- Press conference and KAOS2000 interview
- Cinequest 10 Film Festival - San Jose, CA - March 2000
As the very hot commodity of the TV spy/action/thriller show, La Femme Nikita, Australian actress Peta Wilson is one of the most popular hardbodied blonde bombshells around. Beginning as a model, her being cast in La Femme Nikita has caused her immense popularity as the show focuses on a strong woman with sense and purpose who also happens to be beautiful and athletic.
Peta was in town at Cinequest 10 to promote her latest film, psycho-sexual B&D thriller "Mercy". "Mercy", the title taken from a "safe word" in the bondage fetish community, was directed by her longtime boyfriend, Damien Harris. "Mercy" is definitely one of the hottest and most intense films to come around - both sexually and mentally. The violence involved seems very personal and it certainly shows some of the darker sides of the fetish groups, lesbians and even troubled police department employees who are privy to the horrors of the day to day world that most of us don't get to see. Both Peta and Damien talked to the audience at one of the screenings of the film and told their point of view of what the story and what the lifestyles portrayed are about.
"Mercy", starring Peta as a suspect/victim in a lesbian and bondage fetish group, Ellen Barkin as a tough police investigator with a sordid past, and Julian Sands as a psychiatrist who has his own odd extracurricular activities. Also making a cameo is Stephen Baldwin. During the meeting with the audience, Peta explained a bit about the character and what was involved.
When asked how Peta felt about doing lesbian and nude scenes in the film, Peta explained that she was, in essence, just doing a love scene as the film called for it. The only discrepancy was that Ellen Barkin is used to playing the tough roles in which she controls the situation while in this film, Ellen is tough but troubled and Peta is the one to take control as she does in other bondage and sadomasochistic situations. As Peta told how Ellen plays her scenes confidently and they found themselves in the Kitchen Scene where the seduction begins.
"As I was doing the scene, Ellen began manipulating my head and wriggling around. Basically, I'm the 'man' and she's the 'woman', in the scene. Though the whole film was played that she's the 'man' and I'm the 'woman' and now suddenly I'm the 'man' and she's the 'woman'. So she's trying to manipulate me as the 'man', in the scene."
Damien had yelled cut and told reminded Peta that it was her scene. Ellen came up later and apologized, saying, "I'm so sorry. I'm just so used to taking charge of the scenes." The scene was then redone as it was meant to be.
In discussing how the film affected certain audiences, Peta had this to say:
- "When you go to the movies today, when you go to see cinema and it's provocative, it makes you think about something that you might not have necessarily thought of. This film, when we first showed it to friends, some people were outraged. 'Uh! My God. What? Why? How?' Damien thought, 'That's a good movie. It's provoked a reaction. It's got them thinking. They're asking questions about things they've never asked about before. They didn't know about these people. They're going to go twice. It's provoked something, a feeling inside, so therefore it is a good movie.' It may not be to somebody's taste, but still it's good cinema. Generally, people who were disturbed by the film would keep it to themselves because it's shocking. It gets them disoriented, so I think that's an effective movie. I cry at classic films. They affect me. If something makes me cry, makes me laugh, makes me angry..."
"The Advocate, the biggest gay newspaper, I think, in America, did a review of this film, of me, and they absolutely loved it. They thought it was so well done. It wasn't pushed. It let you make your own judgments. It wasn't like I was gay or Ellen was gay. It just told a story about how a serial killer could become a serial killer. How do people get that way."
About the making of the film:
- "The doing of the film was not a problem, it was fun. What was very hard to let go of was the search, because in six weeks I've met some of the most damaged people I've ever known in my life. It was so saddening to me. I felt that I had to make this character so honest and so truthful so that people, these people are understood, because I feel for them so much. It took me a while to let go of the research, the actual things I saw in the dungeons.
In discussing some of the women that Peta had interviewed for research into the fetish scenes:
- "A lot of these women are not just dominatrixes. One of them was a school teacher, married with three children. Another one was a dental hygienist. They have like these whole other lives. I think that this is the way that they deal with what happened to them as children. There was a man, when I walked into this one dungeon, who had been raped. I had a mask on. I couldn't understand what it means to be sexually abused and I needed to understand it. I walked in this room and saw the most horrific things that I've seen in my life. I fell to the floor and cried for like 10 to 15 minutes, on the floor. That gentleman had been sexually abused as a child and he had two sons. The way that he stopped the cycle with his sons was that he had very serious S&M performed on him once a year, videotaped. The dominatrix videotaped it. It went for 18 hours straight. That was his way of dealing with what happened in the past. It was therapy.
- When we finally got a chance to talk with Peta, she was surrounded by fans who she was happily signing autographs for and taking pictures with.
K2K: How did you feel about doing this film?
- PW: I thought I was honored that he asked me to do the film. I loved doing it.
K2K: Would you do another one like it?
- PW: No. I've done it.
K2K: What were you talking about earlier about why you would not do a film like this again?
- PW: Because I've already done it and I didn't know how it could be written better and more thoroughly and it has already been done.
K2K: When you went to the dungeons, you mentioned that everyone had been sexually abused.
- PW: Everyone.
K2K: It seems like a lot of people are into it who are into pain or pleasure and it seems to have a high calling to medical based people.
- PW: That's not what I meant. I met some gay women or some who were married with children but the part of them that was abused was responding in this way.
K2K: Ah, so not just people who are into the bondage scene.
