Olga Kurylenko’s Animal Instincts

Published November 6, 2013

ABOVE: OLGA KURYLENKO (LEFT) AND BRUNO DAYAN BEHIND THE SCENES ON THE SET OF “THE STORIES BEGIN HERE”

Ukrainian actress and model Olga Kurylenko has starred in films with the likes of Daniel Craig, Tom Cruise, and Morgan Freeman, and she has lent her good looks to major fashion brands like Roberto Cavalli and Kenzo. The most recent addition to the raven-haired beauty’s résumé is as campaign star for the Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, lensed by Bruno Dayan. “The Stories Begin Here” campaign is inspired by a short story by author Simon van Booy, who was commissioned exclusively by the Waldorf to write the piece, “The Escape Artist.” We were on set at the campaign shoot at the hotel’s Chicago location, where we caught up with Kurylenko to discuss her budding acting career, her affection for wild animals, and more.

KRISTIN TICE STUDEMAN: You did the shoot today with a giant mastiff as your modeling partner today. How was that?

OLGA KURYLENKO: Yeah, he was like a big bear. I had to feed him his treats. He didn’t care about posing too much. 

STUDEMAN: What’s the craziest photo shoot experience you have ever had with an animal? 

KURYLENKO: I did a shoot with massive iguanas in Costa Rica when I was modeling back then. They were like little dinosaurs and they sat right across my arms and by my face. The guy told me not to make any sudden movements because they had enormous claws. The guy said he would rip my skin if he attacked. So, I decided to start caressing him and he started closing his eyes. He loved it! If you aren’t traumatized by something in your past with an animal, you aren’t scared of them. I also had to do a shoot with giant boa constrictors and I was naked. The guy said if he started choking me, I should scream and he would take them off me. The hairdresser wouldn’t come fix my hair, because he was terrified. 

STUDEMAN: If you aren’t afraid of boa constrictors and giant iguanas, what does scare you?

KURYLENKO: No, those guys are sweet. Animals, boas, mice… I don’t care. Balconies scare me, and I would never do a shoot on one. I am afraid of heights. 

STUDEMAN: Tell me about the character you were portraying for today’s Waldorf shoot?

KURYLENKO: Simon created little stories and scenarios for me. It’s very interesting that he did that because you never get them for photo shoots, usually just films. For stills, you just sit there and smile. But it is hard because this has a story, it’s a small script, I want to move and act. But I can’t! It’s harder, in a way, because I can’t actually act here. 

STUDEMAN: So do you find modeling or acting harder?

KURYLENKO: Modeling isn’t really a tough job. Acting is much harder, so much prep and changing your look and mannerisms. It’s a more difficult lifestyle being a model. I traveled all the time. Although, now I wonder, because I travel all the time for acting too. So they both have their difficulties. 

STUDEMAN: What gets you through tough periods of travel?

KURYLENKO: Drinking water helps, always stay hydrated. It’s better to get on the time of the country where you are to fix jet lag quickly. Eat healthy, go for a walk, and interact with the people. I guess that’s more what is fun to do, though! 

STUDEMAN: What acting jobs are you focused on right now? 

KURYLENKO: The last thing I did was November Man, which we filmed in Serbia. I also did Vampire Academy in London. That was cool because I did it in London, and I live there and for once got to stay at my home! This summer I went on a monthlong vacation to the south of France, my first in a long time. My whole year is already planned with film projects. 

STUDEMAN: What have been some of your most memorable filming experiences? 

KURYLENKO: We shot Oblivion in Iceland, that was amazing. It’s so, so beautiful. They didn’t have any Waldorf Hotels there, though; we stayed in the middle of nowhere! Of course, when I shot the Bond film, we shot in Panama City, and that’s where I met a sloth. He was so happy to see me, and apparently they can be dangerous. He was just hanging from a tree in the wild. We took pictures together, he was so cute. 

STUDEMAN: Is there someone in film you have yet to to work with as a dream co-star, and you’ve had some great ones, who would it be? 

KURYLENKO: It wouldn’t be fair to pick just one. Some people you build great chemistry with and you become great friends. 

READ SIMON VAN BOOY’S SHORT STORY, “THE ESCAPE ARTIST,” AND VIEW “THE STORIES BEGIN HERE” CAMPAIGN STARRING OLGA KURYLENKO AT THE WALDORF’S WEBSITE.