British actress Imogen Poots made a quick stop in Austin, Texas to unveil “Jimi: All is by My Side,” writer-director John Ridley’s look at the early days of Jimi Hendrix (Andre Benjamin), at SXSW. In the film, Poots stars as Linda Keith, girlfriend to Keith Richards and the woman who cajoles Hendrix out of obscurity and helps shape his style and persona.
First of all, we have to talk about Andre Benjamin’s performance as Hendrix.
He’s electrifying. The first time I met him I was so entranced by him. And I think, if anything, he had to quiet himself for Jimi. There’s a real intelligence and perceptiveness to somebody just observing and being quiet, and I think that’s something he wanted Jimi to have. And also an innate melancholy. I think that comes true.
Linda Keith is not as well known, so was it less of a worry for you about having to match her?
Our director spoke to her, and she was very cool. She was sort of like, “Go do your thing, I give you my blessing but I don’t want any part of it.” In that way, it was certainly a relief, because if you meet the person face-to-face it’s a whole new pressure. But I really, really love Linda. You can see how important it was to her but also how cool she was in a way. I wouldn’t want Linda Keith to turn around and be like, “What have you done? My hair wasn’t cut that way!”
It’s fascinating to see her role in shaping who Hendrix eventually came to be.
And I think it’s really, really authentic, actually, in terms of John’s storytelling. She very much was a catalyst for him. She was really instrumental in his career in London, and a lot of people maybe don’t know that.
You’d think Hendrix would have been a bit more appreciative.
I think what she knows is the idea that you can sort of nurture an artist and support them, but they don’t belong to you. The audience and the listeners believe that a part of him belongs to them. You can’t put ownership on a figure. It’s sort of the same thing as making a film about Hendrix. People who love him will feel an inevitable ownership, like they want to see the Hendrix they want to see. But my favorite thing about the role, really, was the idea that you do all this and then you can step back and maybe just listen to the records. And then you just live your life.
And given the emphasis put on music, SXSW seems like a fantastic environment to showcase a film like this.
It’s great, it’s such a fun environment. I’m just happy to be heading south whenever I’m in America, always. In search of cowboys. They’re somewhere. [Laughs]
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