On July 29th, Franka Potente’s debut as a feature film director will start in cinemas. In an interview, she reveals how she got Kathy Bates on board.
Franka Potente (46, “Run Lola Run”) is celebrating her debut as a feature-length film director with the touching drama “Home”, which starts in German cinemas on July 29th. The work tells the story of Marvin (Jake McLaughlin, 38), convicted of murder, who is on his way back to his home in the US province after more than 17 years in prison.
Once there, he learns that his mother (Kathy Bates, 73) is terminally ill and that the residents of the small town have still not forgotten what he did. Only the young Delta Flintow (Aisling Franciosi, 28), whose grandmother was murdered by Marvin, soon begins to see him through different eyes.
Compassion and forgiveness are at the heart of the script, which was also written by Franka Potente. In an interview with the news agency spot on news, the German Hollywood actress reveals what inspired her to write, how she got Oscar winner Kathy Bates (“Misery”) on board and whether her own days as an actress are behind her. Potente also reveals why Johnny Depp has the “texture of a real star” for her and what kind of collaboration she still dreams of.
Congratulations on your debut as a feature film director! How did it feel to “have my hat on” behind the camera?
Franka Potente: It was wonderful and I enjoyed it very much. Of course it was also incredibly stressful, but I think it’s great when you have the opportunity not only to be a small part of the whole as an actor, but to have access to all artistic areas. I came out of the whole thing smarter because you learn a lot from everyone – the great cameraman, make-up and costume designers, editing, music. You have to communicate with everyone and I thought that was great.
In 2006 you directed a short film. Why did it take you so long to sit down in the director’s chair again?
Potente: I think a lot has happened in my life. I had two children and they are still relatively young. A movie takes a lot of time, and the timing just wasn’t right. I’ve always written scripts, but never. “Home” is my first feature film script and somehow everything worked out fine now.
Where do you feel more comfortable today, in front of or behind the camera?
Potente: If I have my way, I just want to stand behind the camera. Of course you have to be able to make a living from it first, it doesn’t go that fast. It can take a year or two to fund a film. If it were up to me, I would be shooting again next month, looking for locations or something similar. I like acting and it will continue to be with me. But she will be my stepchild.
You already mentioned that you also wrote the script for “Home”. What was the inspiration for the plot?
Potente: It was partly visual. You see something that you find appealing in a certain way and you think, “I’d like to tell a story about it.” I wanted it to be simple. I’m not someone who can write a plot like Game of Thrones or a family saga. I like little stories with few characters and I wanted to tell the story of an adult who got stuck in his youth and has to reconfigure himself. Then I thought: What kind of situations are there in which someone “freezes” for a few years? Jail time is such a situation. And as a viewer, I like the small town context with real characters very much. In the end it all came together.
Leading actor Jake McLaughlin himself has an exciting life story. He first served as a soldier in Iraq, was seriously injured, and then got into acting through a job as a security officer in Hollywood.
Potente: Yes, he has a lot in common with (his main role) Marvin. He is – also as a person – very touching.
How did you come across him and what predestined him for the role of the protagonist?
Potente: One or two actors who were a little more famous had canceled and I just wanted someone who would fit the role. Then I saw his picture and he reminded me of Ewan McGregor in “Trainspotting” – British, rascal, but also delicate and therefore exactly what I wanted. Then I heard about his personal story, met him and he broadcast just that. While filming it exuded a kind of magic. You had to protect him from himself because he had so much under the surface. It literally burst out of him. Kathy Bates, an absolute thoroughbred actress, loved that. With this mutual energy one charges oneself. As a director you just sit like a mouse in the corner and watch.
With Kathy Bates you staged a true Oscar winner. How can you get someone like that on board?
Potente: You go through management and send her the script via the casting woman. Her team reads this first and if it is rated as okay, she receives it. Kathy liked it and we met. She was adorable and made it clear that I was the director. Of course she was strict too. We talked about the script and then you should already know what you’re talking about.
Her husband Derek Richardson also plays in “Home”. What was it like giving instructions to Him at work?
Potente: People always imagine that this is how it works (between the director and the actors). There is a certain stereotype, a kind of cartoon director who says: “Now do this!” But that’s not how it is. As a filmmaker you respect your actors and he’s gone up a lot, lost 30 pounds and changed the most for his role of all. In my opinion, his scenes with Jake are the most touching. It’s nice when you can work together and be creative with your partner. But then you treat the person just as carefully as everyone else.
Did the work also determine your private conversations after the shooting?
Potente: Yes, but it’s been a long day and you’re very exhausted. We have always been inspired by the fact that work was fun, but when you come home, everyday life determines life again. “You, do you know where Georgie’s (Franka Potente’s daughter, editor’s note) sneakers landed?” and so forth. You can quickly get back to this mode.
As an actress, you’ve already stood in front of the camera with top stars like Johnny Depp, Matt Damon and Eric Bana. In retrospect, which collaboration did you remember most positively?
Potente: Johnny Depp was totally adorable. Matt was great too, of course, and Eric Bana was nice too. It often depends on the project how open people are. For example, Matt was much more involved in the “Bourne” films than I was. But as with Kathy Bates, I recognized Johnny Depp as what could be described as the texture of a real star. He was just incredibly generous and didn’t have to prove anything to anyone. At the same time, he also took on responsibility.
Who would you like to work with in the future – in front of or behind the camera?
Potente: Melissa McCarthy would be great, I think Olivia Colman is great and Martin Freeman is really funny. Right now I also love the actors in the series “Succession”. And the classic is of course George Clooney! If there was something … Often you feel like Quentin Tarantino. He has certain heroes from his youth and uses them in his films. When you get to the point where that becomes possible, you’ve made it.