I recently had the privilege of speaking with actress Veronica Ferres, who appears in director Werner Herzog’s latest thriller, “Salt And Fire,” in which she co-stars with Michael Shannon. You can read my review of the movie here.
INTERVIEW WITH ACTRESS VERONICA FERRES:
What drew you to the role of Laura?
I’ve been wanting to work with Werner since I was studying in the university. I saw “Fitzcarraldo,” and it had such a strong impact on my life. The relationship of its characters to nature and the power of your own greed [affected me]. Werner Herzog made me become an actor and after I saw “Fitzcarraldo” I wanted to become [a Herzog] character. Being an actor is nothing more than being a storyteller. Since then I’ve done 90 movies and 20 English-language films. Two-and-a-half years ago I was traveling, it was a domestic flight, and I saw Werner Herzog and his wife sitting in the first row. The day before this flight, I started reading one of his novels called “Walking on Ice.” I thought it would be great if he could give me an autograph. I was shy, I thought, “I can’t do that, I’m not a groupie!” Finally, I came up to him, I said, “Mr. Herzog, my name is Veronica Ferres…” And he said, “I know who you are.” And he gave me this autograph. Two months later he called me and he said, “I wrote a feature film for you. It’s a lead part. Do you want to be in it? Do you want to read it? What’s your email?” I said, “Sure I want to read it!” – so I was reading it the same night. We started shooting a couple of months later, in Bolivia, 16,000 feet of altitude. No civilization, no internet, no TV, no wi-fi – nothing. Just the altitude and the incredible beauty of nature. It was quite a physical and emotional challenge.
Tell me a little bit about what it’s like, working with the great Werner Herzog.
He treats actors like kings and queens. He loves actors. [He has] a very strong vision about his film and about every scene. You work under pressure – only one or two takes. He loves that pressure on actors, you really have to be focused and deliver the best you can. It was an incredible time in my life, a beautiful time. We had no distractions. At night, we were so close to the stars, and felt so close to God, to Creation. It was really breathtaking – and exhausting! [laughs] When you wake up in the morning, Werner wants you in front of the camera. He didn’t want any makeup, nothing.
“Salt and Fire” is split into two quite different parts – the action-filled, talky first, followed by a sort of quiet spiritual awakening, with you and the children alone in the desert. Can you talk about that disparity?
For me, as an actor, it was just an incredible way of working. The first half of the movie I worked with one of the most talented actors in the world, Michael Shannon. Working on a very high, professional level. I also worked with two non-actors, two blind boys. They really were blind, they only had a visibility of 5%. I couldn’t speak their language, they couldn’t speak my language. We had no way to communicate except our voices and body language. Using my hands – touching them, guiding them, holding them.
What Werner created there was that they were two little boys who lost their mother and kind of become attracted to this woman, whom they don’t really know and cannot see. At night they are hugging and cuddling, as if they [have known] each other for decades. She feels responsible and wants to protect them from the danger of the desert. They don’t know if they are going to die or survive in those next couple of days.
The day before yesterday, Trump changed the laws about protecting the environment. A movie like that will show, very emotionally and with a lot of poetry, what disrespectful behavior does to our environment. One of the reasons (Michael Shannon’s character) is taking us hostage is because (his viewpoint is), “You should feel how it feels for local people, like us, what an ecological disaster does to you. I lost my wife, the mother of those kids, now they are blind, and I have to live with that every day.” She could be a scientist and only do her measurements, but he wants her to be a voice for the rest of the world because he made her really feel the loneliness and the sadness of the result of the ecological disaster. I think it’s very modern.
Finally, what do you think will resonate with contemporary audiences?
I think it’s a very unusual movie. Nothing is predictable. It’s a thriller, it’s about nature, it’s about love. Michael Shannon is at his best. It’s a typical Werner Herzog movie – unpredictable! The beauty of nature is breathtaking. I’ve never seen that before in my life. It touches upon our emotions and talks about disrespectful behavior to nature.
“Salt And Fire” will be available on VOD and iTunes April 4th and in theaters April 7th