Filed in General Valkyrie

Carice van Houten: how I learnt to love Tom Cruise for Valkyrie

Times interviewed Carice van Houten on her performance of Nina and working with Tom. They don’t write much about Tom, more on her character and her work as an actress, but you might love to read about Carice a little bit more and get to know Tom’s latest on-screen ‘love’.

The Dutch actress’s performance in Black Book dazzled – so can kissing Tom Cruise be that hard?

It’s just after lunchtime in the plush split-level penthouse of an Amsterdam hotel, and Carice van Houten is “doing” Tom Cruise. “Carice!” she says, in that infamously clipped American accent, before giving her head a sudden bird-like tilt, and her face a focused frown of Cruise-like concentration, adding, “As long as you’re comfortable with it, let’s do it!”

The 32-year-old Dutch actress is remembering her big scene, including kisses and tears, with the Hollywood megastar on the set of Valkyrie, Cruise’s new Second World War thriller. Here she stars as Nina, the loyal and long-suffering wife of Cruise’s German colonel Claus von Stauffenberg – the mastermind behind the failed plot to assassinate the Führer in July 1944. In the scene in question she bids a final yet passionate farewell to Stauffenberg, outside their family home. It’s her big moment, she explains, and it ultimately required the generous coaxing of her hyper-vigilant co-star. Hence the titter inducing impersonation (“I had a lot of fun with him, I have to say,” she adds, chuckling to herself).

It is not, of course, normal media protocol to perform irreverent impersonations of your leading man, especially one of Cruise’s stratospheric status. But then Van Houten, kicking back on a white couch, with her softly pointed features permanently pitched for a wicked giggle, doesn’t do protocol. She will later add, for the record, that Cruise was a perfectionist, a pleasure to work with, and that the rumours of German political opposition to Cruise himself were unfounded (the German Defence Ministry was allegedly reluctant to allow filming of Valkyrie on military sites because officials view Scientology, Cruise’s belief system, as a cult). “Nobody on set was talking about that, and it didn’t feel like a topic that was relevant to anyone who was making the film,” she says. But for the moment, though, the actress who made her name with a knockout turn in another Second World War thriller, Paul Verhoeven’s Black Book, is happy to puncture some long cherished myths about the wonder of being Hollywood’s Next Big Thing.

She has, for instance, just completed the sci-fi movie Repossession Mambo, opposite Jude Law, and the period drama From Time to Time for the director and Gosford Park writer Julian Fellowes. She even played Leonardo DiCaprio’s girlfriend in the recent Body of Lies, although her scenes, deemed superfluous to the central narrative, were left on the cutting room floor. “That was such a strange experience,” she says. “They flew me into Morocco, I had just arrived there, and straightaway I had to kiss Leonardo DiCaprio. After the scene, I just ran into the bathroom and burst out laughing, like, ‘What the f*** is happening?!’”

And yet, she says, the glamour of the job has a perilously short shelf life. In fact, it’s downright lonely. “I’m used to Holland, where it’s very easy-going on film sets, where no one ever has a trailer, and after a day’s shooting everyone goes to the pub and drinks,” she says. “Whereas on American films it’s like, seven o’clock, and everyone stops and goes back home to their hotels to drink ten litres of water, go to bed, and get up at 5am for the gym. These things get you down. I don’t need to stay up till three in the morning, drinking. But I’d like to have some fun!” She adds that it’s hard to confess to people that the life of a starlet can be grim. “Because to them I’ve been to the moon! And I can’t then say that the moon can be quite lonely and dark!”

Worse still, she says that recently she’s had some crazy, admittedly half-hearted, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” Hollywood moments herself. “I look at my body, and suddenly, since hitting 32, I have this stomach,” she says, manfully grabbing some flesh on her abdomen, before spitting venomously, “So now, for the first time ever, I have to drink more water and do my bloody sit- ups!” Ultimately, she says that instead of fielding calls from Hollywood bigwigs, she’d rather be with her friends and boyfriend (the actor Sebastian Koch, from The Lives of Others) in her house (nicknamed, “The Bloody Shame”) in the Pijp neighbourhood of Amsterdam and having a party around her beloved baby grand piano.

Of course, it wasn’t supposed to be like this – a double-edged dream come true. Raised in a cultured household, the daughter of a journalist father and broadcaster mother, she was brought up on a diet of classic cinema, such as D.W.Griffith and Abel Gance. Her imagination, however, was only truly captured after seeing the 1982 musical Annie, which eventually led her to drama school and the Amsterdam stage (her first professional job was in Brecht’s Threepenny Opera in 1997). I wonder, thus, what primal forces drove her towards acting – too much attention as a child, or too little? A huge pause. A sigh. “I think I might’ve got a little too little attention, and I probably still need it now,” she says. “In the end, we all want…” She starts to well up. “I’m going to cry now, but we all want to connect, because nobody wants to be alone. And when you act, and when you feel that your audience is breathing with you, you know you’re not alone.”

Van Houten’s appetite for acting was clearly satiated when, after a series of award-winning performances in Dutch movies such as Suzy Q and the fabulously titled Undercover Kitty, the director and Dutch national hero Paul Verhoeven came calling. The film-maker cast Van Houten as the Jewish resistance fighter Rachel Stein in Black Book. Within months he announced that he had found his new muse, that he was “in love” (on a purely creative level, naturally), and that the difference between Van Houten and his previous star Sharon Stone was that “Carice can act!”

The film was a showcase for Van Houten. Typically, it featured some kinky Verhoeven obsessions, including a scene in which Stein, hoping to pass as a German native, dyes her pubic hair blond. “We all could have done without the pubic hair scene,” she says, smirking, “but I liked it. It was like the Paul Verhoeven autograph, his thing, still being that little boy hiding under the blanket with a book of naked women and a torch.” But mostly, however, it allowed Van Houten to display a range that few actresses achieve in an entire career – her Rachel Stein sings, she wears glamorous red dresses, she suffers tragedies, she gets half paralysed, and covered in human faeces, and she even has a few sex scenes (playing opposite Koch, whom she fell for on set).

Is it possible, then, that she was spoilt by the experience of Black Book? And that there’s now a subtle trade-off occurring in her career, between the heavyweight Hollywood status that she is so clearly acquiring and the lighter, less complex roles that are subsequently available to her from an industry renowned for its chauvinism? “Hopefully not,” she says instinctively, before qualifying, “But a role like Black Book is something, I realise, that doesn’t come around that often. And I have to accept that it’s not going to happen that easily anymore. So perhaps the only thing I can think of is to work with Paul again, because we click together, he’ll put me in every scene, and he loves having a female lead. I should really get busy stalking him.”

In the meantime, she talks some more about the new movies she has coming out (she promises to tap her “inner bitch” for the Fellowes film), and about the first time she met Cruise (“I blushed a huge, sick blush, right up my neck, and said, ‘I’m sorry, I knew this would happen, you’ll have to give me two minutes’”), about having a relationship with a fellow actor (“Somedays I wish he was a banker”), and the lack of nudity in her recent roles (“That’s a good thing, because at least they won’t have to see my stomach!”). But we inevitably return to the root of it all, and to the emotional implications of such a precarious career.

“I’m so aware that, more than ever, I have to work on the inside, because if all this goes away, then what do I have left?” She looks around the room and then down, with a concentrated scowl. But this time it’s no joke. “Filling your life with applause is so dangerous,” she says, solemnly. “Because if you fill it with applause what happens to you when the people stop applauding?”

(Source: Times Online)

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