Erica Linz talks Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away
If you’ve never been fortunate enough to watch a Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas or in any limited edition runs in major cities across the country, you will finally be able to catch a glimpse of the seven different shows in “Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away.” This story told by director Andrew Adamson and filmed in 3D by James Cameron makes its way to theaters this Friday, December 21, 2012.
Erica Linz has performed for Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas for 10 years, and now she is a part of bringing the show to audiences around the world. She spoke to The Reel Story about how she got involved with Cirque du Soleil and what audiences that have never seen a show can expect from the film.
AG: Let’s start with you telling us a little bit about your character in the film.
EL: My character’s name is Mia, and she’s a quirky young lady who doesn’t really fit in where she’s from. Presumably, she’s coming from somewhere that she’s really not happy, and she’s looking for something more extraordinary in her life. That’s when she comes upon this sort of run-down circus. There she meets this guy who we know in the film as “the aerialist.” He’s played by Igor Zaribov. He and Mia have this immediate connection. He’s a very handsome Russian gentleman, by the way. She ends up going into the Big Top, and it turns out that he’s performing. They meet eyes, he’s distracted, and he falls from the trapeze. Instead of impacting, there’s kind of a shift and something magical happens. He’s swallowed up by the world, and the two of them are swept away into the crazy world of Cirque du Soleil. They spend the rest of the film seeking each other, and meeting all the characters of this wacky universe who either help or inhibit them on their way. Basically, it’s a love story set in the world of crazy physical feats and colors and madness of Cirque du Soleil.
AG: I’m a huge fan of Cirque du Soleil. I actually go to watch Mystere in Las Vegas this summer.
EL: Oh, that’s the first show I worked on!
AG: I loved it! So I know what Cirque du Soleil is all about, but how would you describe it for readers who have never seen a Cirque du Soleil show?
EL: Cirque du Soleil is what would happen if you dreamt about the Olympics in some really surreal dream universe. You have hardcore, high-level acrobatics of all disciplines, ranging from gymnastics to trampoline to Chinese and Russian circus backgrounds all kind of tied together with theater and avant garde costuming and craziness with live music in these extraordinarily imaginative settings. It should put you on the edge of your seat and make you wonder what else is possible in this world that seems impossible in your head.
AG: Can you explain what it is that you specialize in?
EL: I do aerial strap. That means that I fly around 40 feet in the air with, usually, a guy, and we do lots of dynamic spinning and that kind of stuff. Sometimes I will hang from his neck or his feet, and sometimes I will be holding him up in the air with one hand. We do that without a net, which is a little bit crazy (laughs). My sub-specialty, what I do within the world of Cirque du Soleil, is that I have a background in theater as well as gymnastics. I use acrobatics to try and bring a character to life and tell a story, and in this case, it happens to be a love story.
AG: How did you get involved in Cirque du Soleil and eventually this project?
EL: I was a gymnast for 11 years in Colorado, and it was great. There were so many things about it that I loved, because who doesn’t like to bounce around on trampolines doing flips? It’s also a very disciplined life. To be a good gymnast, you have to be really well-rounded and do all kinds of tricks that maybe aren’t natural for you necessarily. Outside of that, I had been involved in vocal music, and that kind of led me to theater. I found out that I really enjoyed performing more than I enjoyed competing, so when I became aware that there was this crazy thing called Cirque du Soleil, it sounded like my brand of awesome. If they were to have me, I would have been delighted to go. I flew out to Las Vegas the day after I graduated high school and ended up auditioning for Cirque du Soleil. I got cast working in Mystere and joined them just after I turned 19. I performed with Cirque for 10 years. Somewhere along the line, they decided to make “Worlds Away.” They decided not to go with a Hollywood actress but instead to try to find someone with a legitimate acrobatic background. They went through all these incredibly amazing people and somehow ended up landing on me and a few other girls who all did video auditions. At some point – I don’t know what happened behind the scenes – they said, “Let’s go with that girl, the short one with the short hair. That’ll be fun,” and I was like, “Cool, let’s do that.” So then we made a movie, and then we called you (laughs).
AG: So what was the biggest difference between performing in a live Cirque du Soleil show and filming this movie?
EL: Something that was a really huge change for me that I struggled with for quite a bit at the beginning, was changing the performance style from that of stage. When you’re performing in a theater, sometimes the last row can be like 100 feet away, which means that if you want to indicate to the audience that your character has heard something, you have to almost mime or really exaggerate the movements so that they know what’s going on. Suddenly, you’re in front of James Cameron’s 3D cameras, telling Andrew Adamson’s narrative story, and they can blow up your face to be 20 feet tall on the big screen. Everything needs to be made much more subtle, diminished, and honest. It took a while for that to feel comfortable. Especially when you’re filming with these Cirque du Soleil characters that are still playing that Cirque du Soleil style that’s so much larger than life and so extraordinary. I had to keep her reigned in.
AG: What was your favorite scene to film?
EL: I like a lot of different parts of it. Obviously, I love flying, so I had a good time doing the aerial strap number at the end. Also, besides that, I really liked doing this one act called “Mr. Kite” from the Cirque du Soleil Love show. It’s this crazy, dark, weird carnival scene where there are these crazy characters like wacky Siamese twins. It’s a spooky, dark number, but it has some of the most outlandish characters that require the greatest commitment from the performers that are bringing them to life. I was kind of amazed, because we had to do this thing over and over. It was a highly complicated scene, and every time, they brought life to the characters with this commitment that’s pretty awe-inspiring. It was a little bit hard not to match when you’re up so close to them.
AG: Is there anything you do in this film that you’ve never done on the stage?
EL: The whole pace of film and stuff that you have to do for camera is completely different. Outside of that, for example, we would go to Love, and for that scene that I was talking about, I think I had something like 32 points I had to hit. So it would be like, “Stand here, but these four things are going to drop down on either side of you. So don’t lean over or they’ll hit you in the head. Then you need to take eight steps back, but don’t step 10 feet back or you’ll fall off the edge of the cliff. Make sure you cross over this, but go quickly or else you’re going to get run over by these 300-pound things.” Learning it really quickly, but then applying the style of performance that you need for film, was this crazy dynamic. Every single day was something brand new, and every day I was waking up wondering what I was going to be doing that day.
AG: Do you have any last words for the readers about you or the film, anything I haven’t touched on that you want them to know?
EL: One of the things I’m most excited about for Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away is that not everyone has the opportunity to travel to Las Vegas. Even the people that do don’t necessarily have a chance to actually go see all seven of these shows. Cirque du Soleil is a really cool way to get to experience some of the magic of Cirque du Soleil with it being accessible and realistic for everyone across the world. Outside of that, even for seasoned Cirque du Soleil fans that have gotten to see all these productions, there are moments where we’re shooting onstage, and Andrew Adamson is directing while James Cameron is up 70 feet in the air shooting down on a harness. They can show things from different angles and slow things down to where you get to see things in the film that you would never get to see onstage. I’m really excited to be a part of bringing that magic to the world that’s larger than Las Vegas.