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Q&A: Newcomer Stacy Martin plays a nymphomaniac in Lars von Trier's movie

On Mar. 13, 2014, Examiner Dorri Olds sat down with the young actress, Stacy Martin, who stars as Joe the nymphomaniac and central character in Lars von Trier's "Nymphomaniac: Volume I." The story covers 20 years in the life of a self-diagnosed sex addict told from her adult perspective. Adult Joe is played by Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Stacy Martin and Christian Slater
Stacy Martin and Christian Slater
Dorri Olds

The flick boasts a powerhouse cast, which includes Christian Slater as Joe's father, Uma Thurman as a devastated wife who was cheated on, Connie Nielsen plays Joe's mother, and Stellan Skarsgard plays the man who stumbles upon the older Joe. He finds her beaten up and is in the awkward position of tending to her while she pours out her deeply disturbing life story.

The movie became too long so it is being released as two separate films: Volume I and II. The cuts seem oddly placed and abrupt but the original story, Lars von Trier's unique directing style and the stellar cast are all great reasons to see it.

In person, Stacy Martin appears feather-light and soft spoken. She couldn't seem any more opposite than the character she plays. This is a young woman who just landed her first role right out of school and it's the lead — talk about hitting the acting-ground running. Joe is an exceedingly complex role for any actress, and here Martin is christened into the movie biz and carries herself with confidence. She seems wiser than you'd expect from a newcomer.

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

Stacy Martin: I loved it. The story. The humor. When I was in the scenes I was thinking, 'How is all of this going to work out and come together?' I mean, it’s a crazy story. For me, it was my first script that I had read considering a part so it was quite interesting that I would go through that process for the first time. So I just felt honored and all those kind of mixture of feelings going on.

Did you feel the role was especially challenging?

I don’t know. It was and it wasn’t. When I read about Joe I saw a lot of Charlotte [Gainsbourg] in it but I also saw somebody who was very lonely but also very determined and has a lot of conflict. As an actor that is a gift because you get to work on a character that is so far from who you are and it’s a lot of work and that’s the magic. As an actor you get to jump into somebody else’s life that is just crazy and different and difficult.

Did you enjoy the process of working out the character of Joe with Charlotte Gainsbourg?

With Charlotte we didn’t actually talk about Joe. A lot of people said, “What?! You did not work together?”

You didn’t?

No, we didn’t. We talked about family and our lives but we didn’t actually talk about Joe to prepare together. For me that was great because I play her in her formative years, really discovering a lot and her father so I didn’t want any kind of set idea about who she was. She didn’t know who she was at that age. I wanted to keep the curiosity and the possibilities and then when Charlotte takes over she knows who she is. She knows what she believes in.

How many times did you have to audition and go in for call-backs?

I went to two auditions in London and then I had a screen test. I had no idea what a screen test was and I was like, “What do you mean? You’re going to test cameras?” But people said if you’re going in for a screen test that is a good sign so I thought that’s cool.

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

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