San Sebastian: John Malkovich Seduces With 'Casanova Variations'

Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival
'Casanova Variations'

The actor talks about seduction, Javier Bardem and staying away from paparazzi

John Malkovich spoke about privacy, playing himself in films and Casanova as he presented the world premiere of his latest work, Casanova Variations, at the 62nd San Sebastian International Film Festival on Monday.

The film, directed by Michael Sturminger, combines layers of theater and opera to reflect on the last years of Giacomo Casanova and features Malkovich as a character using his own name, as well as playing the famous seducer. 

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Referring to one of the film's themes — how myth differs from personal reality — Malkovich said privacy for him as an actor is virtually impossible. In one of the scenes of the film, a swarm of fans question the actor about rumors in the celebrity media.

"There isn't any [privacy] on a certain level. But on another level, I live in my own private world, and no one can really do anything about that — though they have tried," said the actor.

Malkovich, who used a crutch following knee surgery, said in part that he had learned to tease out fact from fiction in his career by working with talented people, not just known entities.

"The film I directed, The Dancer Upstairs, took eight years to make because people kept asking me 'Who is Javier Bardem?' So my feeling is that just because someone is not known doesn't mean anything," he said.

Malkovich said he had reservations about the complicated structure of the film, which tells the story of the life of the man whose name is synonymous with seduction and also depicts the production of the stage play The Giacomo Variations, which Sturminger directed and Malkovich starred in. Ultimately, however, the actor said he trusted the Austrian director to make the famous libertine come to life.

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He also said he didn't try to assess himself as a character because he recognized that scriptwriters and directors would be more "objective" with the character. He did, however, balk at the idea that he tried to defend Casanova as the great seducer.

"I don't see Casanova as a seducer," Malkovich said. "His story is more tragic."

Sturminger pointed out that while journalists questioned the actor about always playing seductive characters, Malkovich has also played deranged murderers and a host of other roles.

Even so, as irony would dictate, Pierre-Francois Limbosch's The John Malkovich Paradox will screen in the festival's Zabaltegi Selection later in the week. The documentary watches as Malkovich directs Dangerous Liaisons at Paris' Theatre de l'Atelier 22 years after playing the lead in Stephen Frears' movie.

Casanova Variations is competing in the Official Selection at San Sebastian, which runs through Sept. 27.