By Louise van Wingerden.
Against the heavenly backdrop of rising stars, one star shines brighter and more far-reaching than the rest: it is former Tukkie, Lizelle de Klerk. With her natural acting ability, allure and intensity, she illuminates the silver screen. She looks to the formidable women in her life – her mom and aunts, girlfriends and mentors – who inspire her to face the world with valour and love, regardless of the outcome. For her performance in Musiek vir die Agtergrond she was awarded the coveted Silwerskermfees-toekenning and soon she can be admired as the young Engela in the new Afrikaans movie Stuur Groete aan Mannetjies Roux.
Describe your experience on the set of Mannetjies in six words:
Terrifying, magical, enlightening, organic, passionate and unforgettable.
How does Lizelle differ from the character Engela?
Like Engela, I can be very naïve in the way I face and see the world, but where Engela would flee conflict and confrontation, I speak up immediately when something bothers me.
What is your favourite scene in the movie?
At the start there is a beautiful scene between Engela and Oom Frans on top of a 10m-high windmill. In one continuous shot, Tom Marais (director of photography) captured the scene of Engela and Oom Frans walking from the gate, climbing the steps to the top, sitting down and talking about Anna-Karina (Engela’s mom). The view of the Karoo from up there was exceptionally beautiful and to share such an intimate father-daughter moment with Ian Roberts was extremely special.
Who are your role models?
Jessica Chastain and Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet and Anna-Mart van der Merwe in particular. They prove that the older you get, the more acting agrees with you. Their portrayal of characters is a tour de force and you emerge touched/moved?? from the theatre. I want to stir experiences like that in people.
Do you apply a particular method – Stanislavski or Meisner – or is it pure instinct?
I wish I could tell you that I cling to a technique, but I’m still so young, learning with each project where you have to run all out, hit the brakes… especially in film. That sensitivity for the camera and the finer nuances in your performance only come with time, I think. I am privileged, though, that I am being schooled on movie sets and not in the classroom, and that I work under directors who are willing to teach. However, one thing I do believe in is the text itself. Everything you need to know about the character is among those lines.
Who taught you the most important acting lesson and what was it?
Two things stand out that Paul Eilers and Alby Michaels taught me, and those are: “analysis equals paralysis” and “never judge a character”.
Which artists/actors/movies/plays make your toes curl?
Amanda Strydom when she opens her mouth to sing. Matthew Bellamy of the band Muse. Jessica Chastain when she appears on screen. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams – I’ve always wanted to be Blanche. The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Othello, because it’s just so tragic. Daniel Day-Lewis because he’s a master. Schindler’s List. Amélie.
Do you prefer theatre, film or TV, and why?
Since the experience in theatre and film is so diverse, it’s impossible for me to choose one over the other. Theatre is immediate and the psycho-physical personification it demands of you as an actor is much bigger, because the space in which and with which you act is so much bigger. Film is small and intimate and requires a stripped down approach from you as actor as there is more in a look than in a gesture. One isn’t more real than the other, just different. I love both.
What are currently the largest challenges to be faced in our local industry?
I think the biggest challenge we currently experience in the performing arts and especially in the film industry in South Africa is a severe lack of infrastructure to allow films to reach a wider audience outside of the cities. We aren’t yet tackling subject matter that goes beyond the ‘proudly Afrikaans’ adage in a sustainable way. Most of our film content is dominated by genres instead of stories. The Afrikaans film industry limits itself to the ‘bar comedy’ or Afrikaans musical and/or historical narratives. What about South African stories that include the other demographic of 43 million? As an actor my greatest challenge is to position myself as a business rather than a surviving artist. Freelancing is unpredictable, so it is important to be functional without relying on the industry in order to have creative freedom when it comes to projects. That is impossible to achieve if money is your greatest incentive.
Which Hollywood movie would you like to recreate with an entirely South African cast?
In My Country (Antjie Krog’s Country of My Skull). Krog’s depiction of the TRC is South African and should have been portrayed by South Africans.
If Hollywood wants you, will you go or stay?
Who would say no to such an opportunity! But whether you create art over there or here, the principle remains the same: I want to be part of projects that make a difference, leave an impression with people, and shift boundaries in your language and culture.
Your dream collaboration would include the following people…
On different projects: actors like Deon Lotz, Ryan Gosling, Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet and Jana Cilliers. And directors Darren Aronofsky, Katinka Heyns, Nicola Hanekom and Michael Haneke.
If all your dreams come true, next year you will be…
On stage in the Cape under the direction of upcoming and established directors. In an international movie or two. The proud owner of the house I am now renting in Melville. A successful businesswoman independent of the entertainment industry. Down to earth.
The moment you realised you wanted to be an actress was…
There was no clear “moment of realisation”, I’ve just always carried the idea of acting around in my head. I know I’m an actress in skin and bone and marrow and soul, and nothing makes me happier than portraying a character and telling stories.