MoviesOnline recently caught up with actress Agnes Bruckner at the Los Angeles Press Day to promote her new film, "Blood and Chocolate,” a darkly romantic thriller and tale of impossible love in the underground of Bucharest. Directed by German independent film director Katja von Garnier ("Bandits”), the film stars Agnes Bruckner ("Blue Car,” "24”) and Hugh Dancy ("Basic Instinct 2,” "Elle Enchanted”) as the two young lovers who risk everything to cross the limbo between human and inhuman worlds, and Olivier Martinez ("Taking Lives”) as the powerful shapeshifter whose survival hinges on stopping them.
Ten years ago, in the remote mountains of Colorado, a young girl watched helplessly as her family was murdered by a pack of angry men for the secret they carried in their blood. She survived by running into the woods, and changing into something the hunters could never find … a wolf. Now, though she lives half a world away, Vivian Gandillon (Agnes Bruckner) is still running. Living in relative safety in Bucharest, she spends her days working at a chocolate shop and nights trawling the city’s underground clubs, fending off the reckless antics of her cousin Rafe (Bryan Dick) and his gang of delinquents he calls "The Five.” But only when she’s running through the woods around the city does Vivian feel truly free … though whatever she’s chasing seems continually to elude her.
Aiden Galvin (Hugh Dancy) is an artist researching Bucharest’s ancient art and relics for his next graphic novel based on the mythology of the loup garoux – shapeshifters whose power to change effortlessly into the forms of both human and wolf was once considered holy among men. Wrestling demons of his own, Aiden hopes to explore the inner lives of these outsiders that he believes were persecuted to extinction – labeled monsters, murderers, werewolves. They achieved what he lacks – transcendence, the ability to change what they are. What he doesn’t know is that the loup garoux are not only very real, they’re far from extinct. During a chance encounter in an abandoned church celebrating the loup garoux, Aiden unknowingly comes face-to-face with the real thing … Vivian.
Others may have secrets but none as extraordinary as hers, for Vivian is among the last of her kind, leading a tenuous existence under the protection and control of Gabriel (Olivier Martinez), the powerful and enigmatic leader of one of the last packs of loup garoux on earth. After their brief exchange in the church, Aiden can’t get Vivian out of his mind, nor can she forget him. He pursues her until she relents and begins to see him, but she can’t bring herself to tell him the truth – and lives in fear of showing him what she really is. If she bleeds, her eyes will betray her as a loup garoux. And what’s worse: her future, and who she falls in love with, is already predetermined.
To keep their kind from being hunted to extinction, Gabriel holds them to strict laws. One is that he must take a new bride every seven years, and Vivian has been prophesied to be his next. The other is that the pack must hunt as one or not at all. It is the very key to their survival. Chased from the soil of every continent, only in Bucharest – where once a Magyar prince was said to have loup garoux blood – have they found sanctuary.
Though Vivian has sworn never to kill, she is as much animal as she is human, and her love for Aiden threatens to cast him to the very wolves who saved her life … and who are waiting for their chance to hunt him as prey.
Vivian Gandillon is a headstrong young woman who "comes from a long line of leaders,” says Bruckner. "Her pack has plans for Vivian, but her blood has always told her not to go their way. She lives among them for protection and because they took her in after her family was slaughtered, but she is not exactly one of them.” "Vivian resents and resists the animal part of herself,” adds von Garnier. "She dislikes the current regime of the loup garoux that’s based on hatred and revenge.”
Vivian’s unexpected encounter with the young American artist Aiden throws a wrench in Gabriel’s plans for her. Fascinated with the legends of loup garoux, Aiden has come to Bucharest to research the legends at their nexus. "Vivian is surprised by Aiden’s passion for wolves and loup garoux,” says von Garnier. "Vivian is going through a point where she wants to be human but also likes the wolf side of her, but not the violence associated with it,” adds Bruckner. "When she meets Aiden, she sees herself in him a little bit – the side that she really loves. It draws her to him.”
