Acting duo discuss new film XXY

In Lucia Puenzo’s new film XXY, Inés Efron and Martín Piroyansky lead as Alex, a teenager cursed by her indeterminate gender, and Alvaro, whose attraction to Alex leads him to discover his own sexuality. Unusually compelling and with a remarkably understated sensitivity, XXY is the rare example of a film that leaves a uniquely powerful impression – a fact officially recognised as the film was Argentina’s official Oscar entry for Best Foreign Language Film.

Speaking shortly before embarking on a Q&A session at London’s ICA, the duo appear to be drained following a hectic day’s schedule. Visibly older than their XXY counterparts, Piroyansky sparkles with ironic chatter about his favourite aspects of London (Ricky Gervais, Primark and Seven Sisters, since you ask) while Efron stretches, smiles and for the xth time today elucidates in her best English to another notoriously monolinguistic interviewer.

"You have to discover your sexuality, but you also have to face the opinion of your parents too"

What freedom did you have to interprete the characters in your own way?

Efron: Lucia knows what she wants, but she was also very open to what we thought.

Piroyansky: She trusted that the actors would go deeper into the characters and she was very open to our ideas, a lot of which made the script. For example, Alvaro needed something to attract Alex because was very awkward and too teenage. I draw and suggested that my character does likewise. You know when actors are drawing they’re just filling in the spaces! So I suggested we shoot me drawing and that’s what happens in the film.

Efron: Similarly, I made Alex’s diary and added some homemade things for her bedroom.

The unconventional sex scene is unlike almost anything else previously seen and will be one that sticks in people’s memory. I’m guessing that they’re awkward anyway, but given the circumstances it must’ve been more so?

Efron: I’ve had to do, not sex scenes, but kissing another actor and it was more awkward with him. (They both giggle and joke in Spanish). He’s asking me who I had to do that with!

Piroyansky: It was very choreographed, you put things here and you put things there, so it was very static. And we’re friends; we have sex all the time. (They both collapse in laughter again).

"She trusted that the actors would go deeper into the characters"

The film’s community is a very close knit society where everyone knows everyone else’s business, but how do you think the story would differ in a big city environment?

Piroyansky: For me, it would be better for Alex. “Small town, big hell”, if you’ve heard that expression?

Efron: I think it’s hard to say what would be better for Alex. I’d expect the city would perhaps be more open-minded.

The theme seems to be as much about the character’s relationship with their fathers as it is about the whole sexuality aspect.

Piroyansky: The movie says that you have to discover your sexuality, but you also have to face the opinion of your parents too, so that’s an obstacle that’s very complex too. These kids aren’t able to be totally free, they’re always under the watch of their parents.

Efron: Yeah, it’s very hard to say whether they’re good parents, bad parents or whatever. Alex’s parents at least appear to be open minded, but at the same time they have their faults as well. They’re not as open minded as they could be or as they think they are.


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