Lafayette Grand Cafe and Bakery is a bit labyrinthian, ominous in its sheer ostentation. And I mean that as a compliment. In fact, the ornate, Epoque-style brasserie is the perfect place to find oneself sitting in between John Cho — looking very fashionable and very handsome indeed; and Lola Kirke — who looks, in the best way possible, like sentient, very glamorous cotton candy, decked out in pink gingham, a pink cardigan and delightfully witchy boots — on a chilly Tuesday morning.
We’re making polite conversation, as is a requisite for the beginning of these sorts of things, before we dive deep into Gemini. The sexy neo-noir film stars Kirke as celebrity assistant Jill LeBeau, who is knee deep in the investigation of a heinous crime. And Cho shows up as Edward Ahn, the detective who is certain she did it.
In between bites of deliciously flaky croissant, being terrorized briefly by a very cute, very tiny dog, and random dudes banging on the windows behind us, Kirke and Cho chatted about fame, social media and the illusion of intimacy.
The first thing I thought of with this was the social media perspective — it kind of kick starts the entire film. As actors, how do you manage toeing the line between presenting your full self on social media platforms and keeping some parts to yourself?
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Lola Kirke: I didn’t have Instagram for the first two years of my acting career, until I started playing music and putting that into the world. And I made these boundaries with myself: I wouldn’t have Instagram on my phone, it would only be on my iPad, which only works with WiFi, so I could not look at it. Because the guy that created likes? He doesn’t have Instagram, or any social media because he knows that he has injected a poison into the human community. So I knew that I would be constantly looking for the affirmation that I was using it [constantly].
I think what Instagram creates is a second self and a lot of people confuse that second self as the self. And in the film, Heather (Jill’s celebrity boss, played by Zoe Kravitz) starts with checking to see how she looks in a picture a fan takes of her — and it's an inconsequential fan photo that she’s probably done a billion of in her entire life. I think everybody, famous or not, is affected by the boundlessness of social media. And it’s interesting how it democratizes fame.
John Cho: You know what I was thinking about was, Gemini refers to the theme of the twin. and I happen to think that the online life is our twin. It sounds poetic, but it’s kind of mechanically true: this other being is now us and it’s in the cloud and it is immortal. And that being is superior because it outlives us, so naturally we consider that more important than what we’re doing right here. And everyone has access to [that] now, so the lines between celebrity and not celebrity are blurred. I think famous people have to kind of up our exposure in a way that we didn’t have to 50 years ago, that we have to keep opening and opening and opening.
Audiences expect a lot more off screen.
LK: Well now, to be an actor without social media is kind of elitist. The actors that I can think of that that are super successful that don’t have [social media] have Oscars. They don’t need this unfiltered communication between themselves and their audience because the audience is going to pay attention them anyway. I think that it can be really counterintuitive to being an actor. As an actor, i’m doing my best when I can disappear into a role and you don’t know who I am. It can be really hard to know too much about a person and then see them in a movie. It’s f—king weird that we have to do it.
There’s an intimacy, but there’s a balance between a false sense of intimacy and putting just enough of yourself out there so that it’s still palatable.
JC: Another way to read it is that the game is intimacy, which is another theme of the movie. Illusory intimacy versus real intimacy. What it intimacy today?
LK: The reality of extreme fame is that your life actually becomes very, very small. We live in a culture that privileges fame so much so as to cannibalize it, almost. I'm so fascinated about the way that this movie opens the conversation of how fame functions in the 21st century. Through social media, fame has taken on an entirely new function, where it’s available to anybody who wants it badly enough — but it’s not available at all and not really fulfilling. And it’s becoming a lot more meaningless.