Anapola Mushkadiz

Anapola Mushkadiz in Battle in Heaven

Actress Anapola Mushkadiz created quite a stir in her first ever role in Battle in Heaven: that’s what an opening scene featuring actual sex can do. Mushkadiz talks to Chris Neumer about why America needs to get over on-screen blowjobs, why and why acting is so surprisingly easy.

by Chris Neumer

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ANA MUSHKADIZ: How’s the weather in Chicago?

CHRIS NEUMER: Nice. 70ish. Not LA nice, but nice.

ANA MUSHKADIZ: Oh, no, it’s really cold in LA right not.  This is not nice.

CHRIS NEUMER: I’ve got to start reminding people about that. There’s only about two weeks of the year when Chicago has nicer weather than LA and I try to make a point of rubbing it into to everyone I know out there because they also call me when it’s 20 below zero here in January and talk about how sunny and warm it is out there.

ANA MUSHKADIZ: That’s funny.

CHRIS NEUMER: You ready to jump in?

ANA MUSHKADIZ: I’m ready.

CHRIS NEUMER: I was looking at some other interviews thatyou’d done and saw that you got the part in Battle in Heaven  because a friend recommended you to the director [Carlos Reygadas].

ANA MUSHKADIZ: That’s true.

CHRIS NEUMER: After seeing the movie, I was curious to know if you ever chided your friend about recommending you for this role. I could just hear your friend, “You’re looking for a prostitute to go down on camera on a fat middle-aged guy? I’ve got this friend, Ana, you should really look at. I think she’d be perfect…”

ANA MUSHKADIZ: (laughs) No, not at all. First of all, my friend didn’t know what the movie was about when he talked about me. Carlos mentioned that he was looking for a little girl–well, a girl who looked like a little girl but was a woman at the same time.

CHRIS NEUMER: A young looking 18-year old.

ANA MUSHKADIZ: Exactly. Someone who has personality and character all by herself. That was why my friend said, “You should get to know Ana.” So, of course, I was never angry. But I always knew what the movie was going to be about. Of course, once the film is finished it always surprises you. It never looks like you thought it was going to look like. Still, it’s not like Carlos ever lied to me and said, “It’s going to be a light movie,” or anything like that. He was always very open about the fact that there was going to be sex and there was going to be that and the movie was supposed to look cold and there was going to be no tenderness, blah blah blah. So I always knew about the theme and what I was getting myself into. I was happy about it in that respect because we need great directors who take chances and to have a new creation they need brave people to work with them.

CHRIS NEUMER: One of the things that interested me about this while I was reading about this project–besides how much ink was devoted to whether or not Carlos should have been pushing the boundaries of sex as he did–was the fact that whenever anyone wrote about you and Marcos they always referred to you as ‘non-actors’ or ‘non-professionals’. Does that kind of label weigh on you at all?

ANA MUSHKADIZ: No. I think every person in the world could be an actor, I think we all have a bit of schizophrenia in ourselves.

CHRIS NEUMER: Don’t tell that to the acting coaches. They’d be really upset. It’s an art form that only people who pay them large amounts of money can believably create.

ANA MUSHKADIZ: (laughs) We got the opportunity to go crazy in front of a camera and had a person telling us how to behave, I don’t see why other people wouldn’t be able to do it. Maybe if they were completely shy or something… And for me, I couldn’t care about that. It’s not something that I set out to do with my life, acting. On the contrary, it’s something that I never even thought about doing. I’ve been devoting most of my time and energy to other things, actually. I couldn’t possibly be affected by that label.

CHRIS NEUMER: Just hearing your take on these first two questions, it seems like you have a pretty good sense of yourself. It doesn’t matter if other people are telling you things, you’re like, “Eh, whatever, I know who I am and it doesn’t bother me.” Makes for a healthy person and a horrible interview.

ANA MUSHKADIZ: (laughs) Yeah.

CHRIS NEUMER: I, of course, would much prefer that you go the Sharon Stone route and, ten years from now, start complaining that you never knew about any of the sex scenes and the director was a sneaky bastard–

ANA MUSHKADIZ: And I was tricked all the time.

CHRIS NEUMER: (laughs) That’s what I want! It’s not the truth, but it sounds so much better.

ANA MUSHKADIZ: (laughs) I’m sorry. I can make something up if you want.