The filmmakers cast up-and-coming American actress Agnes Bruckner as Vivian, who sought to bring the "softer side” to the legend of the werewolf. "I think it is beautiful to express that side of this legend,” she says. "Werewolves are always thought of as these scary creatures but I think that this movie really shows that there is a whole other side of them. Wolves themselves are not evil – neither are loup garoux.”
The young actress impressed von Garnier with her sensitivity wrapped in toughness. "She has wisdom far beyond her years,” says the director, "and understood the role perfectly. During the shoot, it was impressive to watch how she would always save something for her close up. Even after 10 hours into the day, she still had something in store for us when it came to her close up. She is very gifted.” Producer Hawk Koch adds, "Agnes has such amazing talent that all of us who are fortunate enough to work with her early in her career will be able to watch her career grow. She is a consummate actress even at 20 years old.”
Nurturing an impressive body of work that encompasses film and television, Agnes Bruckner (Vivian Gandillon) came to national prominence after garnering rave reviews for her role in the coming-of-age independent film "Blue Car,” which made its debut at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival and for which she received an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Female Lead. She was also recently honored with a ShoWest Female Star of Tomorrow Award.
Bruckner was most recently seen alongside Nick Nolte, Amy Smart and Scott Mechlowicz in the drama "Peaceful Warrior.” Her other recent projects include Lucky McKee’s thriller "The Wood,” opposite Patricia Clarkson; "Haven,” with Bill Paxton and Orlando Bloom; and "Stateside,” with Val Kilmer. She has also starred in "Rick,” with Bill Pullman and Aaron Stanford, which debuted at the 2003 Toronto Film Festival. Bruckner’s other film credits include Barbet Schroeder’s psychological thriller "Murder by Numbers,” "The Glass House” and "Homeroom.”
Segueing between the big and small screen, Bruckner recently had a recurring role on the critically acclaimed drama "24.” She also starred in the HBO film "The Shrunken City” and was a series regular on the CBS award-winning daytime drama "The Bold and the Beautiful.” Her other television work includes roles in the pilots "Minor Threat” for Warner Bros., "Hell House” for MTV and "National Lampoon” for Fox. She has also guest-starred on "Alias,” "Pacific Blue,” "The Fugitive” and "Touched by an Angel.”
Here’s what Agnes Bruckner had to tell us about her latest film, "Blood and Chocolate,” and what it was like working with Katja von Garnier and running with wolves:
Question: When is the last time you came to church?
Agnes Bruckner: Oh, a very long time ago. I was a kid with the family.
Q: To do your confession or what?
Agnus: No, I think it was actually for Easter when we went to it the last time.
Q: You’re not a good Catholic I take it.
Q: I read somewhere that you had the opportunity to adopt a wolf at the film’s wrap party. Was that true and did you decide to do it?
Agnus: Yeah, well what happened was for my wrap gift one of the producers, Hawk (Koch), gave me a present. He adopted a wolf for me. But I have not heard anything else. There was no follow up on that so I hope my wolf is okay.
Q: Are you paying for its school fees?
Agnus: (laughs) No, no, no, I’m not.
Q: Do you get photos every month?
Agnus: (laughs) No, I don’t. It’s very bizarre. No, I got some kind of gift certificate that [said] I adopted a wolf but I don’t think that there was anything on it to communicate with them.
Q: What was it like working with wolves?
Agnus: It was great. It was very, you know, when you hear you’re going to be working with wolves, it’s kind of weird, but it was fun. They were really cool. The trainer, the guy that owns them, he’s a Hungarian guy, Zoltan, and he was really, really cool and he had such a special relationship with them. He would stand around them like as a group and he started howling and then they would. Very weird. Because they’re like really wild animals. So it was cool.
Q: He was the pack leader?
Agnus: Pretty much, I think. It was very bizarre but no, it was fun. They were very cool.
