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Blondie’s Debbie Harry Talks ‘Being an Animal,’ Narrating Amanda Kramer’s ‘So Unreal’ and David Cronenberg: ‘Let’s Face It: He Is Out There’

Blondie lead vocalist Debbie Harry opened up about her film career at International Film Festival Rotterdam.

“I am not really fluent in the film industry, but I have been fortunate to get scripts from the directors I admire and trust, and who scare me a little. It’s a small selection of interesting films that are a bit odd. I guess my oddness fits into that.”

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Nothing was odder than David Cronenberg’s “Videodrome.”

“We didn’t know what ‘virtual’ was. We had no term [for it] back then. We didn’t know what my character was, but we knew who she was and what she was doing to others. I think Jimmy Woods had more of a problem with it than me. Let’s face it: Cronenberg is out there and always has been,” she said.

“There was no ending to the film and some people were getting pretty uptight about it. They really badgered David: ‘What’s going to happen!?’ But the idea was to work with Cronenberg and that’s how it was going to be.”

Still, at times she felt “way over her head” as an actor.

“I was just trying to keep up,” she admitted. Prior to “Videodrome,” Harry was cast in Marcus Reichert’s “Union City.”

“The film was shown at Cannes and then it got torn apart. There was no saving it after that. I am happy I made it, but he was the one who suffered,” she said. Later, they reunited on a film version of his play “Percy Lifar,” never completed due to his passing.

“I had a feeling of joy when I finished and you can take that anywhere you want. Then, a few days later, he was gone and the film disappeared. I never saw a single shot. Would I like to see it? Yes – before everyone else sees it.”

Parts in Peter Greenaway’s “The Tulse Luper Suitcases: Antwerp” and John Waters’ “Hairspray” followed.

“We didn’t want ‘Hairspray’ to end. Some of these kids were actors, some were wannabes, some were sex maniacs and they just wanted to dance. We all felt like that and I didn’t even get to do any dancing. Normally, if the music is on, I am moving.”

So Unreal
“So Unreal”

During a lengthy conversation with “So Unreal” director Amanda Kramer, “an essay film about cyberspace and technophobia,” which she narrated, Harry addressed some of her insecurities. From seeing herself in old music videos, including those directed by H.R. Giger – “watching that I want to tear my eyebrows off” – to her pronunciation.

“I am not so bad with vowels, but I could work on consonants. I am going to a speech therapist tomorrow. Is anyone here a critic? I am more critical than you, much more,” she assured the audience. With Giger, she collaborated on her solo album “KooKoo.”

“When we started making videos, it was very primitive. They were simple: lip-syncing, faking it and looking cute, trying to find good lighting. Giger had free rein – we didn’t try to edit him in any way. He just got an Oscar for ‘Alien’! He was Swiss. I don’t think learning English was his priority and we weren’t learning German fast enough, so it was all about energy,” she recalled.

Andy Warhol taught her how to listen: “He was always saying: ‘Oh really?’ It spurred people on. You were being understood by Andy Warhol and he was asking for more.” He also showed her how to embrace the new.

“The spirit of doing something different is what Chris [Stein, co-founder of Blondie] and I really adhered to. That’s what your film is about, too. It’s embracing this possibility there even is a future. And that’s very human,” she said, turning to Kramer and discussing today’s online world.

“I get it’s a fascination and a toy, but sometimes I find it to be ridiculous. We have different eras where there are different measures of politeness and the etiquette isn’t there yet.”

Recalling being “spellbound” by The Doors and Tina Turner – “she walked right past me and I almost fainted. These moments, right?” – Harry is still betting on real-life experiences.

“The audience is extremely important to how the show goes and how the players play. I know that when I look out, and I do actually watch you, that will direct my performance. The guys are always looking as well, although we are not looking for the same thing,” she laughed.

“We are animals. We smell, we hear, we see and we feel. That’s the part that’s missing. I know it’s part of the progress and I am an old fart, but I like to feel the heat. I like being an animal.”

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