An interview with Franziska Weisz, Austria's Shooting-Star  at the Berlinale 2005


«It's fascinating which is equally true of both Hotel and Dog Days, taking an extremely minimalistic approach and getting a message across to the audience without a lot of talking. Being allowed to be myself in all honesty is fascinating.»


A brief glance at your resume leaves the impression that acting was not a passionate childhood dream, that coincidence played a role too.

FRANZISKA WEISZ: It's something I've always wanted to do, but then everything did happen by chance. I just thought that every little girl wants to be a princess, singer or actress, but I never would have dreamed of saying, I'm going to acting school now, after finishing high school. Everyone in my family does something sensible for a living. I was lucky to meet Markus Schleinzer, who cast me for Dog Days.


You have a second career opportunity in addition to acting.

FRANZISKA WEISZ: Right after the Dog Days shoot I went to England to study for four years, so I have a degree in developmental and environmental policy, and after coming back I shot Hotel. The registration phase for the university in England lasts a year, and in the meantime I signed up to study business.


Shooting your first film with Ulrich Seidl isn't really a simple way to start off in the trade.

FRANZISKA WEISZ: At the time I thought that was normal. Before that I had never been on a film set. There weren't any rehearsals during the prep phase. Working with Ulrich Seidl meant meeting at Café Prückel every few weeks, and I told him a lot about myself. That helped him a great deal in creating my character. I have a lot in common with Claudia, the character I played. It really gave me a feeling of confidence, he and cameraman Wolfgang Thaler were such a pleasant team to work with. He demanded a lot of me, because he just put me in a situation and waited to see what happened. Whether it led to a nervous breakdown or an uncomfortable silence or tears, he just kept the camera going, which is the special style of his films. The experience was so intense that I knew I wanted to do it again.


What happened between Hotel and Dog Days?

FRANZISKA WEISZ: While I was in England Markus Schleinzer called several times about small projects, sometimes just a day of shooting for The Piano Teacher and c(r)ook. A few of them were really great. One was In Liebe vereint, a film adaptation of Gottfried Keller's Village Romeo and Juliet. I played Juliet, another lead.

How were you cast for Hotel?

FRANZISKA WEISZ: I came to Austria for the premiere of Dog Days. That evening Jessica Hausner came up to me and asked if she could take a Polaroid. She wrote the screenplay with that photo in front of her. That was a gift. Then at the last moment it was somewhat tricky. Shooting was scheduled for late in the fall of 2003, and we met the previous summer. I had gained a lot of weight after Dog Days because of my studies and all the sitting. Two months before shooting started Jessica said to me, "The character I had in front of me while writing looked different". We agreed that I would lose ten kilos before shooting started. That was a rough time, because I was writing a thesis, exercising in the morning, sitting down at the computer, exercising again in the afternoon and eating asparagus. That went on for two months. I really hated it. When shooting started I was happy I had done it, though. I would have regretted having to turn it down for a long time.


Hotel on the other hand was an unusual shoot and you were constantly in action.

FRANZISKA WEISZ: I think there are three shots without me. Some weeks I was the only actor on the set. That was weird. I was more of a team member than an actor, which I really liked, even though it was hard sometimes.


Jessica Hausner and Ulrich Seidl have completely different personalities as directors. What was that like as an actor?

FRANZISKA WEISZ: That's just something you find out during prep work. We discussed the project with Ulrich Seidl, I got an excerpt of the screenplay, which didn't have any dialog, everything was vague and I just waited to see what happened. With Jessica Hausner it became clear during the preparations that every tiny little detail had to be right. When I watch the film now, I understand that arranging every strand of hair as perfectly as possible was necessary.


What do you prefer personally, precision or working with more freedom?

FRANZISKA WEISZ:Hard to say. Dog Days was really improvised, but at the time I didn't know that was unusual, I didn't even know what a shooting schedule is. The longer I do this, the more I like getting explicit instructions. Sometimes an audition where I have to improvise goes great, sometimes terribly. The most important thing for me is working very closely with the director.


You lived in England for a long while, so there's no obstacle to your appearing in productions in English. Are you thinking of working internationally?

FRANZISKA WEISZ: Absolutely. I'd definitely like to work internationally. I spent four years living in Leicester, and then in London. After coming back to Vienna I worked with a language coach. You never completely lose your accent, but it's as good as can be as an Austrian. When I talk to people from England, they think I grew up speaking English, but can't guess where.


You haven't really settled on a type of role?

FRANZISKA WEISZ: No, not at all, that's a big plus for me. I've been able to try out all different kinds of things and have never been categorized. Even preparing for a shoot and shooting itself are moments when I'm completely open, my perception is extremely sharp and I'm very conscious of myself. I play people, which is why I get everything from my own emotions. At first I make use of my own imagination, but of course I ask myself how I would react in a certain situation. In private I'm not the kind of person who yells a lot, but it's interesting to act that out, being different than in private.

Have you considered appearing on the stage?

FRANZISKA WEISZ: I'm very attracted to the theater, firstly because of the audience and also because of acting as a whole, film and theater and television are part of it all. But I haven't done any stage acting yet. Part of the reason is that I assumed you can only act on the stage in Austria if you went to the Reinhardt seminar or took some kind of test for it. A mistake: I've been asked if I want to play Marianne in Molière's Tartuffe this summer in Perchtoldsdorf. I'm really looking forward to it.


What's it like to switch between television and film?

FRANZISKA WEISZ: Right now I think it's exciting to try everything out. The last thing I did was Vier Frauen und ein Todesfall. That was the first time I've been in something that was made so fast. There were never more than two takes per shot, which was a drastic change after Hotel, being completely the opposite. Otherwise I felt terrible after some one takes because I thought he couldn't have been able to see everything.


What do you find interesting about working in front of the camera?

FRANZISKA WEISZ:  It's fascinating – which is equally true of both Hotel and Dog Days, taking an extremely minimalistic approach and getting a message across to the audience without a lot of talking. Being allowed to be myself in all honesty is fascinating. I didn't study acting, for me it's always been like an intense kind of soul searching. Working on a film is the happiest and most harmonious time for me. This intense soul searching and being able to be a completely different kind of person is probably what everybody finds fascinating about acting. Not long ago I read in a book that it's a painful experience to find out that aptitude isn't the same thing as inclination. After what I've experienced I seem to be lucky to have both.


Interview: Karin Schiefer (2004)