Speaking to fellow actor Camila Morrone, the star of Mike Cahill’s Bliss covers our Spring 21 issue.
From AI to Instagram filters, how do we hold onto the tangible in a world constantly blurring the boundaries of real and unreal? This is the question posed by writer-director Mike Cahill in his new sci-fi extravaganza, Bliss.
Starring as the bewitching Isabel, Salma Hayek takes us on a spiralling journey split between two worlds, and two different versions of her character. First, we meet the Isabel who appears to have nothing, when she approaches a disillusioned man named Greg [Owen Wilson] and claims they are among a handful of humans on the planet — the rest is all an illusion. With powers to influence and alter the simulation around them, Isabel pulls Greg into a lavish fever-dream worlds away from her life living on the streets. Hayek’s own magnetism lights up this parallel universe on-screen as she guides us through the spectacle, unravelling our expectations and raising more questions with every turn.
Torn between Isabel’s persuasions and his increasingly concerned family (who Isabel insists are purely a simulation too), the film sees Greg grapple with which existence is a fantasy and which is the truth, something Cahill leaves open for us to decide too. By anchoring the story with relationships — a father-daughter bond versus the romantic allure of Isabel — Bliss is also a love story at its core, exploring how human emotions ultimately transcend any reality we can touch or feel.
For our Spring 2021 issue, Hayek speaks to Camila Morrone about what drew her to the role and the timely message behind the film, as well as her lifelong work as an activist and why happiness is rooted in simplicity.
“After I finished the film, I felt like last year was kind of a strange year or a parallel reality. In Bliss, you have the ugly world and the beautiful world, and you don’t know which one is real and which one is not. I feel that while we got scared over the possibilities of the real world with this horrible pandemic, people went into their machines to create an alternative, beautiful world; choosing what you can see, how you look, what friends you’re with. Technology has given us the possibility to reinvent a fantasy world to submerge yourself into, like in a bubble, and create all kinds of parallel realities. One of them is bingeing on all these different shows. That’s a way of escaping and being in another reality. So it’s coming out now, and I see it differently than when I was shooting it.”
On deciding to tell this story
“I had seen Another Earth by Mike, and I thought his mind was brilliant and interesting. Out of the blue he called me… He started talking and only half of the things he was saying made sense, but they moved me. I knew there was something really original and special. I said to him on the phone ‘OK, I’ll do it’ without telling my agent, without reading the script. I just feel it.”
On which world is really real
“At the beginning I thought the bliss world was not real. She has a drug problem and so does he, so that’s where they escape because they have a drug problem. But when I was playing the other Isabel, my judgments went away and I really believed. For a moment I was confused. Why not? Maybe there is another world we don’t know about, where we are something completely different. Why not one day there will be this bliss world, and she is just going back in time to a different place? It was a really cool thing to break away from myself and my beliefs and how far I could go with my beliefs. It made me question a lot of things.”
On creating two different sides to one character
“When Isabel is in what she believes is the real world, she is a scientist and she’s a rebel in that perfect bliss world. When she comes to this ugly world she’s homeless, but the translation of that rebelliousness goes into artistic. The place she lives everyone sees as ugly, but she doesn’t see it as ugly. She appreciates the ugliness because she comes from perfection. So imperfection and humbleness is very romantic to her.”
On progression in the industry and being at the height of her career
“It was not well seen if you were cool, if you stayed up with the trends and were excited about new things happening in our universe. And now, that’s not the case. I’m at the best moment in my career and I get to do cool films. He wanted me for this role, Mike, who’s a genius. He didn’t care about my age, he made the part whatever age I was because you don’t even talk about age in this movie. In this world, it didn’t matter at all. This kind of film, in these times, just reminds you that anything is possible.”
On the relevance of Bliss, preserving our world and appreciating what we have
“There’s many beautiful things that we have, so many blessings. This can already be bliss. What if this is the best we are ever going to be, and we’re not appreciating it and we’re not protecting it?”