CREEP - Feature with Franka Potente
Movie Feature by Desmond Sampson
When Franka Potente starred in horror flick CREEP she discovered it wasn't only her character, Kate, who was terrified - or facing possible death.
After starring in the thrillers RUN LOLA RUN and THE BOURNE IDENTITY Franka Potente decided she wanted to experience a different genre: horror. But her decision to star in CREEP, which is set in London's Underground maze of disused tunnels and features a gruesome creature, who callously kills everyone it encounters, almost backfired on her. That's because she was nearly killed, for real, whilst filming it.
"I almost got run over on one of the first days," she shrieks. "It was in one of the scenes where I'm barefoot and running in one of the tunnels and right behind me were the film crew, on this thing called a rickshaw dolly. It's like a platform with a really heavy camera on it, so you couldn't just stop it. So, I was running along, but something went wrong - a misunderstanding - and it started running into my heels! I basically had to throw myself off the tracks, to the right, otherwise they'd have run straight over me!
"I figured when I started this [film] that I'd probably fall over and hit my nose or my head, which I did - I bumped my head everywhere because it's so dark down there and I don't really see so well in the dark, without my glasses - but I didn't think I'd almost end up getting run over!"
A few bumps and bruises - and almost getting crushed to death - weren't Franka's only brushes with death though: midway through filming CREEP she had to be rushed to hospital, suffering from acute appendicitis.
"It was very close to being a burst appendicitis," she nods, recalling her ordeal. "I remember being bent over [in pain] for one day's shooting and then feeling horrible throughout the night so I called the AD [Assistant Director] at 5.30 in the morning and said; 'I think I might have an appendicitis, because I don't feel so good.' She told me to pack my bags and go straight to hospital which, luckily, was almost next door to the hotel. As soon as I got there, they were like; 'Yeah, don't put your coat on; you're staying. You're going to be on the table in half-an-hour!'
"I was actually quite blasé about it," she admits. "It was like; 'OK, cut me open and get it over with,' because it was just like another thing to happen to me while making this film. At the same time, I was so tired [that] it was almost like; 'OK, I can just lie in hospital and sleep it off, have a rest kind of thing," laughs Franka, downplaying the seriousness of the situation.
"Even though I had been in so much pain, I didn't think too much of it at the time - I didn't realise what it was - because I was so exhausted," she adds. "Also, when I'm in working mode I have a certain numbness to both physical pain and stress - even in my personal life. I think it's because you have to be so strong, everyday, on set. It feels like you have a suit of armour on and that a lot more is possible.
"But, that day, it was so obvious that I wasn't one hundred percent because I was in a lot of pain," she recalls. "I was bent over in pain and I'd just try to stand up for the takes. But I wasn't in control of anything, like my lines or my acting. It sucked!"
Apart from nearly being killed - and hospitalised - whilst filming CREEP, Franka also had to endure sewage, rats, cold, wet sets and dark, claustrophobic tube tunnels. What was that like?
"Yeah, the work takes you to the weirdest places," she smiles, recalling the dank, dark tunnels of the London Underground. "I wasn't so worried about the rats, but I didn't like the water [scenes], the sewage or the aspect of running on railway tracks, without shoes. That's why I was a little hesitant, for a moment, about taking the role - because I know that I get a little cranky in those environments, especially when I'm cold and uncomfortable."
Franka's philosophical about what she had to endure while filming - and about 'suffering for her art' - explaining that it's all part and parcel of making movies, these days.
"I find myself sick very often and my feelings towards cold and heat are totally fucked up," she says, matter-of-factly. "No matter what season, I always find myself freezing or too warm and being very sensitive to certain things, like noise. That's why, for the last four years, I've slept with earplugs! I totally think it has to do with my job because it [filming on location] totally messes with you in certain ways. I'm not whining," she insists. "I'm just saying how it is. But it's ok, I live with it."
Another thing Franka had to 'live with' - on a daily basis - while filming CREEP was the risk of stepping on a live track and being electrocuted, or being run over by a train if she accidentally strayed down a tunnel that was in use. Needless to say, she didn't wander around much, or go exploring the nooks and crannies of the Underground network.
