The Van Helsing Interviews: Silvia Colloca and Elena Anaya

The Van Helsing Interviews: Silvia Colloca and Elena Anaya talks with the "Brides of Dracula".
Updated: 02-25-2004

Interview by Staci Layne Wilson for Interviews conducted on the set of VAN HELSING in Los Angeles, CA., May 2003.

Silvia Colloca: Verona, Bride of Dracula

Elena Anaya: Aleera, Bride of Dracula

Q: Elena, were you the bride in pink that I saw in the promotional reel?

ANAYA: Yes. I'm Aleera. Aleera is the youngest bride, and is the most jealous bride. She fights in the whole movie, trying to kill Anna and trying to have Dracula for herself alone. She wants no other women around.

Q: Who is Anna?

COLLOCA: She's a vampire hunter, so we don't like her very much.

ANAYA: She is my worst enemy!

Q: Can Aleera fly like Dracula does?

ANAYA: Yeah, I fly. I think in the promo that you saw, I was flying in Prague over St. Charles Bridge in 15 degree weather. You can imagine, with this dress, Prague, my first day working on the movie, I'm like, 'Oooh, flying... OK.'

Q: What's your background?

ANAYA: I'm from Madrid, Spain. This is my second movie made in The States. The first one was last year, and in Spain I've been working for 10 years. This movie, Van Helsing, is huge, enormous. The other one was the smallest production ever. I mean, it's American too. We did it as 12 friends in the house, three actors, the director also moved the camera, the actors put the lights up. In Spain, the other movies that I did, I worked with big and small directors and there were tiny movies, small crews, but not twelve. Maybe 60, 70 with professional people. In L.A., in the other movie, I think it will be a cool movie, because the script was amazing. We made the movie as friends. The experience was really good. Always, your work is the same: You have to tell a story, you have to make a character. It doesn't matter if there are thousands of dollars, millions behind it, or if there is nothing.

Q: And Silvia, what's your background? Do I detect an English accent?

COLLOCA: No, I'm Italian, actually. I sound English to American people, and I sound American to British people. It's my curse.

Q: Monica Bellucci, who is also Italian, started out her acting career as a Dracula bride – did that come to your mind at all?

COLLOCA: Of course, yes! I met her, and we talked about it. She was very excited about me doing this job.

Q: Did she have any advice for you?

COLLOCA: Have fun. Enjoy it, have fun. I have to say, she was very, very sweet to me. That was the first time I met her. We're not good friends; we just met once, but she was very encouraging and very proud that another Italian actress got a job like this, because it's very hard; we don't ever get to audition for such roles. It's very rare that an American production hires Italian-speaking actresses whose first language is Italian. So it's a big deal.

Q: We know you're a bride, but who is your character in Van Helsing?

COLLOCA: My character is Verona and she is one of Dracula's three brides. She is probably the first bride to Dracula. You can tell that, because she seems to be very confident and very wise, she never loses her temper and she will never go crazy about anything and she would never start hissing like a crazy vampire. She would just go very softly – and she is very dangerous for that reason because she is not very predictable. She may smile at you and grab your neck and suck your blood out. She is very wicked for that reason, but also you have the feeling that she is probably the oldest bride because she's self self-confident and you really realize that she's been around for awhile and she would never be bothered by a crucifix and this kind of stuff. She really doesn't care about it. She goes for blood. This is her nature. Not that she's really wicked, she is just a vampire. She loves her Master deeply and truly and she's not really jealous about the other two brides because she is the first one and if the Master was capable of love, he would have loved Verona. We know that the Master is a wicked and hollow man.

Q: What were some of the challenges of working in the cold weather?

COLLOCA: We were doing so many challenging things. When I first read the script, I thought, 'Oh, it's going to be like computer generated, and I'm not going to hang upside down, I'm not going to fly. It's going to be done on computer: Easy!' But it's not (laughs). They are going to use CG, but first of all it's gonna be us, so we've got to hang upside down for hours in the most uncomfortable harness you would ever imagine. We've got bruises on our bodies, our lungs and blood pressure, and of course you've got to act. It's very tricky. As far as me, I've been having some problem – well, I didn't want to tell them that I am a little scared about being up very high – vertigo's not my best friend, so... We were going to shoot a scene where we fly up a balcony and it's pretty high for me. I rehearsed that week, and I was so scared! I know some people would pay a thousand dollars just to work with the stunt guys or fly in a harness! The problem is, we have to look dangerous and confident, so I think it's going to take a couple more days' rehearsal on that to be perfect. Still, it's very hard but I think...

ANAYA: Tomorrow is the day! Go now to rehearse.

Q: You're not nervous, Elena?

