Interview with Salt and Fire
star Veronica Ferres
by Bobby Blakey
While iconic filmmaker Werner Herzog is most noted for his amazing documentaries he has an impressive resume of scripted films, performances and books. Now he is adding a new film to his filmography with Salt and Fire starring Veronica Ferres, Michael Shannon, Gael Garcia Bernal, Volker Michalowski, and Lawrence Krauss. I had the chance to sit down with star Veronica Ferres to discuss her work on this film and the harsh conditions they had to deal with.
Bobby: How did you get involved with Salt and Fire?
Veronica: When I started at the university studying theater, psychology and literature I saw Fizzcarraldo and it changed my life. I wanted to become an actor and storyteller and that film from Werner Herzog taught me to believe in the power of my dreams. It was always a dream to work with him one day and 2 and a half years ago I was taking a domestic flight and he was sitting in the first row. I had started reading his novel Of Walking in Ice which I had in my handbag and thought about asking for an autograph, but didn’t want to bother him. My manager was sitting next to me and told me to go talk with him because I may not have this chance again in my life.
I was very nervous but walked over to him and said “Mr. Herzog, my name is Veronica Ferres…” and he looked at me and said “I know who you are!” (laughs) he gave me a very nice autograph in the book and I was very proud. Two months later he called me and said he had wrote a feature film and wanted me to read it and to give him my email address. He sent it to me and 4 months later we started shooting in Bolivia.
Bobby: When you do a film like this there are a lot of emotional layers you have to deal with. For instance in the kidnapping sequence and being blindfolded, how hard is it to act to that to bring such a raw performance to life?
Veronica: It was very; very tough to be confronted with your own fears and to conquer them and your only comrade was an IPad. In that situation she doesn’t know what is going to happen next. If she is going to live or die, but wants to still not show emotion, there are so many layers, but she only wants to show him certain things on the surface, but is on high alert to what could happen. It was very hard because it was two different experiences. One was working with one of the most talented actors in the world, Michael Shannon and then the second half working with two boys who had never acted before. There were moments that I had to improvise because I wasn’t speaking their language and they couldn’t understand me.
Bobby: Speaking on that portion of the film with the children, you essentially had to carry the movie for quite a while. How hard was that for you with them not speaking and being blind while you had to show all the emotions to carry the scene? How much of a drain and work is that for you as an actor?
Veronica: It was very challenging. Working with these boys was more like playing a monologue because you couldn’t really expect anything from them. Wernor would say camera roll and then I had to improvise. The sequence with the board game happened because at the lunch break they were playing with their blind parents board games and it just happened. Werner just said to do it and camera roll. There was no script for that or anything. He always says I am the co-director of the second part of the movie. (laughs)
Bobby: That situation was already challenging enough, but the location out on the salt flats desert environment. Did that make it harder for performance along with dealing with all the other elements?
Veronica: Yes, it was definitely a physical challenge. Some of the crew members started faint and couldn’t breathe very well. I had started training with a trainer two months before because I didn’t want to be distracted with my physical problems while working with an icon like Werner. I was in great physical shape, but this being my first leading part and all of the emotions to go with it made it still challenging. When I would wake up in the morning Werner wanted me in front of the camera with no make-up or nothing to make it true. I thought it was crazy, but I trusted him and it was the right decision. The other issue with this area was the sun. Because of the direction and lack of cover, the crew was all protected, but if you see my eyes they are always red. No one was more than one minute without sun glasses or skin protection of the highest degree, but I could not do that because he wanted me to be out there without cream or make-up so in the mornings I had a sun protection serum, but that is all. I couldn’t cover my eyes so they were permanently affected through the whole shoot with almost a sun burn on them, but it made me even more vulnerable, transparent and true for this movie.
Bobby: As hard has that had to have been on you, I applaud his decision and your willingness to do that as it does come across on screen as someone really struggling with those elements and emotions. You were great in the film and I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me and I hope your eyes are better now.
Veronica: Thank you very much, they are. Thank you so much for speaking with me today.
Check out Salt and Fire now in theaters, On Demand and iTunes now.