Just over 20 years ago Spike Jonze earned a spot in the Oscars –Nomination for best director– with his delusional comedy How to be John Malkovich , in which a puppeteer played by John Cusack found a way to get inside the head of the actor who by then had two Academy Award nominations for In a place of the heart and In the line of fire. Although this was all a mere fantasy, when talking to the real Malkovich there is no doubt that he has a fascinating mind. The interview he gave for his role in the serie de Netflix Space Force , from his mansion in Cambridge, Boston, gave place to ask him how his experience has been during the pandemic and to listen to his reflections on science.
What do you miss most about your everyday life?
Although they say of me that I am a cold and distant person, I do not think that is true. What I miss the most is interacting with friends and colleagues, and the people I used to meet on a daily basis. Anyway, it’s not that terrible, I can keep in touch with a lot of people, and that’s what I was doing right before we started this interview. I was telling a joke to my friends in Russia, so I can stay in touch virtually.
In any case, I am a very lucky man, because I am in good health, and unlike the vast majority of the millions of people who live on Earth, I do not have to work next week or the week after, and I have not nothing happened for not having worked for a few months. Therefore, I cannot complain. The truth is that I have used this time to review certain things that I want to prepare for the future, although none of those projects have to do with film or television, but rather are linked to classical music.
None of the projects that I have been reviewing has to do with cinema or television, but rather they are linked to classical music “
Anyway, it is very nice to hear the birds and look at the trees. Cambridge, where I am now, is very green. There are many fruit trees, any number of gardens with flowers and everything you can think of in that regard. So I have dedicated myself to looking at what surrounds me. I’ve been reading a lot. And I have also worked on everything that does not have to do with cinema. Also, I have kept in touch with my castmates at Space Force, because every two weeks we organize a party at Zoom together.
I am fortunate: I am in good health, and unlike most of the millions of people who live on Earth, I do not have to work next week or the week after.
This house in Cambridge isn’t the only one you have, is it?
No, we have a house in France where we make wine. My wife was there in March, but I couldn’t go because I was on a tour of another region of Europe. But that’s the time when we bottle the rosé. I hope we can go back now in the summer, but at the moment France is not open to foreigners. In fact, some friends of mine from Paris have been living there these last few months, because they ran away from the big city. It is a farm in Provence. I was there for the last time while filming the Paolo Sorrentino series in Rome.
Have you developed any new talents at home these days?
Afraid not. I keep doing the same things I did before. I go for a long walk, I read, I work in my garden. I think that in that sense, I have improved a little in my gardening knowledge. I’ve also been cooking quite a bit.
Haven’t been designing?
No. I stopped designing fashion about three years ago, although a few weeks ago I did design some wallpapers and we are working on the restoration of a building and I am going to design some things for that project. But it’s nothing I haven’t done before.
I have started to think about making the masks myself, although I already had some for my travels “
How is it worn with the mask?
I have mixed feelings regarding their use because I believe that with them we inspire the toxins in our body that we are supposed to exhale, because unfortunately the masks trap them. Therefore I only use them when I go to a store. If I go for a walk, I do it on the paths that are on my property and in my garden, so I don’t wear a mask. I have to confess that I have started to think about doing them myself. I have some materials, although I already had some masks for my travels. It’s funny that three years ago I was designing fashion and that’s why I know that the fabric is the most important thing, because all the dust from the fabric gets up your nose and throat. I don’t like them, but if the mask is decent it doesn’t bother me either.
How do you see the future?
It is very difficult to know what will happen, because in order to evaluate it, you must have reliable information. Nobody knows how things will be in a month, much less in the next few years. But one can always look for answers in history and if you look at the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, the theaters and concert halls, in which I often work around the world, were closed for two years. Therefore we do not know what the future holds. Many of my colleagues and comrades across the planet are asking that very question and trying to find the answer. Luckily we have education, culture, observation. But I prefer to trust my intuition, which is something that everyone has although they may not pay due attention to it. I trust my intuition to some degree, not totally, but enough to guide me in my decisions regarding anything important. It is that reliable information is very difficult to find in any situation in life. It is one of the tools that I use, but not the only one.
I think big mistakes have been made. Many epidemiologists do not agree with how things have been done “
Has it served you in this to have played a scientist who remembers Dr. Fauci in Space Force ?
Of course. The series is prophetic on many levels, but on the other hand it is an old battle in which science tells us what to do. Steve Carell’s character says it very well in the series. He explains that he doesn’t believe them, because sometimes they tell us that carbohydrates are good and other times that they are bad. Obviously the problem is that in life two things can exist at the same time and can be bad or good depending on the circumstances.
Greg Daniels, the creator of the series, told me the other day that he went to school with one of the most prominent epidemiologists in San Francisco, and that he explained to him that it is impossible to have correct information about the virus. I think big mistakes have been made. Many epidemiologists disagree with how things have been done. The Imperial College scientist who was in charge of managing the epidemic in England did an outrage and had to resign. Even in this series, the scientists don’t want the spacecraft to take off. I think the series talks about the tension between science and people, their education or lack of it, their instincts, their impulses and their feelings. That is why there have been discussions about every aspect of the pandemic since it all began …
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American actor John Malkovich talks about the series that has premiered on Netflix