Norah Jones has sold 35 million albums and won eight Grammys. And yet, until Wednesday night (May 16), she had never walked a single red carpet in her life. ”It’s not really my thing,” the singer said during a beachside interview. So how did she feel climbing Cannes’ famous steps for the gala premiere of Wong Kar Wai’s My Blueberry Nights, in which she stars as a lovelorn New Yorker? ”Very nervous,” she laughed. ”I was just trying to not trip on my dress!” We asked the musician-turned-actress to tell us more about her cinematic debut.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did it feel to premiere your first foray into acting at the Cannes Film Festival, of all places?
NORAH JONES: It’s very surreal. If I had known that we would end up here when I first started talking to Kar Wai about making this film, I probably would have run scared, just out of the sheer nervousness. But I’m really excited, I’m really proud of it, and it’s an honor to be here.
It’s hard to even imagine what it’s like to watch your first movie for the first time here.
I was able to enjoy it, but I need to see it again to really understand how I feel about watching myself acting for the first time. I was very preoccupied with, ”Oh my gosh! My face is so big! [Laughs] That’s all I could think for the first 10 minutes, of course. So I’m looking forward, once everything settles down and I leave Cannes, to be able to see it again, privately.
When we asked Wong Kar Wai why he wanted to make a movie in English, he said, ”Because I wanted to work with Norah Jones.”
He’s one of the most amazing filmmakers around. And I’m a musician — I’m not an actress! So to me, that’s amazing and crazy. I’m just really glad that I decided to take the plunge because I wasn’t sure. It’s been such an amazing experience.
So how did he approach you? He called you up and offered you a part?
He wanted to meet. I hadn’t seen his films, so I watched In the Mood for Love and I fell in love with the film and his style, and I decided to have lunch with him in New York. I had just gotten off a very, very long tour for my second album and all I wanted to do was take a couple years off and not be in the music business for a few years. So it came at the perfect time. I wouldn’t have been able to make a film a few years ago. I was too busy playing music. And I felt like we were a good match. He’s a very unconventional filmmaker — he’s got this reputation for being very off-the-cuff and changing the script and not even having a script. That actually appealed to me. So I figured if I was going to try it, this would be the opportunity. I respected him and trusted him so much that I just kind of surrendered myself. I just love the way he works. It’s very musical — he’s very open to suggestion and interpretation and collaboration.
You share scenes with some well-known actors: Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman. How did you like working with them?
These actors are so amazing and they were all so giving and nice to me, which is important. Because if they had been jerks in between takes I would have felt even scared-er [Laughs].
Do you want to do more movies?
I don’t want to do a lot of it, but I’d love to do it again. I don’t have any plans right now. I’m on tour until October, probably, so I’m just enjoying this experience.
Kar Wai also said that you hate blueberry pie. Do you?
I did. He asked me if I liked blueberries or blueberry pie. I said no, and then he’s like, ”Well too bad, baby!” But now, I love it. I have this obsession with blueberries.
Was he kidding when he said that he chose blueberries just to torture you?
No, he wasn’t. Well, maybe he was a little bit. I know that in [Chung King Express], the movie where [Takeshi Kaneshiro’s] character eats all those canned peaches, he hated peaches. That’s why Kar Wai chose peaches. So I think he was trying to do the same thing [with me].
Now people are going to be sending you blueberry pies.
I hope not! [Laughs]