Historical movies based on real events have the tendency to evoke at least one of the following feelings: sad, happy, grateful, thankful, intrigued, or frustrated. There are plenty more to add to the list, but at the end of the day, these movies recount the stories of so many brave (or maybe not so brave) individuals before us. The latest flick, The Zookeeper’s Wife starring Jessica Chastain, is based off the story of Antonina Zabinski and her husband, Dr. Jan Zabinski, who work together to save lives of hundreds of Jews underneath The Warsaw Zoo. One of the saved victims was sculptor Magdalena Gross, who was portrayed by actress Efrat Dor. We talked to Dor about her deep connection with this film, as well as her career in Israel and her dream roles.
Cliché: What was it that drew you to pursue a career in acting? Was it something you watched, a specific actor, or something else?
Efrat Dor: As far as I can recall, I always wanted to be an actress. Even before I knew what it was, I wanted to be the center of attention and put on a show or tell a story that moved everyone or made them laugh.
Your career blossomed after Asfur. How did you go about remaining levelheaded when the show was absolutely known almost everywhere? What did you take away from Asfur that you brought into the rest of your career choices?
Asfur was a very big hit, and I wasn’t prepared for all that brought on. I was chased everywhere I went by people and paparazzi. It all turned crazy in an instant, so for the next two years, I hardly left my house. It took me a while to understand that it is a form of love. Today, I am very flattered and happy to receive compliments, and maybe I got used to the change. I find family and friends really keep you grounded.
What is it about acting that excites you the most?
For me, it’s all about the story. I love telling a good story that the audience can take with them. To have them relate to or care about the story is everything, and if they see themselves, and it makes them feel less alone in the world, then that’s doing something.
What is the biggest difference working as an actress in America versus Israel? Has anything changed since the release of The Zookeeper’s Wife?
I find that both industries are completely about the art. However, the production level in the U.S. is much higher, so there are better conditions all-around for all departments. There is more time shooting each day, and everybody is treated with more respect. There’s also complete silence on set while working. In Israel, I find it is a bit more gorilla style, but it brings everybody together, so that’s fun, too! I think The Zookeeper’s Wife coming out has hopefully opened some international doors for me, which I hope will bring more interesting projects for me to take part in.
I love telling a good story that the audience can take with them.
What drew you to your character Magdalena Gross? Did you have a special connection to her?
My grandmother is Polish, and her mother, father, and brother were all murdered by the Germans. I grew up with many stories like this as her grandchild. When I received the script, I was just immediately feeling a deep connection. My grandmother was in my mind and thoughts throughout the filming. In some small way, I felt like I was telling her story.
While auditioning for the role, what did you do differently or the same that you think wowed the casting directors?
Because of my personal connection, playing the character in the audition was very emotional for me. I broke out in tears, and Niki (Caro), the director, said she thought that was a hard thing to do. She said that switching from two very different scenes (in the audition) and suddenly becoming so emotional and crying was difficult. I then explained how moved I was by the script and how important I felt it was to tell this story. I think the fact that we had a heart to heart conversation about my take on the character really made an impression.
I watched the film and it was heartbreaking but beautiful at the same time. While on set, and considering your emotional connection to the role, how did you go about composing yourself and remaining in your element?
Filming a movie that deals with such hard times and painful stories does affect me, and there is no getting around that. However, we did try to have some laughs in between takes to break the ice, and when we weren’t too tired, we would go out and explore the beautiful Prague (where the film was shot). Just knowing this is such a special story is worth it, and it is completely fine to experience the feeling of sadness and heartbreak. Those are important feelings to explore, both as an actor and a human.
Working alongside Jessica Chastain and Daniel Bruhl must have been an experience. What is the biggest thing you took away from working with them?
Daniel is very charming and polite; he was very pleasant on set. I think that is so important to make your colleagues feel comfortable. Jessica was so professional. I really picked her brain a lot about the craft and her ways of approaching a role. I basically learned she was a geek like myself and really works so hard on all of her characters. She makes bold choices and really commits to a project. Jessica gives herself in full to her partners, so I was very fortunate in that way. I learned so much.
Having done this role, what dream roles do you hope to one day take on? Do you have an overall goal as an actress, whether it be starring alongside someone or even possibly directing a film of your own?
I love drama, so I hope more beautiful stories and characters will be offered to me. I enjoy working hard and drowning myself in a project. It is always about the story for me. I also enjoy action and anything physical, so hopefully I can also take part in projects that incorporate that, too! And my dream? Well, is it too cheesy to say receiving an Academy Award?
When you’re not acting, how do you like to spend your free time? What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t an actress today?
I love spending time with my family. They are my everything. If I wasn’t an actress (I cannot imagine that, since that is all I’ve been since the age of 2, and all I ever wanted to be), I would maybe be a hippy who travels the world, makes lots of babies, and just lives life to the fullest.
Read more Entertainment Interview at ClicheMag.com
Photographer: Gilles Toucas, Makeup: Elie Maalouf, Hair: Michael Kanyon, Styling: Karen Raphael