There are two most precious gifts in life: knowing how to live in the present and finding someone with whom you have such a chemistry that you feel free to experience and be spontaneous. When you watch “Hoard,” you get the feeling that Saura Lightfoot-Leon and Joseph Quinn, who play the protagonists, Maria and Michael, had this luck. When you meet them to talk about the film and their experience on set, you see it clearly: Saura and Joseph speak of this story that’s so dense and visceral, which required great confidence in their own abilities and in each other, that it almost seems to be able to perceive the atmosphere on the set, the chemistry between them and the desire to give their best, precisely because they truly believe in this project and in the bonds that emerged from it. Without ever forgetting the importance of the present as a gift to be lived fully, and of love, as a way to return to yourself and a feeling that helps us to connect with ourselves and with others.
“Hoard” was quite an intense movie. What was your first reaction when you received the script?
S: You know what? I was confused, first off, because the dialect is really specific, Maria’s not my natural accent, and in the script there’s a lot of jargon that I didn’t necessarily get what it meant… But when I read it, I started feeling crazy emotions. I remember I was on my bed and I was reading it over and over again, and the first thing I did was physicalizing it because I had a very intense physical reaction and it kind of lived with me ever since. From the moment I got the audition, it never left my mind. I started dreaming about it pretty quickly. When all of these intense reactions happened, I realized how rare they are for me, they don’t always happen, and what I was going to do was very visceral. So, as soon as I got it, I thought that I’d gotten this gift and that I just had to go for it as it lived within me pretty quickly.
Do you remember the first question that you asked director Luna Carmoon?
J: What’s wrong with you? [laughs]
S: I didn’t ask her many questions at first, I just wanted to meet her. I wanted to get a feeling of who the person was behind the story, even though I had a guess of what she was like because of her work. She puts herself in her work and you could feel it, it’s real in many many senses. I think no logical questions came after. I didn’t ask too much because I liked the mystery of it.
How did you build the characters of Maria and Michael? What were the main challenges in portraying them?
J: I think the work with Luna had a lot to do with trauma and trauma-bonding, and an understanding of each other – there was mutuality in both of these characters’ experiences that makes them understand each other and want to explore each other, ultimately, so, we did a little bit of work around that. Of course, we had our own independent processes of preparation, like I had to put on a little bit of weight, but other than that, so much of the material was dependent on what happens in the moment. That’s not exclusive of this film, but I think this one really sings in those moments of spontaneity and when that stuff actually feels like is happening, and that could only happen if you have supreme trust in your scene partner and their talent. And I had that in spate with Saura so I was very lucky.
S: My accent was very weird, I was super conscious of it, and I still am, I remember walking through the woods with this one. It definitely progressed from the start! Your voice is an instrument as an actor, and words terrify me, which is the reason why I started acting… It’s weird, but I’m scared of talking sometimes, I’m much more comfortable physically, so I think that I knew that a lot of the character that I would have had to meet, that didn’t already live inside me, was true voice. Your pitch changes the way you move, it changes the way you interact, it changes what you feel, so that was huge. The accent was the biggest challenge for me.
“There was mutuality in both of these characters’ experiences that makes them understand each other and want to explore each other”
And what about the process of creating the chemistry between Maria and Michael? There’s this beautiful scene in the living room, when they play, they fight, they let themselves go, and it’s basically a crescendo that perfectly represent the bond between them.
J: Chemistry is one of those things that you can’t cultivate or force, I think, it happens to you or it doesn’t.
It’s trusting each other and saying yes to what they put down and trying to get something back, and this hopefully breeds a chain reaction of physical action. It’s no one’s fault if chemistry doesn’t happen, but it’s a beautiful thing and it’s very addictive, when you’re working with someone who surprises you and risks. And this is what she does!
S: [To Joseph] I agree with everything you said. If you sit down with people and play a game, you get to see real sides of those people. Like you said, you can’t create chemistry, you cannot force it, it’s there, you feel it, it’s a vibration, it’s a tingling feeling, and then the game starts. A lot of acting is like a game play, I think, and especially with “Hoard”, it’s a lot of fun.
[To Joseph] You made me want to play even more, you made me want to throw more cards and see what you had to offer. When you test each other and start building that relationship, and you’re doing crazy shit together for six weeks, you start to get to know each other pretty well, and manage intense times. It’s a different combination of things, but you don’t make it in the workshop, it’s there, and you can add the right ingredients for it.
I had the feeling that Michael is somehow suspended between his past, present and future. Do you ever feel like this too?
J: I guess everyone does sometimes, I think we all enter into phases in our lives where we feel trapped, or we feel like something’s holding us back, or uncertain about the future. Trying to stay present absolves you of the mistakes you made in the past, and forgiving yourself for them, and trying not to worry about the future, I think. If you beat yourself after the past, you’re not in the present; if you’re worried about the future, you’re not in the present. And you know why they call it “the present”? Because it’s a gift! So, you’ve got to be grateful for the gift, to make the most out of the gift… Don’t get a gift receipt, don’t send it back, you need it.
Anyway, that’s the best question that I think I’ve ever had! Amazing question.
“And you know why they call it ‘the present’? Because it’s a gift!”
At the beginning of the movie, Maria says “she has found herself in things”. What are the things that help you both find yourself again when you feel lost?
S: One of them actually features in the film, a personal item. You know that question “What would you take on an island with you?”, that’s what I’d bring with me: a cuddly bear, which is not so cuddly anymore. He’s been with me the whole time and he’s travelled the world with me. So, it’s trinkets. My bear smells like home, he makes me feel calm, I really do take him everywhere, I think I’d probably have a panic attack if I lost him! [laughs] It was the first thing my parents got me, the only thing my parents got me before I was born, and he’s with me now, here in Venice, and he’s having a great time.
J: For me, I think it’s talking to people that I trust and care about, I always find that quite grounding. It can be heady and confusing, this game, it’s amazing but it can be lonely, so keeping contact with my pals really grounds me and brings me back to myself.