- PW: No. All the women who I met in this scene had been subjected to some form of sexual abuse.
K2K: What were some of the powerful images that you saw at the dungeons?
- PW: I saw a man having a knitting needle pulled out of his penis. It was terrible.
K2K: Oh, I thought you were going to tell me something really bad. (laughing)
- PW: That's what I saw. That made me fall to my knees. It was a guy having a needle that big (showing description of about 10 inches) going through his penis.
K2K: Have you ever heard of the band the Genitorturers? That type of stuff is regular fare during their stage shows? They do it all.
- PW: I went to Catholic girl's school and I used to get whipped and it wasn't fun.
K2K: How did you prepare for your lesbian role and scenes?
- PW: I didn't play a lesbian, I just played someone who needed to be loved.
K2K: As far as the intimate contact...
- PW: I just needed to be loved. I didn't think about it. I didn't think "I'm gay." I don't think that gay people think "I'm gay", they just are and they happen to like women or they happen to like men. I don't think there's any difference except for heterosexuals, we think we're everything. We think that anything other than us is not normal. But the reality is, if you're gay, you think that is normal. I didn't think about "I'm gay." I just thought "I love her and she's going to save me and I'm going to do anything I can to be saved."
K2K: That's the first time I have ever heard that kind of answer. Usually it's, "I had to get into the part. I had to block myself out to kiss a guy/girl."
- PW: Well, that would be homophobic people. When a person thinks "Oh, I had to do this and I had to do that"... All that I had to do was prepare my mother and father. All I had to do was say, "Mum, I kissed a girl." Dad, "I kissed several girls. I'm just letting you know. I'm not gay, don't worry." They're from a different generation in a country where, up until 15 or 20 years ago, there was gay bashing.
- K2K: Where are you from?
- PW: I'm Australian. I'm Irish, Scottish, Italian and a bit of German, but not very much.
K2K: No Scandinavian at all?
- PW: No. Irish and Scottish. Northern Italian, which is blonde.
K2K: How did you originally get cast in "La Femme Nikita"?
- PW: I went in and auditioned like every other actress in the world. I was in a theater company for seven years and that was my first audition.
K2K: What is your next project?
- PW: I don't know. Life. Normal. Looking for stuff.
K2K: (In looking at her boyfriend of nine years, "Mercy" director Damien Harris) When are you two going to get married?
- PW: I don't know. Why don't you ask him that. (laughs) I don't know. Why ruin a good thing? Maybe we'll do that one day.
K2K: What were you telling us earlier about Damien's background?
- PW: Oh, Damien's blue blood, man. Damien's father is Richard Harris, his stepfather is Rex Harrison, his brother is Jared Harris, Richard Burton was the best friend of Richard Harris, like a surrogate godfather to him. Damien grew up on the sets of David Lean and Sam Peckinpah. He was standing there while making those movies, he was there with the directors. He doesn't talk about it but I do.
K2K: So, big things ahead for him.
- PW: Forgetting all that, just on his own. Damien made his first movie on his inheritance. When his father passed away, he used it to make his first film. Damien struggles like every other filmmaker and he makes everything from his heart. I think he's going to do really well. This is his first film festival. I feel great tonight. I know one day he's going to be up there accepting something and I'm going to be able to sit there "I knew it."
K2K: What were you talking about your Nikita contract being up?
- PW: It's up in another year. The contract is up in five years and it's up in one year. Five years is enough. That's enough for them. They made enough money. I've got other ambitions other than acting.
K2K: Would you do more TV?
- PW: I'll do TV. Work is work, whether it's TV or movies. I'm not one of those people who says "I will only do movies."
K2K: Do you have a preference for anything?
- PW: Just being able to tell the truth. That's my preference.
K2K: So it doesn't matter what media means you use?
- PW: No. I love the theater. There's no "cut". I came from that and I love Tennessee Williams. There's no "cut". You do a movie, there's "cut", "action", "cut". Let me put it this way, when you do a stage, it's just you. It's the actor's medium. All actors will tell you that they love the stage, if they're trained.
- K2K: In talking about "cuts", does that ever throw you out of character when doing film or TV?
- PW: You don't even hear them. You just keep going. Even though they say "cut", you don't come out of it. You stay in it. Like Damien, someone asked why he got Ellen Barkin. He got Ellen Barkin because she loves him as a director. Damien will come up to you if you're not quite getting it or he wants something different. He'll whisper in your ear all the research that you've done, "Remember when you were 8 years old and your father did that to you or you were playing ball in the park?" He's such an amazing director. He feeds you your parts. You'll be standing there, "What do I do?" and he'll feed you something and then all of the sudden you're doing exactly what he needs you to do. You stay in it. Basically, sculpting. He's Picasso and I'm the painting.
K2K: You and Ellen [Barkin] worked really well together in the film. Was it fun working with her?
- PW: It was amazing. She's a queen. I just treated her like a queen.
K2K: Well thank you for taking some time to talk with us.
- PW: Good luck with your dungeons. (laughs)
Written and all photos © 2000 by Philip Anderson except Peta/Phil picture © 2000 by Tara Hauff
- Philip Anderson is a musician, in addition to being a writer/photographer. He has performed as a guitarist/vocalist, as well as songwriter, in several bands over the past 20 years. As a writer and photographer, he has been published by several magazines and in several books, and had his works appear on television.