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Olga Kurylenko Talks Russian Literature and Terrence Malick

'He doesn't tell you what to do,' says 'Oblivion' Star

April 19, 2013 1:10 PM ET
Olga Kurylenko, Oblivion
Olga Kurylenko

For those who believe the model-slash-actress category remains an underestimation in Hollywood, Olga Kurylenko hopes to shred your assumptions by this weekend. Following a chance encounter that launched her international modeling career at age 14, she's taking a turn beside the leading men of her generation some 20 years later.

On screen, the Ukrainian-born actress effortlessly morphs from mega-babe seductress to mousy, tortured bride. 007 fans will remember her as the former in Quantum of Solace, where she plays Daniel Craig's Bond girl. Last year, she appeared in Martin McDonagh's Seven Psychopaths, and currently, she's a fixture on Starz's Miami mob drama, Magic City.

"It doesn't matter whether one can or cannot act – just the fact that one is a model is enough for people to make an opinion," Kurlenko told Rolling Stone. "Opinion on someone being a model is opinion without base, because model is just a word – it doesn't mean anything."

For her latest project,  Kurlenko dove into Terrence Malick's To the Wonder, a scriptless meditation on love. She also took on Joseph Kosinski's post-apocalyptic parable Oblivion, which co-stars Tom Cruise. (Later this May, she'll appear alongside Aaron Eckart in Erased, portraying a tough CIA agent – not unlike Jessica Chastain, Malick's last starlet.)

Peter Travers Reviews Oblivion

Describing the free-form Malickian production, Kurylenko said the director keeps his actors moving constantly.

"You wake up and you just go on set. He doesn't tell you what to do, he just says, 'here's 15 pages of writing, that's today's subject,' and we start filming."

To prepare, Malick directed the actress to the bricks of Russian literature – Anna Karenina, The Brothers Karamazov, and The Idiot.

"I didn't even need the script after that. Those were my script. I built the character as a combination of the different female characters in those books."

And while the actress, who has been financially independent since her teens, didn't completely relate to the cannon of tortured heroines, as a woman, she knows the type.

"In [To the Wonder], Marina has a predisposition to melancholy," Kurylenko says. "She's a very unstable woman. She's suffering. So when she meets a man, she sees him as the ending of all her suffering. But it's just an illusion."

Oblivion: "Fantasy Without an Original Thought," says Peter Travers

By contrast, her Oblivion character, Julia, emanates fortitude as a deus ex machina, forcing Cruise's character, Jack, to get with the program. 

"Julia is a much stronger person," Kurylenko says. "I watched video of old astronauts – what training they went through. It made me understand that, physically, she must be really strong. I also re-watched Solaris, because I though the subject worked very similar to ours."

Despite the big roles, slinky gowns, and de rigueur arm candy, whatever you do, don't call the former Victoria's Secret model a dream girl.

"I feel more myself when I don't play one," Kurylenko says. "In my life, I am not a dream girl. I am an absolutely simple person. I'm a grey mouse."

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