16 February 2018

Meet the Best European Actress - Alexandra Borbély

Alexandra Borbély had an amazing year - she not only played the lead in ‘On Body and Soul’ to rave reviews, but the movie ended up winning Berlinale’s Golden Bear and eventually an Oscar nomination. And between these Alexandra was chosen Best Actress at the European Film Awards. We talked to the young actress about her amazing year and her upcoming exciting new projects.

You were originally selected for the role of the psychologist, but were eventually asked to play the main role. This role landed you the European Film Award for Best Actress. Can you tell us about your role and your work with the director?

It was wonderful to work with Ildikó [Enyedi]. She is such a special woman. She is very sensitive. I can tell we are on the same wavelength. First she wanted me for the role of the psychologist, so I went in for the casting,  but then Ildikó asked me to act out some scenes as all the main characters. I then helped her with the scene between the psychologist and Mária, sitting with every actress who was auditioning for the role of Mária. Ildikó invited me for coffee, which is when she came up with the idea that I should give the protagonist’s role a go. My first audition didn’t go very well because I was too feminine. But the second one did, because by then I felt that getting this role must not depend on my femininity, for example on how I look at someone as an actress. I came up with the way I look at someone, in a determined yet naive way, someone who doesn’t have any any sexual experience. Later we worked out how she should look and walk. We rehearsed it over and over again, so that by the time we began shooting, it went really smoothly.

How much did you bring to the character of Mária? What part that was added during the role building was your idea?

Her walk. It was how one of my classmate’s from high school used to walk. That’s how I remember her, as she always walked as if she was gliding. When I showed it to Ildikó, she liked it. That was my idea brought to the role.

Márk Bodzsár’s next film, ‘Comrade Drakulics’, is currently in production. We know that it’s a satirical comedy set in the Kádár era, but what is your role in the film?

I play a prostitute who is actually a spy. It’s a small role, but it’s also really funny.

Alexandra Borbély in On Body and Soul

What is your next project?

A Hungarian-Romanian co-production, the debut film by the Transylvanian director Cecilia Felméri. It’s called ‘Spiral’. I begin work on it in May.

How can you handle your schedule, with roles in seven different plays at the theatre, on top of all your films?

Theatre is now secondary, because of all the films I am involved in. I’m not rehearsing any new plays at the moment, but the number of shows I’m in will stay the same until the end of the season.

What is the role or character that you would definitely say yes to?

I would love to play in a Tarantino film. No question about it. On stage, I wouldn’t mind playing Martha from ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ She’s a middle-aged woman, so maybe I have to wait a little bit.

When somebody tries to decide on a profession, they set goals for themself. Do you feel you have achieved everything you wanted?

It’s overachieved. I didn’t think I would ever get this far. All I wanted was to become an actress in Budapest, a good actress in a good theatre. Of course I wanted to do films too, but I never dreamed about what I’m currently experiencing. This is a dream come true, and it has been going on for such a long time that I should finally realise that nothing is impossible.

Alexandra Borbély (MTI / EPA / Hayoung Jeon)

You had previously admitted in an interview that you are afraid of never getting another role that is this perfect or of a similar quality. Am I sensing right that this is still the case?

I believe Mária is not an average character. Obviously there won’t be another role like it, but other miraculous things could happen. I’m 31. I can’t think that I won’t have any other chances, so I’m looking ahead to the future with total curiosity. One should always start every work and character from scratch. All the awards and whatever happens on the way can only give you confidence. I feel that I’m worthy, so I have to keep on working with greater conviction and courage. The braver you are, the more things you are going to try out.

Given that you come from Upper Hungary (southern part of Slovakia), do you get any offers from Czech or Slovakian films or theatre productions? What can you tell us about that?

I received two offers from the Czech Republic. One is a co-production where I’ll be acting alongside Claes Bang, the main actor from ‘The Square’. It’s a smaller role, but an exciting one. The director is from the Czech Republic, but the film will be shot in English. In the other film I’m going to play a Czech village girl. There are other castings that I’ll be attending, and a Slovakian television series’ lead is also circling.

What is your relationship with Réka Tenki?

Réka has been my friend for a long time now. She is a pure person who has never been insincere in her life. She is very determined and it’s always as if no time has passed since we last saw each other, no matter how rarely that is. We have never felt awkward with each other because we can always be honest with one another. We were born the same year, so that might explain it.

Ádám Hujber


We use cookies on our site to improve performance and enhance your user experience.ACCEPT