you mentioned Turn up. Kelly Reichardt, one of our great filmmakers. And it’s another character to have fun with. There is a particularly large number of pigeon shows.
Yes. I would say almost all of your films feature some type of animal, right?
Yes, they do.
In a very charming way. I feel like there are no small parts in a Kelly Reichardt film. It gives every person or animal a special frame or moment. I was thrilled to be working with a pigeon in what I think would be her first comedy. My first meeting on the first day Michelle Williams was at pigeon training.
With all these projects – you’re also in the new Wes Anderson movie coming up and so on and so forth I could go on – it’s a very exciting time. I read that afterwards reduction, you’ve mostly taken a little break from bigger mainstream projects and said no to some things. Was there a kind of shift for you as you started saying yes to more of them?
It’s easy to say yes to Darren Aronofsky and Kelly Reichardt and Wes Anderson and Mark Mylod. [Lauhs] Those are pretty simple yes. The only thing complicating it now is making sure it still works for my family. I’m not that specific in my priorities. I guess I’m just interested in life. It took me a while to get my career off the ground and once I did, I was able to start with the very best, like Inherent Vice was my first film and then reduction was my second film. Even The whale, I think is only my fifth or sixth film. It’s not like I have a long resume.
Between this part that we were talking about, you mentioned that you wanted to try new things. Was there something that felt scary new, like “I’m immersing myself in something I’ve never done before.”
Everyone was so different you know? With The whale, there was so much dialogue and the script was still very similar to the play and the way we rehearsed and worked into it was still very theatrical. then Turn up was so different because we were shooting The whale in February in upstate New York and there was three feet of snow on the ground; it felt cold and we were just in this warehouse every day, in the dark, all day. Then, when we were able to go to Portland in the spring, it just felt like we were hanging out. Kelly joked, “This movie shouldn’t be called Turn up. It should be called Depend.” And I had no idea how physical this role was. Reading it on the site felt very light and fun and my focus was on the art and being an artist. But I would have to do a tire swing and drive a pickup truck and do this art, which was actually very physical.
It had other requirements. There wasn’t much text or dialogue, and sometimes I enjoy that, trying to sit in a character’s role and just be that person. Then there are other times, like The whale, where it’s like, oh I get this amazing monologue! I can go either way. I think it’s just about variety and what feels right for the scene, for the character, for the movie.
I actually cut out some of my own lines The menu because I didn’t feel I had to say them. Mark laughed like, “You’re the only actor I know who asks to cut lines.” I’m like, well if you don’t need it!
This interview has been edited and abridged.
https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2022/11/hong-chau-the-whale-the-menu-little-gold-men-awards-insider Hong Chau on The Whale, The Menu and Being in the Oscar Race