Now that we've opened Defamer HQ to a vindicated John Cusack and a defiant Werner Herzog, we figure that this whole "Five Questions" thing might be worth revisiting as opportunities arise (or at least until people realize who's interviewing them). This week we had an audience with Vera Farmiga, the indie darling and no-nonsense Departed love interest whose disturbing new film, Quid Pro Quo, features her as the lovely face of apotemnophilia — the condition of desiring disability and/or amputation as a sexual preference.
It's about as fucked-up as it sounds, but as Fiona, the femme fatale opposite Nick Stahl's paralyzed investigative radio reporter, Farmiga efficiently mines what's perhaps the final frontier of on-screen sexuality. It takes a special actress to make a corset work with leg braces, and an even more special actress to successfully play it for mystery, vulnerability and dark humor all at once. Farmiga tells us all about the journey in five easy steps after the jump.
So in Quid Pro Quo we've got able-bodies versus amputee wanna-bes versus paraplegic pretenders versus garden-variety fetishists. At what point did you read the script and say, "Yep — this one's for me"?
Probably when I heard her name was Fiona Ankany. Sometimes it's in a name before you even read anything. I saw that and said, "That's a bell that needs to be rung." But I also grew up watching quirky detective stories and oddball romances — Murder She Wrote and The Love Boat. And this was one I'd never read before. And there's got to be something about a woman in the script that turns my head. I couldn't stop staring at this one.
Did you know this subculture existed before the script came along?
I'd never heard of this before. And the related literature at the time — we filmed it right after The Departed — was hardly even there. Any time you sit down with an apotemnophiliac — actually, even that is probably an outdated term for it. Now it's like "body image integrity disorder." The only support system I could find was online. The only explainable thing is that the anguish of wanting to be paralyzed is greater than that of amputation.
Doesn't that kind of unexplainability complicate you getting to know your character?
Yes. Fiona is riddled with contradictions. She shrugs off her syndrome as much as she revels in it. She's a total overachiever and yet she can't achieve the peace of wholeness. It's a real riddle. It's not something that she has full grasp of — it's not just one thing like her guilt or childhood or attention-seeking disorder. It's all of that — a full life's equation. That ambiguity actually was a big part of playing her. Even all these testimonies I read online are totally unexplainable; it's impossible to explain compulsion.
With the exception of The Departed, you often seem to be drawn to characters with afflictions: drug addiction, depression, psychosis and now, ahem, apotemnophilia. Do you ever consider that when choosing roles?
I probably do. That's what cranes my head about characters in scripts that I read. I'm sure of it, actually. But they're not always so extreme — they may just find themselves in very extreme circumstances where they're not extreme.
Like you seducing Nick Stahl with a corset, leg braces and crutches?
That scene is really interesting because wanna-bes will tell you this has nothing to do with sexual gratification. Instead it's about the arousal of their identity as a fully-functioning human beings only if they were amputated. That scene is very contradictory to that tenet, but Fiona herself is very much an actress; she has to play dress-up to discover certain truths about herself. And anyway, listen: Once you're wearing that outfit for a crew of people, you act. Plus we had Sinead O'Connor playing in the background — "Three Babies." I'm sure that helped.