What does it mean to be “Una Mujer Fantastica” or just a Fantastic Woman? Do you have to be born one? Or maybe become one afterward? What about the heart and soul that dictates you otherwise? All these questions will come to your mind when you watch Sebastian Lelio’s “A Fantastic Woman” who through the harshness of circumstances will have to stand for herself and defend her love for a man that she loves but who is no longer around to fight back along with her.
We should all write down, or even better – memorize and never forget Daniela Vega’s name from now on. What she goes through as Marina Vidal is heartbreaking, sad and inhumane. But in the end, she stands tall to defend the title she got, as Una Mujer Fantastica.
During the Toronto International Film Festival, I had a great pleasure to sit down with Daniela Vega to go through her experience, understanding of Marina Vidal and her overall journey to bring the most richly written character onto our silver screen.
MOVIEMOVESME: How did you prepare to enter into the world of Marina Vidal?
Daniela Vega: I entered it very slowly. It was a long process to create Marina and her world. It wasn’t that I received a script and a proposal and I took on the role but rather it started when myself and Sebastian met and little by little the script took its form.
MOVIEMOVESME: What did you like the most about Marina Vidal. Is there something that you could relate to or which seemed like yourself?
Daniela Vega: I think that as an actress you have to identify with a character in order for it to turn out. Identify with it to some degree. I think you need to take it on and defend the character with dignity. Even if it’s a negative character. If it’s a morally wrong character, a bad person. Or on the other hand, it’s a heroine or a princess or an illuminated person in the film or in the theatre piece.
MOVIEMOVESME: You are not just an actress but also a makeup artist and even a singer. So I wonder how much those skills helped you to develop and add more depth to Marina?
Daniela Vega: Marina sings because Sebastian thought that was a characteristic that she should have. But she sings opera because I thought that was better than me having to learn to sing pop, which was what originally was proposed for her. I thought because I sing opera that it would add to the character. The process of creating the film was a mutual process but the directorial process was one in which Sebastian would propose things and I would only share my opinion. He had the directorial authority. And I would give him my opinion on what I read, what I heard, and what I understood.
MOVIEMOVESME: How much freedom did you have to improvise or was it just well scripted and you based your acting completely on the script as if Marina Vidal is written in the book.
Daniela Vega: We’re friends. We’re close friends. We care dearly for each other. And our friendship formed through the discovery of the character of Marina Vidal. As an actress, you should learn the script in a disciplined manner, backward and forward. And then play it with the role on set and if the director wants to improvise then it can be done. But the role was played very closely to the script. Some scenes in the film were improvised but only to the degree that they stayed naturally within what was intended in the script. We couldn’t say that that part was improvised and that part wasn’t but to further clarify 99% of the film was exactly how it was presented in the script.
MOVIEMOVESME: As you studied the character, what did you find the most heartbreaking about her as she was trying to pay the last respect to a man she really loved?
Daniela Vega: It was the doubt that they had in her role as a widow. It was also the doubt that they had for the quality of love that they shared. And that they saw the love that they shared as invalid.
MOVIEMOVESME: The film was well received. As an actress, do you read reviews about your work?
Daniela Vega: I don’t read the criticism. I have no interest in criticism. But if it’s been published in a big press, it gets to me. But it’s the comments on those reviews, it’s the comments by the people on articles that are published that I don’t read. I know that this work is very public and everybody has the right to their opinion on it and I have the right to not read it. But I should clarify. The reviews, the film reviews, the specialized reviews, we read them and value them. It’s the commentaries on those reviews. It’s the rumors. It’s all of that stuff that I don’t place value on.
MOVIEMOVESME: What is it you want people to at least take away from Marina or the importance of the subject matter as a transgender? Because there was lack of sympathy towards her in the film?
Daniela Vega: I hope that it pushes the limits of our thinking. I think that we should all understand that we’re on this earth for just one moment that we’ll all die. And that’s why life matters. Because we should not take it for granted that little time that we have. I think that this movie can push the limits of empathy, of our thinking and I think we need to think of our thinking as flexible just as our body is. For me, empathy is a key thing to the film. Three things are the most important things to me. I would tattoo them on me. Those are empathy, rebelliousness, and dignity. But you cannot be rebellious without care and dignity.