ANAYA: I love to fly. I always wanted to fly. It's been one of my dreams since I was 3 years old. I remember saying to my mom, 3 years old, every day, 'I can fly!' Living on the ninth floor, it was dangerous. So now, the day I arrive to Prague, the first day, I fly over the St. Charles Bridge. I find this super extra professional stunt crew, and I say, 'I don't mind. If I have to go St. Charles Bridge, one side to the other, I don't. I just do, go.' It's so good, because they are so professional. That's a big difference from Spanish stunts – in Spain, I will do nothing because they misjudge the wire length to the distance. But here, with them, I will do whatever they want. It's true that the harness is not comfortable and you finish the day with bruises, but it's kind of cool, you know.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about acting while flying?

COLLOCA: I have to say that the fact I was not feeling very comfortable, especially when we were hanging upside down, was very helpful. Because in that particular scene the brides have to be very upset and miserable because Dracula is mistreating them. So, it was very helpful because I was feeling so upset I didn't really have to struggle against anything, it was just there. Stephen Sommers said it was perfect! As a matter of fact, I was not acting. It was real.

ANAYA: For me, what I do is, I have an idea of the scene. I have an idea of what I want to do. Then when we have time to talk with the director, I'll explain what I want and he says, 'Do whatever you want.' So, if I don't like it, I will change it. I arrive, they put me in the harness, we do rehearsals, I have the feeling, the energy. If I have to cry, I... like the other day, I felt so bad because one of the other brides is dead. We were so sad, crying, and I really go with the feeling. I arrived on set with my work done, and everything is so easy because you know what you have to do, what is your action, and it's more difficult if you're flying but you just incorporate the situation, even if you're hanging upside down and you feel like your head is going to explode. But if you have what you want to say inside, and if you are crying for something that is true inside, it doesn't matter. The camera always sees it.

COLLOCA: I agree.

Q: Can you talk about becoming the character?

ANAYA: When I'm working on a character, I don't look at other movies, like to see 'I like this, I don't like this'. Now, I saw a lot of vampire movies, like everyone. But I tried to make this character like two different states; one is really human, and the other is a monster. Half a bat, half a human. Because we are bats, we're flying. I tried to do the humanity, the human feeling and the heart that this bride has inside. The really big love that she feels with Dracula and, um, they want to be mothers. To have babies, and it's a really human thing. So, I tried to give it that part and also be a monster, with a monster face, monster hands and nails, a sound, a voice – a monster. A bat who flies and has this face. The human thing for me is very important because in this movie, the bat characters are not bats. They have human feelings and people are going to, I think, understand them.

COLLOCA: When I first read the script, I was a little concerned about what the vampires had to be like, because I really didn't want to give a cliché or standard. I could tell from the first script – now we have, like, the 11th – there a little more in it. When you see the old movies the brides just look gorgeous and beautiful and that's it. Maybe a little sexy, and that's it. This is the first movie where the brides have actions and they are very important in the story, and they really do things. They work things out, and things happen because of the brides. So, my deepest concern was to give Verona a human side because she was a human being before she died and she became a vampire. I wanted to give her that kind of state and I wanted to mix it with animal nature because she is a bat, she's a vampire. It's not because she is a vampire that she is wicked. It's just in her nature. She has to kill people to stay alive. And I think it's very romantic for some reason, because if you think about human beings, all their lives they try to look for love and caring attentions and everything and they struggle to find those things. For some reason, vampires have to find love in order to stay alive and it's very similar. There is a very deep relationship between Verona and the other two brides and Dracula. We've been together for 400 years, there is no reason why we should hate each other. Yes, Aleera is very jealous, but she loves the other brides.

ANAYA: Aleera is not so jealous with the other brides, Aleera is jealous with Anna!

COLLOCA: We are a family, and I really wanted to get this feeling and I really wanted to get the people to understand that when Dracula is being mean to us, still, he loves us. We are his brides. And Verona's, Aleera's, Marishka's deepest concern is become mothers, as Elena said. Which is a very human feeling. And, you're going to be so surprised at how miserable these vampires get when they lose their progeny and they don't want to try again because they don't want to face that feeling again. Their hearts could not bear that sorrow any longer, and they beg Dracula to stop it. It's a very human feeling, and I was glad we had a chance to show it. But still, there is a lot of hissing and clawing, which is very fun!

Q: Did Stephen give you a lot direction on the vampires' reactions, or did you come up with your own?

COLLOCA: There are a lot things in common because we all are part of the same family, the same species, but we have very, very different personalities, the four of us. And they show. You can tell exactly how Aleera is, how Verona is, how Marishka is, and how Dracula is. Even though we are all part of the same family, we are very individual creatures and Stephen Sommers really wanted to distinguish everybody in this sense.

Q: Can you talk about some of the makeup you have to wear while in full vampire mode?

COLLOCA: We have a beauty makeup for the gorgeous looking brides, and then we have the horror makeup.

ANAYA: Which is the best!

COLLOCA: I really loved it. Yeah, we have prosthetics and we look very scary.

Q: Can you talk about the costumes?

