• Mia Wasikowska stars alongside Christopher Abbott in 'Piercing'. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
The Aussie actor tackles confronting material in the twisted and surreal grisly comedy.
Staff writers

18 Jan 2019 - 4:07 PM  UPDATED 18 Jan 2019 - 4:22 PM

Actor Mia Wasikowska has never shied away from challenging material, with new movie Piercing pushing the actress into new areas with its very challenging material. The film is about a man (Christopher Abbott) who presents to the world as an everyday family man, but checks into a hotel with murdering an escort on his mind. When he encounters Jackie (Mia Wasikowska), the tables are turned on him in this wild dark comedy.

SBS spoke with the actress about her role and what keeps driving her toward such complicated material.

SBS: This is quite a movie. What was it about the film that made you sign on for this one?

Mia: I just felt like the character was really different to anything I've played before, and it kind of came to me after a succession of doing a lot of period characters. It just stood out as something really different. I was a bit nervous for this call, because the content is so confronting, but it just seemed a great film, a great character to play. I couldn't quite say no.

Your accent seemed to relax as Jackie relaxes, and some more Australian-ness seemed to be coming out. Was that intentional, or was I imagining something?

The director wanted me to use my own accent, which I was a little hesitant to, just because my own accent is very all over the place, especially when I'm acting in America. I almost prefer to use just an American accent because I feel like I get very influenced by being around so many American accents when I'm acting. I find it really hard to just say in my accent.

I was a bit hesitant about it because I was worried that it would just sound like a very bad American accent.

Often depictions of sex workers in movies are not all that complex. How did you go about developing your character as the living, steady creature that she is?

Originally I was actually supposed to play the wife, and so I read it not even considering that role. Then the actress sort of pulled out, and it was different originally. It was a much older actress, and she kind of pulled out really quickly, so over a weekend they said to me, "We have this crazy idea, but how would you feel about considering playing Jackie?" It shifts the stick because I just was completely not sort of expecting to have to consider that when I first read it, so I had to sort of do a big adjustment. I had to decide in the course of like 24 hours, I think. There wasn't really any introduction. I just read the script thinking of a different character, and then I had to kind of just jump across.

There's an interesting moment with your character, Jackie, on a bed with a tear in your eye...

I feel like the film kind of comments on trauma in a way. You could say Chris's character might be a psychopath, but then you get these little glimpses of maybe some of the trauma he's had as a younger person and how he's been kind of drawn to repeat that again and again. I think maybe something similar could be said with Jackie. Although we didn't come up with any backstory for her, it seems like there's these repeating things that have happened in both of these characters' lives, and they end up kind of desiring it in a very unhealthy, disturbed way. 

Did you have to do anything to get into the head space to play this kind of person? How was it different from preparing for something like, say, Jane Eyre?

One thing, every film ends up being so different in terms of the feel on- and off-set, and this one was weird because it was quite fun. It's really, really fun to play her, but the end piece is so disturbing. The actual film is so confronting and disturbing, and it's not the sort of film that I can watch, generally, because I just find it too confronting.

To play the character is just so fun because she's really all over the place. It's so different to doing very intense, emotional scenes where you do have to use a lot of energy in a different way and sort of channel it into, I don't know, more painful stuff. The things that were confronting to me was ... it's never as bad as it looks on screen. The sad thing... or the blood and guts. 

All that stuff is very technical when you're filming it, and then the rest is quite fun because it's just really different to ... You know, she's very loose and energetic. A lot of the period characters that I've played are repressed and held together really tightly, so it just feels a very different feel, physically, I guess.

You tend to choose movies with an edgier kind of sensibility with some of your career choices. You're game - you go there. Where does that come from, and what makes you choose them, as opposed to a more traditional kind of trajectory?

I don't know. I think I'm mellowing out in my own age, I mean apart from this. This was two years ago when I made it. I watched the trailer, and I was like "I don't know if I'd do this now". It's so full on. I'm not sure where that comes from for actors, that kind of desire to push yourself, but I think it's definitely wearing off.

A lot of us first became aware of your work from the show "In Treatment." Do you think about doing TV at all?

It's not something I wouldn't do. TV's quite amazing at the moment. I think it's probably easier to get TV financed and get more money for it. I think film is really struggling because of its popularity and the accessibility of TV. The production value of TV has just gone astronomically. It's sort of through the roof, so, yeah, for sure. I'd definitely consider doing some if it sort of spoke to me in some way.

Mia Wasikowska's movie Piercing is in cinemas now.

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