When two actors are playing the same character at different ages in a movie, you’d think that there would be a lot of communication between them. After all, the idea of digging into a character’s mind and backstory with a colleague trying to find the exact same mindset sounds like it would be an appreciated opportunity for any performer. This, however, wasn’t the approach taken by Natalie Portman and Raffey Cassidy in the making of the new movie Vox Lux, as they actually purposefully kept their notions of their shared identity to themselves. Or as Portman puts it,
The shared character in Vox Lux is Celeste, a young woman who, after experiencing a traumatic event as a teenager, finds herself propelled to stardom as a singer. Raffey Cassidy plays the character in the section of the film that begins in 1999 as her career is just getting started. Natalie Portman’s Celeste, meanwhile, is the biggest star in the world in 2017 and getting prepared to launch a massive concert when news breaks of another violent event in which her work is directly referenced.
I had the chance to sit down with Natalie Portman and Raffey Cassidy to talk about their work together earlier this week, and my first question was in regards to how they communicated about their shared role. They explained that the idea at the center of the story in Vox Lux is that Celeste grew up to be a completely different person than she was when she was younger, which meant that their performances would be aided by a lack of Celeste talk (though they do get to actually work together in the film, as Cassidy also plays Celeste’s daughter, Albertine).
While both roles have the name Celeste, they are meant to be seen, as Raffey Cassidy puts it, as “two completely different characters.”
Following up, I asked the two actors individually how they saw Celeste and what they centered on in their performance. For Cassidy there was a greater focus on the traumatic event (something I’m withholding for spoiler reasons), particularly because it was fresher in the character’s mind as she’s making strides in her career. She explained,
By “didn’t do the right thing,” Cassidy means that Celeste really becomes a mess. There’s not only the classic rock and roll trio of drugs, sex, and alcohol, but her brain is really all over the place. This was something that Natalie Portman honed in on in her response, particular the way in which Celeste interacts with different people.
You can watch the stars of Vox Lux discuss their very divergent approaches to their shared character by clicking play on the video below!