Q: Did you get to the point where you could pet them?
Agnus: I think I could have. I just kind of chose not to because…
Q: They’re wild?
Agnus: Yeah, they are. You know what I mean? They’re wild animals and you just don’t know what might happen. But we were in the same room as them and they weren’t really afraid of us but they were very skittish.
Q: I believe you’re Hungarian and Russian and you were raised to speak both. Can you talk a little bit about your background?
Agnus: My father is Hungarian and my mother is Russian. I can speak fluent Hungarian and read and write Hungarian and I can speak a little bit of Russian. I understand it more than anything, but I can’t read it or write it.
Q: So you grew up speaking Hungarian at home?
Q: Oh, that’s amazing.
Agnus: Yeah. It’s very cool.
Q: Blood and Chocolate was filmed in Bucharest and had you been there before?
Agnus: Yeah, I was in Bucharest when I was 11 for my first movie ever called "The Shrunken City” and so, yes, it was kind of cool to go back. I didn’t really remember anything from the first time I went, but I saw some people that I worked with on the first movie that I knew. It was 10 years later so it was pretty interesting to see them again.
Q: Is it as dark as this film makes it out to be?
Agnus: Is it as dark?
Q: Yes. Grim.
Agnus: It is. It’s very gritty. It’s very grey and black, very dirty, and there are stray dogs everywhere. And the people are also not smiling all the time. But the architecture is especially beautiful and I love the old, original buildings and stuff like that.
Q: Were there any clubs to go to at all after you’ve been working all day?
Agnus: There was one that I know a lot of the people from the cast went to but it was a 6 days out of the week shoot so on my one day off, I’d lock myself in my room and just sleep all day and just kind of have ‘alone’ time.
Q: Do you still have family in Hungary?
Agnus: Yeah, my father lives there and he actually drove down and visited me quite a few times because it’s a 12, 13 hour drive which was great. He came on the weekends.
Q: Does that resonate with you? Maybe you’re a Magyar princess?
Agnus: (laughs) A Hungarian princess? No, I love Europe and I love Hungary especially. I’ve been to Russian as well. I’ve been to quite a few places and I try to go at least once a year for vacation just to get away because it’s so different than here.
Q: How so?
Agnus: Just everything. The people, the way people live life, you know, it’s just so different. It’s more relaxing I think. When I’m here, everything tends to revolve around work and Hollywood.
Q: But you were you born in Hollywood, right?
Agnus: Yeah, I was born in Hollywood.
Q: How did that happen?
Agnus: My parents…my mom went down to Hungary and my parents met in Hungary and then they came over in 1984. They went through Italy through the refugee camps and they escaped through Italy. They asked my mom where she wanted to go – to California or to New York – and my mom said, ‘wherever Disneyland is.’ (laughs) So we ended up in L.A.
Q: How was that working out for the movie because that wasn’t you bouncing off the walls, was it? Were you running that much and bouncing off walls or was that your stunt double?
Agnus: I did a lot of the running but the bouncing off the walls they did because I wasn’t too good at that. I tried to do as much as possible but when it comes to just crazy stuff like actually climbing the buildings and stuff like that, of course, it was the stunt people. There’s one scene where Vivian bounces and climbs up a building and there was actually a guy doing it with a wig on which was very funny looking.
Q: Can you tell us being one of the few females in the cast what it was like working with such a big group of men?
Agnus: It was actually fine because I kind of grew up that way too. I always had more guy friends than girlfriends so it was actually kind of cool. They were all very nice and very fun to be around.
Q: What was it like working with Hugh Dancy? Had you ever met him before?
Agnus: No, I’d never met him before. He was great. You know, we just got along instantly and always made jokes and made fun of each other and had a good time. I love to be like that on set, you know, it’s not all just work. I like to have fun too on set.
Q: What about Olivier [Martinez]?
