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Enter the Void

Dazed speak to Paz de la Huerta and Nathan Brown, stars of Gaspar Noe's coruscating, drug-fuelled Tokyo nightmare

Enter the Void isn’t a film that just tortured its audience with horrifying imagery, but tortured its cast in the process. Gaspar Noe’s latest combines an array of vile scenes that were very nearly actually endured by its actors. This is beyond method acting, when they are crying, it’s likely the tears are real.

Noe started writing the script when he was just 17 with the intent of letting the audience know what it is like to take a truly far out drug trip. Weaving in and out of a psychedelic malaise, the camera follows a brother and sister who’s twisted methods of loving each other lead them naively into the darkness of the underground Japanese drug and sex scene. The film premiered its finished cut at the Sundance Film Festival after nearly a year of editing the three-hour mind warp. Dazed Digital was there to talk to Paz de la Huerta and Nathan Brown who play the sadistic sibling duo in Noe’s latest nightmare.

Dazed Digital: When did you two first see the film?
Paz de la Huerta: Cannes. It wasn’t the finished version, but it was the first one shown.

DD: What did you think of the film when you saw it?
Nathan Brown: It was hard to watch. I mean, it’s a really hard film to watch because it drags on. It is like pounding you with all these images, and you are like, 'Please fucking stop!' But you want to see what happens. And the fact that it’s so long makes it hard, it just keeps on going.
Paz de la Huerta:I was terrified. The moment they put the lights up, I was crying. And everyone just started clapping and it was so overwhelming. I was like, ‘They liked it?’ The more distance I have from the film, the more I love it.

DD: Is working with Gaspar something you fell into, or something you sought out?
Nathan Brown: I had known his work previously, but with a movie like this you have to fall into it. You can’t really go into it knowing what’s going to happen.
Paz de la Huerta: Well, I had seen Irreversible when I was 17 and it blew me away.  I was really affected by the rape scene with Monica Bellucci as I’m sure many were.  But I thought the movie was genius and it had a lot of emotion, and I found it quite sentimental actually. And so when I first met Gaspar I was over the moon. I was living in LA and I was 19-years-old and he came over to my house and videotaped me. We became friends and soon I had totally forgotten about the film, and kind of decided at that point that it wasn’t happening because he didn’t talk to me about it after that. But then one day he goes, 'Okay, are you ready? We are going to Tokyo in 10 days.' I kind of realised that he had been studying me all along.

DD: You characters are very innocent, especially Linda. Is it hard to take on a role like that and make it convincing?
Paz de la Huerta: Yeah, well in some ways I was a lot like Linda. I was really sad in Tokyo because I didn’t have any real friends. Gaspar and everyone were consumed by every aspect of the film. I felt really lonely and she felt lonely too. But I feel like I grew up after that experience too. People noticed it when I came back after four months. I learned to take better care of myself. One thing though, I was warned by an actress friend of mine before I went. Given the material of the film, she said, ‘Stay away from drugs and alcohol!’ I did while we were shooting because I was so emotionally open that had I taken any substance, I probably would have gone overboard.

DD: The film shows a part of Japan most people wouldn’t know about, and it seems like your characters are really unknowingly trapped into it. Did you know much about that scene beforehand?
Nathan Brown: No, but I think that is partially the reason why he set it there. So we could be lost and confused and sad. Because like Paz said, you are so lonely there. So the point of shooting it in that part of Tokyo was to be like, now you can fully be immersed in the confusion, loneliness and wandering.

DD: So did you take on these personas of your characters while you were in Japan at all?
Nathan Brown: The guy that I’m playing he isa crazy party child, so the research that I didn’t do at the beginning of the film, I just did it while I was there.
Paz de la Huerta: Yeah, I mean that was his role. Me, I felt like so fragile that I was afraid to go out, and when I did it never ended up a good night.

DD: Do you think you’ll go back to Japan anytime soon?
Paz de la Huerta: I would love too. And I would love to go there as a stronger woman, because I wasn’t strong, I was weak. I was fragile and that’s what the character was. But I learned a lot like, I guess the most interaction I had with the Japanese people was when I was learning how to strip.

DD: You took lessons for this film?
Paz de la Huerta: Yeah, they auditioned a bunch of girls and some had like huge tits and breast implants and fake tans. And then this girl comes on stage and she’s flat-chested and has a big ass, but she started to move and everyone was just blown away. And I was like, 'I want her to teach me how to move.' My right arm is kind of weak so pole dancing was a little difficult for me, but she did a lot of floor-dancing. Sexy floor-dancing.

DD: How was working on the post-production, with the film so visual and Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter doing the sound design?
Nathan Brown: I actually haven’t even seen the finished version of the film, so I don’t know how it turned out. But yeah, the post-production process was almost more intense than the acting process, because it would be months where I would be going back to Paris and we’d just be in sound studios all day long doing voiceovers. It was a huge amount of post-production.

DD: What is it like working with Gaspar?
Nathan Brown: He’s not interested in how you feel as an actor. He just wants to get his camera angle set up. There’s one scene where they stuck me in an incinerator and I was actually in there. They could have used a body double, but he was like, 'No, I want Nathan to be in the incinerator.' It was an entire day, 12 or 13 hours and I’m just going in and out and in and out. It really messes with your head. And he never once was like, 'Are you ok in there?' He almost forgets you are even there.
Paz de la Huerta: For me there was one point when we were in the morgue, and we were in a real morgue, and I don't kneo why it was taking so long to shoot.
Nathan: That was that scene. It was a real morgue, and we were both completely naked.
Paz de la Huerta: It smelt so bad, it smelt of death. He was naked lying there, and I felt so much compassion and pain for him. I screamed at Gaspar. I was like, 'Get him a fucking blanket it is freezing cold!'

DD: There are a lot of non-actors in the film, how was it working with them?
Nathan Brown: I think Paz felt that more than me. For me, it was something I couldn’t relate because it was my first film. But I think it was really getting to Paz. I could see it on set, especially with Mario.
Paz de la Huerta: Sometimes I felt like I had nothing to work off of. Cyril wasn’t an actor, but fuck, man, that guy has charisma oozing out of every pore of him. He could be the next Brando I think. And then you take someone like the guy who plays Mario, and I feel like I’m just talking to a wall. And it is like an emotional scene so, luckily I am an actress and I have tools and I can use substitution.

DD: So would you like to work on a film with Gaspar again?
Nathan Brown: Well, apparently his next film is a porn. Like a real porn. But yeah, I’d love to.
Paz de la Huerta: Yeah, I definitely would. I mean listen. There are some really crappy directors out there. They are abusive, right. I walked off set of a Henry Jaglom film. Because I’m like, ‘Who the fuck do you think you are? Like you make crappy movies and you treat your cast like shit!' I don’t care if he sees this. And then you think about Hitchcock. Who didn’t really talk to his actors and maybe that felt cold, but he’s Hitchcock. And Gaspar, as far as I’m concerned can get away with anything he wants.

DD: Are you working on new films right now?
Paz de la Huerta: Yeah, I just worked with Martin Scorsese. Gaspar really admires Scorsese; Taxi Driver is his favourite film, so I was pretty psyched to tell him. But I also direct movies. I’ve also directed three shorts that I haven’t shown yet.
Nathan Brown: Right now I’m just doing auditions. It is all kind of wait and see until the movie comes out.