German actress Veronica Ferres recently finished the preliminary tour for her new movie
Salt & Fire, directed by Warner Herzog. With an honor’s list of film titles in Europe and a legitimately loyal fan base on American soil, she is a pedigree actor that is both intensely passionate about her art and a down to earth, compassionate person. We chatted with her about her experience filming in a Bolivian desert, art and what is important in life.
INTERVIEW BY: The Celeb Story
The Celeb Story : What was your experience with Werner (Herzog)?
Veronica: Werner is an intense director and definitely knows what he’s looking for.
The Celeb Story : When you say that he’s an intense director…is that how you prefer to work?
Veronica: Yes. I think it’s great for an actor if the director really knows what he wants, has a very specific vision of the character, because I’m the happiest girl working with a director like that because then I feel loved, and supported and it just makes the moments – the scenes – it creates the moments that he has already in his mind. I feel that I’m really at my best if I am working with a strong director. For example, we had a shooting schedule always. We were shooting in Bolivia, in the salt desert at three thousand feet of altitude, and that’s quite a challenge for your body, and I was in scene one till the last moment of filming of the movie. I’ve done many English language movies, but this was my first real leading part and I was supported by Michael Shannon and Gael Garcia Bernal and it was just an incredible amount of text. On the second day of shooting, he looked up into the sky and he said right in the middle of this scene with Michael Shannon he leaned back and he looked up and he said, “well… you know Veronica… I think today we shoot your big monologue.” And my big monologue was eight pages of text! I thought, probably he wanted to see how professional I am, he wanted to see how well prepared I am. So I was smiling and I said “Sure. Why not, let’s do it now.” So, he said I know he is the father of your daughter, I know you are a single mom, so it was just bits and pieces going in but an incredible amount of text. But because I never go to a film unprepared, it went very well. And after that he was highly respectful and he said it was very rare that level of professionalism in talent …and after that moment because he was so caring and supportive and demanding in a beautiful way, it was just like being in paradise. Even if we had sometimes no running water in our hotel, or we had no telephone, no reception, no television, a pleasing diet from off of social media and internet…
The Celeb Story : Then the respect goes both ways, it is a more balanced experience?
Veronica: Yes. I adore him, the experience was incredible.
The Celeb Story : I see that you studied psychology. How much of an influence does that have
on your acting?
Veronica: I think a lot. For me it was very important to not just know a lot of an “arm” of what an actor has to play or how a script or a story or how a theater play moves, just literature, but I also wanted to study the structure of psychology, of how a being is, behaves, the emotions. How everybody functions, how they work psychologically. What kind of things that could happen in your childhood, even if it’s never mentioned in the script. It still helps me today to build up more complicated characters. Then I could build up my personal background. To study psychology, you cannot imagine, there were people who were schizophrenic, who had elements of abuse… I learned so much about why that happens. Sometimes genetically, sometimes they were traumatized, how they tried to be healed… so today it’s an incredible store of power for the characters that I play, even the mean ones…even the killers! They’re human beings. Every character that I play has to be a potential sister of mine. Even if I do not understand what she is doing, I need to love her.
The Celeb Story : So was that intentional? Did you have your sights set on acting when you decided to study psychology? Or was that just something that just happened to work really well together?
Veronica: No no no, no that wasn’t the strategy. I hated the statistics. When you do psychology you have to do a lot of math and a lot of statistics and I don’t like doing that.
The Celeb Story : What do you feel, after playing such a variety of roles, do you have a favourite? Not a specific role, but more a genre of character?
Veronica: For sure the drama, because I became very, very famous when I was very young with doing comedy. I did a lot of comedy. One of the biggest German film producers, Bernd Eichinger, he would call me his “little money making machine”, because with the comedies I was a money making machine. But then I had the desire to play dramas as well… I wanted to be a more highly respected actress not just a comedy professional. And then with the dramas, I just did that until I had all the awards I was dreaming of.
The Celeb Story: I’ve always heard that comedy is actually more difficult to get right. It’s interesting then that actors seem to always evolve from a comedy situation to a drama situation (to be seen as professional).
Veronica: So with being a comedian, or rather being an actor playing in a comedy, you have to… to really be funny, you have to have an incredible experience with timing. If you have the funny moment, and you leave the break before for too long, or if you pause after the funny moment for too long, or too short, or if your intonation is not quite right…or if your ironic feel to your character is not quite right, you just lose the moment and it’s not funny. So this takes an incredible amount of technique.
The Celeb Story: Now that you are solidly placed in both European film and Hollywood, what do you feel are the differences that stand out the most between the two? How does each industry differ?
