New movie Purgatorio features a mother who has lost a child, a woman babysitting the son of her new neighbor and an actress with a skyrocketing career. All of them can be summed up in one name: Oona Chaplin, who is the star of the movie and the daughter of Chilean cinematographer Patricio Castilla and actress Geraldine Chaplin. That in turn makes her the granddaughter of film genius Charlie Chaplin, and great-granddaughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill. It must be hard not to feel the weight of all that talent on her shoulders, but the 27-year-old Spaniard has devoted herself to forging an acting career of her own.
After small roles in Bond film Quantum of Solace and horror flick Imago Mortis, she started to make a name for herself in Spanish comedy ¿Para qué sirve un oso?, biopic The Devil's Double and television work, notably playing Talisa Maegyr, later Talisa Stark, in hit HBO series Game of Thrones. It is a journey that has taken her to Los Angeles, where she is now juggling all kinds of projects, from Peruvian director Claudia Llosa’s Aloft to this psychological drama, Purgatorio, which marks the directorial debut of Pau Teixedor and will be released in Spain on Friday, having screened at the Málaga Film Festival last week.
In person Chaplin is constantly gesticulating, laughing and moving her arms and legs in a sometimes uncontrollable way. About her career, though, she is resolute: “I have made a lot of progress, and I am loving it. I’ve worked for it. I notice how the offers are changing for me. The strange thing about this profession is that it does not have such a logical progression as others. But for me it has had a relaxed pace, which has sped up. I love working, I have been blessed by having good colleagues.”
I prefer doing nice things and earning less than doing stupid things and earning more”
Chaplin is grateful to have an interviewer bring up her dad before mentioning her maternal grandfather: “My father is amazing! Chilean, a revolutionary, a director of photography... he’s like a tsunami, which is his family nickname: he fixes everything although he sometimes leaves remnants of destruction. And he left a lot behind out of love for my mother.”
Chaplin carries a large part of the new movie on her own: “It is a film produced by men, written by a man, directed by another… And it deals with a woman who has just lost her child, an ordeal that is tough to match, something unimaginable – or at least it’s difficult for me to imagine. The challenge was thus to do it with respect. I read a book, Volver a vivir, by Mercè Castro, the diary of a year after the death of a child. And that enabled me to understand a lot about the breakdown you suffer after a tragedy like that. You almost want to die yourself. I therefore hope to have measured up to those women.”
She says she wasn’t bothered about the size of the production, nor its budget: “I prefer doing nice things and earning less than doing stupid things and earning more. If not, I’d start waitressing. Although sometimes, I admit, you learn from doing stupid things. I go on the material.”
Chaplin signed up to Game of Thrones when the phenomenon had already begun. “I am a big Star Wars fan and a week ago I was having lunch with Finn Jones [who plays Loras Tyrell in the series], when we realized that Game of Thrones is the Star Wars of our generation. It is a major phenomenon. The series is very good and there is a great atmosphere among the actors. I sincerely believe that Game of Thrones hasn’t yet exploited all its possibilities. You just wait, because the fourth series is risky, with ideas, and at last they use all their storytelling weapons.”
Cinema looks like it is dying out a bit, but it can pull a thousand ways of reinventing itself out of its sleeve, such as 3D”
When Chaplin first signed up to the series, she was not aware of what she was getting herself into. “I had no idea, I hadn’t seen it,” she explains. “It was just as well that I hadn’t seen it, because I was more relaxed in the audition. Once I signed up, I watched all the previous episodes in one day. Then I was aware of the size of it. I understand that feeling of the fans, that because of the pace and the plotting it seems that we are always on the edge of the cliff – right there, right on the limit.”
She thinks it’s interesting how mid-range film productions have migrated to the small screen: “I have just done Hoke, a pilot with Paul Giamatti, written and directed by Scott Frank [Minority Report]… It’s incredible. Cinema looks like it is dying out a bit, but it can pull a thousand ways of reinventing itself out of its sleeve, such as 3D. But that’s not the solution. You have to get creative, to reinvent it.”