11 Riveting Things We Learned From Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Talk With Marina Abramovic

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The artists are present. Photo: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Only at the pop-cultural melting pot that is the Tribeca Film Festival does a leisurely Saturday afternoon include a tête-à-tête between the Academy Awards’ newest filmmaking darling and the single most well-regarded performance artist alive. It’s hard to imagine a more intimidating interviewee for the Birdman and The Revenant director Alejandro González Iñárritu than the great Marina Abramovic, a woman so intense that her silent stare has reduced strangers to tears. (“She is the queen, right? I’m super nervous,” Iñárritu joked.) But they were perfectly cordial with one another during their chat Saturday afternoon, discussing everything from their posthumous legacies to fart jokes to the hazards of mood-stabilizing medication. Here’s what we learned.

Marina Abramovic is not going to abide by your itinerary.
Abramovic began by playfully reciting the festival-assigned minute-by-minute breakdown of the afternoon’s itinerary — “Final question, 3:31. Who wrote this?” — and then proceeded to ignore it completely, cutting right to a question from the audience.

Neither Abramovic nor Iñárritu will ruin your child’s birthday.
During the audience Q&A portion of the afternoon, a young boy stood up to the mic and proudly announced that the day had already been the best 14th birthday he could asked for, before launching into a question about how best to “make impressions” when “billions upon millions of users are creating content.” To his credit, Iñárritu did a bang-up job concealing any expression of horror at the question, offering a diplomatic half-answer and moving along in short order.

Iñárritu does not have fond memories of Mexican films from his childhood.
Abramovic asked Iñárritu about the state of Mexican film when he was growing up, and as he tells it, matters were relatively dire: “When I was a little kid, Mexican films were practically nonexistent because very few were being produced, and it was a government-controlled industry. It was a terrible period, from the ’70s to the end of the ’90s … There would be seven Mexican film directors, and you’d only get a new one if one of them died!”

The first movie Iñárritu remembers seeing is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
You have not lived until you have heard Alejandro González Iñarritu say the words “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” (A bonus thing we learned: Marina Abramovic has never heard of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.)

Iñárritu is not a fan of organized religion.
Iñárritu’s sickest burn of the day: “Our brain does not always possess the ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality. That’s how religion has survived for 2,000 years.”

Finally, six more fascinating facts about Marina Abramovic.
She wants to go into stand-up comedy or clowning. She recently became obsessed with a 1985 documentary about Akira Kurosawa’s production of the samurai epic Ran. She desperately wants to play a woman scrubbing the floor on her hands and knees in the background of a scene in Iñárritu’s next film. She has never taken Prozac. She saw The Revenant twice. She enjoys frequenting planetariums. Whew! Marina Abramovic may be the most interesting woman in the world.

11 Odd Things We Learned From Iñárritu’s Talk With Abramovic