Some months went by before the actress was finally offered the part in the film – a period she reveals was rather frustrating due to the secrecy surrounding the project
Blade Runner actress Sylvia Hoeks on her experiences of method acting alongside Jared Leto
For Dutch actor Sylvia Hoeks, her debut role in Hollywood couldn’t come in a film much bigger than Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049. Hoeks plays Love, the loyal assistant to Jared Leto’s villainous Niander Wallace. It wasn’t just the Hollywood experience that was new to Hoeks – it was also the first time she had encountered the brand of hardcore method acting her co-star is famed for.
“It was very different to what I’d experienced before because I didn’t actually meet Jared before we started shooting, so I only met him in character. I introduced myself as Love and he introduced himself as Niander, and he never broke character all the time we were on set,” she says. “It’s interesting because when you watch the film, we don’t really know each other except as those characters. I think it elevates those scenes and the level of complexity of their relationship.”
Hoeks admits that her usual method of preparing for roles is somewhat less intense than Leto’s: “I don’t normally work that way at all,” she says. “I normally talk about my parts and bounce ideas around. I do enter into character on set, but I can step out of it. The method way he does it is very interesting. It was strange because one of my agents said to me that when she was talking to me during the shoot my answers were very short, so I think some of it did rub off on me and I started to become Love a little bit.”
Director Villeneuve scoured the globe for the cast for his film through a network of international casting agents, hence a largely unknown Dutch actress landing a major role. “I was shooting a German movie, Whatever Happens, at the time, and I got the call from my agent asking me to self-tape for Blade Runner,” she explains. “That was a no-brainer. I loved the original, and Rutger Hauer was a national hero and he did such a good job in it.”
In fact, the production team actually gave Hoeks one of Hauer’s scenes to use as her audition piece – the moment in the first film where Hauer’s replicant Roy Batty meets his maker, Eldon Tyrell, for the first time. It wasn’t the most straightforward audition piece Hoeks had done. “I got in after a 14 or 15-hour day on set on the other movie, and I actually had to do it in the little area in front of the door of my apartment, because there were the most contacts to put all the lamps in there – it was the middle of winter and it was pitch-black, but I couldn’t do it during the day because I was shooting. It was so dark, I really remember that. I had all these lamps and even candles and I was busy all night with it.”
Her hard work paid off – a couple of days later she was invited to Montreal to do some more work with Villeneuve, although Hoeks admits that she was convinced she had made a mess of her trial with the Oscar-nominated Arrival director. Some months went by before Hoeks was finally offered the part – a period she reveals was rather frustrating due to the secrecy surrounding the project. “I was being offered other parts, and my agent was calling them to ask if I should take the parts. They kept saying, ‘No, she shouldn’t’, but they wouldn’t actually tell us I’d got the part because it was all so secretive, so we were in limbo. They were very particular about the whole process which I understand with a movie like this.”
Eventually the call came, and Hoeks embarked on a three-month training programme with a world champion triathlete. “I worked out six hours a day, six days a week. I even had a dry swimming machine in my room. I had to gain seven kilos of muscle, and I think the discipline of the training really helped me to get into the character of Love.”
Unfortunately, thanks to the aforementioned extreme secrecy around the film, Hoeks can’t tell us too much about that character, although Love does seem to bear some physical resemblance to the replicant Rachel from the first film. Since replicants were bred to be strong in order to carry out the grunt work in the colonies, I wonder if Love’s appearance and the training regime could be a hint that she too is a replicant.
Sadly, the actress is not taking the bait: “I think humans and replicants are strong in the future,” she says, diplomatically. “I think he [Villeneuve] wanted me to look strong because I have a lot of fights in the film. Maybe it’s something about whatever will happen to us when they invent some sort of serum that gives you superpowers or something. I don’t know,” she giggles, as her deflection efforts start to go slightly off-track.
On pressing, Hoeks does at least tell us a little about the character of Love. “As a female actress I didn’t feel the need to be sexy or beautiful,” she says. “I could choose from whole different elements of the character. She has a sort of strength that is neither female nor male, just a very human strength.”
Human strength? Or replicant strength? We don’t have too long to wait to find out.