I recently got the opportunity to talk to Iván González about his role in new thriller ‘The Divide’. Here, Iván talks about what it was like working with the likes of Michael Biehn, Michael Eklund and Lauren German, and what is coming up for him in 2011…
Hey Iván. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. ‘The Divide’ is in selected UK cinemas right now. What is the general plotline around the film?
Hello! Well, “The Divide” tells the story of eight people who don’t know each other, who find refuge in the basement of their apartment building in New York after the cities wiped by, what we think is, a nuclear attack.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the film….
I play Sam. A young French lawyer and the boyfriend of Eva, Lauren German’s character. Their relationship is not at is highest when the movie starts. They’re in the middle of a crisis. He still loves her, and really tries to hold the situation, but when suddenly, the sky starts raining bombs…well…it’s hard for him to keep it together! Once Sam is downstairs his rational mind tries to find a solution to their problems, but his personality’s weak and quickly he’s overwhelmed by the situation…
Given the fact it’s a bunch of people who are stuck together in a bunker, would you say you could identify with your character or even anyone else’s?
One of the many good things in this project was the fact that we shot it in chronological order. That allowed us to evolve with the characters and also to work really close to Eron (the screenwriter) and Xavier (the director). Every night we had a new perspective of the evolution of our characters, how their relationships were evolving (or un-evolving!). We also had to lose a lot of weight in little time, and we helped each other to keep this path. So you could say in a certain way I could really identify with Sam and the others. We were together on set with no sunlight and had very long days to go through, to the point where cabin fever almost set in on us. I also met two of the greatest guys ever, Milo Ventimiglia and Michael Eklund. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration by saying that we all lived this experience as three soldiers, or as we used to say with Milo “ Our Long Walk…” in reference to the Stephen King book. But it’s not without saying that we didn’t have conflicts. We did. We were really divided at one point.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I did a casting in Paris with Michael Laguens and Xavier was there too. They both liked my audition and then I had to fly to Winnipeg for a week of rehearsals where we improvised a lot of the background of our characters. My first day was with Michael Biehn and I remember being so nervous to confront the guy who fought the Terminator and a bunch of Aliens…He was tough, real tough, so intense…I had to let my inner geek go for a walk and get into Sam mode, which was easy since he’s so scared of Mickey!
How has the reception been to the film so far? I’ve heard nothing but praise for Xavier Gens…
The reception’s bizarre, either very enthusiastic or complete rejection. It’s fun to read the critics saying exactly the same thing, both in good reviews and in bad reviews! Xavier’s the most charming guy, a real teddy bear, with a great value for his team. He listens a lot to what everyone has to say, he’s not closed to his own agenda and to me that’s something amazing. It lets the film breath some real moments. For example, I came in one day with Micheal Eklund and we showed Xavier a scene we improvised (the infamous “P…Y” scene…) and he started to laugh like a kid.
How would you say ‘The Divide’ is different from other sci-fi films released this year which have the apocalypse edge to them?
First of all – the construction of the script. We, (the viewer) are thrown into the action without knowing these people and during the first act there are no explanations of who they are, just action. You could make an entire movie of the first act! In just 30 minutes! This is not a movie of heroes and villains; it’s a grim look at a bunch of people who don’t get along since the get go. They are beat people, as we all are; beat by life and at the edge. They make the wrong choices because they’re afraid to trust anyone. It’s also a look at people after 9/11; of the human choices that are made to confront a crisis, of the growing ghost of all the – ISMs: fascism, machism, and racism…there is no redemption or hope. It’s like a Carpenter movie, but if Carpenter is like classic rock, ‘The Divide’ is punk. It’s not an easy movie, but one that grows in you once you leave the cinema. So what’s the difference of this movie with other sci-fi movies released this year; let just say we take a walk on the dark side of the human psyche!
The film stars Lauren German, my old friend Michael Biehn and Milo Ventimiglia – what was it like working with them on-set?
Michael was Mickey. All the time. He’s tough. He’s a legend. I think the great thing about casting M.B for this part was that he was like the beaten cynical hero who retreats from the world. It was as if Hicks just came back to Earth and decided that we humans are no better than the aliens. A crepuscular hero. Milo is probably the most professional actor I have ever met. He’s also a perfect Superman cast! He has a strong and confident character but always has the gentlest manners. He’s amazing in the movie. He really had to get to dark places for this one, with no fear and a very generous attitude. Lauren had some real tough time on set, being surrounded by all of these at the edge guys. Rosanna Arquette went so far with her character, she actually was in shock after the rape scene, but during the shooting she never stopped, she never asked for “mercy” – she was always testing her limits. A genuine example of sacrifice. Courtney B Vance was the balance of the entire movie. A gentleman. Since we shot in chronological order he was one of the first to leave and you could sense his absence. Once he was not there, conflicts began. He was like Delvin (his character) – a voice of reason. We felt the same thing when the young girl Abbey Thickson left, she was the joy of the group and things got really dark when she left. Finally, Michael Eklund. This guy took a not so funny sidekick character and turned it into an iconic and unique freak. He’s an amazing actor.
Let’s talk a bit about you Ivan. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
I started in high school and never stopped! I did a lot of stage acting in France and in Argentina. I was lucky to work with some amazing teachers like Alberto Ure, Fernando Piernas, Raul Serrano and Juan Carlos Corazza. I never stopped studying. I’m actually working with an amazing American coach right now, Vernice Klier. She’s my personal Yoda.
What does an Ivan Gonzalez day consist of?
I read and I watch. Novels, comic books, films. I watch almost six movies per week in the cinema plus an equal amount on DVD. I read a lot of scripts; I’m really interested in the mechanics of it. I also do some sport; boxing and jogging. And I love the Boca Juniors and Argentina soccer teams!
What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?
Probably this one is the most fulfilling so far. But that would be unfair with all the good experiences I had. They’re all different.
What’s coming up for you in 2011? I hear you’ve just completed two projects – ‘El Borde Del Tiempo’ and ‘Errors Of The Human Body’….
We shot “El Borde Del Tiempo”, a story about a little girl who’s forced to leave her home with her grand father and their neighbour; me; the son of political activist killed during the last dictatorship in Argentina; six years ago! But that’s Argentina, independent projects are really hard to do and even harder to distribute. “Errors Of The Human Body” is the first movie of Eron Shean, the screenwriter of ‘The Divide’. We shot it in Germany, at Dresden and I got to work with Michael Eklund again! I just saw the production trailer and it looks amazing! A little like those first Cronenberg movies…
Thanks for the interview!