Veronica: The biggest difference is that, while we have so much support in Europe, inGermany, we also, it’s hard. It’s a hard industry of course, but you are much more isolated
there. You work so hard to perfect what you do. Whereas over here (the U.S.) you are supported by an entire network of those who want the best from you. It’s still hard but in a different way. There are so many people here trying to “make it” so there is that as well for people who are trying to break into the industry. But here you have the best of the best of every genre, and even in the crew, the directors etc. You have so much talent to work with and everyone understands what you have to bring to the table. So here there is more room to really work on your art. You have support, you have things like catering or assistants so that you only have to think about what you are working on. You can be so much more focused and effective.
The Celeb Story: So if the paycheck and the awards were not a factor, would your preference be for stage acting or film and television?
Veronica: You know, I thought it was stage acting till I became a movie actor, but my preference actually, because I am a storyteller, and my dream is to touch people emotionally. And I think the power that cinema has is so much bigger than what a theater has. If I can make one person, inside a theater, or in watching a movie, if I can make that person… laugh… or happy… just once… then that is the most amazing thing that I really can do… or that you can get with acting. Or if you can, with a drama, if you can give anybody a reflection, with behavior, to walk out and go back to someone and say sorry… I think that’s the most you can get as an actor. I think that art is so important for humanity…the education of humanity.
The Celeb Story: That’s actually a huge part of what we are about with the magazine. That really correlates with what we are all about. So in the case of Salt & Fire, how has the experience
been for you specifically?
Veronica: I became friends with Michael Shannon, who is amazing, he has an amazing personality. Werner is very supportive, I am so blessed I’m so happy to have this incredible experience. How you see the stars. The beauty, the fluidity of the people, the native people who were there supporting… their love, their kindness, their respect. I will never forget, I am a very rich person from the experience I had. And the nature, it was unbelievable. They have no light from… no outside light, no industrial pollution… and to just be there, in the desert, on the salt, and just see the stars. It sounds strange, but it was like God was closer there standing in the desert. I have to admit that at the beginning, I was really scared. I thought we were driving for two days, far away from any civilization. We started shooting in Portosi and after that we were driving two days and there were no cities. And then the villages kept getting smaller and smaller, and then there was no street anymore. There was just dirt. And then after the dirt, there was no dirt anymore…there was just nothing. So they were just driving in the middle of nowhere! And I thought, what if… the actors, the directors, the crew members… we could die here! But Werner is incredible.He had an ambulance, doctors and a nurse… in case of emergency they could do a surgery if they had to. They were a mobile hospital.
The Celeb Story: And it’s important to feel safe so you can focus on what you are doing, not on what crazy things could happen. And did you find, you know there is always a PR company
standing by to make it look like the response from the indigenous peoples there are not being trampled on. What were the reactions to you being there really like?
Veronica: We really connected. It was strange at first simply because we didn’t speak the same language. There was one day, these two little boys that I worked closely with, they were both 95% blind. So they can see light… outlines. One of them picked up a leaf. He didn’t know what it was so he showed the other one. They spent some time feeling it and turning it over and over. They finally figured out what it was and then they flew it through the air, they played with it for a really long time. It really, being there really put the perspective clearly how spoiled we are. But not just that, also how we miss so many of the little things. The small joys. We always have so much going on. So much of this movie and the success was because of our connection with the people there. They absolutely accepted us and were incredibly helpful and supportive. We had an amazing time learning about them, their culture, and they were just beautiful. Their culture is beautiful. It’s so important to realize that you are in their space and allow yourself to really immerse yourself in the experience to get the most out of the situation. Not just for the sake of the film, but also as a person who is growing and evolving. Those connections you make are so important to who you are and who you become. It took some time to cross the language barrier. You know going in that you won’t understand, and you have translators and such. But you really do begin to create sort of your own language. You get a feel for the people and you find ways. I became very close with
that family, with the boys and their mother. I am helping with their medical bills and really just I want to make sure that I stay a part of their lives. It was such a magical experience and so much of that is because it was so surreal. You step outside your comfort zone and you are in an entirely new, beautiful world, and you really connect with those around you. Every day was just so special out there on the salt desert. Just closer to everything and without the interruption of daily “life”. “How you see the stars. The beauty, the fluidity of the people, the native people who were there supporting us… their love, their kindness, their respect. I will never forget, I am a very rich person from the experience I had. And the nature, it was unbelievable. They have no light from… no outside light, no industrial pollution… and to just be there, in the desert, on the salt, and just see the stars. It sounds strange, but it was like God was closer there standing in the desert.”