Daughter of master of horror, Dario Argento, Asia has grown up living on movie sets around the world. The past few years have been quite tumultuous. She left Rome for Hollywood in search for an artistic acceptance that she felt she didn’t have in Italy feeling the weight of her father’s brilliance overpowering her own work. Her debut film as a director Scarlet Diva was loosely based on autobiographical events sketching one of her darkest moments in her life. For her second project she decided to bring to the screen J.T. Leroy’s novel, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things. Presented at Cannes in 2004, the film promised extraordinary performances from Peter O’Toole, Winona Ryder, Ornella Muti, Michael Pitt, Marilyn Manson, and Asia herself. The film, dealing with child abuse and sexual violence was censored and only select theatres chose to show it.
In January of 2006, a New York Times article openly attacked author JT Leroy declaring him and his writing a literary hoax. This accuse, of course put Asia in the spotlight, as everyone wanted to know whether she knew all along that JT was a farce but insisted on labeling her project as a biographical film to gain media attention. Disillusioned by Hollywood and the American press, she left her house in Venice Beach spending her time in between movie sets in France (for Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette) and Romania (for Tony Gatlif’s Transylvania) and doing various DJ sets throughout clubs in Europe.
Apart from film, music seems to be another area where you can express yourself, as you’ve directed videos for Bluvertigo, Marilyn Manson, and Le Royal as well as having done a duet with Brian Molko for Trash Palace, the famous Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin song, Jé T’aime Moi Non Plus. Recently you’ve begun a project with your partner Morgan, a duo band called 23 A.M. What can people expect from this?
“We’ve recorded some songs where we sing together in English. The style is very electronic music from the ‘80’s on the wavelength of Depeche Mode, to more modern sounds like the Deftones. We’ve only recorded about seven songs, we should come out with an album next year.”
Many people are curious to know whether you knew about JT’s true identity for a very long time but played along with his story to make your film appear more credible.
“I had a few doubts about him being a real man, but when I questioned his breasts I was told that he was taking female hormones. I’ll never truly know all the real truth behind his identity but that doesn’t make the book less brilliant. I don’t think that finding out that JT is a literary hoax took away from my film’s credibility because I used a lot of true feelings that I had felt in the past to best portray the role of Sarah. So in a way, my film is more credible than his book.”
Lately it seems like you and your partner Morgan are doing a lot of things together, not only have you started a band together but he acts opposite you in Transylvania as your lover who leaves you behind. How did that come to be?
“It kind of happened by accident. Before filming began, Tony organized a reunion with the whole cast. He wanted us to listen to the songs he had selected as the soundtrack for the film so that we could further understand the film’s atmosphere. That day Morgan was in Paris with Anna who had gone to Eurodisney that day and joined us that night. Knowing that he was a musician, Tony asked Morgan to play the piano and after playing he was done, he and the casting director exclaimed, ‘He’s Milan.’”
It appears that you missed out on Cannes this year because you were ill?
“I almost died. I had an infection in my uterus which got worse because the doctors didn’t know what I had. In the end, I had to do an emergency operation. The doctor later told me that if I would’ve waited any further I could’ve died.”
You’re known for improvising in films and not being able to stick to a set script. Do many directors appreciate that about you or are they angry when you deviate from the script?
“I feel the natural necessity to improvise. In order for me to feel that a film is really mine and that I’m really that character, I must be able to improvise. Be it a statement or an action. It’s up to the director later to either cut it the scene or keep it afterwards. Some directors may not appreciate improvising but most of the ones that I’ve worked with have understood my need for it and have let me get away with it or more than one occasion.”