“I don’t care about the Oscars, but I don’t think slaps are good for Hollywood”

“A hybrid piece between the reading of a book, a play, a concert and a collection of opera arias”. This is how he defines the actor, director and producer John Malkovich (Illinois, USA, 1953), in a telephone conversation with El Cultural from Vienna, the peculiar show with which he will land in Madrid on August 11 and 12within the framework of the Veranos de la Villa festival.

The play, which will be performed in the central courtyard of the Conde Duque Cultural Center, is entitled The Infernal Comedy. Confessions of a serial killer and is designed for an actor (Malkovich, author besides the original idea), of the sopranos (Susanne Langbein and Chen Reiss) and baroque orchestra (the Wiener Akademie, directed by Martin Haselböck). It will be performed in English with Spanish subtitles.

In this show, the popular and chameleon-like actor gets into the skin of a real character: jack unterweger (1950-1944), and serial killer Austrian man who, after his first murder conviction in 1974, rose to prominence as writer and 15 years later he was released thanks to a campaign in his favor. He was exhibited on television programs as an example of reintegration, until shortly after it was discovered that he had continued to kill after his release.

Altogether he was accused of kill twelve women in different countries, mostly prostitutes that he raped and strangled with their own bras. On June 29, 1994 she was again sentenced to life imprisonment, this time without possibility of redemption, and that same night she hanged herself in her cell.

What can you expect from a show with such a monster as the protagonist and this original stage format? According to its author and director, Michael Sturminger, one must “expect the unexpected” if John Malkovich is on stage.

“I don’t tend to repeat the same thing minute after minute and night after night. I do what comes to mind at the moment”

Known for his ability to improvise, we see the actor make an amused grin on the other end of the earpiece when asked about it: “Well, I never see myself on stage, so I can’t comment much, but let’s just say I don’t tend to to repeat the same thing minute after minute and night after night. I do what comes to my mind at the moment.”

In this drama or, as the title proposes, “infernal comedy”, the black moodas in many of Malkovich’s earlier works. “Is there another kind of humor?”boasts the American actor.

The plot of the play presents us with a John Unterweger who returns from beyond the grave to give a public reading of his autobiography. This macabre Don Juan addresses the public almost like a comic stand. The two sopranos represent the women he murdered, and the tension and drama build as they perform. arias by Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn and Weberthat put a soundtrack to this descent into hell.

A moment from ‘The Infernal Comedy’. Photo: Olga Martschitsch

Malkovich’s theatrical vocation

John Malkovich has a long film career that exceeds 70 films and includes titles as diverse as The Sun’s empire, dangerous friendships, burn after reading either How to be John Malkovichthat acclaimed fantasy comedy in which he played himself and which was the debut of Charlie Kaufman as a writer and Spike Jonze as a director. Nevertheless, her acting career began in the theaterand he has kept that facet alive until today, in parallel to his work for the cinema.

“The theater is something alive, organic, ephemeral, completely provisional. In reality, it only exists in our minds”

“The theater is something alive, organic, ephemeral. It reminds me of life in the sense that you have to be there, on a given night, to see what happens, not like other arts that are permanent. The theater is completely provisional. In reality, it only exists in our minds, ”says the actor.

Malkovich grew up in a family in which no one was engaged in the performing arts. In fact, he was to follow in the footsteps of his father, who was director of environmental conservation for the state of Illinois, and began studying ecology in college. But, thanks to a girlfriend who did theater, he discovered his true vocation: “I went to see his rehearsals and the play was captivating. I had this feeling of looking at those lives that are represented on stage and that, if the play is good, make you reflect on your own life, who you are, what you have done, what you regret and what you wish you had done differently. It was very attractive to me.”

that happened In Chicagowhere he became in 1974 one of the first members of the company steppenwolf (named after Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf), which had been founded by actors Terry Kinney, Jeff Perry and Gary Sinise, the first two with a discreet but long career in film and television, and the third quite successful and well-known. especially for his role as Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump.

