lola kirke on her queer hollywood murder mystery 'gemini'
The actor co stars with Zoë Kravitz in the neo-noir thriller.
Aaron Katz’s neo-noir thriller Gemini explores a Hollywood relationship that’s often glossed over: that of celebrity and assistant. It's an age-old interplay that's newly come to light courtesy of Harvey Weinstein and his ilk, who couldn't have perpetrated their decades of abuse without a revolving staff of browbeaten assistants and enablers. But Gemini is less concerned with shocking male brutality. The film looks instead to the complicated co-dependency that exists between women — and star/assistant relationships that also often involve sexual desire, just not of the grossly one-sided sort.
In Gemini, Lola Kirke is mesmerizingly non-actor-y as Jill, the relatable right-hand girl to glamorous movie star Heather, played as such by Zoë Kravitz. LA’s seedy side is almost a supporting character to Kirke and Kravitz’s vaguely sexual (and certainly co-dependent) partnership. Further obfuscating the shadowy plot is Heather’s actual girlfriend, Tracy, who spontaneously joins her A-list lover and third-wheel assistant for drunken K-Town karaoke the night before a gruesome murder takes place. Think a cryptic Hitchcock love triangle where all parties are women.
“We make a really big deal about celebrities’ sexual orientations,” Kirke tells i-D after polishing off a silver tray of toast at New York’s Crosby Street Hotel. “It was nice to read a script where you have a movie star and she’s in a relationship with a woman and we’re not making a big deal of that.” She’s wearing a pink dress suited for high tea — or room service toast — and looking nothing like assistant-turned-femme-fatale Jill. This shouldn’t be surprising, but Kirke’s on-screen energy is so relatable, in a Greta Gerwig-esque way, that it’s no wonder her Mozart in the Jungle fans rock up to gigs expecting to hear a full-on oboe solo. Here, Kirke talks to i-D about astrology, bike stunts, and starring alongside her IRL bestie.
Jill goes from existing in Heather’s shadows to desperately seeking anonymity, even donning a bleach blonde wig. Do you ever wish you were anonymous?
I don’t know, I don’t think that I don’t have anonymity. When people recognize me it actually feels, for the most part, like a pretty nice reminder that people are getting to experience things that I make. That’s nice, because you need an audience when you’re an artist or a creative person. It has yet to be a hindrance to me.
What about when you’re touring through small-town America as a musician?
It’s also been funny, though, because there are a distinct few people who will come to my shows when I play who are there because they like my work as an actor, and they’ll show up and expect me to play an oboe solo or whatever, because I play on oboist on TV. If it’s more bodies in the room when I’m playing then I don’t care.
Sexuality is a not a big deal in the movie although it obviously informs the plot. What did you think when reading the script?
It was really exciting to see a noir thriller that was all about women. Instead of it being the world-weary male character who’s kind of searching for the mystery of the femme fatale, because that is very noir, it’s really cool to have a woman be in that role. I also loved how understated the relationship to sexuality was. I think what this movie achieves is making the that we’re all people, we’re all the same. But it has a really close look at the devices we set up that make it seem like we’re not.
It’s a very female relationship regardless of whether it’s romantic. I was wondering if the viewing experience would be very different for a man.
Men can be really good at writing roles for women. Noah Baumbach’s movies that he writes — obviously they’re often co-written with Greta Gerwig — but he’s done a fantastic job at showing women in this really vivid way. I think Paul Mazursky did a really great job with An Unmarried Woman in the late 70s. There are other examples in between that, but I think Aaron did a beautiful job. He’s sincere and he’s such an observer and he’s not an objectifier at all. That lends itself really nicely to women who are real. He also wanted us to bring ourselves to the role, but not because he hadn’t put anything there.
I can see Greta in your presence on screen — you both look like you’re not actors, but in a really clever way.
Thank you! I’m sure I stole that from her.
Tell me about working with Zoë.
I love Zoë. She’s an old friend of mine. Actually, when I read the script, I was like, “Zoë would be so good for this.” Aaron was like, “Yeah, she would!”
She has a half-sister called Lola, right?
She does. And “Lola” is tattooed on her wrist. But that’s for me!
Your mom had a shop called Geminola. Oh, but that’s for you and your sisters’ names...
[Laughs]. Yeah, it’s not to do with Geminis.
Do you believe in astrology?
I think it gets to be a bit much when people blame everything on Mercury in retrograde. But I will tell you, it took me two days to get back from Italy, and Mercury is in retrograde. That is, apparently, really bad for travel. I’m a very good traveler and everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong.
I just got[back] from New Zealand, don’t even get me started. And you’re living in L.A. right now — is your relationship with the city more noirish or more cheerful?
I think there are so many LAs in LA. I was in Rome for the past week, and Rome has a center. The center of Rome is the center of Western civilization. Everything, geographically, spills out of the center. Los Angeles has no center. I think Gertrude Stein said “There is no there there.” It’s a lot of neighborhoods. I think what people have defined as Los Angeles is Hollywood. Another thing that was exciting to me about making this film is that it shows you a different side of Hollywood. It shows you how annoying Hollywood can be and how dehumanizing it can be, but not in a really dramatic way. It just shows you what’s behind the curtains.
The action scenes are certainly quite dramatic. Tell me about shooting those.
I did all my own stunts.
Are you now a motorcyclist?
I didn’t really do all my own stunts. I did have to learn how to go two feet on a motorcycle for one shot. So I was doing these motorcycle lessons when I would drive at like 10mph in a parking lot in Redondo Beach, which is like… miles from nowhere.
I only know it from the Patti Smith song.
Yeah, there’s the Patti Smith song. But I’m actually really uninterested in riding a motorcycle. Terrifically uninterested. My dad rides motorcycles still, and I used to go on the back, so I kind of got my kicks that way. Now there are so many other dangerous, terrifying things I would rather do than that.
Not ever for the badass full leather biking costumes?
That costume was the worst. It was 110 degrees when we were shooting and it’s a full leather costume. I was wearing a polyester silk pajama top underneath, and a wig. It looks great but it felt terrible. Costume is an amazing, amazing thing. I couldn’t play that part in this pink ladies’ dress I’m wearing right now. It’s an amazing part of the actor’s toolkit to get to wear these different costumes.
Your last few roles have been wildly different. What sort of roles do you want to play in the future? Is there a genre you really want to explore?
I’m not as interested in genre as I am in character. I’ve played a lot of roles in which I am the babysitter, essentially. I would like to play someone who has to be babysat. Not like a child, I don’t want to play children, that would be weird. But I wonder how I could put that part of myself into the world. I really like taking care of people. I think that’s part of why I wanted to make things in the first place. Music and movies have always taken care of me. That’s why I wanted to make them for other people.
Would you ever want to direct a film?
At present, the whole idea seems exhausting to me. I don’t want to direct a movie until I feel I absolutely have to. Otherwise there’s just too much content in the world. There are other things I want to do, though. I directed a couple of music videos, and I like doing that. But I don’t know what I would be moving the needle forward, and I don’t want to hold it back.