Interview with Alexandra Paul

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(By Miguel Ángel Muñiz)

You start your career in the early eighties and you have worked with some of the most reputed directors of that decade (Hal Ashby, John Carpenter, John Badham…) Could you tell me some memories about this works you made and the differences or the things you miss between making movies in that period of time and now?

My first job was a starring role in a TV movie directed by Edward Zwick, who has directed many amazing movies, so I was spoiled by the quality of directors from the start! Ed was the best director I ever had, because he really talked to me. Later on, during my work in television, the directors for the most part do not talk to me about the role or direct me to do things a certain way, which is a disappointment to me. They only tell me to walk over here, do this when I say this line etc etc! So I think I have always been searching for another Ed Zwick to direct me… in terms of the differences between studio films, independent films, tv movies and television series: I most like to shoot in television and in tv series because I like the pace (fast) and the fact that I get to live with a character for a long time (if the series is successful). I also like the sense of family from being on one project for a long time. The roles for women are best in TV, especially for women and especially now in the United States.

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In Christine you are surrounded by two actors that later became directors (Keith Gordon and John Stockwell) how was your working relationship with both? the three of you were very young and the movie feels that there is a lot of camaraderie

I enjoyed playing opposite Keith Gordon and John Stockwell. Keith is so warm that it was a pleasure to do scenes with him. John was a very natural actor, and I learned to be more relaxed doing a scene, to not work so hard! I was 19 and they were in their early 20s and I had no idea they had writing or directing aspirations, but both have been very successful since then! I would love to be directed by them ! The actor who played the bad guy in Christine, Bill Ostrander, and I fell in love during filming and we dated for 2 years. Christine was a very important move for me on many levels: it was my first feature film, it has become a cult classic, and I met wonderful people during the filming.

John Carpenter has a classic way of filming scenes and he often say he let the actors do their you and give them liberty. Was it difficult for you to play a character envolved with demonic forces?, and was it difficult to shoot the action scenes?

I would have preferred John to direct me more, as I don’t think I am very good in the movie. I was such a new actress, I needed more direction. But I guess John thought I did OK or hopefully he would have told me to change things! I think John is a wonderful director and he did a terrific job with the movie – it really holds up, 35 years later! And we are still in touch – it was his birthday last week and we had a very nice email exchange. As for the action scenes, they were not hard to do as I came to believe that the car was evil! Interestingly, I had had a recurring dream as a child of being in my front yard in the dark and hiding behind a rock because these car headlights were coming down the road towards me. And then I go on to star in a movie about a scary car, so maybe I am psychic.

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You have portrayed a lot of diferent women in your career. Which character was the most difficult for you to perform and which one the most gratifying?

I have had an amazing time in all my projects. I am so lucky to be able to say that! I like playing women who are not second fiddle to a man. Unfortunately, there is a bias to give men the better roles and more lines. I once had the lead role in a Tv movie for Lifetime, which is a channel that has content for women. But even though I was the star of the film and it was aimed for women viewers, whenever the two male characters were in the scene together with me, I suddenly had no lines. The male characters got all the lines . And the script was written by a woman! I don’t think she realized what she did – as soon as men were in the scene, they became dominant even though my character was more important to the story. So anyway, I am very sensitive to how women are written. And saying that, a lot of people might say “But you were in Baywatch, how can you be a feminist?” And I reply that Baywatch was a great show for women: there were more female roles in that show than male roles (very unusual for any show or movie), all the female characters had onscreen jobs that were as important as the men’s jobs (my character was the boss of the lifeguards, second only to Hasselhoff). We women lifeguards did as many rescues and saved lots of macho men from drowning. We drove boats as much as the men. Etc. So anyway to answer your question, the roles that are the most difficult to perform are the ones where I have nothing to do. Where I am just an armpeice to a man. The most gratifying are probably the ones where I played a mother. I love having children onscreen, even though I chose not to have any in real life!

Throughout your career you prove to be a versatile actress in a lot of different genres (comedy, drama, action, horror) Which type of role or character do you like to play that haven´t done yet?

I would like to play someone very dark, with lots of contradictions – so a nice housewife with a lot of secrets, for example. I also love acting in television and would love to do another series, ideally in an ensemble cast, as I love that sense of being in a team, a family. I don’t play a lot of anti-hero characters, so that would be fun. I think the only “bad guy” role I ever had was in Spectre , where I played a very nice mother & wife who gets taken over by an evil spirit. I conquered the spirit of course and went back to being nice.

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You play Sabrina Carver twice in movies i found particularly interesting and fun, along Pierce Brosnan. In both you have several action scenes very well resolved. Could you tell me a little about this movies? Were they difficult for you to made?