Agnus: He was great. He was very, very different than what you picture him to be. You know, when you hear of Oliver Martinez, you think of "Unfaithful.” You think of this sexy guy and he is, but it’s just very different.
Q: Hugh Dancy and Keira Knightley, do you know if they’re dating?
Agnus: Oh, I have no idea. The last time I saw Hugh was a couple months ago. You know we don’t really stay in touch anymore unfortunately.
Q: Are you seeing anybody? Are you single?
Agnus: No, I’m single.
Q: Do you like to date other actors?
Agnus: Not really. I don’t really like dating. I tried it like twice and that was enough for me. So I kind of just leave it up to fate.
Q: And when you go on a date, is there something you like to do to get ready or feel pretty or you just don’t like the plan? (not sure what she says here)
Agnus: No, I’m actually a nervous wreck and the two times that it’s happened I’ve actually been on the phone with my aunt or my sister. I remember asking for advice and chain smoking before it. Yeah, they’ve been pretty bad. (laughs)
Q: You’ve become a bit of a promising newcomer here in Hollywood. How does that make you feel? You seem to be a very intelligent young woman. Do you have any guidelines that you want to work along in the next couple years?
Agnus: You know, it’s funny. I’ve been the upcoming newcomer for like five years now (laughs) so it’s not very new anymore. It’s just gotten to the point with me and my career where I just want to work because if you’re working in this business, it’s good enough. You know what I mean? You have to be happy with that. There are so many actors and actresses that would die to be in my position and I’m not even famous so as long as I’m working and making a living, I’m good.
Q: Had you read the book on which this is based or did they give it to you after you were going to get the part?
Agnus: No, they never gave me the book and I never read it because I had heard that it was going to be a little different than the book.
Q: What attracted you to the role when you read the script?
Agnus: Just the idea of playing a werewolf because I just think it’s such a cool story and they’re very cool legends. It’s kind of like a fantasy. I’ve always been attracted to that and the whole vampire thing too.
Q: How so? You’re obviously attracted to vampires and werewolves.
Agnus: I guess it’s because it’s so – like it can never happen. It’s such an imagination almost that it’s kind of nice to pretend. Like when I was little, I used to want to be a witch. I actually went to what I thought was a witchcraft store and got a book and came home and realized it was a witch cookbook but there were a couple spells in it to make it rain and stuff like that and I remember me and my cousin went outside. They had told you to get a bowl of rice with water and throw it in the air and it’s supposed to rain and it didn’t work so it got really bad and [I] stopped wanting to be a witch. No, I love those things.
Q: In these dark stories, usually girls are the ones that turn out hairy or unicorns? Is there a European side maybe?
Agnus: No, I don’t know. I’ve never played with Barbies growing up and what’s that movie…it’s called the Crafts with the four girls where they play witches. I love that movie. To have a power, to have an ability like that would be so cool.
Q: Have you ever seen a werewolf film? I guess there aren’t that many.
Agnus: Yeah, there aren’t that many. I really liked "Wolf.” That’s the one with Jack Nicholson, right? I really liked that one.
Q: Did you ever see "Dog Soldiers”?
Agnus: No, most of the ones that I’ve seen are like "Underworld” and things like that where the werewolves are more monsters than anything.
Q: You’ve been working for a long time. What made you start as a kid?
Agnus: My mom. My mom put me into … I was a dancer. I’ve been a dancer since I was five years old so I thought I was going to be a dancer when I grew up. My mom put me into acting because one of her friends’ daughters was in the business. I started modeling first and then commercials or I went on commercial auditions but I never got commercials.
Q: So you were a child model?
Q: How was that?
Agnus: It was fun. I didn’t really know what I was doing. It was nothing that I ever… Even my first job was a soap opera. I was 11 years old. The funnest thing for me being on it was hanging out with the guy who played my dad and we would open the fan mail together. And you know it was just so weird to me. But I never understood. I wanted to hang out with my friends. I wanted to get my nails done, you know, and just have fun. I didn’t know what I was doing really.
