Locked in syn­drome

She fooled Chris­tian Bale while play­ing a strip­per; her early re­tail ca­reer was cut short by Kung fu; and in ad­di­tion to her act­ing she has a zen web­site. The never­dull Teresa Palmer meets Tara Brady

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM -

I worked with a body spe­cial­ist to work out the body lan­guage and re­stricted move­ments of some­one who was tied up so much of the time. I was re­ally glad for it to be over

It’s a com­pli­ment of sorts. While film­ing Ter­rence Mal­ick’s Knight

of Cups, Teresa Palmer’s co-star Chris­tian Bale was so con­vinced by her per­for­mance (and im­promptu back­story) as a strip­per that he pre­sumed she was a gen­uine bur­lesque. It was only af­ter he spot­ted the Ade­laide-born ac­tor on a bill­board for Warm

Bod­ies that he re­alised she’s just very good at her job.

For Palmer, her per­for­mance in Knight of Cups was just mess­ing around with her co-star. Her method per­for­mance in Cate Short­land’s Ber­lin Syn­drome, how­ever, is the real deal.

Short­land’s third fea­ture, a psy­cho-sex­ual or­deal from the same sub-genre as Room and

Funny Games, fol­lows back­packer and­pho­tog­ra­pher Clare (Palmer) around the tit­u­lar Ger­man city. Soon enough, she bumps into Andi ( Sense8’ s Max Riemelt), a charm­ing lo­cal with per­fect English. Af­ter a late-night hook-up, Clare wakes up in Andi’s apart­ment and finds the door locked.

An hon­est mis­take? The re­moval of the sim card from her phone, the sound­proof walls and the un­break­able win­dows sug­gest oth­er­wise. Months pass, punc­tu­ated by failed es­cape at­tempts.

“It was as claus­tro­pho­bic as it looked,” says the 31-year-old star. “Ev­ery day I went into this pokey lit­tle apart­ment and got trau­ma­tised. I worked with a body spe­cial­ist to work out the body lan­guage and re­stricted move­ments of some­one who was tied up so much of the time. By the end of the film, I was re­ally glad for it to be over.”

Palmer­avoided the sourcenovel by Me­lanie Joosten, but she did pore over Natascha Kam­pusch’s mem­oir 3,096 Days. In 2006, 18-year-old Kam­pusch es­caped fromkid­nap­per Wolf­gang Prik­lopil, a com­mu­ni­ca­tions techni- cian, hav­ing be­ing held in a tiny base­ment for 3,096 days. Many were shocked that the vic­tim, who was taken when she was 10, grieved for her kid­nap­per af­ter he killed him­self, a sen­ti­ment that at­tracted sacks of hate mail.

“It was just har­row­ing to read,” says Palmer. “Her feel­ings for him were so com­pli­cated. She mourned what hap­pened to him. I had to be pre­pared to stay in that headspace and give my­self over to the ex­pe­ri­ence. This is what peo­ple go through in these hor­ren­dous sit­u­a­tions. This and worse. There were scenes that con­fused me even while we were shoot­ing them.

“Max did such a great job. If looks could kill. There were times when he looked at me that made me shud­der. That one crazy scene, when it’s Christ­mas and there’s mu­sic and presents and she’s dressed up and cook­ing. And she says some­thing and it’s like he has flipped a switch. It was re­ally in­ter­est­ing and chal­leng­ing work.”

It’s odd to catch up with Teresa Palmer in the same week that

Won­der Woman has taken a record-break­ing $223,005,000 at the box of­fice. Back in 2008, Palmer came tan­ta­lis­ingly close to star­ring in Ge­orge Miller’s Jus

tice League: Mor­tal. Weta work­shop had de­signed sets and cos­tumes and the cast – in­clud­ing Ar­mie Ham­mer as Batman, DJ Cotrona as Su­per­man, Me­gan Gale as Won­der Woman, Adam Brody as Flash, Com­mon as Green Lan­tern, Zoe Kasan as Iris Allen, and Teresa Palmer as Talia Al Ghul – were rar­ing to go.

Com­pet­ing Bat­mans

Days be­fore shoot­ing was due to be­gin, the plug was pulled on the $250 mil­lion project, a ca­su­alty of tax is­sues, the 2007-08 Writ­ers Guild of Amer­ica strike, and a fear of com­pet­ing Bat­mans. She was later at­tached to another Ge­orge Miller project, Mad Max:

Fury Road. But con­flict­ing sched­ules got in the way.

“I re­ally want to work with Ge­orge again,” says Palmer. “And I say again be­cause we did ac­tu­ally spend two months col­lab­o­rat­ing on the script and in re­hearsals for Jus­tice League. And we got to know each other so well. It fell apart but it was com­pletely out of our hands. Same with­MadMax.It was just­bad tim­ing. You do have to get used to dis­ap­point­ments in this job. And I like to think these things hap­pen for a rea­son.”

Sure enough, Palmer has had plenty to be get­ting along with. Since last Fe­bru­ary, she has ap­peared in Mal­ick’s Knight of

Cups; along­side Casey Af­fleck and Chi­we­tel Ejio­for in Triple 9; in the Ni­cholas Sparks weepie

The Choice; and in Mel Gib­son’s Os­car-nom­i­nated Hack­saw Ridge.

