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Zimbio Interview: Imogen Poots On 'A Late Quartet,' On-Set Nicknames, and Learning Violin

(Getty Images | Entertianment One)
British actress and model Imogen Poots' name is one you probably won't forget, and her performances are becoming just as memorable. The 23-year-old made lasting impressions as a teenager in V for Vendetta and 28 Weeks Later, and she's been working steadily ever since. Her new film, A Late Quartet, follows the lives of the four members of a world-renowned string quartet. Poots plays the daughter of two of them, a married couple, played by Catherine Keener and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who begins an affair with one of the other members, an older man (Mark Ivanir).

We had a chance to talk with Poots about her involvement in the film, getting to know her very famous co-stars (including Christopher Walken), learning the violin to prepare for the role, and how she manages her image in the world of film and modeling.

Zimbio: Congratulations on the film first of all.
Imogen Poots: Thank you very much.

Can you talk about how the role came to you?
Sure, it really came just in the form of the script. I read that through and had a chat with the director, Yaron Zilberman, and then went to New York to read with him. From there it was a pretty progressive process and the next step was starting up the violin lessons, so that's pretty much how it all went.

Poots in A Late Quartet. (Entertainment One)
So you did go through lessons to learn the violin?
I did, yeah, we had just a couple months prior to the actual shooting of the film in order to get the foundation down and all of us started at square one with our instruments. It was a steep learning curve, but at the same time, very rewarding because the practice was pretty non-stop and because of that you really form the character. It helps with the development of finding out more about your own role.

Was it intimidating being on set with such well-known, great actors?
I was certainly intimidated to meet them all. I was in such awe of Catherine Keener's work and, after still (laughs), but, really, meeting all of them was a wonderful moment because, fundamentally, they're all very gentle fun human beings and watching them play was a real gift. I have such respect for all of them and from that place I developed such a trust in all of them, 100 percent, and it was just unreal to work with the caliber such as them.

Who would you say is coolest?
(Laughs) Christopher Walken is pretty cool isn't he? I suppose he's the funkiest. He made me laugh a lot, it was kind of a problem. I had to compose myself on many occasion because of Christopher's antics. He called me "Stinker," and it's quite difficult to keep a straight face when someone's referring to you as that all the time (laughs), but they're all pretty cool people. They're all hippies inside somewhere.

Where did that nickname come from, did he just make that up?
Stinker? I don't know I just came on one day and he was like, "Hey Stinker." And I was like, "Oh, I guess that's it from now on." He's a hoot.

The film talks about the importance of a group working as one, would you say that translates to an acting ensemble?
Well, I think in terms of a quartet there was a real need for everybody to be in sync and that doesn't always necessarily happen with acting. The piece had a real goal in terms of what they all wanted to achieve and that comes down to precision and timing and really listening. That's the one important thing in acting is listening. When you walk into a scene, you don't necessarily know the goal. If you're coming from a place of intuition, you just somehow know what's right and what feels wrong. So I feel, on occasion, there's more room for surprise with acting. But, that's just my personal opinion because you don't know what's going to come out of a scene. Whereas I think with something like a classical musical performance, there are certain marks and perhaps boundaries in terms of how far you can go.

What was the hardest part of the role?
I think the hardest part of any role is always when you start off because, as much certainty as you can collect in the rehearsal period, if there's one at all, you're essentially walking in blind each time. And, I suppose the most challenging part of the process was, of course, the violin learning and wanting to get that down so you could forget about it. But I was really, from the bottom of my heart, so excited to be there that anything would thrill me. I love New York, I love the actors, I love the subject matter, so all these things together made the experience an adrenaline rush constantly. Working with someone like Catherine is just brilliant because it's unpredictable and you really learn a lot in terms of letting yourself go and trusting and listening.

Everything I've read about her says she's a giving, caring person to work with. Did you find that to be true?
Absolutely. She's completely that way and I think it must be an innate quality within Catherine, but she's quite special. I don't think there are many like her at all. She certainly had a great impact on my life.

Aside from A Late Quartet, what's been your favorite film to make?
I think there're a couple. I had a wonderful time making a film on Jeff Buckley, called Greetings From Tim Buckley, about the relationship between his father and himself. That should be coming out next spring. It was just a really extraordinary process because I love Jeff's music a lot and to be part of the story revolving around his father and him was really cool. And then additionally this Terrence Malick film called Knight of Cups, and, you never know if you'll make it into the final cut with one of Malick's films, but it was an extraordinary process, again. Just to be able to work with him and Christian Bale was really wonderful.

Can you tell us what Malick is like on set? What's his style as a director?
He's pretty enigmatic, you know, there's no real way to describe Malick's direction. I didn't question anything. He gives you pure support and guidance and lets you run away with it. But each day was very different. There's certainly no formula I could find. Sorry to be so inarticulate about it, but that's really what I came away with. I got the feeling everybody's finding answers as they go along. The people surrounding him on set, just pure adoration for the work he's done and the work he's doing.

Could you also talk about the emphasis placed on image as a model and an actress?
Sure, I think it's pretty important in this industry to know as much as you can about who you are and what kind of work you want to do. Because that's something you can have control over. I think In terms of image you've really got to know yourself, and if you don't know yet, you come to learn it with development. I think the danger is letting anyone else dictate that for you. Because that's not all you've got, but it's something you can have ownership with in this industry. We're all kind of stumbling along in our own way and you make mistakes and, if something doesn't work, you just don't do it again (laughs). You've got to have a sense of fun with it all because it is pretty fun to do this.

Yeah, I would imagine it is.
Absolutely (laughs).

What, if anything, do you have on your Christmas wish list?
That's such a great question, I'm really excited to answer it. Let me think about that. I guess a tortoise would be a great Christmas gift but I feel bad because tortoises shouldn't really arrive on Christmas day (laughs). A tortoise wearing a Christmas hat would be great.

They're great because they live forever.
Exactly, you've always got a friend (laughs).

See more photos of Imogen Poots here:
  • Imogen Poots in Stars Film 'A Long Way Down' in Spain
  • Imogen Poots in "A Late Quartet" Premiere -  2012 Toronto International Film Festival
  • Imogen Poots in Marni At H&M Collection Launch - Inside
  • Imogen Poots in Marni At H&M Collection Launch - Red Carpet
  • Imogen Poots in Burberry Body Launch - Arrivals
  • Imogen Poots in Burberry Body Event Hosted By Christopher Bailey And Rosie Huntington-Whiteley In Beverly Hills - Red Carpet
  • Imogen Poots in Mulberry Celebrates Its 40th Anniversary
  • Imogen Poots in Penn Badgley and Imogen Poots on Set
View Catherine Keener Pictures »
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