COLLOCA: We had Gabriella Pescucci as our costume designer, so I don't ever need to need to tell you about her. Very self-explaining.

Q: How to do they differentiate your looks in the movie? Do the three brides dress differently?

COLLOCA: A little. We look very similar; you can tell that we are from the same family and we've been together for 400 years. But still, Elena is in pink and has red hair and you can tell she is the passionate one. I have a yellow and green outfit and my hair is straight and you would think she spends time straightening her hair – she really cares about her look very much. Marishka is the gypsy one, the wild one.

Q: What's it like shooting the parts that will later be computer-enhanced?

ANAYA: The best part, for example, in the middle of a take last week we were shooting a lot of scenes with Anna and from one take to the next, my character is going to bite her and then become the monster. A guy comes and puts little dots on my face and then they have the face instead of spending six hours in makeup. It's wonderful. After that take, they removed the dots, said, 'OK, let's do another take!' I think it's wonderful. They didn't have to put bat ears on me and everything.

Q: Your characters sound rather tragic. Are there any humorous moments for the brides in the movie?

COLLOCA: As far as my character, I really love her first line in this movie. It's very self-explaining about her character and about what most women would think about men. We land in this Byzantine village because we want to kill Van Helsing and everybody, and Marishka asks Verona, 'Why don't we just let the werewolf kill these people? Why dirty our hands in this?' And Verona says, 'The werewolf? Never trust a man to do a woman's job.' This is my favorite. I'm going to use it over and over again, because I totally agree! So there is some humor, yeah. It's just well hidden.

Q: Are there any scenes you had with Hugh Jackman that stand out?

ANAYA: I had a scene with him, in the village where we fight. There is a moment in the middle of the of the movie, when we've got Anna and Van Helsing wants to rescue her. And I don't want Anna in the castle. I don't want Anna close to my Master, Dracula. I meet Van Helsing on the bridge, he's got Frankenstein, and I say, 'Let's make an exchange' – like, Frankenstein for Anna, and he says, OK. I can't tell the rest!

Q: What is Hugh Jackman like to work with?

ANAYA: I want to tell you something. That first day we shot on the bridge, it was like 12 Fahrenheit. I'm not joking. It was inhuman weather. So, we shot the first day, like big shots. The second day, close-ups. So the second day they start with my close-up at 5:30 in the morning. I knew no one was going to be there. They were going to put a mark close to the camera and say, 'OK, now you say your lines.' Five-thirty in the morning, my second day on the movie, with this lovely weather, I saw someone standing close to the camera, and it was Hugh! He was there at 5:30 in the morning to give me lines.

COLLOCA: He's adorable. He's the one who will run after you, because he forgot to say hi. When you're working on a such a big deal, you probably expect it from the leading actor to be a very good person but it doesn't happen really often. I'm serious. He's adorable. I have to say, I have this feeling with everybody I'm working with on Van Helsing.

Q: Are you shooting today, or are you here to practice?

COLLOCA: No, we came here for you!

ANAYA: It's good to have a day off because since we are here – this is the third week – we have been shooting every single day. There is a moment when your body needs to rest. In Spain, we shoot less hours. And we have one hour for lunch. Here, it is 30 minutes –

COLLOCA: Yes, it's horrible!

ANAYA: You have to be on set at 5:30 in the morning, and then you get home at 8:30 p.m. When I go to my hotel at night I can't remember where I am! I don't know where my room is.

Q: It's a very international cast and crew isn't it?

COLLOCA: Mm-hm. It's very interesting, actually. We have a couple of people from Australia, like David Wenham, Hugh and Richard Roxburgh, and people from Europe. The vampire family is amazing because the Master is from Australia, and one bride is Californian, one is Spanish, and one is Italian. So, it was very hard work for our dialect coach to get our accents even because we would all speak in different accents.

Q: Where were your characters all supposed to be from?

COLLOCA: Transylvania. We all sound very (adopts accent) Transylvanian.

Q: Like Bela Lugosi?

COLLOCA: Yes, my favorite!

Q: How was it working with Richard Roxburgh? Do your performances differ in how you deal with the Master?

COLLOCA: We talked about it a lot before shooting. We rehearsed in his trailer and we talked about all the scenes we had to do together over and over again. And it was very surprising. We all had the same feeling about what we had to do. It was very emotional, very intense. But it was easy to do because we all knew what was going to happen and how the brides would react in a very similar, but personal, way to him. It was good rehearsing, because it's a very delicate situation where you can tell that he's mean but probably he's not that mean and they really love him. They are ready to forgive him all the time.

ANAYA: The most important thing was to create the same code: the same language, movement, same things – you know, same thing you see with animals. When animals are in the same family they do similar things. So yes, it was important for the actors doing the vampires scenes to have the same code. We got it, we found it. It was cool.

COLLOCA: Yes, it was very cool.

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