Lotte Verbeek may be Dutch, but she has the luck of the Irish. Or, at the very least, the Emerald Isle has had a fundamental influence over her film very successful acting career to date. Shipped there by Urszula Antoniak in 2008 to star opposite veteran Irish actor Stephen Rea in the international festival hit NOTHING PERSONAL, her efforts were lauded by audiences and the international film fraternity alike. A year later she is in Budapest on a five-month shoot with another visionary of Irish cinema, Neil Jordan, where they are making THE BORGIAS series for Showtime.
“You see, there’s the Irish thing again,” she laughs. “And it is really funny as Neil has directed so many films with Stephen in them. But I found myself having lunch with Neil and he told me that he hadn’t seen NOTHING PERSONAL. That was good to know. The film really has given me lots of new projects and goals and new connections, but it is also good to know that I can get a part just with just an audition.”
In THE BORGIAS Verbeek plays the role of the aristocratic courtesan Giulia Farnese opposite British actors Jeremy Irons, Derek Jacobi and Joanne Whalley. “It’s a beautiful part and I am very lucky,” she stresses. “It’s not the main female part but because of that it allows me to have time to myself as well. It’s a classic balance. And I get to spend a lot of time in Budapest, which is not that bad. It’s a very nice city.”
“Neil is a very experienced director, very professional,” she continues. “He knows what he wants. I think he is a director who has a good eye for actors. For him it is very important that an actor is at ease, that he or she feels comfortable in costume, or with the lines. He allows an actor to work in an independent, purposeful way. I really like that a lot. It is a big thing for a Dutch girl, to be on this great big great set with all these people and these big names, shooting in English. I’m one of the British actors now, which is really an honour. It’s more than I ever dreamt of so early in my career – it’s incredible. It’s kind of surpassing all dreams.”
The resplendent costumes of the Venetian Renaissance, topped off by Verbeek’s distinctive mane of red hair, are a fire cry from the grungy persona that the actress had to assume for Antoniak’s NOTHING PERSONAL. “Yes, I had to explore this whole thing of wearing three pairs of jeans in the cold, and growing my armpit hair,” she concedes. In the film the melancholy Anne leaves The Netherlands to traverse the Irish countryside, in complete solitude and on foot. When she comes across a beautiful secluded cottage and discovers that she can bear the company of its sole occupant, her fractured attitude to life begins to show signs of healing. Verbeek strips away the layers of abrasiveness and non-commitment that cloak her character to reveal a woman both acutely sensitive and ready once more to risk offering her heart to another person. “There were a few similarities between the character and me, myself, such as the longing for freedom and going my own way,” she explains. “She’s a very tough lady - that it is something that is not necessarily my style – but I really liked it. It was the part of a woman that I might not necessarily understand, but I was intrigued by her and it was a real challenge to portray her.”
Verbeek also reserves praise for the film’s director Antoniak. “Urszula really knows what she wants,” she points out. “She uses any inspiration that she can find on the set, or from the environment or the actors, and she knows her cinema. She has seen tons of classic and arthouse films, and so she has this huge library in her head that she uses for inspiration. She’s a real artist, very bright, a creator.”
Presented as the Dutch Shooting Star at the 2010 Berlinale, Verbeek is keen to stress that she has been very lucky so far, but she also points out that she feels no constraints upon her approach to business of acting. She is multi-lingual and doesn’t feel “very Dutch”, she claims. Nor does she feel particular affinity to any given culture and looks to exploit the freedom that this fact confers to maximum effect. “I have played in the theatre with neither story nor script, just a concept and an idea, a construction with the director,” she concludes. “In the future I see myself in both the theatre and the cinema, working without limits in terms of style, in terms of language. But until now I’ve been so lucky. I’ve been blessed and I haven’t had to think about it so much.”