Q: What was the most difficult scene for you in this or section of the film for you to do, either acting wise or physically?
Agnus: I think it was more the physical stuff. For the transformation, they had to make a cast of my body of the front from my knees to my neck and they put the cast onto one of those caterpillar-like machines and it was on a stick. I looked like a human shish kabob for a day and it turns like all the way around like 360 and I had to be there with my arms out like this (demonstrates) which was so difficult because I was like on the cast with my dress over it so I couldn’t fall out and it was so painful. It was really painful and just exhausting. And it’s so hard to actually do acting stuff while you’re doing things like that and flying through the air and all that kind of stuff.
Q: So you won’t be action girl? You won’t be happy being the action girl. Or was it fun?
Agnus: It was. It was so much fun. I liked it. Yeah. And there are a few other things I’ve done where it’s involved running and stuff like that. It’s fun. It’s kind of like being a kid again, you know, where you’re playing a game almost. It’s very fun.
Q: What was it like working with Katja von Garnier?
Agnus: She was very cool. She’s a very, very passionate woman. She’s very spiritual and passionate and I think that really comes across in the movie too. She was great. She stands for what she wants. I really admired that about her and it kind of got in the way some times because, you know, when you have so many people because I think me and Olivier and Hugh, we all very much stand for what we believe in and kind of do that so you butt heads sometimes. But I think we always came out on the end with a good kind of resolution to everything.
Q: It’s such a rarity to have a woman direct a film like this and I wonder if you felt that having a female director helped you?
Agnus: Yeah, it was definitely easier to talk about feelings of love because the love story in it is so important. To talk to a girl about that kind of stuff is a lot easier than to talk to a guy ‘cause I think girls look at love in a whole other way. But, for the most part, she got the love and the passion, but she also had the dark side covered too.
Q: She’s a German director and you’re an American actress. How did you two get together?
Agnus: I have no idea. I think she signed on before I did, and I went in and met her for the auditions, and then we talked over the phone a lot, before the movie, because I was here for awhile. And then, about three weeks before we started shooting, I went there and we got to talk about the character and the movie and how she felt. I think it’s great that she lives there, and I think it’s also great that Olivier lives in France and Hugh lives in London. It’s cool to have that difference ‘cause everybody brings a little something different to what they did in the movie.
Q: What did you learn about German women from working with your director?
Agnus: She’s very, very, very strong.
Agnus: Yeah. I wouldn’t say stubborn, but yes, very stubborn. She reminds me a lot of my mom because my mom’s very Russian, and I think they might be even worse, when it comes to being stubborn. I grew up dealing with my mom, so I understood it. It wasn’t like I thought, "Oh, she’s German, she’s being mean.” I understood it. People will say Europeans are much meaner. People even say that people from New York are different because people from New York smile much less than people in L.A. For me, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, it’s who you are as a person, and she was great.
Q: Have you ever crossed paths with Milla Jovovich, who also has a strong Russian mother? Are you guys in the same self-help group for Russian mothers?
Agnus: [Laughs] No, unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a self-help group for having Russian moms. But, she’s awesome. I would love to meet her. I admire her a lot. She’s beautiful.
Q: Did being in Bucharest help take you into that world, since it’s so much like the subject matter?
Agnus: Yeah. It’s definitely a cool energy to have. More or less, the places where we were shooting were these huge, massive buildings that were abandoned. They started working on them, and then didn’t have money to finish them. We shot in a lot of those places, and it was very cool. The absinthe factory was something that was run-down already. And then, the club scene was this place that never got finished.
Q: Was that spooky?
Agnus: Not so much spooky, just very different. It worked for the movie. You can see it.
Q: Did you get to try absinthe at all?
Agnus: No, I didn’t. I only got the fake stuff, which was pretty gross.
Q: The end of this movie is certainly left open for a sequel. Has there been any discussion of that?
