Julia Snigir isn’t well-known here, but she’s already made a name for herself in her native Russia with multiple roles to her credit, before that, she served as an international model… which she came to after growing up as a chess prodigy. She makes her American movie debut in A Good Day to Die Hard, playing the ambiguous female lead opposite Bruce Willis and Jai Courtney. In an exclusive interview with Mania.com, she talked about the challenges of tackling this new project, as well as the ways the chess and the movies combine.
Question: How does making an America film differ from the films you’ve made before in Russia and Eastern Europe?
Julia Snigir: The main thing is switching between languages. It’s tough on the brain to keep your focus like that. But when you’re in the shoot, you don’t worry about whether it’s American or Russian. You just concentrate on the script and what it says about your character. You don’t think about the size of the production. This was my first action film and that was very different for me. It was my first helicopter trip, my first motorbike, and that was very different. But the world is so small now that Hollywood isn’t that much different from filmmakers in Russia. I think the only real difference is the age and maturity of Hollywood; they’ve just been doing it longer than the industries in other countries.
Q: What was the most appealing thing about your character?
JS: I liked that she wasn’t a sex object, which you usually get in an action film. You know, in heels and a dress and things. I’m not very interested in that stuff. It’s very obvious and this character isn’t obvious. You don’t know who she is and whether she’s bad or good, and even when she’s doing bad, she has strong motivation for what she’s doing. When things aren’t so clear, that makes the character very interesting. You can understand her a little more, even when she’s a bad guy. She’s ambiguous, and I like ambiguity.
Q: There’s a lot of backstory that’s inferred, but not directly seen. How much of that did you work out beforehand?
JS: When you begin the movie, you don’t understand that she’s a daughter. We don’t even know who she is. But I have to know who she is there, or else the character won’t feel right. So we figured out how she grew up, how she felt about her father, and things like that. It took some time, and we don’t see much of it. But John Moore, the director was very helpful. I knew where this girl was coming from when we started. We all have fathers and I could draw on that to fill in her past.
Q: What was the biggest challenge on the shoot?
JS: I think it was flying the helicopter. I have a fear of heights, and it was tough. But I wanted to do it to prove to myself that I could. Sometimes if you don’t try something it will limit who you are. So I decided to do it. I got a little aggressive with the other physical stuff, with the guns and things. I wanted her to be very present and very strong. I’m not strong, I don’t feel strong, and I wanted to see if I could find that. To press some buttons, to motivate yourself and to find that part of the character in you.
Q: You were a chess wiz growing up. Is there any crossover between chess skills and acting, anything you could draw on while making the movie?
JS: Unfortunately not. Chess playing is actually more like directing. You’re trying to control everything, to control where the game is going. You can’t do that as an actor, you have to be whatever the director wants you to be. I had to discipline myself not to try to control everything.