Charlotte Gainsbourg, 43, is the star of director Lars von Trier’s much-anticipated film, “Nymphomaniac.” She plays Joe, a sex addict, and the film covers 20 years of her unusual life. The Danish director is known for his penchant to shock audiences, but this film is not as sexy as you might guess, nor is sex the main story. Rather, it is a sad tale of a woman bent on self-destruction.
The film boasts an all-star cast including Uma Thurman, Christian Slater, Stellan Skarsgård, Willem Dafoe, Jamie Bell, Shia LaBeouf and newcomer Stacy Martin, who plays the younger Joe. The director’s cut is five and a half hours. For theatrical release, the film was edited down to four hours and split into two volumes. Both are deeply disturbing, yet fascinating. It’s a film unlike any you’ve seen before.
In addition to acting, Gainsbourg is a singer and the daughter of English actress Jane Birkin and French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg. She is married to the Israeli actor, writer and director Yvan Attal and they have three children together. Her entre into singing was at 12 years old when she sang a duet with her father called “Lemon Incest” — with lyrics that are just as worrisome as the title implies. When she reached adulthood, Gainsbourg released three successful albums and she has appeared in films every year since 1984.
The Forward caught up with Gainsbourg to discuss her upcoming film.
Dorri Olds: What was the most challenging aspect of playing Joe?