Olivier Assayas’ 1996 movie Irma Vep made its world premiere at Cannes, and 26 years later he’s back with an eight-part limited series of the same name.
The original movie dealt with the notion of a stranger in a strangeland, a Hong Kong actress, Maggie Cheung, contending with being the outsider, yet star, on the French set of a remake of 1915 Les Vampires.
That set-up is still in play but with Alicia Vikander playing an American burgeoning superhero movie star, Mira, who opts that her next career move is starring in a limited series of Les Vampires. Mira wallows in self absorption and has a history of emotionally hurting people (her former assistant and g.f. Laurie played by Adria Arjona, just got married and moved on). “I think the European culture is still foreign to her,” explains Oscar winner Alicia Vikander. Similar to the Cheung movie, Vikander’s yank star flies in with the French movie crew — and is left behind, emotionally that is.
Still, Assayas says his HBO Original series “is completely different” from his original feature work.
More than being based on a muse, Assayas, who has directed Kristen Stewart in such Cannes world premieres as Clouds of Sils Maria and Personal Shopper, says the new show uses “Irma Vep as a starting point and expands and deals with a lot of issues that I only toyed with in the original film.”
“Making the original, (I was) looking at the chaos of cinema; now cinema is in chaos again,” explains the Primetime Emmy nominated French filmmaker.
“We’re not sure about things that were pretty obvious long ago,” he says about what’s now defined as a movie, and what’s defined as a series in an era where streaming and theatrical are butting heads against each other.
“I think she’s a bit lost, I don’t think she’s a bad person,” says Vikander about her protagonist in a series which, like the original, is thematically linked to vampirism.
“She’s kinds of been on this train of work; really her passion for her work has been her one priority,” explains the actress, “along with the big loneliness that comes with it.”
“Where is Mira in all of that? She’s hasn’t had much time and effort on her own self,” continues Vikander.
Explains Assayas who wrote and directed all eight episodes of the A24 produced series, “It’s someone who starts a complex film, dealing with a complex character in a moment of crisis, in a moment she’s looking for her identity, in a moment when she’s been dealing with things she’s been repressing. And all of a sudden she’s alone…she’s trying to reconstruct herself.”
Irma Vep debuts on HBO on June 6 and streams on HBO Max.
Aero is the official sponsor of the Deadline Studio at Cannes Film Festival, sponsors are Soia & Kyoand Jamones Iberico from Spain: Ambassadors of Europe in the World
Must Read Stories
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.