Johanna Wokalek • Actress
Shooting Star 2006 - Germany
by Bénédicte Prot
If Johanna Wokalek's career on the big screen is only starting, the training which led there was very complete: since her studies at the famous Max Reinhard Institute in Vienna, she has only left the stage to act in TV series and appear in her carefully chosen first films: the successful Aimée & Jaguar (1999), by Max Färberböck, Hierankl (2003) by Sebastian Steinbichler which earned her the Bavarian Film Prize and a Promotional German Film Prize, and last year's big hit Barefoot [+see also:
film profile], for which she played with and was directed by Til Schweiger. In only three beautiful films — and two challenging leads —, Johanna has charmed the critics, the public, and is about to conquer the Berlinale.
Cineuropa: When did you decide you would become an actress? How did you get your first role for the screen?
Johanna Wokalek: I can't tell exactly when I decided to become an actress. What I do remember is that already at school, I jumped on every single opportunity to act. That is how I increasingly felt the need to express myself.
My first role was in Aimée & Jaguar. The first audition took place without the director, who had logistic impediments. I just met the casting lady and she sent the video to the director. Two days later, I got a call from him asking me to play this part. It is amusing to think I got this important role without meeting the director in person first.
You also act on stage. How do the two sides of your career combine?
For me it Is wonderful to do both because after a play, I am always keen on being in a film, and conversely... It is lovely to alternate between these two things. For me, theatre and films make a great combination.
Your first lead was in Hierankl. How did you join the cast? What did you learn from this experience?
Actually, the way I joined this project is quite amusing. When I first met the director, we only talked about the script. He was in fact already sure he would take me because I had been strongly recommended by the casting lady.
I had a fabulous time making this movie; all my colleagues were fantastic. Playing Lene was quite an enriching experience. Not only does this character fall in love with a man she does not know is her father, but she also ends up having an affair with him. Her becoming aware of the incestuous nature of this relationship was really difficult to play.
How would you describe the function of the actor in the creative process?
The actor's vision of the role is crucial. It all happens naturally. When I read the script, I create a mental picture which would be difficult to describe concretely, but which appears as I act —the very character I imagine eventually surfaces by herself.
Collaborating with the director is all the more pleasant if he and I have the same idea of my part. In this case, our mutual trust allows me to develop and play my character freely.
How do you feel about representing Germany as a Shooting Star? What do you expect from this event?
I am really grateful for being selected. It is a real honour. Moreover, I see it as a great opportunity to meet my colleagues from all over Europe... I am looking forward to an exciting time.
What are your projects for 2006?
I am currently deeply involved in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof for the Burgtheater and in other projects, but as far as films are concerned, I am afraid I can´t give you any details right now.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.