INTERVIEW: Gaby Hoffmann's 'Crystal (Fairy') Method
Sebastián Silva's Crystal Fairy was the first film I caught at the Sundance Film Festival, and by the time I left Park City, I still hadn't seen a performance that measured up to Gaby Hoffmann's stunning, ego-free portrayal of that movie's title character. Hoffmann first appears onscreen dancing with goofy abandon and spouting New Agey talk that leave little doubt she will be the butt of the movie's jokes for the next hour and a half. But then she steals the show by literally and emotionally stripping herself naked over the course of the film, revealing her character to be much more complex, damaged and vulnerable than those first scenes suggest.
At the film's Sundance premiere, Silva said that his movie, which is based on a real-life encounter, is "about the birth of compassion in someone's life." Although it's actor Michael Cera, in the lead male role, who undergoes that emotional transformation, Hoffmann plays the part of catalyst with such heartbreaking authenticity that I couldn't help but take that roller-coaster ride, too.
Hoffmann's performance is all the more remarkable when you consider that Crystal Fairy was almost entirely improvised and shot in 12 days in Chile while Silva was waiting for production to start on another movie he brought to Sundance, Magic Magic.
A New York native, Hoffmann, 31, has quite a bit of experience with iconoclastic personalities. She is the daughter of Warhol superstar Viva and grew up in Manhattan's fabled Chelsea Hotel. In the interview below, she talks about the non-conformist surroundings of her childhood, filming Crystal Fairy while tripping on mescaline, and how her experience on the set reaffirmed her commitment to acting after 10 years of soul-searching, following performances in Field of Dreams, Sleepless in Seattle, You Can Count on Me and The Man Without A Face.
Movieline: You told me earlier that you were overwhelmed by Sundance audiences' response to Crystal Fairy and your performance. What kind of feedback have you been getting?
Gaby Hoffmann: People really love the movie and the character — the [smiles] titular character I created which is kind of a first experience for me — at least as an adult. I mean, I made a lot of movies that people loved when I was a kid, but I didn’t have any real relationship to them. I had fun making them, I loved the people I worked with, but I wasn’t conscious of anything I was doing, you know? I didn’t even realize that I was interested in film until I was in college, and since then, I’ve had a very uncertain and sort of lost decade. And this is one of the first things I’ve worked on since I decided I really wanted to keep exploring acting as the person I am now.
How did you come to be cast as Crystal Fairy?
I had seen The Maid here at Sundance a few years ago. I was here for 24 hours. I wanted to get the fuck out of here the second I got here. My boyfriend at the time and I drove here from L.A. to support a friend’s film. We saw it and were about to drive back when I said, ‘This is really stupid. We’re both filmmakers. We should see a movie.’ So I flipped through the book, and I picked out The Maid. I knew nothing about Sebastián. I’d never heard of him, but we went to see the The Maid, and it was a really important moment for me. I’d been questioning my interest in acting, and I thought, God, if people are making movies like this, I want to keep making movies. I’ve also wanted to write and direct movies as well as act in them, so it was what needed at that moment. Maybe one out of every 50 films I see does that to me. The rest make me think, What the fuck are we all trying so hard to do this for?