Q&A: Joséphine de la Baume & Roxane Mesquida on Vampire sisterhood in “KISS OF THE DAMNED”
At the center of the swirling, swooning style of Xan Cassavetes’ direction in KISS OF THE DAMNED is the swirling, strained relationship of vampire sisters Djuna and Mimi. As heightened as the film itself, the performances from Joséphine de la Baume and Roxane Mesquida are deeply felt and loudly performed. FANGORIA spoke with the actresses about creating such a tender bond and the real life dilemmas explored in KISS OF THE DAMNED (now available on DVD and Blu-ray along with the fantastic soundtrack).
When the recording began, we were speaking of the film’s fashion. There are spoilers throughout.
JOSÉPHINE DE LA BAUME: …Mix together an element of something she would have had for a long time and liked, with something modern.
FANGORIA: Did you bring elements to that, give input on what you believe the character would wear?
DE LA BAUME: I brought a lot of shoes, and I brought a lot of—I love Victorian jackets so I brought a lot of my jackets. I think that’s how I dress in real life, just not as…
ROXANE MESQUIDA: That’s how we sleep every night [laughs].
DE LA BAUME: I always like mixing one thing, like a shitty t-shirt and a nice jacket that my friend made. I like mixing something that’s really unique. We both picked what we liked.
MESQUIDA: And I did the dress at the party with the feathers.
DE LA BAUME: Yea, you made it!
FANG: There are a lot of films this movie gets compared to and Xan was aware of it to a certain degree. How much had you grown up with, or seen any, of these films?
DE LA BAUME: I think Dario Argento, for example, is very famous in France. He’s very respected. Personally, one of my favorite movies is the Polanski vampire movie, which is actually very different. It’s quite a goofy, cardboard-y movie. But Argento, yea. When I got the part, I researched and I started watching more. I always had a fascination with vampires and I think in the movie—cut me off, I talk too much.
MESQUIDA: You want me to cut you off? [Laughs]
DE LA BAUME: Apart from being an homage to all those horror movies from the 60s and 70s, there’s also a way of acting in that era and the intensity, that she likes. So, for example she made us watch L’IMPORTANT C’EST D’AIMER ( THAT MOST IMPORTANT THING: LOVE), the Zulawski movie, and I think it’s also that style of not being afraid to really feel extremely deeply, almost in a Chekhov way. More in that 60s, 70s era where they overacted.
MESQUIDA: Yeah, it wasn’t only vampire movies, Zulawski was a big reference for her. Also, I watched POSSESSION right before I did the dying scene, I wanted to really get inspired by Isabelle Adjani’s performance for my dying scene. Personally, it was more the 20s, because they were more theatrical and I thought that my character was very comfortable with her body and I wanted to really find this inspiration for the way they moved. It was more important, I feel.
FANG: Do you have sisters?
DE LA BAUME: Yea, I have a sister. I have two brothers and a sister.
MESQUIDA: I have a brother. I have a sister, now.
DE LA BAUME: We became sisters very fast. This movie talks about relationships between sisters and an impossible love story and the fact that it’s a vampire movie allows you to make it that much more sensual, that much more romantic, that much more dramatic and plus, the homage to a certain era; all of that mixed together allows a heightened intensity of what human relationships would be.
FANG: What was the most heightened, intense scene for everyone to shoot? One that is so striking is the between the door kiss.
DE LA BAUME: This one.
MESQUIDA: And I think it was the first day. I feel like it was very early in the shoot.
DE LA BAUME: It was like, a Drama day. It was a difficult day and I think it was getting a little frustrating for Milo and I. It was a difficult scene and I think, sometimes something that’s going on in real life gets completely another translation. That’s what happened. I think we were so frustrated with each other that moment that it turned into a massive, like sexual tension. We got in a fight, because it was tough. It was a hard thing to do and the door was in the way. So, I think it worked out. Sometimes, to get in a state of agitation translated to something else.
MESQUIDA: I had a lot of fun doing all these scenes, like pulling the skin out of the guy. All these things were really fun to me. What I really worked on, and what was very important to me, was the relationship between the two sisters, because they hate each other and I didn’t want it to be too—I wanted something special. I think because we got along so well, Josephine and I, I think it was easier to—I mean, they have to feel like sisters, it’s not like friends fighting. It was very important, and when the relationship is so bad for two characters, just fighting the whole movie, it would be very easy to fall into the thing that you’re not showing any strong feelings between the two. That was very important, for me to bring that.
DE LA BAUME: I think you can feel the chemistry.
FANG: There had to be some sort of love and affection between the two, even though they were just constantly at each other’s throats.
DE LA BAUME: I think there was one scene that was taken out from the movie, which we liked. [To Roxane Mesquida] Remember the scene on the bed where they have a moment?
Originally, there was a moment, so even more now that moment is not there, it was important that there was an underlying tenderness for each other because it happened to them at the same time. They became vampires at the same time. They grew up together and at the ending credits, you actually see them as kids and see that they were friendly with each other at some point.
MESQUIDA: I agree, I think naturally we fell in love with each other and became sisters very fast. So, it was important and easy to work together.
DE LA BAUME: I think you feel it even when she’s angry. They also envy each other, in a way. Djuna is not what Mimi is, and the same. They envy what each other have. They don’t just hate each other. They kind of wish they had what the other one has.
MESQUIDA: I like to think that maybe they are not sisters, but they are two sides of the same person. Maybe she doesn’t have a sister and everything I do is what Djuna is fantasizing.
DE LA BAUME: There’s a bit of that, I think. They’re kind of a mirror to each other. Djuna thinks she is the good one, but really she ends up turning someone into a vampire. And Mimi is the bad one, but she wants to be loved. She envies Djuna for finding someone. They’re not so different at the end of the day.
FANG: Part of the reason the door scene is so integral is that as the movie goes on, many scenes are like that. You can’t keep kissing through a door, and I feel like at the end, they make that decision of having to let all of the baggage go. Do you think you can negotiate having a constant conflict with someone, or must you let it go to move on and become something new?
MESQUIDA: That’s really hard. I see it when you have friends when you’re a kid. It’s often very hard when you become adults. Sometimes you just don’t get along with them anymore and you struggle because you want to keep this relationship working, but it doesn’t really work anymore. I think in life you have to let it go sometimes.
DE LA BAUME: It takes courage. Then, there’s also a difference when it’s friends, I mean friends can be like family, but when they’re childhood friends there’s almost a sense of responsibility towards each other. It’s the same with family. You can not get along with your dad or your mom, but somehow, it’s always going to be inside you. You’re made of them. It’s tricky. I’m not very good at letting go. I like to work it out better. I think that’s more with family or really close friends. The older you get, you can’t keep everyone. It just adds up to too much.
MESQUIDA: But when you want to be a good friend, you can’t have a thousand friends.
FANG: Roxane, you mention being inspired by Isabelle Adjani and you seem to have a taste for weirder, more provocative work. Can you see yourself being in a film where you’re at that kind of frenzied height?
MESQUIDA: That’s attractive, but the problem is what makes me want to do a movie is more the director. I don’t think in RUBBER, my character is very interesting, but I wanted to work with Quentin Dupieux. I’m being mean, “My character sucks.” I’m just kidding. But it wasn’t challenging. I think it was really cool, and I was a huge fan of his music and I’ve seen his short movies and everything, and I thought he was a very interesting person to work with. It’s like KABOOM, when Gregg Araki sent me the script and he was like, “I want you to be Laura.” It was like, “I don’t even want to read the script, I just want to work with you. I don’t really care what you are asking me to do.” So, it’s attractive, but it can’t be only the character.