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Luke Kirby first met Sarah Polley in 2002 when they both starred in Peter Wellington’s film, ‘Luck’. “Now she’s the boss,” he said. “And it’s incredibly lovely. I have a very strong sense with Sarah that if she isn’t feeling that we have gotten to where we want to be in a scene, she won’t relent, she won’t settle. I feel a sense of trust and it’s exhilarating. She’s like a very strong little bird in a breadbasket who you’d like to take with you on your picnic. She’s very calm and grounded and present. Those qualities are exceptional. There’s no concern of being embarrassed because of whatever truth she carries.”
Playing Daniel just felt right to Kirby. Daniel is an artist, a solitary man who finances his art life by pulling a rickshaw. Once he meets Margot, everything changes. “The relationship between them is a force too strong to even acknowledge any question of integrity. He knows she is married, but there’s not enough space for him to think about it, and he’s not blind to the spark. It’s too exciting. It feels too good to stop and assess because of the game they are playing which, for the most part, is unconscious – that is until the depth of it and the reality of it hits, which it does, heavily. It seems free at first, but there is a price tag. It is too frightening to acknowledge that there may be some kind of loss.”
There was a happy ease for Kirby moving into playing this role and that had a lot to do with the extensive rehearsal time allotted prior to shooting. “I enjoyed the process mostly for the environment Sarah created, putting us all together. I was very happy just being in a room with Sarah and Michelle and having the space to play and not being at the behest of time constraints,” he said.
The rehearsals included everything ‐ except the martini scene. The scene goes like this: they sit facing each other ‐ untouched martinis in front of them.
Margot: “You drink.”
Daniel: “You first.”
Margot: “I don’t want to get drunk with you.”
Daniel: “I’m impressed by your consistency.”
Margot: “I want.”
Daniel: “You want.”
Margot: “I want to know…” She looks up, bright red. “I want to know what you’d do to me.”
This scene, which continues on to become brazenly explicit, in spite of both actors remaining in public and fully dressed, was a moment of Machiavellian directing. “It was the first time those actors have spent much time with those lines and it was shot on the very first day right after lunch. I think it helped that there was real embarrassment and real awkwardness about that. And yes, I did that deliberately,” Polley stated.
“The martini scene anchored something deep between those two,” said Kirby, “and that only came up in the doing of it. We were vulnerable that day, but it all feels so vulnerable, always. I couldn’t ask for anyone better to play with in this regard. Michelle is entirely there. It’s very easy to smile with her. When I first read the script, I thought, they sure laugh a lot. And it’s very rare that you read ‘laughter’ written into a script and it’s everywhere. And I thought it could be difficult, but it wasn’t.”
When asked about working with Kirby, Williams said, “Each time I’m worried about a scene and how I’m going to approach it, I was comforted when I looked into Luke’s eyes and realized, ‘Oh, I can just relate to what he’s offering me.’”
It was this very point that caused Polley to say that Kirby did an incredible job of making that role into a lot more than she originally imagined. “Luke has played eccentric characters, but there is a striking purity and a kindness to him.”
Daniel’s art is that of Balint Zsako, crisp in contrast to the humid palette of Margot’s life, suggestive, in the spirit of both Inuit art and Aubrey Beardsley’s erotica, again contrasting the submerged sexuality of Margot’s existence. A native of Budapest, now living in New York, Zsako works in several media: collage, sculpture, photography and machines, but for ‘Take This Waltz’, Polley selected his bright water colors of surreal almost mystical hybrids of humanity rendered with exaggerated sexual and fertile qualities.
Kirby did spend some time with the artist in New York. “His work is quite stunning, very beautiful and sensual without being crass. As a person, he was very giving in terms of welcoming me into his home, sharing his process and his work.” There was one distinct point of overlap between the real artist and the character in the film ‐ both are hesitant about showing their work and Zsako was surprised that Daniel shared the portrait with Margot. Kirby could only explain it by way of the script when Daniel says to Margot, ‘There was something about your face that made me want to start talking to people again.’”
Image Courtesy of Take This Waltz