Paz de la Huerta is an actress who literally reveals all of herself onscreen. She first appears in Jim Jarmusch’s new film Limits of Control naked and holding a gun, and is credited simply as “Nude.” Next week she flies to France, where she’ll promote yet another revealing performance—a stripper, in French provocateur Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void. So when she showed up for her interview at the Soho Grand, we expected a candid interview. What we didn’t expect was a cupcake, but lucky for us, we got both. Here, the confident actress reveals her dream collaborators, the difference between a sex kitten and a sex addict, and why she checks her e-mail at the Mac store.
Thanks for the cupcake. Where’s it from? Uptown, this place called the Buttercup Factory. It’s really good. And you can only get it on 72nd Street.
You’re New York born and bred, right? I was born in this neighborhood, actually. Right in the epicenter of Soho—421 West Broadway, between Prince and Spring.
Did growing up in New York help you become an actress? I think it’s a good reality check to grow up in New York, because every day you’re exposed to people from all parts of the world, people that don’t have any money, people who live on the street, rich people—especially if you’re not sheltered. And I wasn’t. I grew up riding the subway. My mom was gone a lot and my dad wasn’t around, so I kind of felt like an orphan in the city.
Did you always want to be actress? Yeah. It was always, for me, very therapeutic. It’s where I worked out all my shit when I was a kid, and now as well. But I’m also really passionate about life, and experiencing as much as I can in this lifetime. And I feel like you kind of have to live life to its fullest in order to be a good actor. Draw on experiences. The more experiences the better, and I really have had a lot of experiences in life, even at my young age.
Tell me about a recent amazing experience. Being in Tokyo for four months and doing the film with Gaspar Noé was incredible.
What was it like working with him? He really left me to my own devices. At first, I was like, ‘Hey, why aren’t you talking to me?’ But he said he chose me because he wanted an actress who could trust her gut, someone who didn’t need much direction. And I like working like that. It was lonely at times, but that was good for my character. It was really about growing up, and having to fend for myself, and that’s what Linda goes through.
How does this character of yours end up in Tokyo? She gets flown over by her brother and she becomes a stripper. But that’s because he’s not really taking care of her. She’s looking for protection and she’s kind of forced to find a job. He’s dealing drugs and he gets caught with them, and he gets shot by the cops. He’s fighting his own death. It’s about loving someone and not wanting to leave them alone. It’s a very sentimental film.
You’re also in the new Jim Jarmusch film, Limits of Control, which is kind of the opposite—very cool, very stylish. Jim is a genius—just the fact that he has made it so that he can do exactly what he wants. So many directors are compromising for the studios, so I have huge respect for him.
Did he really write the part with you in mind? That’s what he says! And I’m totally, completely flattered by that.
Did he know you? I’d worked with Isaac de Bankole, the lead actor. I don’t know what it was based on. We really didn’t know each other that well. I guess maybe you meet someone, you have an idea about them.
Do you think playing a nympho in Choke helped you get this role in Limits of Control? They’re completely different roles.
Kind of. But they’re both sex kittens, don’t you think? Not really. In Choke, she’s a sex addict. That’s like being a drug addict. She needs sex to survive, and she’s angry if she doesn’t get sex. It’s a way to relieve her pain. The woman in Limits of Control is completely at ease with herself. She’s definitely alluring and beautiful and sexy, but that’s totally different. She’s mysterious. She’s more about love.
Who in the movies has inspired you most? I definitely like an older school of making films. Anna Magnani, Brando, Jack Nicholson. Hitchcock, my god! His films are incredible.
What’s your favorite Hitchcock? Vertigo. And last night I watched Sophia Loren in Two Women, by de Sica. Incredible performance.
Who would you most like to work with? I’d love to work with Alfonso Cuarón. I like Guillermo del Toro. I just saw The Devil’s Backbone and I was really blown away. And Pedro Almodovar—he writes the most magnificent roles for women. I don’t imagine myself in America forever, so hopefully he’ll hire me when I’m 30.
In Spanish or English? I could do both! Whatever he wanted. You can tell he really, really loves women and all their eccentricities. As an actor, I’d love to work with Jack Nicholson, Benicio del Toro, Meryl Streep. But I also want to direct and produce my own films. I have a lot of ideas.
Do you write? I do write. I get an idea and then I have a woman that I write with. She does most of the writing. My writing’s more poetic than structured like a script—that’s something for the producers, to get money. I mean, I could have two pages and know exactly what the film is.
What’s the plan after Cannes? I have a job to come back to. I love what I do. I had a very interesting winter and past year, so a lot to draw from right now. I’m feeling very creative.
Has the past year been “interesting” in a good way? For me there’s no good or bad, as long as I’m feeling everything to the greatest degree, whether it’s sadness or happiness. There was a lot of both.
Something tells me you’d describe yourself as a romantic. Yeah. Definitely a romantic.
Do you think that’s why you ended up in movies? One reason I’m an actress is that I’m interested in other people. And I just feel like a lot of people are repressed. And I don’t feel they’re really like that—they’re just scared. So it’s nice to push some buttons.
Are you repressed at all? No. I’m very in touch with my emotions. I’m told I’m more dramatic than most people.
Do people think you’re wacko? I don’t care about what people have to say. People don’t talk about me—I’m not famous! And I don’t go out anymore. It doesn’t interest me. I’ve done it. You know, I had a lot of fun. And I’m not saying I don’t go to any parties—I do. I’m just more interested in creating, and making art, and traveling. And I’d so much rather watch a movie.
Do you have Netflix? No. Cinema Classics, near my house, has all of the old movies. It’s on 7th Avenue. It’s great.
What’s the last job you could ever see yourself doing? I was a secretary for about a month. It’s a long story, but I got fired.
Why? I just typed really slow. I hated it. I don’t even have a computer. I just write in a little book.
No computer, isn’t that inconvenient? It is for my manager! She sends me scripts, but I’d rather read it in hand anyway.
And you don’t mind not having Internet? Unless someone sends me a link to their artwork. The Mac stores are great because you can use their computers, or I go to a friend’s house. But I rarely go. I’ll ask them to print out something. I don’t watch TV, either. I guess I’m really living quite old-fashioned.
Where do you see yourself five or ten ears from now? I’d love to be directing my own films, hopefully be married—or if not married, about to be married and having children. Also, doing more painting. I painted when I was younger and it’s still a passion of mine. And writing poetry and traveling.
Would you move away from New York? I’d like to live in Spain. I like Paris too. I love the fact that the present is the only real reality we have, so I don’t have to plan.