"When we weren't shooting we'd just sit in our corner, or stay on the platform - it's not like we'd wander around, being curious, or stray off the tracks because it was dangerous and you really were clueless about what you were walking into! Instead, it'd be like; 'Are we done, yet?' Great, let's get off the rails!'
"Sometimes it got ridiculous though, like when you needed to go to the bathroom," she reveals. "It's like a maze [down there], so someone would have to take you. But then they're suddenly gone and you're like; 'Alright, hello? Where is everybody?' Turn the fucking light on, so at least I know where I am!'
"The sound is so strange down there too: you think there's a noise from the right, so you walk that way, and suddenly you realise 'No,' it's from the left! It was totally confusing. Other times, you'd hear a sound and feel a draught and think; 'Are you sure there are no trains running?' It was a worry," she confesses. "There was always this cold fear in the neck that maybe there was a train - and you'd start imagining what's written in the newspapers; 'Film crew killed...' - because somebody made a mistake. I started hating that [feeling] and I did sometimes think; 'What am I doing in this movie?'"
Despite all her fears, the accidents and working in such a difficult environment, Franka admits she actually enjoyed the experience of starring in CREEP and filming in the Underground's labyrinth of tunnels.
"It's really weird, but you do kind of get used to it in the end. After a while you just have to give in and take certain things as a given and not let them be an obstacle, but work with them," she shrugs. "In one sense, it really was a privilege to have a set that's so real because everything about it was real: the dirt was real, it was cold, you couldn't see anything and it was uncomfortable. But you kind of take that and work with it: you don't even have to imagine these things because they're really there!
One thing she did have to imagine was just how scary the 'Creep' actually was. That's because she was filming scenes where she was fleeing from him, before she'd even met him in real life - or seen just how scary he really was.
"I never met him, in person, while we were filming. I didn't even know what the guy looked like without his make-up because he was avoiding me," reveals Franka. "He always came on set before me and left after me. Actually, the wrap party was the first time I actually saw him, for real, and I was like 'nice to meet you!' He actually apologised at that point, saying he hoped he hadn't come across as being weird, by avoiding me. But I respected his decision to try and keep to himself because it was necessary to create this very special creature that's really not a copy of anything I've seen in a horror film before.
"Not meeting him, or seeing what he was like, with or without make-up, was hard to handle though," she admits. "I was a little stressed out that we'd shot me running away frantically and I was saying to Chris Smith, the director, you better make sure the guy is pretty bloody scary because otherwise I'll come across as a dumb-ass, acting my ass off, screaming and rolling my eyes!
"Luckily, when I finally saw him with his make-up on he was really scary. I remember how Chris walked out, dragging Sean [Harris] behind him, like his dancing bear, and I couldn't look at him because he looked so scary. It made the story really believable, which was great.
"I also really liked how the script read," she adds, explaining why she decided to accept the part. "I read a few things aloud and it worked really well - and I liked the character for myself. I immediately figured out that I could do something with her and take upon the challenge of being as real as possible and tricking the audience into following me into something that gets really absurd and surreal - like following Alice through the rabbit hole!"
Another surreal moment, admits Franka, was when she met George Clooney soon after she'd finished filming CREEP (the irony being that the reason she finds herself trapped in the Underground, in the film, is because she's trying to get across town to a party he's meant to be attending). Was he what she expected and what her character, Kate, had imagined?
"You know, I have to say that I wasn't a huge fan of George Clooney beforehand. I thought; 'yeah, he's cute. But I also thought; 'he could probably be my dad!' But I had ten minutes conversation with him, after we'd finished filming, and after those ten minutes I spent with him, I have to admit he's fucking charming," she coos. "I really had to use all my energy to come across really cool, because I was sweating inside! He's just the perfect alpha male - so charming and so genuinely friendly."
"It really doesn't seem like he's switching on a button when he's talking to you: it's like he's really meeting you, because he's so polite and so engaging. I think that's why men and women equally think of him as charming and everybody wants to be his friend. It really was just perfect - the most perfect ten minutes where you're like 'Oh, my God,' because you're so overwhelmed by it. I kept telling the story to my girlfriends, for like three days afterwards, because it was the most surreal experience of my life! So, yeah, it really does make sense that all that happens in this film happens because of him," concludes Franka, smiling.
Feature Copyright Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment