Actress and acrobat Erica Linz recently shared her experience making Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away which was released on Blu-ray and DVD on March 12.
Capturing the feats of the extraordinary artists up close using 3D cameras that sometimes soar 70 feet in the air, Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away tells the story of a young woman named Mia (Linz) who looks for an escape and finds one when she encounters a handsome aerialist (Igor Zaripov) at the circus.
When their eyes meet, The Aerialist slips and falls, dragging Mia with him into another world. Mia and The Aerialist become separated and travel in a place that exists between life and death to find each all over again.
Produced by James Cameron and directed by Andrew Adamson (Shrek), Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away takes audiences on a wondrous and spectacular 3D journey across the imaginative landscapes of Cirque du Soleil.
To celebrate Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away, The Deadbolt caught up with longtime Cirque “actor-bat” Erica Linz to learn more about creating Worlds Away, how she related to her character, and how she made the transition from the stage to the big screen.
THE DEADBOLT: I think Worlds Away is a great example of how film and 3D technology really enhances performance storytelling. How do you see it?
ERICA LINZ: I think that’s an excellent statement and I would agree wholeheartedly. I think it was the right time to make this film where you could take 3D and not only make it incredibly crisp but also slow things down to so many frames-per-second where you can see the detail on the acrobat’s face or the chalk that pops off of their hands when they catch.
You’re going to lose, for a live performance, that element of danger of what could happen. It’s beautiful to be able to replace that with an intimacy you couldn’t get from a theater.
THE DEADBOLT: In relating to Mia, did you connect to her on a level that she was looking to be part of something extraordinary like you’re now part of Cirque du Soleil?
LINZ: Definitely. When I was a teenager and I saw Cirque du Soleil for the first time, it absolutely changed my paradigm. I have a background in gymnastics and a background in theater, and each of those are things that I like to do. There wasn’t enough flipping in Shakespeare and there wasn’t enough creativity in gymnastics, so it was like finding this weird home where I belonged.
I think I related to Mia in the way that she’s kind of a “normal-ish” girl from a small town looking for something different, an adventure. In a lot of ways, me going to Cirque du Soleil was parallel to her getting dumped into the whimsical world of Cirque du Soleil.
THE DEADBOLT: What did you need to do for the audition? Was there anything different about it from what you’d normally do?
LINZ: The interesting thing about filming it and moving through the audition room on these really big stages was creating a performance that was viable for camera. It’s a much more subtle thing and internalized thing to the physical performance, which is exaggerated and uses your entire body to indicate anything.
Initially we just did a video audition and then Andrew Adamson sent out a coach that he likes to work with. She came to hang out with us for a week to make sure we were okay before we got started.
THE DEADBOLT: What type of new appreciation did gain for all of the other worlds in Cirque du Soleil?
LINZ: The critical thing for me is that after ten years of being in Cirque du Soleil, everything you do, everything you do in life, becomes normal. I remember being this wide-eyed teenager who first got cast in Cirque du Soleil and feeling like everything was insane. All of these people seemed larger than life and untouchable to me.
After a decade, it becomes so commonplace that you walk into your dressing room and there’s a contortionist completely bent-over with her rear-end on her head. It sort of doesn’t register anymore.
Just seeing raw footage, there was one day when we were at the show Kà, where I had been performing for six years, and I got to go out to the trucks and watch some footage as it was being taken. I felt completely reignited with this whimsy and this wonderful world. I came running back in like I had the biggest secret. I was like a kid in an acrobatic candy store all over again.
THE DEADBOLT: How hard was it to perform for the film since things were shot so out-of-sequence?
LINZ: Good question. From the standpoint of doing film, with the way it’s written, you can shoot the first scene last and the second in twenty seconds. You have to keep track of where you are in the journey and where you’re coming from. It’s not a linear thing where you know your character’s struggling because it’s coming out of nowhere.
The second thing that’s different is that for an acrobatic number, you get up, you give it your all once. In linear filming, you’ll get up and you’ll have to run it, stop, and do a camera change. For an acrobat it’s tough because you have to warm up and prevent from getting cold.
THE DEADBOLT: Since you know the stage so well, were you intimidated at all by the needs and requirements of a film?
LINZ: Terrified, absolutely terrified. It was really exciting but really an intimidating process in general. You had to change your performance in a way that suddenly all of the habits over ten years get stripped away so you’re not going insanely over-the-top when you’ve got Andrew Adamson’s narrative being shown in 3D.
After coming from Cirque du Soleil, all of those performers are like family to me. I respect and admire them all deeply. Out of all of the performers in Cirque du Soleil, why would I be given the opportunity to represent them? It was a really heavy mantle to carry.
It was pleasantly surprising to see that hometown pride and support from everybody. The feeling was basically you’re one of our own and we’re proud of each other. That ended up being a really cool thing.
THE DEADBOLT: Since much of Cirque is about using your imagination, how did you have to use yours while shooting to see what was possible for the film?
LINZ: Well, in general, as long as you imagine that you’re with the love of your life when you are seeking The Aerialist in some crazy dream out there. What would it be like to be on the couch with the person you miss the most? You get that look in your eye. It’s just finding that thing your character can relate to and creating that moment for the public so that it comes from a sincere place.
Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away is available on Blu-ray and DVD everywhere.