Alicia Vikander makes fun of Marvel-style films in HBO's 'Irma Vep.' The director told Insider it's because reboots bore him 'to death'

Alicia Vikander makes fun of Marvel-style films in HBO's 'Irma Vep.' The director told Insider it's because reboots bore him 'to death'
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An image of Alicia Vikander.
Alicia Vikander.Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
  • Alicia Vikander plays an actress cast in a limited series remake of the French classic "The Vampires."

  • Vikander's role is in Olivier Assayas' new TV limited series, based on his 1990s film of the same name.

  • Still, Assayas told Insider Hollywood's penchant for sequels and reboots "bores me to death."

In HBO's new limited series "Irma Vep," Alicia Vikander is Mira, a disillusioned American actor who absconds to France following a messy breakup to take on a role in an indie remake of "The Vampires," a beloved 20th-century silent French film.

The production, however, is a bit of a mess.

Mira is surrounded by a band of ludicrous cast and crew members, including neurotic director René Vidal (a fantastic Vincent Macaigne) and Gottfried (Lars Eidinger), her crack-smoking co-star. Through this, the actor tries to balance her passion for the project with the advice of her money-hungry agents who insist she return to America to star in a Marvel-like franchise superhero film. Soon, Mira struggles to separate reality from fiction.

The show is based on a 1996 film of the same name by the French filmmaker Olivier Assayas, who has returned to write and direct the TV adaptation. The series spans an often hilarious eight hours, with each episode written and directed by Assayas, a feat which he told Insider was "very demanding and exhausting."

"I had no idea I was getting myself into directing eight episodes, and I didn't know I had to do it that fast," he said.

'I don't think much good of what Hollywood has become to be completely honest'

An image of Vincent Macaigne, Director Olivier Assayas and Alicia Vikander.
Vincent Macaigne, Director Olivier Assayas and Alicia Vikander.Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

The circumstances through which I met Assayas aren't too dissimilar to what you might see in "Irma Vep." It's a smoldering hot Saturday afternoon, and I entered the grand reception of an imposing five-star hotel at the heart of the Croisette — the glamorous street the festival occupies — where I approached a concierge for directions to our meeting room.

"Je ne sais pas!" the concierge screeched in French before switching back to English to complain that everyone keeps asking him about "this Irma Vep thing."

I sidestepped away towards a bell boy, who directed me to the floor HBO has designated for press interviews. Here I found elegant corridors fitted with solid gold trimmings and lined with agents and producers who are outflanked only by journalists, identifiable by their distinct black and orange festival badges.

I reached the meeting room and I'm told Assayas isn't there. He's doing his interviews by the beach. I'm whisked away to a private beach where I find Assayas sitting quietly next to the sea in a fitted Paul Smith shirt and slacks. He's joined by French actor Vincent Macaigne, who is dressed in a formal shirt and loafers. The unconventional setup has been orchestrated by Assayas.

"I'm trying to keep it all out here," he said, "I can't do the hotel rooms."

This is the sort of pull Assayas now enjoys on both sides of the Atlantic, which is why I have always wondered why he's never worked in Hollywood. So I asked him the question.

"I don't think much good of what Hollywood has become to be completely honest," he said. "'Irma Vep' is about the chaos of contemporary cinema. We are in a period of redefinition of what cinema can be and should be."

"Everything seems to be in flux right now," Assayas added. "And you can't escape the fact that what's driving the crisis is the crisis of Hollywood filmmaking."

Despite creating a reboot of his own, Assayas told Insider they bore him 'to death'

An image of Olivier Assayas and Alicia Vikander.
Olivier Assayas and Alicia Vikander.Dominique Charriau/WireImage

The problems in Hollywood, Assayas added, aren't intrinsic to mainstream or big-budget filmmaking, which he said he has historically loved. The problem is instead the financial structures that dictate how films are produced in the current business model restraints.

"It's just like the Marvel movies, and all that kind of stuff, and those sequels. It's all about franchises. It's all about sequels, reboots, and so on. It bores me to death," he said.

"It's the first time that it completely alienates me. It had never alienated me before," Assayas continued, before conceding that he still manages to find some satisfaction in Hollywood, noting that he thinks Christopher Nolan is a "very good filmmaker."

'She has something both very strong and very childlike,' Assayas said of Vikander

An image of Alicia Vikander at the Cannes film festival.
Alicia Vikander at the Cannes film festival.Samir Hussein/WireImage

Assayas' disdain for contemporary Hollywood can be felt throughout "Irma Vep." Vikander's Mira flees to France to escape a cycle of repetitious, CGI-heavy blockbusters, and while she's in Europe, she is constantly trying to fend off the opinions of her greedy agents back in Hollywood.

For anyone who is familiar with the original "Irma Vep" film, Vikander's casting will likely seem odd. Her body of work, which ranges from everything from small indies like "Ex Machina" to popcorn fare like "The Man from U.N.C.L.E," is impressive.

But Vikander's acting style is somewhat muted. Even in 2018's blockbuster "Tomb Raider," the Swedish actor rarely raises her voice. This is in direct contrast to the dominant style and elegance Hong Kong-British actor Maggie Cheung brought to her central performance in the original film — a change that Assayas told me he had been seeking.

"She has something both very strong and very childlike," Assayas said of Vikander. "She has this innocence and strength. She's a brilliant actress, but also, she's someone who has this kind of magical gift. You meet some actors and they are just more than actors. They are people who live and breathe cinema. You recognize them instantly when you yourself are haunted by a devotion to cinema."

Vikander's subdued performance leaves a lot of space open for her co-star Macaigne to explore the extreme emotional highs and lows of his neurotic character. Macaigne is a hugely acclaimed writer, director, and actor on both the screen and stage in France. And here, he steals the show in a role that he told me provided a full-circle moment. 

"Every project Olivier asks me to do, I will do it, but this one grabbed me because when I was a teenager I watched 'Irma Vep' and it was a movie that made me love French cinema and showed me what French cinema can be," he said.

A few moments later, I was told that my time with Assayas and Macaigne was over and I was nudged out as quickly as I was shuffled in. Before I leave, Assayas told me that he's rushing back to finish editing a final cut of the show.

"I'm almost done with episode seven and I'm in the middle of editing eight," he said. "It's kind of the light at the end of the tunnel."

"Irma Vep" debuts June 6 on HBO. 

Read the original article on Insider