Agnus: No. There’s been no talks about that.
Q: Would you want to do that?
Agnus: Definitely. I definitely have interest in it, so we’ll see how this one does.
Q: Is your last name German?
Agnus: Yeah, my father’s actually half-German. His father is German, so Bruckner is definitely German.
Q: But, you don’t know any German?
Agnus: No. My dad knows maybe a little bit, but he grew up speaking Hungarian as well.
Q: Can you talk about your next film, ‘Last Resort’?
Agnus: It’s a psychological thriller. It’s the directorial debut of Chris Moore, the producer of all the ‘American Pie’ movies, and stuff. That was very cool.
Q: What’s so interesting to your generation about that whole genre?
Agnus: It’s just very fun to work on them. The whole environment is so different. When you do a comedy, which I’ve never done . . . I’ve only heard stories . . . And, that’s something I hope to do next ‘cause it just sounds like so much fun. All you do, all day, is make jokes and make people laugh. When you’re on a horror set, people are walking around with sliced throats and blood all over them, and it’s just fun. It’s like you’re 10 years old, making a movie. It’s fun, and I enjoy it a lot.
Q: What kind of music are you into?
Agnus: I was very much into, and still am into, hip-hop and rap, mostly. But, especially after this last movie that I just did, I got into The Killers and a lot more pop-rock, like The Fray, and stuff like that and, definitely R&B.
Q: Do you still take dance?
Agnus: I still try to go to classes sometimes, but I don’t really have time for it and I’ve gotten really lazy. I enjoy hip-hop the most, and jazz. But, when I was younger I did ballet, tap, lyrical, hip-hop. From when I was 5 until I was about 10, I used to go after school, every day, until 9 o’clock at night. I would take like six classes a day, and I did shows, and stuff like that. I was in one beauty pageant when I was little. It was awful.
Q: Not your choice, I take it?
Agnus: No. It was something my mom put me into. I think I was six years old.
Q: Why was it so awful?
Agnus: The actual pageant, in itself, is okay, but it’s the people that are involved in it -- the stage moms. What these six year old girls have to go through is pretty terrible, when you really think about it. When you’re six years old and you’re taught to stand like this and do this . . . I enjoyed it because of the dancing. I got to do three dance routines. But, it’s just weird, when you actually think about it. These pageants are just very strange.
Q: How do you manage to stay so grounded in Hollywood?
Agnus: I don’t know. I guess I’m just not really into the Hollywood part of Hollywood. I don’t go out to clubs and my name’s never on the lists, and stuff like that. If I’m not working, I either travel or stay at home and rent movies and do my own thing, as opposed to trying to put myself out into the world.
Q: Are you friends with any other actors?
Agnus: Yeah. Especially on the last movie, ‘Last Resort,’ I’ve remained friends with pretty much all the actors. But, no, I don’t think I have any super-famous friends.
Q: Are there any places you’d like to travel to?
Agnus: Definitely. I really, really want to go to South Africa. I want to go to Morocco. I want to go back to Greece ‘cause I really enjoyed Greece. Italy is probably my favorite place. I’ve never been to France. Just everywhere.
Q: What do you like so much about Italy?
Agnus: I don’t know. Every time I go, I enjoy myself so much. The food is amazing. I’m a big food person. I love the food in Italy. And, I love being by the ocean, and just being able to be in a different place. The streets are so much fun, when you walk around to the cafes, and stuff like that.
Q: Do you travel alone?
Agnus: No, I’ve never traveled alone. The last time I went to Hungary, we went to Italy with my father and his girlfriend for a week, and it was actually during the World Cup. That was insane, the way they go crazy for it. But, it’s so much fun. It’s different, so it’s nice.
Q: Thank you very much.
Agnus: Cool! Thank you, guys.
"Blood and Chocolate” opens in theaters on January 26th. Be sure to checkout the ton of clips and trailers for Blood & Chocolate we have on site.