Marielle Heller started out as an actress, but is best known for her white-hot work as a director. In the past decade alone she has made critically acclaimed films like A teenage girl’s diary, can you ever forgive me?, It’s a nice day in the neighborhood and the recently published What the constitution means to me. As Alma, Heller can not only return to her first love, but also take on one of the juiciest roles in all The Queen’s Gambit. Alma is both childish and maternal, tragic yet joyful.
Decider spoke to Marielle Heller about her work in The Queen’s Gambit earlier this month. She explained how The Queen’s Gambit The creator Scott Frank lured her into the series, why she loved Alma’s time in Mexico and which part of the Netflix series concerned the director part of her brain …
DECISION MAKER: You’re a great director, but I know you started out as an actor. I was curious as to why this was the project to get you back off, or how the opportunity arose for you to act again now.
MARIELLE HELLER: Also Scott [Frank] and i am friends. I’ve known him for a long time. I did a very small part in his film A walk between the tombstones. When I did, he said, “Oh, I’ll make you act for me. You will do a great part for me one day. “He was trying to make me do it Godlessbut i did Can you ever forgive me. It was really a matter of time.
And I love to act. I mean it’s my first love Really, I haven’t acted in 10 years because directing has become who I dedicated my life to and who gave me so much joy. But always, deep in the back of my mind, I thought, “I would like to act again one day.” From the age of eight I wanted to be an actor. At that moment when he came to me last summer and said, “Can you come to Berlin and do this crazy thing?” I was just about to turn 40. He said, “Oh yeah, I could have you cut all of your hair.” I was kind of like, “You know what? Fuck it all. Why not? I have nothing in line for the next few months. That sounds funny and crazy and is probably not the smartest career choice. But it sounds like a real challenge. It sounds like a more fun decision right now. ”
So I just said yes. It turned out to be such a delight. I had the best time
I love alma. She’s so loving, but sometimes she’s a flawed stage mother.
I was curious how you interpreted your relationship with Beth. It was tender, but a little problematic at times.
I love Alma too, and I love their relationship. In many ways, I think that there can only be one flawed relationship for both of them. There couldn’t be a perfect relationship. Alma is such a … she had such a hard life. She finds Beth at that moment when it is her last breath to have a family or to be a mother. There is something so desperate and sad about her being a housewife locked in her house in an unhappy marriage.
She really needs Beth. She has to take care of someone, but she doesn’t know how to take care of someone. She never really did. There is a selfishness in her that goes with her true desire to care for Beth. In a way, I think Beth needs someone as complex as she is to be her counterpart. The two find each other at exactly the right moment for each of them. I think it’s so cute. [Laughs]
I also thought the week in Mexico was kind of bittersweet for Alma, and I was almost like that – I know it ended sadly for her, but I was glad she got to live.
How do you feel about that for Alma?
Oh, I just had so much fun with it. I think I have Alma as rooted as the audience likely will be. My wonderful hair and makeup artist Lizzie and I talked about how much we love Alma and how much we hoped she would find love. Things like this. So that she has a bit of boisterous romance for a moment, even if it doesn’t last – you’re so happy for her!
Obviously it’s a show about chess. How good are you as a chess player in real life?
I don’t know how to play chess at all. One of the things I was most nervous about on the set – when I was obviously thinking about things like directing when I shouldn’t be because it’s not my job in this one – I thought, “How will the audience feel about it feel about the chess? Will you be able to follow him if you don’t play chess? ”
I just think Scott found a way to visually connect chess that you are so emotionally invested in it. Even if you don’t play chess. It’s kind of amazing. When I saw the show, I was overwhelmed by the fact that I felt I understood and followed chess and invested in an emotional level even if I didn’t know the game.
See The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix
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