Alicha Bachleda discusses the physical demands of making the sex trade industry film
In the movie Trade, Adriana (Paulina Gaitan) is a 13-year-old girl from Mexico City whose kidnapping by sex traffickers sets in motion a desperate mission by her 17-year-old brother, Jorge (Cesar Ramos), to save her. Trapped and terrified by an underground network of international thugs who earn millions exploiting their human cargo, Adriana's only friend and protector throughout her ordeal is Veronica (Alicja Bachleda), a young Polish woman tricked into the trade by the same criminal gang. As Jorge dodges immigration officers and incredible obstacles to track the girls' abductors, he meets Ray (Kevin Kline), a Texas cop whose own family loss to sex trafficking leads him to become an ally in the boy's quest.
Fighting with courage and hard-tested faith, the characters of Trade negotiate their way through the unspeakable terrain of the sex trade "tunnels" between Mexico and the United States. From the barrios of Mexico City and the treacherous Rio Grande border, to a secret internet sex slave auction and the final climactic confrontation at a stash house in suburban New Jersey, Ray and Jorge forge a close bond as they give desperate chase to Adriana's kidnappers before she is sold and disappears forever into this brutal global underworld, a place from which few victims ever return.
We recently met up with Alicja Bachleda to discuss her role in one of this year's scariest dramas. Born in Tampico, Mexico, in 1983, Bachleda has acted regularly in her native Poland, making her first appearance in a foreign feature film alongside Tom Schilling in Michael Gutmann's Herz Im Kopf. She first worked with director Marco Kreuzpaintner on the film Summer Storm. She played one of the lead roles in Andrzej Wajda's epic Pan Tadeusz, which drew about six million viewers to theaters, making it one of the most successful Polish films ever.
Here is that conversation:
So how did you end up with this ... you were a last minute casting choice in this one? How did you get involved in this project ... did Marko (Marco Kreuzpaintner, the director) bring it to you? Have you worked with him before?
Alicja Bachleda: Yes. We worked before in Germany, in German we call it Summer Storm and he showed me this script one year before and he said just read it and I might be directing and I think there's an amazing part for you and to simply look and of course I fell in love with it and then from several reasons, one was the acting point of view and the characters were just hard to play and then being from Eastern Europe, I felt very touched and moved by the story and by the fact that it actually exists and those things are happening over here and I thought that is an amazing movie to do, you know, to do a movie with a message with a meaning and such a great part at the same time, and then I won't go into details, but maybe probably you are aware it's not that easy to get a lead in a movie like that being still unknown and that what happened but at the last second, it kind of found the way and there was an on open door for me to actually jump in and I was extremely happy, I mean extremely stressed, very nervous, but I am more than happy to do that.
How did you go about researching your character? What inspired your performance?
Alicja Bachleda: That's exactly ... it's kind of related to what I just said. I didn't have time for preparation, I just, I knew about those things and when I read the script one year before, I kind of knew, I just know the character very well. And feel it and can associate with it and I had one day more or less to build a character, to build the background and the past and it was very intense, but I enjoyed it very much.
How hard is it to play a role where it is so violent and so brutal? How do you deal with that as an actor in your performance?
Alicja Bachleda: You know, Once I started to shoot, I didn't really think "My god, there is this scene coming, there is this little acts in front of me, there is this great scene". You are just a character; You're doing the thing or there is Alicia now doing this, that's of course that's something you are use to doing the job for a few years, but of course it was kind of more difficult than I would be in a romantic comedy. I really had to create somebody but different than me. She has totally different backgrounds, even if she is from Poland, she grew up in very poor family, very tough life, she has a baby, she has a child and something very different. You really think differently when you are a parent and you are responsible for this person and this is something difficult but it actually helped me a lot, and once I built this character for myself, I could experience everything that they threw at me and I kind of knew what was coming.
How was your relationship with Paulina? Did you feel more like a mother to her or more like an older sister?
Alicja Bachleda: It depends ... the mother was on the set, so I didn't have to play that part, but you know there were a few scenes that were very difficult and she at some points, it became so real for her, and that she didn't know if it's real, it was reality or if she is just acting, so she needed some comfort, and I was there and because Marko the director, we are very close and we are friends and he knew that he can expect from me some kind of comfort for her, so he asked me to be around even if for me it was as well difficult, I guess I have to focus on my character and my character wasn't easy as well. I had to like stay longer a few times to just be behind the camera and look at her, or touch her and braids. Sometimes it was really close to the story, like meaning Alicja with Paulina and my two girls and comforting themselves and trying to get through the drama.
How physically demanding was this role? It was emotionally very demanding, but...
Alicja Bachleda: You know, it's kind of a similar thing ... once I was in the character, I didn't really care what they did to me as an actress, I mean as a person, there is one scene, there is one scene in the beginning of the movie, the scene of kidnapping, where they throw me to the van and he caught my hand coincidentally, he hit me with this watch and my lip split open and I was bleeding and my lips were this big and I didn't feel it, I was so into the character, but then if you look close, the scene before, because I had really lovely, sexy big lips and Angelina Jolie like: "YES, do it again". So you know, it is something that comes with the part. That's the risk and of course, all of the scenes when they like throwing me around and beating me up, sometimes I kind of felt it really. It was kind of real.
It seems like you were caught up in the moment...
Alicja Bachleda: Oh yeah, definitely in those actions scenes when we fight or it's basically unscripted and then there were a few moments that I was scary by the characters in the movie, and I did something different. I never really followed every descriptions and script. It's something that very, I feel most emotional in my acting when I do something totally different and it feels right and it looks good. But those are the small things that every actor likes to do ... something different and special.
How well choreographed were those particular scenes?
Alicja Bachleda: You know, you really try to do as good as you can, I mean, the stunt man, he was definitely at his best trying to choreograph everything, every movement, but when action is there, you don't really, you can't really control much. It really maybe it was hard to say, at some point it was kind of risky for me as well, so they really had to stop and do it again and it hurts it again and those scenes, they really have to be realistic and real and cruel, so we did it and we did it as real as possible.
Were these very long days of shooting?
Alicja Bachleda: Yes, very long days. Especially the night scenes, they were very difficult and very cold and even in the summer, it was cold and long and, but that's movies are about. You work for a long time just to be two seconds in a scene. It looks easy, but that's how it goes.
Were you aware (of the nature of the film)?
Alicja Bachleda: I was aware about the movie. It is not happening in Poland so much, and I've never heard Polish girls being trafficked, but this is like, a few years ago it definitely, Polish girls were voluntarily or not going to Germany to work as a babysitter and they ended up in more difficult places, but yeah I was aware of it.
Trade opens September 28th in Los Angeles and New York.