Stephanie Sigman and Gerardo Naranjo are the star and director of Mexican crime thriller Miss Bala, which sees an innocent wannabe beauty queen caught up in the machinations of a corrupt police force and a drug dealing gangster who forces her to work for him, ostensibly for her own protection.
Recently in London, they both spoke to View’s Matthew Turner about how the project came about, trying to avoid other influences from the world of cinema, and just how powerful a shampoo advert can really be.
Where did the idea come from?
I think the idea was a reaction to all the products that I was seeing about crime and I felt there was a great opportunity to portray criminal activities in another light. The movies and the soap operas were portraying the crime wave in this very untruthful way, I felt and I had another way of seeing it.
So that was the origin, to research and to talk about that, to talk about a general feeling of fear and distrust for the law, for the authorities and for the criminals, a distrust about everything that's around you and I wanted to comment on that.
What attracted you to the part, Stephanie?
Well, first of all the story and how these two worlds came together, but the script itself was amazing when I read it and the character – I had a feeling like, 'What a beautiful person' and somehow this innocence, this naivety, which could be really beautiful as a soul thing, it's like it becomes a flaw in this world she lives in. So I think basically that it's a challenge, to be strong but also to be a victim at the same time. But my first thought when I read the script was, 'I need to do this.'
I think every time we went to see a movie together there it was just stupid American comedies...
If it's not too embarrassing to discuss it with Stephanie sitting next to you, can you tell me about the casting process and how you found her?
I saw her in a shampoo commercial and I got a vibe that she had something different. I think for me, the most important thing when I cast is, obviously the first feeling I get, that one, that I saw when I saw her in the casting, but also when I work with actors I need them to be very hungry, very interested in working with me toward the film because it's a big, big effort.
I don't believe in the process of acting in an industry way, that they go to the trailer and they come back and they have all these needs – I think that's very selfish in the way it's normally done, so I invite them to be much more a part of what the movie is and to be with me throughout the process.
So I talked to her and I told her millions of requirements and a lot of bad things that would happen to her in the film, and she seemed interested, she seemed eager to go in this direction, to find out if she was the one and so that for me was the most interesting, just to see her reactions, to see her interest and her willingness to sacrifice towards the film. And after that it was just hard work, I guess. But when I'm casting, mostly I look for energy and hunger.
That must have been quite some shampoo commercial ...
It was a casting – I didn't get the commercial.
Were you influenced by any particular films or directors in the way you shot the film?
In the [first] film I did there were always referring to the influences, and I was kind of sick of it, I was pretty tired of just being put together with other movies. There were certain influences but I felt I was doing something new and it wasn't that, so much. So for this one, I think we avoided talking about films in any way. I showed her [Stephanie] some horror movies that didn't have anything to do with our movie.
But I felt it was interesting for her to see some reactions, like how women will accept torture or punishment, so I showed her these movies, but I'm not sure, I hope I said, 'Don't pay attention to anything other than the experience.' And I think with everybody else, I forbade them to talk about cinema and other movies. And I think every time we went to see a movie together there it was just stupid American comedies.