Film

Close-up: An Interview With Malena Villa

LUIS Ortega’s crime drama El Angel will set pulses races when it screens at the 2018 BFI London Film Festival (16, 19 and 20 October).

Based on the true story of Argentina’s most infamous criminal, Robledo Puch, the film follows a handsome young man named Carlos (played by newcomer Lorenzo Ferro) as he becomes involved in daring felonious exploits that earn him the moniker ‘The Angel of Death’.

To celebrate El Angel’s arrival in the UK, we spoke to one of the film’s exciting young stars – Malena Villa – about the true story behind the film, the magic of Luis Ortega, playing twins and much more.


Q: Vice described ‘El Angel’ as a ‘sexy serial killer movie like if Harmony Korine did true crime.’ That sounds a lot of fun to me. What excited you about this story?

A: The first thing that excited me when I heard about this film was the true story element. It always brings me some excitement to know that something I am watching actually happened in real life.

Then when director Luis Ortega gave me the script, I was amazed because it was completely fiction. It had all of the Robledo Puch acts – both horrifying and incredible – along with that magic Luis gives to everything he touches.

Q: You plays both twins – Marisol and Magdalena. Where do they fit into the story?

A: My characters were so much fun to play. I have never played twins before in my career. We really wanted to mark a difference between them, so it was a really special job. Especially with Marisol (Carlos’ girlfriend), she is more closely involved in his life and adventures. She also suffers more than Magdalena!

Q: How did playing twins work on a practical level for you?

A: Well, technically we used a double. We did all of the scenes twice, once with me as one twin and then as the other one. I don’t know exactly how it works, but the double had some track points on her face so that the fx guys could put my face onto her face.

It was really hard work because it took so many takes to do scenes with the twins together. We [Malena and the stunt double] had to change our clothes and hair twice for each scene – but it was worth it.

Q: In the trailer, we can see your character holding a gun and riding motorcycles. Did that add another layer of fun and thrill to the role?

A: Like I said, having the opportunity to play twins was incredibly fun. And if you’re able to hold guns and ride motorcycles while you play twins, that is even better.

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Q: As you referred to, the story is based on the life of Robledo Puch. Tell us more about how you were familiar with this infamous Argentinian criminal?

A: I was familiar with him because my dad was a big fan of the story. Since I was little, he told me about this “black ángel”. So for me it was easier to connect with the story than it was for Toto [Lorenzo Ferro] – he had no idea who Robledo Puch was.

For the movie I also read the book El Ángel Negro by Rodolfo Palacios, a famous Argentinian journalist who covered the whole story and interviewed the real Robledo Puch while he was in jail.

Q: I was surprised to hear this was Lorenzo Ferro’s first feature. What qualities did Lorenzo bring to the film and what was it like working with such a fresh actor?

A: Fortunately I had the chance to work with Toto from the beginning of this project and we made really good friends along the way. I watched all of his transformation, and it was a big transformation. At first he was such a shy kid who barely spoke and didn’t know that much about anything. Now he’s a rampant teenager with the face of a sexy serial killer. I miss the old Toto (laughs)!

Q: This really was a special experience for you, wasn’t it?

A: The whole experience of making this film was exciting because of this amazing cast and because the script was the best script I have ever read. I also think Luis is a magician and the whole movie was an amazing experience because of him.

Q: From the interviews I have read with Luis, he seems like a fascinating character. What was he like to work with?

A: He is. I was a big fan of his previous work, so when he gave me the script I had no doubt that I wanted to be in this movie. On set, he’s very calm and he creates a friendly atmosphere. He knows from the outset what he wants for the movie and that always makes everything easier.

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Q: You have been compared to Melanie Laurent in the past. Is there an actress or performer that you aspire to?

A: I really don’t know. Obviously my favourite actress and performer would be Gena Rowlands. But isn’t it a little pretentious to aspire to be like her?

Q: I watched a few videos of you singing and playing guitar on Instagram. You have a beautiful voice and I would definitely buy an album! Is that a career path you are pursuing or just a hobby?

A: For now, it is just a hobby. However, Toto is working on a mixtape – because he is also a rapper – and we did a song together. So maybe it is the start of something new.

Q: What led you to acting and what do you love about the profession?

A: My dad is an actor. I think that had something to do with me becoming an actress.

What I love about acting is having the chance to keep playing, just like a kid. Especially on films, something special happens when you have all these people working for the same goal. It becomes like a family trying to do their best to make the highest quality final product possible.

Q: I believe you wrote and will star in Juan Schnitman’s upcoming film ‘Rompiente’. How was that?

A: La Rompiente was an amazing and weird experience. I didn’t actually write anything. The thing is there wasn’t a script. We made the movie entirely by improvisation – that’s why all the actors became ‘co-writers’.

Juan Barberini had the idea to leave the cameras on at all times and to make the movie in just one day. It was something different and I think it turned out awesome.

Q: So we shouldn’t expect you to be moving behind the camera anytime soon? What does the future hold for you?

A: (laughs) I don’t know. I think acting is my thing. And if it is not that, my thing would be music.

Right now I’m working on a TV show for audiences in Argentina and Latin America. As well as waiting for some films to be released and other new projects. I have also been working with my manager in L.A, having some great auditions. So who knows? Maybe next time I will be shooting outside of Argentina.

Q: ‘El Angel’ is one of the films I am most excited to see at the BFI London Film Festival. Do you have a message to UK audiences before the screening?

A: Just go without clear expectations of the movie. Relax and live the movie. There is not much to analyse, it’s just an awesome experience.

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