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Interview with Uma Thurman about 'Nymphomaniac' and director Lars von Trier

On March 13, 2014 Examiner Dorri Olds had the opportunity to sit down with Academy Award-nominee Uma Thurman who plays Mrs. H in Lars von Trier's film, "Nymphomaniac." The film bears witness to Thurman's broad range as an actress. She landed a demanding role and handled it with aplomb.

Uma Thurman and more 'Nymphomaniac' cast members
Uma Thurman and more 'Nymphomaniac' cast members
Dorri Olds

When all of the shooting and editing were completed, it turned out that "Nymphomaniac" was too long, but rather than cut it down, the movie was split into two separate films: Volumes I and II. The cuts feel disruptive and annoying. Nobody said it would be easy to cover a span of 20 years succinctly but because of the cast, skillful director and unusual story, it is well worth seeing. Lars von Trier is known for his intense, offbeat films including “Breaking the Waves,” “Dogville,” and “Manderlay.”

There is plenty of sex in the film but it’s not porn. Main character Joe is played by two actresses, the adult character is played by Charlotte Gainsbourg and the younger by fresh-faced newcomer Stacy Martin. The cast also includes Christian Slater, Stellan Skarsgard and Connie Nielsen (“The Following”).

Dorri Olds: How did you like working with Lars von Trier?

Uma Thurman: It was a fantastic experience. I’d always wanted to work with him and never knew that I would be able to. We didn’t know each other. We’d never met. It was such a wonderful thing. I got this phone call that said, “Lars von Trier wants you to do this big, giant scene in his movie.” I was so excited.

You’d just had a baby then, right?

Yes, my baby was three weeks old and along came the script. I thought it was a magnificent, wonderfully textured, challenging scene with more twists and turns than I’ve had sometimes in a whole movie. It was just perfect, perfect, perfect. It was a dream come true.

How different was it to prepare for one intense scene instead of a whole movie?

This character does as much as you could do over the course of a whole movie in one massively concentrated section. I prepared like I would if I were going to do a monologue in a one-act play. I ran it and ran it and ran it and worked through the lines and thought through them trying to get inside the psyche of von Trier through his words.

Can you name any directors who are similar to von Trier?

No, I think he is incredibly unique — his courage and sensitivity and bravery to explore the female condition and allow that to be central to his work is amazing. I don’t think there is anyone you can compare him to, with the exception perhaps of Woody Allen whose career has also been so prolific. Woody Allen has also been very central in his own work. Woody Allen has also written some of the great full-bodied female characters that you remember. If you think for a minute about how many movies you’ve seen, there are not that many bountiful roles for women.

“Nymphomaniac: Volume 1” opens on March 21, 2014. Drama. Not rated. 117 minutes.

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