British Celebrity Daphne Alexander Shines in The Palace

Daphne Alexander stars as Stella in ‘The Palace’, this wonderful film is being considered for a possible Academy Award nomination for 2012. We were able to catch her for a moment to find out how she identified with the character in this emotional role and how she feels about the film being under consideration for the 2012 Academy Awards for ‘Live Action Short’.

Thank you for taking time to talk to us, being that you reside in England and the director is from Australia – how did you get cast in ‘The Palace?’

DA: It was very serendipitous! The director Anthony Maras who is based in Australia happened to be in London for a few days and we met through common friends over a drink. I had no idea at the time that he was looking for a Cypriot actress for his forthcoming project. A few months later, he sent me the script, and the rest is history!

How difficult was it to film with a baby and children? What did you do to make them feel comfortable with you?

DA: It was certainly challenging to film with a 3-month old, seeing as the poor little thing was uncomfortable, in strange surroundings and cried a lot – but we became friends in the end, and it slept in my arms. As for the elder kids, I adored them – they insisted on calling me “mum” throughout the shoot. The director had given us some time to know one other, and I spent an afternoon taking them to a museum, and then shopping. They were delightful. I got them gifts – they loved me!

How did you identify with the role?

DA: The story of Stella, the young Cypriot mother in the film, was based on a true story, which instantly drew me to her. Moreover, it is an almost unthinkably difficult situation that she finds herself in, and playing a young mother in life-threatening circumstances such as these, clutching her three month-old baby in the midst of the unforgiving chaos of war, was undoubtedly the most demanding part I’ve ever had to play. Finally, as a Greek-Cypriot actress, the subject matter and role were very close to my heart and I instantly felt passionate about it.

Where did you film and how long did it take you to film?

DA: The filming, including some rehearsal time, took about a month. Production took place in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus – in a beautiful Ottoman-style residence which is now an ethnological museum, and along the United Nations Green Line that, 37 years after the invasion, still divides our island in two. Filming took place, literally, amidst armed guards and war-ravaged buildings. So it couldn’t have been better in terms of imagining ourselves in the actual circumstances of the story! The experience was exhausting and edgy, but truly thrilling in its immediacy.

Is there any talk of the film being made into a feature?

DA: Not that I know of, but that would be a wonderful idea.

How many languages do you speak?

DA: English, Greek and French fluently. Greeks are well-known for learning many languages, mainly because nobody cares to learn ours! I’ve grown up between England, Cyprus and France. I did also try to learn German at some point, but I confess I don’t remember much of it.

How do you prepare to be able to play such different nationalities?

DA: It’s true that I’ve been fortunate enough to play an array of quite varied nationalities, for instance I played an Iraqi girl twice – in House of Saddam (BBC/HBO) and Mesocafe – a Mexican in The Ghostwriter, Polanski’s latest, an Alaskan in The Fourth Kind, an Italian on stage, to name but a few.. When I’m preparing for a role that involves a different nationality, I try to get in touch with a girl of my age from that country, and have a chat – their voice, and accent, and particular mannerisms are interesting. For The Fourth Kind, the lovely director Tunde Osunsanmi gave me the number of an Alaskan lady, and I ended up talking to her on the phone for hours (in the middle of the night because of the time difference!) she was so sweet and helpful.

What were your feelings when you heard the film was being considered for a possible 2012 Academy nomination?

DA: Delightfully enough, The Palace is eligible for the 84th Academy Awards, after winning Audience Award at Adelaide Film Festival, Best Short Film at Sydney Film Festival and Best Short Film at Melbourne Film Festival. It recently received its International premiere at Telluride Festival and has also been nominated for Best Short Fiction Film at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Awards. I am, as you can imagine, over the moon, and feel so blessed to have been part of this very special project. I think all involved were passionate about the subject- matter, which is why, I think, it has touched so many people – as for the worldwide approbation, it has come as a wonderful surprise to all of us!

What has been your favorite role to play thus far and why?

DA: Undoubtedly, the role of Stella in The Palace! Whilst being a drama student at LAMDA, I fell in love with the character of Masha in Chekhov’s Three Sisters.

If you could play any role who or what would it be?

DA: Ooh, what a great question! I’d love to play Lady Macbeth onstage one day. And any one of Chekhov’s characters. And Cleopatra. Most of all, I’d like longevity as an actor, and a wide array of complicated and challenging women characters to portray until well into my old age!

Has your training in law helped you in any roles you have played?

DA: I played a legal intern in Polanski’s film The Ghostwriter, and as my character I had to read out a piece of very complicated international criminal law. So, yes, it did help me very much, because I do know what it’s like to study the law and think like a lawyer!

Do you ever wish you had gone into law?

DA: I really enjoyed reading Law, and my time at Oxford – but, in all honesty, there is no way I would have survived as a lawyer. I was simply not cut out for it.

What do you love most about acting?

DA: I love those first moments when I’ve just read a brand new script, and my brain starts to tick: “so who is this woman?” It’s terrifying, but deliciously exciting.

What advise would you give to someone who has just started acting?

DA: Do it only if you’re an extraordinarily positive and determined person!

by Jane Parker, Anglotopia