I loved filming these movies. We filmed the first one in Croatia just as the war in Yugoslavia was starting there, and we were the last film company out. In the 80s and early 90s, lots of independent films shot in Yugoslavia – it was less expensive but the crews were experienced and the country is lovely and varied. I remember coming back to our hotel after a long day of shooting, still in my UN uniform (my character was a UN soldier) and Pierce and I got on the elevator with real UN soldiers and I felt like such a fraud! Here i was pretending to be heroic and these people were really putting their lives on the line. I also remember that it was Pierce’s first movie after his wife had died of cancer. So it was a sad time for him. For the second film, we were the first movie production back in Croatia after the war. We had to be careful about shooting certain places because of unexploded land mines. On this shoot, Pierce’s girlfriend Keely came to visit and she became his second wife, so he found happiness once again. The shoot for each movie was just 5 week, as I recall. (In the boat chase) I did my own stunt work with the bike and most of that fight sequence.

In Kuffs (1992) you made a small role as The Chief’s Wife. Was it a cameo or did you shoot scenes that were cut out from the final cut?

That was a cameo, just that one scene. I knew the director , Bruce Evans – he is an Oscar nominated writer and this was his first directing gig. I wanted to support him. It was very fun to shoot because my twin lives in San Francisco so she came to visit me on the set. And Christian Slater is a very nice man.

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During the nineties you play Stephanie Holden in Baywatch. Early in that decade it seems that you will state in mayor Hollywood productions in supporting roles and gradually start in it.Was it a personal decision to continue on tv. (proving to be a good choice due to the success of Baywatch) or do you felt ostracized in any way by the executive from the hollywood industry?

You are right, after shooting Dragnet in 1987 with Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd, I did not get another leading role in a studio movie. I don’t know why, as people liked me in that role, but I think it was maybe that I was in my mid 20s and I wasn’t expressing sexuality and empowerment enough. I was playing the good girl. Even in 8 Million Ways to Die (with Jeff Bridges, Andy Garcia and Rosanna Arquette), playing a prostitute, I was still a nice prostitute, very childlike. It wasn’t until Baywatch that I really became comfortable playing a strong, grounded woman and my voice literally got more powerful (the first 10 years of my career I had a very whispery voice). After Dragnet, I was instead cast in the lead roles in independent movies that were being shown on cable tv (which was new at the time) . I was very happy doing them, as I preferred the fast pace (big studio movies shot only a couple pages a day, whereas a TV movie would shoot 8 and now with the advent of digital cameras I have shot as much as 13 pages in a day). TV has better roles for women too – in big studio movies the women 90% of the time accessories to the male characters. And there is usually only one decent role in a studio movie for a women, while there are many for men in each movie! So when the Baywatch producers asked me to come in and audtion, I didn’t think I wanted to do a series, so I cancelled my first audition. Then I went in a week later, and when I got the part my manager encouraged me to take the role even though I was not so sure I wanted to do a series. Baywatch was popular in Germany at the time, and a lot of independent movies were financed in Germany back then, so my manager thought it would help me in the future. Little did I know that shooting that tv series was the most fun I ever had on a set!

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From several years ago you have been involved in the fight for animal rights and against pollution and the climatic change, you even produce documentaries about that topic. What is your opinion about the president of U.S.A. denying that the climatic change is true? Do you think the tools used to rise awareness of this important issue are effective or is possible to do a lot more?

I do not have a lot of optimism that the human race will get out of this climate change dilemma. As I write this, Capetown, South Africa is 3 months away from having NO water due to drought. California, where I live, is in the midst of a 7 year drought that has only seen one season of decent rain. These situations are due to climate change – and too many people using too few resources. The ONLY way to stop climate change is to stop emitting all these greenhouse gases into the air. The only way to do that is to lower the number of people on the planet – we are 7.6 billion people and the UN predicts we will go to 11 billion before the numbers will stabilize. When I was born 54 years ago, there were only 3 billion people on the planet!!! I didn’t have my own children because I believe there are too many people on this planet. I am disappointed that most humans on this earth want someone else to make the sacrifice – people are not willing to change their lifestyles enough (both by consuming fewer things and having fewer kids) to make a difference in climate change. Even I, who chose not to have any kids, consume too many resources. So if I, who really makes an effort to live simply, am not cutting down my consumption enough, then you can imagine most people are not doing it either. I believe the world population needs to be at 2 billion people on earth for everyone to be able to live a decent life, without using up the natural resources.

Trump? He is an idiot. He acts like a child, he lies, and he doesn’t care about anyone or anything except his own pocketbook. Maybe his family. I am not even sure about that, though.

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