Three Great Things: Vicky Krieps

The breakthrough star of Phantom Thread, who's currently starring in the complex drama Hold Me Tight, on what gives her life.

Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark the September 9 theatrical release of Hold Me Tight, a complex emotional drama directed by Mathieu Amalric and starring Vicky Krieps, the virtuosic actress – who had her breakthrough role opposite Daniel Day-Lewis in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread shared some of the things she loves most in life. — N.D.

Looking at a Wall
It sounds a little crazy, but I love looking at a wall. What I mean by that is just being in silence. I really enjoy the moments in a day when I am looking at a wall or a pavement, or just sitting at the bus station. It’s become a rare thing in general, but I did it as a child and I continue to do it, to take the time to switch off the computer in my brain. It’s different from meditation, which I also do, but it’s certainly connected. At the start, it feels like being bored, but then I sit in my boredom and suddenly I am relieved of the need to go and do something or call someone. I always feel a little mischievous; it’s like cutting a slice out of my time.

When I’m doing this, I look at the color of the wall. Then I see the paint on the wall and how old the paint is and where the paint is coming off. Then I think, when was it last painted? Sometimes I can see paint under the paint. If it’s a brick wall, I wonder, where did the bricks come from? And who put the bricks there? How many people were needed to put this wall up? In big cities like New York, it’s perfect, because you can think, who was the guy who laid the first brick, when you have all these thousands of bricks above it? It was probably someone who immigrated. And then I wonder, what was it like being there at that time? It must have been so busy because there were no cars, so everyone was on the street, pushing the other people aside.

It’s the same when I’m sitting on a set looking at the table with beautiful flowers on it and asking, What are these flowers? What do they smell like? Where do they come from? And then instead of thinking about who bought them for the set (which I could too), I go to something character-related: My husband bought them? How nice. Or did I buy them? Yes, I bought them this morning. I always buy these ones, I think … It’s something I do naturally in my work. It fills my space. I like to be where I am when I am where I am. Being an actor means I’m in a place where we play pretend. In my pretend game, what feels great and what makes me feel surrounded is seeing what I observe as part of this game. And then everything becomes part of it, even the lighting equipment or the camera. Sometimes it’s conscious and it’s something like the flowers and it’s real. Sometimes it’s a cable, and then I have this strange feeling regarding the cable. But, of course, the cable doesn’t play a role in my game because my character doesn’t have a cable and I don’t have feelings for cables in general. But I do go to the cable for some reason, because I’m looking for a place to look into, to rest my eyes for a moment. And the cable becomes that place. I let go in order to be empty. I think every artist needs to be empty to create or to channel. So the emptier you are, the more you can put inside, or get out, or channel, or come up with.

Everyone has a different way of getting empty, and my way is to become present. I become present by focusing on the things that surround me in the moment. But then this becomes almost like a trance, where I transcend the moment and become related to what just happened in the story. I really like to be in that tapestry of the mind. And once I build my tapestry, it’s like a breath that I hold. I don’t go on my phone. I don’t go and drink the hundredth coffee of the day. I just stay in my chair next to the table and the lamp, and I wait for everyone to come back.

A Big Meal with Family and Friends
I love cooking and having a big meal with family and friends. Even when I’m working, I have the tendency to invite everyone to my room, even if it’s tiny. I remember making a fish in my hotel room for Barry Levinson and all the actors on The Survivor. I had literally nothing to cook with, but I put the fish on a baking tray with a little bit of oil and salt, and that was it. And we sat at the table and ate it off my one breakfast bowl and plate.

It’s all about giving, and sharing a moment. It’s caring about other people. I like to care about other people as much as I like to be cared for myself, and a very important part of my life is keeping up the circle of giving. You give and you take and you give … and sharing a meal is the most genuine and simple moment to just open yourself up to others – to be and have a conversation – and it’s easier to do over a meal. It makes it real. Maybe because I’m an actor and I have to do so much with the invented, I really celebrate the simple things in life. A good meal can be so simple and you really don’t need anything; you can cook with water, fresh ingredients, a bit of salt. I have been to very expensive restaurants, but those meals were definitely missing the one ingredient that I find when my mom cooks for me or when I eat at someone’s home, which is the love of the person making the food. It’s a special ingredient and it changes everything.

Being in Nature
Whether it’s swimming or walking or hiking or riding a horse, I love being in nature. When we go into nature, we go home. I think that’s because it’s where we come from, and we are much more primitive than we like to believe or than we force ourselves to be. So when we go into nature, everyone has that moment when you just breathe in the air – sea air, garden air, forest air – and something happens: you go home.

I go into nature as much as I can. Working in movies, I end up in the studio a lot, but even in studios I can find a little patch of grass next to the parking lot which I can go to. There’s a movie I did called More Than Ever, and in one scene my character is coming out of the forest. So, I ran out of the studio to a little shitty piece of grass with a few branches, because I needed something like nature. I told them to shout “Action!” from inside the studio outside to me on my little patch of grass, because I needed to feel like I was in nature. If someone had seen me, they would have thought it was completely silly, but I just needed nature. And I always find it somewhere.

Vicky Krieps is an internationally acclaimed actress who is currently starring in Mathieu Amalric’s latest directorial feature, Hold Me Tight, which opens September 9 in theaters. In 2021, Krieps’ starred in several high-profile film projects, including Ferdinando Cito Filomarino’s Beckett, opposite John David Washington and Alicia Vikander, Mia Hansen-Løve’s drama Bergman Island, opposite Tim Roth, and Barry Levinson’s The Survivor, and M. Night Shyamalan’s Old, alongside Gael Garcia Bernal, Thomasin Mackenzie and Alex Wolff. Krieps had her breakout role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, opposite Daniel Day Lewis, which received an Academy Award nomination in the category of Best Motion Picture.