Masterclass: John Malkovich

I attended to Masterclass of world famous, unique actor John Malkovich in 28th International Istanbul Film Festival. I must say it was stunning experience for me. Even I was the first one asked him a question, just before workshop finished he gave me the chance to ask another questions which I forgot to ask because of my excitement ? So I am thankful to him.

Since the movie “Dangerous Liaisons” (1988) which has been the first encounter with him for Turkish audiences we loved J. Malkovich at first with his distinctive charisma that is still same and seems will never diminish in the future. It was quite enjoyable and interesting to listen his anecdotes about his professional life and cinema and also exploring his high intelligence, sense of humor, humble side of his personality which is hidden under the surface of his little arrogance and distance.

First I asked him that he is one of the idol actors on this planet every director wants to work with, if he has any idol director or directors. And I asked what the “good director” concept meant for him as an actor, as a director and as a producer (By the way I would like to congratulate the translator guy who was very successful about clear and net translations without skipping any details). Malkovich said he had no criteria about “good director” concept. But he considers himself lucky to finding a chance for working with very important directors. On the other hand he also missed the chance to work with some directors he really wanted to work with because they were already dead. According to Malkovich, a director’s past works and working style can not give him certain reference about the same director would have the same quality of work and working style with him.


While he was mentioning his thoughts on the relationships between his directors as an actor and also the relationships between his actors/actresses as a director; he already replied my “good director” question.

“ My duty as a professional actor is feeling a director’s vision. All in all it’s his/her dream not mine. Making or directing a good movie is very hard job. It’s me who is working for a director, director is not working for me. Director is the boss. When I am working as a director, I set my actors/actresses free as much as I can. I ask them questions, I try to communicate them and I try to find a way together with them. For instance I don’t care what they did at the rehearsal 4 months ago but today’s performance. I observe where they did please me where they don’t. If I feel something is not convincing about their acting, I say them immediately. Directors know the technique, framing, lightning but lots of them do not know how they can work with and motivate the actors/actresses. You can feel yourself as a puppet or as a monkey while working with them as an actor. Sometimes they express themselves with very interesting or strange gestures and you have to decode them. As a result, I have learned a lesson which is it’s you have to adapt to director not vice versa.”


Malkovich said Michelangelo Antonioni and Manoel de Oliveira have priority and importancy of him and he is very pleased to work with them. Whenever they meet Manoel de Oliveira who is 101 now and still trying to make movie, blows up Malkovich’s mind with his talent. He says Oliveira is a wonderful director and tells us a little story about him.

“ One day me and Oliveira were together for talking about a movie project of him. I don’t know Portuguese and he doesn’t know English so we speak French. He has no script in his hand but the idea in his mind. He talked about the project for 1,5 hours. I was very tired and sleepless. So I said I accepted the project. He said “o.k.” and just began to talk about his second project. I couldn’t believe my ears! But he is very intelligent, talented and also brave director, it’s impossible for me being disrespectful or saying no him. Amazing guy…”

He said in 1976 he joined Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre, newly founded by his friend Gary Sinise. During those days he had an actress girl friend and her influence had a great deal for him as choosing his career as an actor. Malkovich added that there was no role so far that he loved most or the closest to his real personality but he feels most comfortable himself in his character at “Of Mice and Men.

My other questions to Malkovich were about his director and producer parts which are not known so much in common. “ Mr. Malkovich I know you are interested in fashion. You made 3 short fashion movies ‘Strap Hanging’, ‘ Lady Behave’, ‘Hideous Man’ collaborated with Bella Freud who is fashion designer and great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud. And I had a chance to watch the ‘Hideous Man’ which is very interesting and cool movie. Do you have new short fashion movie projects with Bella Freud? And my last question is: Your last movie as a producer is a documentary about the migrant children who cross illegally Mexican border to get to the U.S. How did you come up with this idea? And what are the reasons to drive you to make a documentary?


He was surprised a bit about I had watched “Hideous Man” and he said he didn’t know yet if he was gonna make another short fashion movie. But he knew he could not make with Bella Freud because she was no longer working as a fashion designer now. About “Which Way Home” documentary, he said that he’d watched with his director friend Rebecca Cammisa 10 minutes documentary about migrant children. The video and the humanity tragedy of the children have inspired them to make this documentary movie together. He wants to make other documentaries in the future with Rebecca Cammisa who’s gotten the best documentary director award in Sundance Film Festival in 2002.

“You generally end up choosing one of the roles that were designated for you. Till today I played almost every different kind of role. But nobody asks me if I want to play a ballerina?” It would be marvellous experience if we could see this brave and stunning actor acting as a ballerina…


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2 thoughts on “Masterclass: John Malkovich

  1. Esin Uras June 19, 2009 at 8:22 am Reply

    John Malkovich sinema tarihindeki en karizmatik ve kişilikli aktörlerden biridir bence de.. Tehlikeli İlişkiler”dangerous liaisons”,Çölde Çay”the sheltered sky” , yetenekli Bay Ripley”talented mr ripley” J.Malkavich olmak dışında tabii ki en etkilendiğim ve sevdiğim filmlerindendir.
    Ben nedense j.Malkovich ile Jeremy Irons’ı aktör olarak ,tarz olarak birbirlerine yakın bulurum :)Ama J.Malkovich yaşarken ekol olmuş bir aktör ve eğitmen..Çok yönlü ve sınırları yok..her rolü ve özellikle kendi sınırlarını zorlayacak rolleri isteyen ,bekleyen bir aktör 🙂 Bence Türk aktörlerinin ve belki de eleştirmenlerin de bundan çıkarmaları gereken dersler var?
    makalenin son paragrafı çok açık zaten 🙂
    teşekkürler Orkide Ünsür ,bu değerli aktörün görüşleri ve dünyasıyla ilgili olarak bir nebze de olsa bizi aydınlattıgınız için :=) farklı aktör /yönetmen ya da aktristler ile söyleşilerinizi bekliyorum:)
    Esin Uras

    • Orkide Ünsür June 19, 2009 at 8:13 pm Reply

      Çok teşekkür ederim:-) Sinema bilgisi ve sevgisi fazlaca olan dostumdan bu yorumu duymak beni ayrıca sevindirdi;-)

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