Malkovich has toured a lot around Europe acting and directing theater, especially in countries like Spain, France and England. He just did a little summer tour of the music critica fun show (similar to this the hellish comedy in his mixture of theater and classical music concert) in which he gives voice to the worst reviews received in their day some works by great geniuses of music such as Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy or Ravel and that today are unanimously acclaimed. “That teaches you that you should try to make good works of art. Even if you get it, people may not like it. And if you don’t, they’ll hate them even more.”

'The hellish comedy'.  Photo: Olga Martschitsch

‘The hellish comedy’. Photo: Olga Martschitsch

“European” cult actor

John Malkovich is one of the most recognized actors by the moviegoing public. However, he has only been nominated for Oscar twice as a supporting actor, for in a place of the heart (1984) years in the line of fire (1993), and did not win any. “Of course, that’s something I don’t mind at all. [La gala de los Óscar] It’s not the kind of thing I get involved with. I went once, it was kind of fun and weird. Fewer and fewer people see it, or so I’ve been told. I never did it. I guess the ratings audience will have risen a little this year to see people slapping other peoplebut I don’t know how beneficial it will be in the long term for the reputation of Hollywood, ”says the actor.

Instead, his career has been recognized in Europe with special awards at festivals as prestigious as those of San Sebastian, Locarno and Karlovy Vary. Does he feel more recognized in Europe than in his native country? “Probably, but it’s also true that I work much more here than in the United States. I have worked with Bertolucci, Antonioni, Viviana Cabani, Schlöndorff, Wenders, Samuel de Oliveira, Roland Joffé, Stephen Frears… With all kinds of directors”.

The future of independent cinema

As for the future of auteur and independent cinema in Hollywood, Malkovich is not very optimistic. “It doesn’t look very promising. I’m not a particularly gifted forecaster, but I don’t think there will be much of this type of cinema in 20 years, or maybe two, because the business has changed drastically. In Europe movies began as a form of expression; in America, they did it as a business. I’m fine with both, but now they’ve kind of merged, so it’s hard to make small, independent, artsy movies.”

“I don’t think there will be much independent cinema in 20 years, maybe two, because the business has changed drastically”

“The business has changed, the platforms have changed and the role of movies in culture has diminished. I’d say it’s a hundred times smaller now, though I could be wrong. But obviously movies no longer have the same place in culture that they did twenty years ago, or in the seventies, or before that, when the cinema was a factory of dreams and people fell for that illusion. Now I don’t think people are excited about that.”

In this sense, John Malkovich recalls that in 1972, when it premiered The last Tango in Paris“you had to drive 175 miles to see it” (in Spain people even crossed the border to France for it). “When VHS came along, it took away some of that immediate drive to go to the movies. Then came the DVDs and that trend went further, and also grew with the arrival of the transmission. “So if you’re 18, why go see someone’s new movie when you can see it in 30 years or never at all.”

Relationship with Madrid

Fraud the hellish comedyMalkovich returns to Madrid again, after having had to cancel at the end of last year its presence at the Teatros del Canal with another show just call me god. “It is a piece that I like a lot, but due to its peculiarity, after the pandemic we needed to rewrite it and rehearse it again, which is something very difficult to assume financially. If we had 30 pins, we could have done it, but for two days it was financially impossible”.

In any case, the actor has a strong link with the Spanish capital, where he has “great friends”to which he is always “happy to return” and where he has come to undertake wine related businesseshis other great passion besides cinema and theater.

He passed through the capital briefly for the last time last fall when he returned from Morocco after shooting a film in which he plays the Cordovan politician and philosopher Lucius Anneus Seneca. In it, the historical genre merges with, of course, black comedy. Directed by the German, Robert Schwentke, Seneca. On the creation of earthquakes It is expected to be released next fall or winter. It recreates 1st century Rome, the last days of Seneca’s life, and his relationship with Emperor Nero. This role represents one more link with Spanish culture in the credit of this multifaceted actor, director and producer, always in search of new intellectually stimulating projects.

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