Drug addiction, stripping and fairy-filled forests – in her acting and her art. Paz de la Huerta gives into temptation with electric effect. Sometimes, there’s really no other choice, she tells The Forumist
Paz de la Huerta was born and raised in New York by a Spanish father and a Minnesota-born mother. She has been acting since the tender age of 13, after being discovered by casting director Billy Hopkins when walking down the street in her Tribeca neighbourhood. “I was a punk-rock kid wearing leopard skin and spikes, with short, bleached-blonde hair. And I was asked to come in and read for the role of a girl giving herself an abortion. I had never taken an acting class in my life, but I knew it was about suffering. So I went into the room and I just cried,” says de la Huerta, recalling how she ended up starring in The Cider House Rules. It was the first in a series of bold productions, including A Walk to Remember and Enter the Void, as well as the HBO drama Boardwalk Empire, in which she played Lucy Danziger.
Apart from acting, de la Huerta is also a model and skilled painter who is known for her uncompromising artistic style. It’s a style that seamlessly leads us on to the delicate topic of temptation.
“My greatest temptation is the darker side of life – as in dangerous behaviours. While being aware of the consequences, I have fed into my temptations quite a lot over the years and paid a high price for that,” says 33-year-old de la Huerta, who is “tired but satisfied” after a long and productive day when we meet. She explains that she enjoys “taking things very far” and that she embraces the dark side and the dark side of herself, which she then likes to express in her work as an actress and a painter.
“I am fascinated by temptation. It could be bad, but it could also be good. If you do not give into it, you may never have your deepest desires fulfilled. So I feel it’s a lesson worth learning,” she continues. “But sometimes temptation can be fleeting and only give temporary satisfaction, while still demanding a heavy price. In love, for instance, we play a game where we can end up being hurt. But we are driven by temptation for that person, and we fulfil our fantasies through acting on what tempts us. It feels like heaven when you are in the midst of it, but it doesn’t last. Hence, temptation can also lead you into great trouble.”
Today, she describes herself as more cautious, having learnt from previous mistakes. And although she still likes to embrace temptation, she mostly does so through her work nowadays, which she considers “the safest place to do it in”.
“I dig very deep into my own demons and let them come out in my work. I approach my work with a huge appetite, and that’s where I also explore temptation a lot,” says de la Huerta. At the moment she is, among other things, working on the long-term film project Valley of Tears, for which she recently launched a crowdfunding effort to help with its completion. The plot is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s harsh 19th-century fairy tale The Red Shoes, a story about temptation and redemption, and about finding an end to suffering. “In Valley of Tears, Mary, the main character, redeems herself and is given a second chance. In real life we can get second chances, too, but we need to be careful. You always pay the price one way or the other.”
Another of de la Huerta’s current movies is Puppy Love, in which she believes she has given her best performance, and which she hopes to see premiering at this year’s Venice Film Festival. “My character, Carla, is a drug addict and feeds into her temptation every day. But at a very high price,” she says.
De la Huerta’s breakthrough performance could be said to have been in Enter the Void, a psychedelic melodrama set in the neon-lit nightclub scene of Tokyo. Notably, de la Huerta is said to have been chosen for her role by director Gaspar Noé, because “she likes screaming, crying and showing herself naked”. “Linda, my character in Enter the Void, was a stripper and gave into her temptation of stripping,” de la Huerta explains. “But that is a dark world and she did not end up very happy. At the same time, though, she also did it because she had to make a living.”
Just as passionate about painting as she is about acting, de la Huerta prefers painting scenes and dreams from what she refers to as “a lost childhood”, such as a visit to the circus or a forest filled with good-hearted fairies. Innocent temptations. Dreams that she would have loved to have seen come true in the past. “I get to live what I missed out on as a child through my paintings. Some people would say they are just fantasies, but I still see them as temptations, just healthy ones that do not come with a price tag,” she says. She’s currently working on a book project with some of her artworks, and preparing for her own show during the international art festival FIAC, held in Paris this October.
De la Huerta describes herself as an “extreme and honest” actor, and a model who is “creative and more of an actor”. Hardly anyone can have missed her appearances in the Vivienne Westwood SS15 fashion campaign, shot by Juergen Teller, and at the designer’s Paris show for her AW15 Gold Label, which de la Huerta famously closed by making out with a male model on stage.
“I had a lot of fun doing the Vivienne Westwood SS15 campaign. It all happened very organically. I felt that the outcome was quite strong – you can tell from the pictures how much fun we had. Juergen got some of his students involved and we had an incredible time. Vivienne told me that she had never seen a model working so hard before,” de la Huerta says of the shoot, which Teller conducted at the Academy of Fine Arts in Nuremberg, where he’s a professor of photography.
Despite growing up in New York with her family and having some of her closest friends in America, de la Huerta reveals she prefers Europe and the European lifestyle. Today, she is based in Paris. “America depresses me,” she says. “I feel that Europe is more built for artists than the US and that my work is more appreciated here. In Europe, creating art is about quality rather than just fame. And you create art because you live and breathe it. I feel inspired every time I leave my house in Paris.”
Fashion and beauty credits
#Featured Image Jacket and top by COS, knicker by Baserange, boots by Céline
#1 Shirt by Alexander Mcqueen, bikini by Baserange, boots by Céline
#2 Coat by Alaïa
#3 Bikini by Baserange, boots by Céline, coat by Alaïa
#4 Top by Balenciaga, knickers by Baserange, boots by Céline