Do you remember when you had to play a tree in your grade-school play? Some of that performance experience might come in handy if you’re ever auditioning for Spike Jonze.
“The only note I got from my agent was that they wanted me to dance like a tree,” said Leftovers actress Margaret Qualley, star of the original, viral Jonze-directed Kenzo World perfume ad, which featured her dancing and contorting her limbs with a back-bending frenzy. Speaking at a dinner thrown by Kenzo designers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim to celebrate the new Kenzo World Intense perfume, Qualley and Leon recalled the making of the unique movie, which has been watched over 6 million times.
“I get to Spike’s apartment and he’s there. I’m terribly nervous because I’m such a massive fan. We sit down and talk, I filibuster while I try to calm myself and tell him bizarre anecdotes about my father that have nothing to do with why I’m there. He gives me a vague idea of the story and concept. He plays the song [the same one heard in the ad] and is like, ‘Okay, want to improvise?’ He records it on his iPhone. I dance like a psychopath for about an hour, literally until his phone dies.
“During it, he was saying things like, ‘Now you’re a vampire, now your arm is trying to attack you, and you’re eating your pinky.’ I’m crawling on his floor, jumping on his chairs, it’s winter and I’ve got a turtleneck and stockings on and by the end, I’m drenched in sweat and out of breath. Then I get up and he’s like, ‘Nice to meet you.’ I’m like, ‘You too,’” says Qualley.
“My agents called me after and asked how it went and I said, ‘Either he thinks I’m an absolute psychopath, and am just bananas, or this is going to work out.’ It turns out, Spike both thought I was a psychopath and I would work out.”
Leon explained, “I got a text right after from Spike that was like, ’I found the perfect person. Margaret gave me something that almost rescripted what I had.’”
Qualley and Sia choreographer Ryan Heffington rehearsed the dance routine for a week prior to shooting while occasionally using Jonze’s dog Wolfback as a prop, with some of the moves from Qualley’s original audition tape incorporated into the ad. During the course of filming, Qualley didn’t use a stunt double and threw out her neck.
“I threw my neck out, but it was one of the coolest things! When I was a little kid someone told me Tom Cruise got a massage every lunch so I used to joke that you’ll know you made it when you get a massage at lunch. And after throwing out my neck, Humberto, Carol, Spike, and Ryan got me a masseuse during lunch! I FaceTimed my sister Rainey and was like, ‘I made it!’” Qualley said excitedly.
Click through the slideshow to see more pictures from the event, which included guests Selah Marley, Andreea Diaconu, with Jonze attending (via FaceTime) with Andrea Dimayuga–prepared food from Mission Chinese.