Busted: How Agnes Bruckner Went From a B-Cup to a DD to Play Anna Nicole Smith
An actress got bigger boobs to get a part in a movie. Yeah, we know what you're thinking: not exactly breaking news for Hollywood. But, few actresses have done what the petite Agnes Bruckner did to star as the voluptuous Anna Nicole Smith. To achieve Anna Nicole's, uh, ample frame, Bruckner, who calls herself "flat-chested," didn't get breast implants, she wore prosthetic boobs.
Bruckner spent over four hours every day prior to shooting having the state-of-the-art prosthetics applied by three-time Oscar-winner Greg Cannom, whose previous work includes turning Robin Williams into a woman and Brad Pitt into an old man.
We spoke to Bruckner last week, where she talked at length about the "physical challenges" the character presented, and how that transformation impacted her own feelings about her body.
Was this sort of your ‘Raging Bull?’ Did you have to do a lot of weight loss or gain to play Anna Nicole?
You know, we had such a short amount of time to film the movie – we shot the whole thing in four weeks and we only had one week to really kind of rehearse and prepare. And we didn't want to take away for the movie so much with so many different changes when it came to her weight loss, her weight gain and all that stuff, even her boobs. We wanted to really kind of just focus on her story. But I think she was 5'11' but I'm 5'8", so there is not that big of a difference I think between our body types for the main part. So no, I unfortunately didn't have to do anything super crazy. But we did have a fat suit made and amazing cosmetics, obviously, and things that kind of helped me out with all the changes that she went through.
You underwent something like four hours of prosthetics to get made up like her. What did that do in terms of changing your physicality and/or your performance as a whole?
I think the first day’s call time for me was 2:30 AM. I'm a night person so I don't think I slept at all before the first day of shooting, but it was really amazing. I've done some prosthetics before, but not on this level. It was great – it was an experience; it was different. It was hard at times dealing with the glue and all the uncomfortable parts, really. But when I was fully in costume with them and with all the prosthetics, even when I was doing all the fat suit stuff, it does change your posture and it does make you feel different – and people react to you different. It's interesting to see people's reactions to the change. Because I don't have her breasts, so it was very funny at times. But it was great. It really helped, and we had an amazing team of make up and hair people and the prosthetics. So it was a great experience.
One of the things about Anna Nicole getting breast implants was that it seemed to be very empowering for her. Did you feel that sense, via your performance, after you sort of went through that process?
Yeah, I think that personally it made me more vulnerable because we're so decked out – just hair and make up, jewelry, and you know, other things hanging out; your wardrobe is really small. It made me feel more vulnerable because everybody is looking at you and your every move, and for me it's very uncomfortable. But I think Anna loved that. She loved the attention; she loved men looking at her and admiring her. So it was interesting that I was walking around by myself I would cover up and just kind of try to get people to stop looking – and I think with her it was opposite. So when I got on the set, you add the kind of a signature that she is, and kind of completely do a huge flip around and be the opposite because she really loved it and enjoyed it. So it was really uncomfortable for me, but it was a great kind of change and experience to go through and to kind of enjoy that side of being very feminine and very beautiful and sexy and all that stuff. It was interesting.
Mary Harron talked about the fact that one of the challenges she faced was dealing with the subject matter, since nudity was sort of integral to this character's life and yet making a movie for Lifetime meant that there were things that they were going to have to be cutting away from or fading to black. How reassuring or comforting was that to you?
I think that it's very true that she was not afraid to show her body. But having a prosthetic on actually made me feel very comfortable, and it was almost like I was wearing a shirt because it came all way up to my collarbone and went halfway down my body. So it was very comfortable for me. And Mary and Michael [Simmonds, the cinematographer] were both so respectful and very understanding when it came to what was going on with nudity. Especially when we were doing the stripper stuff, the stripper scenes, it got very strange at times because we shot at an actual strip club, which was really cool and we actually had these amazing stripper girls that helped me and kind of showed me some moves. It was fun. But I think we balanced it very well.
Well given the fact that she seems like more of an exhibitionist than maybe you are naturally, what do you feel like you either share in common – or where did you find common ground as you were playing her as a character?
I feel like my biggest connection to her or similarity to her was the love that she had for her son. I don't have any children, but I have family that I'm very, very close to and friends I'm really close to and she was a very, very loving person. She even loved people that were horrible to her and used her. She gave a lot of love I feel like and I can really sympathize with that and relate to that because I love my family dearly. That was I think our biggest similarity that I noticed when I watched her films and kind of learned about who she was.
Well, not necessarily just in terms of the physical transformation, but how important is transformation for you as an actor? I mean, to find a role that is very dramatically different from you as opposed to maybe finding a character with whom you maybe share more obvious similarities so that you can tap into their emotional core more easily?
It was a very scary decision to play Anna Nicole for me personally because I've never played anybody as kind of eccentric as her. It was very terrifying for me as an actor because I've kind of always played similar characters and characters like that I could relate to because they were very real. It was very, very nerve-wracking, but when you actually put Mary and Michael and the writers and all the actors together and get into costume and all that stuff, it really kind of helps and everybody came together and really made me feel comfortable in allowing me to become Anna. I felt very connected to her. And it was really strange seeing me that way, but it also made me feel very alive.
You say this is the most eccentric character maybe that you'd played, but I know that you were in ‘Wrong Cops,’ and Quentin Dupieux has a very sort of absurdist sense of humor. In which order were those films made, and do you feel like one might have influenced or enhanced the experience of the other?
I would like to play Quentin in a movie next; that would be amazing. Yeah, that was a very eccentric movie. We actually just had the premiere not to long ago at the Vista here in L.A. and I got to see everybody again. That was an amazing film and very different – he's so different in every way. Quentin does everything himself. He's behind the camera, he's the director, the edits, he picks of the music, he's the writer, everything. And he has such an artistic brain and just in every way. So it was really interesting to work with somebody like that because he was just completely in the zone. Everybody – Mark Burnham, who is a fantastic actor, I really, really feel like he just rocked that role in that movie. Marilyn Manson, who's also another crazy artistic person. It was a great experience. It was very strange.
Anna Nicole's life was, in a way, sort of an encapsulation of maybe the last 15 or 20 years of celebrity culture, because of so many little melodramas in her life. Ultimately what did you take away from the experience of playing her, or what do you maybe hope that audiences take away?
I think just the journey that she went through was so crazy, and I think she was a really beautiful person. I think she's really a lost soul. There's so many different sides to her and we just really wanted to tell her story and the kind of peaks and valleys that she went through. Yeah, I've gotten amazing responses from people and I was live tweeting on the night of the premiere and it was incredible – the responses I had gotten from people who were really, really truly dedicated fans of hers. And I think a lot of people just appreciate it, you know, watching another film about her or getting more information about her. It was fun. It was just really fun, and I hope that people just enjoy it – enjoy the movie.