Stacy Martin

Stacy Martin: “The film saves me”

Short Profile

Name: Stacy Martin
DOB: 1 January 1991
Place of birth: Paris, France
Occupation: Actor

Ms. Martin, what pressures of the film industry are you struggling with?

For a long time when I was first starting out, I didn't have an agent, I hadn't really gone to many auditions… I was very unaware of how the industry worked so I didn't have the preconceptions or worries. But now, I find it really hard when people say, "Oh shouldn't you be working? Shouldn't you be doing this? What about this? You'd be great in that…" I'm like, "No, I'm happy doing what I do!” There's so much pressure for actresses to constantly work or constantly be desired in terms of a value. We always talk about being bankable…

It’s become more and more about your commercial value rather than your value as an artist.

Right, I mean, it depends on what films you do… But I'm constantly faced with that. Like, yes, Nymphomaniac was a great film. Matteo Garone, who directed Tale of Tales, is a great director. But they're not doing a film with Tom Cruise that's going to bring 100 million people to the cinema and that's something that you sort of have to go, "Okay, I'm doing this because this is what I enjoy. I love being on set." It's sad that you still have to be confronted with the business aspect of it when you just want to work with someone and collaborate.

“Can it just be about the film? Can we just forget about money, can we forget about who's going to go watch it?”

Are you hopeful that that will change?

I'm an idealist in that sense, yeah. Like, can it just be about the film? Can we just forget about money? Can we forget about who's going to go watch it and how to market it? But of course, they can't because they had money to do those things and the fact that the film is being made is based on the premise of it selling and who's going to see it. So it's quite confusing. And sometimes even when I finish a film, because it’s such a huge thing, it can really take over me… We worked really, really hard and while every film is something that I really loved doing, it’s also hard afterwards to see something else that I want to do. It can also be hard to find a role of a woman that is exciting enough, that sort of has something new or different.

And in a way, you need to do films like that in order to get those strong roles.

It’s like the chicken and the egg, exactly. Especially for actresses, I think it can be quite tricky. And I guess, talking about pressures, with Godard, I did feel pressure to honor the story and to really make sure that was my premise. Suddenly, everything else came around, even things like going to Cannes and showing a comedy at Cannes — it feels very surreal and you kind of have to think: “Ultimately what matters is the film, and I’ve done that.” You know? In anything I do, the film saves me.

In what way?

With the art films I’ve done, you know, I got to work in a way that so few actors get to work in, people work years to get those kinds of opportunities. For example, with Nymphomaniac, we were given a lot of freedom by Lars and creatively it was such a fulfilling experience. But then it was over.

Did you have a hard time letting go of the experience?

I had to learn how to deal with the end of it. Once you finish a film you sort of go into depression mode because the energy shift is so strong. That's what happens to me anyway; I can't cope with the switch. I had to turn down a lot of films that involved too much nudity. I was worried about taking a part that would have been, basically, a subpar version of it. The really important thing for me is that I can't just be the actress that did Nymphomaniac. I'm proud of it but I need to expand. And then it was just learning that every set is different.

Even though you started your career as a model, is the lifestyle of being on set something you’re still getting used to as an actor?

Definitely. Every director is different. So when I read the script for Godard, I called Michel Hazanavicius and said that I love this certain scene but he said, “Oh, I don’t know, I think it’s a bit too on the nose.” Those sort of experiences are great! I love to laugh about these things and enjoy the absurdity of this constant fear of debate — it’s like, let’s enjoy ourselves! Michel is also someone who likes to please the audience. He’s got quite heartwarming cinema, I think. You can play a lot with that. So yeah, I think when you arrive on the set the first day, it's like the first day of school! It's somehow mortifying and it never goes away, whereas the modelling work that I did was just something I did during university.

“There was a point where I knew I would stop. I just needed to move on.”

It was more just a means to an end.

It was just a part-time job for me. I had friends in my school who had would work at pubs and restaurants, had three different jobs, and then writing essays and doing their course work. Whereas I could work one day a week and make enough money to pay rent. I mean, I wasn't earning astronomically, I wasn't celebrity modeling but it paid well. That kept me going. And then I had a thought: "I have all this money, what am I going to do with it?"

And what did you decide?

Well, I was thinking that everyone's been traveling, and then they were all applying to masters but I felt like I hadn't lived. I didn’t know what to do! In the end, decided to go do theater classes so the modeling money was the perfect way to fund it. Modelling was great because you meet people, you travel… But there was a point where I knew I would stop. I just needed to move on.