In Jim Jarmusch's come-back film, "Only Lovers Left Alive," Tom Huddleston and Mia Wasikowska play old-world vampires – fangs optional -- surviving in the 21st century, sipping illegally procured 0-negative out of crystal goblets. The movie is a funky meditation on long-term (very long-term) relationships, music, literature and the life of the mind – and thirst. It's easily his best work since "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai." And, for me, is a bookend to my personal favorite, the strikingly original, hipster humanist road movie: "Stranger Than Paradise."
We sat down with the pair after their film's premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Q: I always wonder, with the vampires of "The Twilight Saga," why they’re in the Pacific Northwest hanging out with teenagers. Why after so many years aren't they virtuosos at the piano, voracious readers, epic lovers?
Tom Huddleston: When Jim [Jarmusch] pitched the film to me as an idea he described these two characters that were refined sensitive and delicate and sophisticated and poetic and elegant. In this couple, there was a man who was dark and melancholic and a woman who was more enlightened and wiser. And then he said the happen to be vampires.
Q: And that couple, Adam and Eve, you and Tilda Swinton, may have been the first couple to renew their wedding vows multiple times – in multiple centuries.
TH: For Jim, the vampire thing is about exploring time, how one's commitment and acceptance might change over a lifetime. Our concept of love is framed by knowing that we're going to die, and one day one of us will die first. But immortality is something to consider. It didn't feel like we were making a vampire film, but a film about love and history.
Q: Mia, you play Eva, who’s a destabilizing visitor that arrives at Adam’s Detroit home unannounced and proceeds to throw Adam and Eve's lives up in the air with a punk’s anarchic glee.
Mia Wasikowska: I got to play someone who had less respect for the history she’d lived through. She was a little more angsty…
Q: It’s mentioned that Eva did a bad, bad thing in Paris 75 years ago, but it’s never fleshed out.
TH: Something happened between Eva and Adam. It’s mentioned: Paris, 75 years ago. But we couldn’t ruin it. I think I know what happened. Jim knows. Jim loves the deadpan. He has a dry sense of humor. Tilda said to me she thinks that Jim has always been making vampire films. Look at "Down by Law." True, they don't have fangs or drink blood, but there's a parallel.
Q: Detroit, with its crumbling infrastructure and the near-death of its industry and prosperity, seems like a perfect residence for the modern-day undead.
TH: As a vampire, I fell in love with Detroit completely because it's Adam’s natural habitat. It's a part of America that I'd never been exposed to: it's almost a prison for rise and fall of the American Dream. In the '20's, it was the center of the world. Henry Ford built his first car there. They prepared the city for an immigration of tens of thousands and, then, everybody left. It's a shell. It's a vision of the future.
MW: It has a slow burning effect. Detroit is like New York with no one in it.
Q: So, Tom, playing immortal characters is nothing entirely new for you given your role of Loki in "The Avengers" and "Thor."
TH: I feel so lucky to be part of that universe of characters. Loki is constantly fascinating. The resources I could draw on from over forty years of comic books that have gotten more and more sophisticated. Now, he has all of this depth and psychology. Loki was the Norse god of mischief and I have all that history to fall back on, too. It’s really fun to do and it’s on such a big scale. Yes, there’s pain in Loki. Just because it’s in primary colors doesn’t mean that you can’t still find the emotion.
Q: In contrast, Adam is kind of drawn in charcoal.
TH: He is the Gothic poet. His time with Shelley and Byron has rubbed off on him. He has that romantic spirit of rock 'n roll.
Q: I noticed a photograph in Adam's house of Neil Young.
TH: Neil Young is there for me and for Jim. One of my favorite things that Jim has ever done is "Dead Man." I have Young’s "Dead Man – Guitar Solo Number 5" on my iPhone.
Jim said to me I think this movie we made is one of my most personal films. It was his way of saying, Mia don’t f**k it up and, Tim, I’m excited and thank you and let’s go and let’s make something. Jarmusch is one of the most unique visionary filmmakers. He’s the godfather of American indie cinema.