I recently got the chance to talk to Kasia Stelmach about her role in ‘The Great Gatsby’. Here, Kasia talks about how she got involved in the project over a chance meeting and what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set…
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
I’d say to sum it up in short; unrequited love, the pursuit of greatness and the plight of hope in spite of the many vices that have a claim over mankind.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
Marlene Moon is the most famous silent film star of the 1920s. She is a seductress, a screen siren and gets whatever it is she wants. She walks like liquid and it’s no surprise she catches the eye of Mr Tom Buchanan. She is the most prized possession of one of Mr Gatsby’s party’s and is not shy about gathering affections from the crowd or various diplomats in attendance.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I literally had a dream that said go to Sydney. So I picked up all my stuff, told family and friends “I’m just going on a holiday” but I had no intention of coming back … any time soon, at least. I scored a marketing role as a creative director for five online companies and didn’t think much of it. Until, I went looking for some household necessities. I bumped into someone who said I had a great look for a project they were shooting and I should come in for a casting. I emailed the address I was given and the next day Mary advised me to go to Fox Studios. When I got there I was still under some stupid impression that this was all for a photo shoot. They took all my measurements and asked if I minded if they fitted me in a garment then and there. I said what the heck, I’m already here aren’t I? Dress me up at will. So I get dressed up and am left in a pretty empty warehouse. I wait… not entirely sure what I’m waiting for…and then Baz Lurhmann walks out and with a cheeky grin, says, “Hi, I’m Baz Lurhmann”. I stop and think yep, I’ve been punked. He grabs my hand and says, with true Baz dramatic flare, we are doing a film test. I go to him, just so you know, I’ve never done a film test in my life…he says to me I’ll guide you through it.
And sure enough, I fell down a rabbit hole into a mysterious world, where his words painted images in my mind and it changed me. After the test, we parted ways and I sat in the make-up chair whilst the artist removed all her handy work. She whispers to me, “Baz is infatuated by one of the girls, says she is the personification of the 1920s”. I’m like “You go girl!”. Way to score, thinking it was someone he saw earlier that day. She turns to me and says, “Doofus it’s you! Even the cameraman thinks you have something that makes the camera want to focus on you”. My jaw drops, I’m not used to people thinking I’m special. I’m the girl who works her ass off at castings to prove she’s worth a second glance, and that’s just modeling. And sure enough, the next day I get a call to come in and talk shop. No agent, no real concrete acting experience just sheer dumb luck and a love for telling a story.
How would you say this film is different and unique?
Besides being shot in live time 3D, it places you right in the middle of the action. It tugs at your heart-strings in a way that only Baz knows how. A lot of films just follow a format, that, half way through you snap out of it and then have to find your way back into the film. This tells a story, giving you a visual feast for the eyes.
The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton, Toby Maguire, Isla Fisher, Carey Mulligan, Amitabh Bachchan, Steve Bisley, Richard Carter, Jason Clarke, Adelaide Clemens and Vince Colosimo – with Baz Luhrmann onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
It was amazing! I will never forget Toby Maguire. He would look at my eyes when I was on set and go, yep that’s you Kasia. You might have a different wig on and another outfit change – but I know it’s you! And his two adorable kids and lovely wife, were heart warming to have on set.
Joel Edgerton is really inspiring. He had, in my opinion, the strongest performance out of everyone. He told me once, that he and his character are very much alike, in that, he feels safest when he has a ball in his hand ever since he was a tyke.
Leo gave me shit for not being there one day, he has a good sense of humor but a really impressive work ethic. He knows what he wants to achieve in a shot and goes for it.
Elizabeth Debecki I love her – full stop. She is my Polish sister in crime.
Baz Lurhman – if he says give me “LIFE” one more time, I swear he is trying to resurrect Frankenstein on set, not make a 1920s party. Eddie the AD, he would always yell at me on set, “Kasia, Kasia, Kasia” like I was the annoying Marsha from ‘The Bradie Bunch’ – he was hilarious.
But above all I have the deepest respects for the casting agents Kate and Morgan. They saw something in me that day to put me in front of Baz Lurhmann – without them none of this would have been possible.
And lastly Catherine Martin, who made me feel like the most beautiful woman in the whole world for the first time in my life. Dressing me in a dress, that was hand beaded by more than 20 people and weighed about 10kgs. Lets face it, it probably cost more than my apartment.
Let’s talk a bit about you Kasia. What made you want to get into the acting industry in the first place?
I love people and I love stories. Ever since I was about 4, I was picking up books, talking someones ear off and spinning yarns faster than Rumpelstiltskin. I love knowledge and the only way I know how to share it, in a way that leaves a mark, is through the art of telling a story. And what better way to tell a story than film. I realized this, that day I met Baz. I found my happy place. When I’m on a film set and given a character to become, I fall down a rabbit hole. I wake up in wonderland and I learn something about myself, get lost within myself. Time stands still it’s just me and the camera and this vulnerability, like something I’ve kept bottled up finally has a release valve.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
It’s tough. I can’t pretend to know it all, considering, I’ve just fallen into the deep end. I’m still figuring things out on the go. Heck, I’m still finalizing an agent. All I can say is go with the flow, but be smart and always manage risk. Be respectful and kind to everyone. In the grand scheme of things, talent have it easy. The crew are there many hours before you get there and they will be there many hours after you leave set. So if you can help ease the day by following instructions, using common sense and help them out… you have a better chance of being recommended to work again.
What’s currently on your I-Pod right now?
LOL besides the entire ‘Great Gatsby’ soundtrack!!! I have been playing Bang Bang by Will.I.Am on loop for last 7 days to the annoyance of everyone. I’ve been listing to the xx a lot a bit of Frank Ocean, DJ Nice from LA and a dash of Macklemore and Miguel.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
This is hard cause you want to get the chemistry right between the three guests to have a good time!
- Ok, first, Greta Garbo or Angelina Jolie – (I see her as today’s counterpart) – she was a pioneer of her time, she physically owned half if not all of Hollywood’s land and was an amazing actress. I could really use a strong woman like that as a mentor.
- James Cameron – I just really want him to cast me in a film … who am I kidding.
- My Granddad – I miss him and living in Australia, I never got to spend as much time as I would have liked too. He died of cancer in Poland. And considering I can bring back the dead with this dinner date, I would like very much to listen to his stories and to have one last hug. That and man could he dance and down a vodka! If anyone can get this party started it would be him.
Which film was your favorite of 2012 and why?
‘Django Unchained’. Leo DiCaprio and Jamie Foxx blew my mind and let’s face it, I love Quentin Tarantino. Quentin – if you are reading this I’m free… if you want to cast me in a film or anything, just saying LOL.
What’s coming up for you in 2013?
I have a ‘Kill Bill’ styled short film I’m shooting at the moment called, ‘The Violence’ and another local feature. I’ve just finished shooting the cover a for September issue of Jessica Magazine in Mauritius and I’m the first Western woman to grace the cover. So I’m pretty honored by that. Also finished shooting a travel feature and I continue to interview for EVENT TV. But, I’m hoping by the end of the year I sign off on something big so, everyone keep your fingers crossed for me!
Thanks for the interview!