“I’ve worked with Cate [Short­land], Mel Gib­son and Ter­rence Mal­ick,” beams Palmer. “Three of my favourite di­rec­tors. Imag­ine. I had wrapped Warm

Bod­ies and I was look­ing around for strong women’s roles and wasn’t find­ing them, when Ter­rence’s film came along. It com- pletely rein­vig­o­rated my pas­sion for cin­ema. How he tells sto­ries, how he cel­e­brates ev­ery in­di­vid­ual, how he cap­tures some­one’s essence and puts it on screen: he’s such a unique, beau­ti­ful film­maker.”

She shot Ber­lin Syn­drome and Hack­saw Ridge si­mul­ta­ne­ously. Which must have made for con­trast­ing styles.

‘Beau­ti­ful vi­sion­ary’

Not so much as you’d think, says Palmer. “Cate sets up a play­ground and lets you play. She wants you to ex­plore in­side out and up­side down. The pa­ram­e­ters are there but it’s com­pletely lib­er­at­ing. You know you’re in the safe hands of a great sto­ry­teller. Mel is a beau­ti­ful vi­sion­ary. I love that he can bring bru­tal­ity and vi­o­lence into this po­etic space. And he does that re­ally seam­lessly. He’s an ac­tors’ di­rec­tor: he knows your vul­ner­a­bil­ity as an ac­tor and he knows how to get the best out of each of us.”

Teresa Mary Palmer was born in South Aus­tralia to Kevin Palmer, an in­vestor, and Paula Sand-

ers, a medic and mis­sion­ary. Her par­ents di­vorced when she was three and she at­tributes her act­ing ca­reer to be­ing an only child.

“My mum is su­per-re­li­gious,” she says. “She wanted to be a nun ini­tially, but then she had me and be­came a nurse in­stead. She does vol­un­teer work with the el­derly. My dad is a com­puter whizz guy, so that’s where his head as at. Grow­ing up, I re­ally wanted broth­ers and sis­ters, but not hav­ing com­pany forced me in­wards. And my imag­i­na­tion de­vel­oped from there.”

In 2003, aged 17, she won a lo­cal cast­ing com­pe­ti­tion, Search for a Movie Star, which pro­pelled the young­ster into the not-en­tirely-glam­orous world of shop­ping mall cos­tumed char­ac­ters.

“I was Straw­berry Short­cake, with a gi­noro­mous head that some­times fell off. I’d walk around the su­per­mar­ket wav­ing at kids. Then I got Kung Fu kicked in the back. So I moved on to other things. Santa’s Lit­tle Helper. Humphrey B Bear, which is a TV char­ac­ter in Aus­tralia.”

She laughs: “I did a lot of deep char­ac­ter work.”

She was still in her teens when a lo­cal stu­dent film-maker, hav­ing seen her head­shot, ap­proached her to be in his movie. That role, as a sui­ci­dal young rape vic­tim im­preg­nated by her brother, in the film 2:37 (2006), brought her to Cannes, and then Hol­ly­wood. She has sub­se­quently shared the screen with Daniel Rad­cliffe ( De­cem­ber Boys), Adam San­dler ( Bed­time Sto­ries), Sarah Michelle Gel­lar ( The

Grudge 2), Nico­las Cage ( The Sorcerer’s Ap­pren­tice), Édgar

Ramírez ( Point Break) and Chad­wick Bose­man ( Mes­sage from the King).

In 2012, she be­gan a thor­oughly mod­ern epis­to­lary ro­mance with the ac­tor and di­rec­tor Mark Web­ber. “I fanned out over his movie, The End of Love,” she says. “I didn’t know any­thing about him. It was not ro­man­tic all. Then he started fol­low­ing me. And then he took it to the DM. And then we chat­ted for 40 days and fell in love over emails.”

The cou­ple mar­ried in 2013 and have two sons, Bodhi Rain Palmer, 3, and For­est Sage Palm- er (born last De­cem­ber). As we meet, Bodhi is snor­ing on his mum’s lap. It’s a role that Earth mother Palmer – the co-founder of well­ness web­site My Zen Life, and its ma­ter­nal-minded sis­ter site My Zen Mama – is par­tic­u­larly pas­sion­ate about. Last April, in a de­par­ture from the typ­i­cal plumped, primped, pick­led and pounded shots that ap­pear in mag­a­zines, she graced the cover of Vogue in the park with her two boys.

“Peo­ple have all sorts of opin­ions and judg­ments about breast­feed­ing and all as­pects of­mother- hood,” says Palmer, who gen­er­ated some ridicu­lously dis­ap­prov­ing head­lines for breast­feed­ing Bodhi when he was two-and-a-half. “Un­for­tu­nately that’s the so­ci­ety we live in. Who­ever you are and how you par­ent, you should be ac­cepted. I thought so even be­fore I spent all my time ei­ther breast­feed­ing or preg­nant.”

She laughs: “I’m never go­ing to get the chance to en­joy red wine again.” Ber­lin Syn­drome is out now and is re­viewed on p11

I was Straw­berry Short­cake, with a gi­noro­mous head. I’d walk around the su­per­mar­ket wav­ing at kids. Then I got Kung fu kicked in the back

Teresa Palmer “I did a lot of deep char­ac­ter work.” Be­low: as a cap­tive back­packer in Ber­lin Syn­drome

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