Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere actress Thùy Anh gets personal
19 years old, Hanoi-born, a student at the Banking Academy, Thùy Anh lives with her family. A very normal family, one which sets her an 11pm curfew and which has no connection whatsoever with the art world. And yet Thùy Anh pocketed roles as the main actress in one TV series and two movies (going on three) from the age of 14. It’s not how these things normally happen here.
The young actress who is the star of the hit film ‘Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere‘, is both very special – clearly very talented – and at the same time incredibly ordinary. The press about her has been mixed. For one thing articles have focused on the sex scenes in Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere, Thùy Anh described as ‘engaging in daring hot scenes’, with much of the rest of her performance brushed over. And she has a full on schedule of interviews and press, when we meet with her she’s just back from one interview and off to another straight after our talk.
Interview & Photos by Ha Dao ● Edited by Rose Arnold
‘I always keep screenplays as mementos. The screenplay of my first movie, ‘Gang of Four in Class 10A8’, is thickest because the filming lasted for a year. Back in high school, I had trouble memorising subject matter like literature and history, but that never happens with a script. Sometimes I learnt three or four pages by heart in one go.
But of course I forgot my lines a lot on set, mostly due to stress. So the crew had to do it over again. The record was the birth scene in ‘Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere’, which we had to redo 29 times even though that scene actually has no dialogue.
After finishing Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere, I was haunted by Huyền (the main character) for a while – always feeling somewhat sad, lonely and self-pitying. Two months later I got several casting offers, but I could not act cheerful like the character Phan Linh (Thúy Anh’s role in ‘Gang of Four in Class 10A8’) anymore. I often don’t know any more if it’s is me thinking or Huyền thinking. Even though my character and I are hugely different in real life, I forced myself to become her.’
Maps, Train Tickets, ID Cards from Film Festivals in Europe
‘This is everything I kept from my recent trip to Europe. It was actually my first time being far away from home. I’d love to be independent and always wished for such an experience, backpacking style, a long time ago, but my parents didn’t want that for me. It’s dangerous for girls, you know. Luckily I had the film festival as an excuse and an Italian friend I knew from Hanoi.
I had to carry a big suitcase of red carpet gowns to attend the festivals in Venice, which I then left at my friend’s house in Torino so I could move around freely. I traveled from Torino to Paris, then to Rome. I also visited five beachside villages known as the ‘villages leading to heaven’. In the hostel I stayed at, I shared a room with a few strangers. We went out to eat and drink together and I asked them to take photos of me, because selfies are just not enough.
It was a rushed journey because I could only stay in each place for two days at the most. Anyway, I’m so happy and proud to have done that myself at the age of 19, having traveled alone and making friends along the way.’
‘I only brought two lipsticks with me today, but I love lipstick! I learned how to tog myself up several years ago, when I was in Gang of Four in Class 10A8. It was a very gaudy style of make-up, but gradually I started doing my makeup like that all the time.
But after the movie was done, I quit makeup. Now when heading out I only put on lipstick and nothing else. I love professional makeup and glorious dresses too, but talking about comfort, nothing can beat the feeling of a bare face. Beautification can be a real burden. Each time I go to the studio to film or for photos, it takes a huge amount of time to prepare, not to mention washing off the makeup afterwards. Being a public figure, keeping a nice image is a must. But sometimes I just want to be normal like everyone else and not have to force myself.’
Pen from my father
‘This is a gift from my father from when I was in secondary school. It was a surprise to see such an elegant pen, like a manager’s. I have only used it a few times and but have kept it since then.
Actually, my parents have never guided or supported my acting career. They just wanted their daughter to lead a normal, stable life. But I always wanted to be independent and when I saw the casting call online for ‘Gang of Four’, I applied for it right away, thinking that it would earn me some money. I did not have any interest for acting or any kind of performing before.
Before taking the [university] entrance exam, people asked me if I aimed to attend the Academy of Theater and Cinema, but I didn’t. If I studied acting, I would know every aspect of it. And honestly, I wanted to know more than that and break away from the traditional way of acting.’
Thùy Anh landed the role as the main actress in the TV series Gang of Four in Class 10A8 at 14 when she first met director Nguyễn Hoàng Điệp. She performed in another movie H’mong Sister by French director Jeff Wong before collaborating with Nguyễn Hoàng Điệp in 2014 in the director’s debut feature film Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere. She’s currently filming the movie The Endless Road by director Síu Phạm.