CHRIS NEUMER: I think I’ll be able to find the inner beauty of this situation without having to resort to lies. But, you never know. You mentioned earlier that you liked to see great new directors trying creative things and that they needed brave people to work with them. As somebody who has little experience in the film world, what was it about Carlos that made you think he was a good director?

ANA MUSHKADIZ: More than anything, it’s because I saw his first film and thought it was really amazing. For a guy doing his first film, Japon, I thought it was amazingly deep and beautiful. For that, he has all my respect and admiration as a director.
The reason why I went through all the tough scenes and everything else that has to do with Battle in Heaven was because he really knows what he wants. He’s a guy who never shakes about anything. He was always so clear about what he wanted to see in the film, where the camera should be, how long every scene should take, what face he wanted to see on me and he knows these things in a more specific way – I don’t know exactly how to say this in English–but it goes beyond that. He knew exactly why he chose us.
When I met Carlos he said, “Now I want to spend a lot of time with you before we start shooting the movie.” He did that so he could know how far he could push me on things and when I’m sad, how sad I look and when I’m happy how much I smile. He learned all these things about me so that when we were shooting the movie he’d say, “Remember that day you did that? Go happy like that.” Totally simple. He’s a guy that’s amazingly intelligent and conscious about cinema and other people and what he wants and he has the capacity to put all these things together and make them work. You could always feel that he knew exactly what he wanted.

CHRIS NEUMER: And it was the fact that he knew what he wanted and he knew how to get at that that makes him a good director?

ANA MUSHKADIZ: No. That’s why he convinced me to take the part.

CHRIS NEUMER: So that facet of Carlos didn’t influence you as to why you thought he was a good director prior to meeting him?

ANA MUSHKADIZ: No, I think why I think he’s a good director is really because I saw Japon–the only way you can say someone is a good director is by seeing his movies and liking them, no?

CHRIS NEUMER: I can’t argue with that.

ANA MUSHKADIZ: Because I liked Japon, I thought he was a good director. But someone can be a good director and a shitty person too.

CHRIS NEUMER: I’ve met both of them, probably more of the latter.

ANA MUSHKADIZ: (laughs) But I think Carlos is a good director and a good person too. He really loves what he is doing. He can transmit this love and passion for his project onto other people. At a certain point Battle in Heaven became my project as well. I gave so much in the movie, more than acting, and all the people who were there, it wasn’t like a normal movie where locations is locations and catering is catering and the actors are the actors. No, at the end of the movie, after my surgery, we needed to clear the circle of the city for shooting some scenes and there was a strike and so we told the teachers who were on strike that we’d make a documentary about their strike if they’d move. I ended up directing that documentary. At the end, we were all working together as a team for a project that we all loved. This was because Carlos made us all feel like it was our project.

CHRIS NEUMER: Just tell me that you never ended up doing catering.

ANA MUSHKADIZ: (laughs) No, I was cleaning the toilets at that time.

CHRIS NEUMER: I guess you have to work your way up to the top. You’ve alluded to the fact that you like the way Carlos works and that you like the end result. When I watched Battle in Heaven, I was surprised and had two reactions to it. One was: this guy seems to be trying to do a lot of interesting things. He’s got a definite vision that he’s working towards – some things worked a lot better than other things–but I don’t know that I could recommend it to a lot of people because of the sexual elements of it. Which brings me to my second reaction: why would all this sex be in the movie? I figured I’d ask you, since you’re a part of it, does the sex throw the focus off the interesting filmic things that Carlos is doing? Or is my latter reaction a uniquely American and puritanical perspective?

ANA MUSHKADIZ: I think what you’re talking about is the way a lot of people look at it. Me, as a normal person, I think there are two sides of this. On one side, yeah, we go to see a movie like this and it throws our attentions toward the sex. On the other side, if you go really deep on why that happens, we are not used to seeing this kind of sex. When you went and saw Eyes Wide Shut, they were actually having sex; real sex. [editor’s note: Mushkadiz’s claim about Eyes Wide Shut has not been confirmed by anyone associated with the project] But it’s Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman and they were having sex and they were married so there wasn’t much to talk about. You’ve seen them naked a thousand times.  The reason people are talking about [Battle in Heaven] is because there’s no sex where there is a sheet covering my nipples or this or that.

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