Brigitte Bako: Part 2

Canada has many talented actors, writers, producers, and other content creators. To help our industry grow, we would like to introduce you to some talented folks who have managed to capture that magic on screen. 

Recently, we spoke with Montreal writer, producer, and performer Brigitte Bako. 

Brigitte has too many professional film and TV credits to mention but some of those include New York Stories, Strange Days, The Red Shoes Diaries, I Love a Man in Uniform, The TV series G-Spot, Californication, Godzilla, Gargoyles…etc. Brigitte grew up in the Montreal suburb, Cote Saint Luc and now has homes in Los Angeles, Manhattan and Southampton. Of course, our conversation was long enough for three parts. This is part two, of our three-part series. 


HNMAG: When did you leave Montreal?

Brigitte: I moved to New York in 1986.


HNMAG: What school did you go to?

Brigitte: I was at Columbia for a minute and a half. Then I burned down a dorm. The famous fire of John J. Hall. I couldn’t afford it. It was a forty percent exchange rate, the whole thing was a way for me to get to New York. Then I went to the Academy of Dramatic Arts.


HNMAG: How did you burn down the dorm?

Brigitte: I had a heating coil to make cup-a-soup. I had a modelling interview at Bloomingdales, I unplugged one plug. I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth then the fire alarm went off. I ignored it and it was my bed. I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to be an actress. Within a year and a half of moving down, I was working with Scorsese. It happened very fast. I was on screen for something like three minutes in New York Stories and that got me my green card. That kickstarted my entire career. All these directors who were obsessed with Scorsese, wanted to work with me because I’ve been in a room with him. That’s how powerful Martin Scorsese is.


HNMAG: What was the audition like?

Brigitte: I went to his office and he was holding his wife’s little dog. I went to shake his hand and the dog bit me. I knew right then, he was going to give me the part. He was wonderful and it was easy. I read it once and it was crazy.


HNMAG: Did you need any treatment for the bite?

Brigitte: No, he gave me a band-aid. It was a tiny dog. I love animals, I was so shocked that the dog bit me. I wasn’t nervous about the audition because I was so surprised that happened. It was probably my second or third audition in my whole life. It was really a Christmas miracle. Scorsese became a friend and a mentor. Years after, he would rent out restaurants, and just have dinner with me. I would go from my bar-tending shift to a fancy dinner with Martin Scorsese. He was amazing and fascinating.


HNMAG: Do you like improv?

Brigitte: Yeah, that’s how I came up. Doing improv in New York. I never wanted to be raped and bludgeoned in all these sexy ass movies they put me in. I wanted to be on Saturday Night Live. I wanted to do comedy. I was part of the Groundlings. It’s just that I looked a certain way and back in the 90’s, I fell into pretty-ingenue land. It’s really boring, you don’t have a lot to do. I was on an HBO comedy, Mind of the Married Man, which was supposed to be a male answer to Sex and the City, I played one of the wives and this was the pinnacle. I was on an HBO comedy! My character was crying all the time. She was cheated on by her husband. Then I realized that I could write something funnier than this. I wrote my show during that period. My Canadian acting agent was visiting New York and I had to go to a play or a party or something. She asked me to read my scripts. I had about four or five episodes. When I got home, she told me they were amazing and she brought them to the head of the agency’s literary department. That changed everything.


HNMAG: Let’s talk about Red Shoes Diaries.

Brigitte: Red Shoes Diaries was a couple of years after working with Scorsese. It was my first lead in a Hollywood movie. They wanted me for Wild Orchid. I went in for a meeting with Mickey Rourke and Zalman King. I was twenty years old and Mickey Rourke was sitting by the door and he slapped my ass so fucking hard. I was holding back screams and tears, I just looked at the director and said, I’m out. Zalman said he always wanted to work with me. I’m really glad I didn’t do that movie. They offered Red Shoes Diaries to Sharon Stone but she couldn’t do it. I got the role and it’s where I met David Duchovny, who I love deeply and he got me through it. It was a horrible experience. Zalman was an abusive director and all the things you could do then that you can’t do now, it was a very difficult experience for me. The movie is a cult classic and I’m proud of the work in it. Zalman was such an abusive tyrant on set but when he invited me to his home with his family, he was such a gentleman and pussycat. Was it all an act? He would be so manipulative to get me to cry. I’m a fuckin’ trained actor, you don’t have to terrorize me to cry for a scene. I’ll get there. David Duchovny was just wonderful and funny and great. He held my hand to get me through it.


HNMAG: A great movie that was set and made in Canada that didn’t get the exposure it deserved was I Love a Man in Uniform. 

Brigitte: It did well on the festival circuit, it was at Cannes and Sundance and then had a very limited release. Another cult classic. It was a great experience on set too. The opposite of Red Shoes Diaries. I love that movie. I’m still very good friends with David, the director as well as David Franco who shot it. I’m godmother to his kids. He’s a genius DP (Director of Photography).


HNMAG: You were in another great Canadian movie, Saint Monica.

Brigitte: It was about an Azorian woman. I had to learn that accent. Another wonderful experience. It was one of the first movies from Sienna Films. Now it’s one of the biggest production companies in Canada but back then it was just two women starting out. I loved that movie too. I was nominated for a Genie for that as well as I Love a Man in Uniform. Since I was now known in the States, I got offered amazing movies in Canada but I couldn’t get arrested in Canada without my career in Hollywood. It’s not so easy to do these wonderful movies in the States unless you’re a superstar. In the US, I got typecast into movies I didn’t love doing. I did a TV movie with Patrick Dempsey where I’m a Cellist and he’s an escaped convict, I mean, please. That was shot in Vancouver.


Please come back next week for Part 3 when we discuss her success as a television show-runner.

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