m attending to know these characters myself. And I need to have the identical experience as my audience. I also wish to have a series.” He told me that he was going to let himself have the identical experience of being where his characters took him, which I assumed was very beautiful.

alicia vikander in irma vep

carole bethuelHBO

In regard to Maggie, is there a reason why he decided to not solid a Chinese actress for the lead role, like what he mentions within the series? That perhaps it was a bit of too near home? [Editor’s note: In the series, Renée says he couldn’t cast a Chinese actress in the Irma Vep remake because it would remind him too much of his original star, his ex-wife Jade Lee. Assayas and Cheung were married from 1998 to 2001.]

Yes. And, I mean, in a technique, she has a really big part within the series.

Right. Her spirit is there.

[She is played by] an actress [Vivian Wu] who’s a Chinese actress, but not Maggie Cheung. That’s quite a giant part in our series, especially within the later episodes. I mean, in a technique [Olivier] tackles my insecurities as well. Alicia Vikander’s insecurities playing one other actress, who must pretend to be something else, who’s worked with a version of Maggie Cheung in point of fact. So he very much made that—that’s now the story. I’m just playing the character that he’s created who’s tackling those issues.

And I’m not playing myself, because he said that the difference when he made it then was, it got here out of more of an experiment of [casting] Maggie Cheung—that sadly and shockingly, the world didn’t know who she was, regardless that she was one in every of the largest actresses in Asia. But that’s what the Western world looked like. … And that meant that he said it was a clean [slate]; she was just an Asian actress [in the film]. After which he could use the filmography, in fact, that she had had that was huge. And that’s referenced in Irma Vep, the film, that individuals don’t learn about this incredible actress who’s one in every of the best ones of her generation.

Whilst now, if I played myself, then the Western world would have already got an idea of possibly what I’ve done before, and interviews I’ve done. I understand that it doesn’t create the identical… It wouldn’t be the identical.

There are a number of similarities between you and Mira. You portray a successful actress who was also playing a successful actress within the project, and it shows your day-to-day on set, even all the way down to you wearing Louis Vuitton.

Yeah. I’d say the largest strokes are there, but then I feel personality-wise, it’s quite different, which was a joy of playing an actress, a girl who’s in the identical world. But additionally, I find it very interesting. I mean, I do not need an assistant who follows [me] around in all places. Despite the fact that I’ve seen similarities within the industry of people that have that. And I’m quite intrigued by what that’s like.

Did playing this character make you see yourself, your life, your job, or public persona in another way?

I feel we had moments, all of us on set. In fact, this can be a comedy and a satire and things are, you realize, they’re extremes; they’re very clear caricatures which can be these anecdotes or stories that you just’ve heard about people combined into one character. But I just had a conversation with one other journalist before ours and he said it’s that form of thing, if you see in the primary episode, Mira is tackling journalists. … I feel it goes in your on a regular basis job. You’re in it, and also you’re very serious about it. And it doesn’t take until another person forces you to take just a few steps back and take a look at it, and also you’re like, “Yeah, that’s pretty strange. And that’s pretty funny.” I feel I had just a few of those moments, like, “Yeah, sometimes we take our work so seriously.” And that could be quite funny to see from the surface, whilst I’m fully invested and am that dedicated about it then again.

Obviously, the costume is a big a part of the story. What did it feel like for you, as Alicia, to place it on for the primary time?

That’s actually something that Olivier and I talked about way back, that form of magic about finding your character. And to me, one in every of the largest moments is when I am going and have my first costume fitting–

Within the show or in real life?

No, I’d say for myself. With any character, and it’s such as you sit at home, you read your script, and my imagination and fantasies start. And you’ve gotten all these thoughts, and I feel movement comes quite early. I prefer to feel it. And that perhaps sometimes comes out of me trying on a fancy dress for the primary time. And it’s like, you set something on and a certain personality starts to look. It becomes more materialistic too, I assume. I feel with something as iconic as Irma Vep…to have this very iconic character that we’ve seen in so many movies…it’s pretty shocking and wonderful to see that this feminine villainess has been around for therefore long. And putting on that costume also makes your body disappear into something. It really made me move in a certain way, immediately after I put it on. After which it was like this sort of magic and discovery within the moment, whilst it was happening. I used to be pondering, “Oh, that is the Irma Vep that comes through my veins, for this show.”

alicia vikander in irma vep

carole bethuelHBO

It’s interesting to see how the suit affects Mira, since it’s a bit of different from—not less than for me as a viewer—the way it affected Maggie’s character in Irma Vep. Mira is empowered, but additionally vulnerable to Laurie, her ex, and gets manipulated by her. How would you describe the effect that it has on Mira?

I assumed it was interesting since it’s almost like René—it’s so meta it’s almost hard to explain this—the director within the series, he’s already done a remake, which was Olivier Assayas’s remake with Maggie Cheung, in a more modern latex [suit]. And it was when filmmaking tried to modernize things. It’s just like the [1996] remake desired to take it to the long run. I assumed it was interesting, it’s almost like René has now decided to understand the more original version of Irma Vep. And Olivier too, possibly. So there was something more in regards to the sensitivity of the 1914 version that inspired me.

And there’s something about silent movies; there’s a certain form of mime that goes into it that I feel may be very endearing, too, but additionally with mystery and a sensual sexuality. So I feel, without knowing, possibly that’s what appeared. I give so much to Nicolas Ghesquière for designing that costume, because he made a contemporary version of reinventing the old. The old one wasn’t silk, and he made it in silk and velvet. And that’s very different material for making something in latex. That does something to you. I feel if anyone placed on a latex suit, that can do something for you.

What do you’re thinking that the series says about sequels and remakes, especially when Hollywood may be very saturated with them?

[Olivier] brings up a discussion. … I feel Olivier has made this because, and I do know he has had a beautiful experience, and me too, working with HBO and A24 who’re, in fact, broad and make big industrial projects, but have artistic integrity. And I feel it’s an attractive thing to confide in say that we don’t must work with a formula. You may dare to push boundaries and query things. And likewise, don’t say your audience is silly. They get it. They understand. They wish to be challenged. They need it. And should you do it well enough, there might be a pair of individuals coming back. But that’s the toughest thing to do. You’re also putting yourself on the market saying that’s hard, and it’s good to be okay with failing. And you wish individuals who dare to champion it, and never say, “Well, this has worked before, in order that we’d like to repeat it and do it again.” … So I feel it’s just that, about daring, and that’s what made me so focused on being a part of this. Because when he began to clarify what it was and send me these episodes, I used to be like, “Wow. I don’t even know what that’s, and he’s explained it. I don’t know what it’s going to turn into.” [Laughs.] But I trusted him as an artist and a filmmaker.

And I mean, I had essentially the most wonderful experience doing it, and it really paid off. So, in a technique, I assume that’s what he’s attempting to possibly tell me and tell us all.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more.

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