getting frank with maggie gyllenhaal

As Frank premieres at the Sundance Film Festival, we get get under the skin of Clara, his terrifying Theremin-playing bandmate, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal.

by i-D Team
24 January 2014, 3:35pm

Long before there was Daft Punk, there was British musician Frank Sidebottom. But instead of a helmet he wore a giant papier-mâché head on stage. Frank, loosely based on Sidebottom's real life, has Michael Fassbender sporting the bizarre stage prop in the film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this week. At least we're told it is Fassbender, his character infamously doesn't part with the giant cartoonish mask. The film weaves a story about a young wannabe musician, Jon, played by Domhnall Gleeson, who joins Fassbender's eccentric band. Riffing on things like the band's unpronounceable and very pretentious name Soronprfbs, the story takes a few unexpected turns while adding some light humor to this dim comedy. The film also delves into the issue of mental illness, which is present throughout the film. Clara, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, acts as Frank's guardian and terrifying Theremin-playing bandmate. We caught up with her to talk about her history with Sundance and why she was interested in this role.

What about Frank made you want to be a part of the film?
When I first read the script I didn't understand at all. And at first I said no. And then I called back a few weeks later and said can I do it. It's hard to understand the tone of it when you are reading it, but I knew there was something there. And it was great to be a part of it.

Frank and Clara have a very strange relationship, especially given that he never takes his fake head off. How would you describe their relationship?
For me it was best to pretend that Michael wasn't doing anything at all out of the ordinary with the head on, as if he didn't have his head on. Clara and Frank are supposed to be soul mates, and it's very difficult to be soul mates with someone with a fake head on. So it was best to ignore it.

How would you describe Clara?
I relate to Clara, she's just a complicated interesting woman. I think she's really angry, but misunderstood.

Your character plays that old school science fiction sound maker the Theremin, did you have to learn to play?
I did. My husband hooked me up with someone to teach me. It's really interesting to play.

You've been to Sundance previously with Donnie Darko and Secretary, how does this time compared to your previous experiences with Sundance?
It's such a great festival, I haven't been for a while. I credit Sundance to giving me my career. The most unusual and the most out there, those are the films that Sundance has picked up and supported. I'm not surprised this movie ended up here.


Text Donna Tillotson

frank sidebottom
Michael Fassbender
donna tillotson
maggie gyllenhaal