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|Actor, singer, laid-back Rio de Janeiro native
Jorge made his jarring debut in Fernando Meirelles's City of God. We'll see a softer side in his first American film, Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic.
[Marcelo Gomes spoke to the actor early one
afternoon. Jorge had just awakened after a late night in São Paulo.]
MARCELO: Americans first encountered you as Knockout Ned in City of God, the stunning Brazilian film about gang life in Rio. Now your role in Wes Anderson's new movie, The Life Aquatic, is showing off your musical talent as well. How did you hook up with Anderson?
SEU: Wes was looking for a Brazilian actor who could sing. He talked to Fernando Meirelles, who directed City of God, and another Brazilian director, Walter Salles they both recommended me.
MARCELO: The movie is set on a boat Bill Murray is a Jacques Cousteau-like captain in pursuit of the elusive jaguar shark. You play a member of his crew.
SEU: I'm a diver who is an explosives expert I'm sort of the resident romantic. One of my duties is to sing Bowie songs in Portuguese! Bill Murray is the coolest. My English isn't all that great, but Bill's humor is universal. Because we were filming in the water, it was cold and wet a lot of time Bill always made sure we kept warm. He took care of me on the set now he feels like family.
MARCELO: Was it very different working with an American director?
SEU: The difference is on the production side Americans are very precise. Everything runs like clockwork. Brazilian cinema the actual production of the movie is still very improvisational. But I think the acting
process is the same no matter where you go. We did a lot of improvisation on Wes's set, just like in Brazilian movies.
MARCELO: You just finished filming Casa de Areia with Andrucha Waddington, the director of Me You Them. That was shot in Northeastern Brazil.
SEU: Yes, in the Lençois Maranheses, one of the most breathtaking places I've ever seen just white sand dunes and lakes. Sometimes I think it looks like another planet. The story is set in the nineteenth century. It's about a Portuguese man who comes to the area with his pregnant wife, his mother-in-law, and a deed saying that this particular stretch of land belongs to him. When he arrives with his guides and servants, he finds that the place is a "quilombo" a self-sufficient community of slaves who have fled from their owners.
MARCELO: And you play the quilombo's leader.
SEU: Right. A battle ensues, the man dies, and the wife and her mother end up living with the rebel slaves. The story is centered on the two women, played by Fernanda Montenegro and Fernanda Torres, who are
actually mother and daughter in real life. It's beautiful.
MARCELO: I read that you got your start in acting in theater.
SEU: I lived and worked with a theater group at the State University of Rio de Janeiro for almost five years. I became very curious about theater and film. I was involved with everything from lighting to costumes. There was little else in my life at the time.
MARCELO: Have you considered directing?
SEU: I've thought about doing a project specifically for black actors. It's not that
I want to institutionalize "black cinema" in Brazil, but I am eager to tell our stories. The experiences and stories of black men in Brazil are so rich and varied.
MARCELO: Your wife, Mariana Jorge, is a director of photography for feature films and documentaries.
SEU: She directed my latest music video, which we shot in Rome with Bill Murray and Willem Dafoe. Mariana and I often talk about directing something together.
MARCELO: You're a Rio native, and like the city itself, you seem totally relaxed and easygoing. Recently, you moved to São Paulo, which has a much faster pace. Why the change?
SEU: São Paulo is a better place to raise our daughter, Flo. Her grandmother lives nearby, so when Mariana and I travel to remote locations Flo is well taken care of. When Mariana shot a documentary in Mozambique, Flo stayed home with her grandmother. But we brought her with us when I was shooting The Life Aquatic in Italy. It was great having her around, knowing she was safe.
MARCELO: Do you like to travel?
SEU: I love it, especially in Brazil. Besides Rio, Minas Gerais, a beautiful state in Southern Brazil, is my favorite place I love the people and the food. And I really enjoy Paris. New York is a little too crazy for me, but I visit often. I always stay with the artist Vik Muniz when I'm there.
MARCELO: I heard he recently made a portrait of you out of confetti!
SEU: Yeah, he's a great artist. We have a good time, but I can never stay away from Rio for very long. I don't think anyone can. [laughs] I'm actually flying there today to see my mom and some friends. I moved without actually moving, if you know what I mean.