Maria Bakalova landed the role of a lifetime when she was just a young, aspiring actress in Bulgaria. And it wasn’t for “Borat 2.”
She was cast in Bulgaria’s Oscar submission “The Father” in a tiny but important role, and in speaking with TheWrap, Bakalova described her casting as something of a dream come true.
“They are actually my real teachers, so to work with them was my biggest dream to be part of their movies,” Bakalova told TheWrap’s Steve Pond of “The Father” directors Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov. “I was praying one day to be part of something that they were going to make…When I heard back from them that I could be part of it, I was like ‘Jesus Christ this is the best day of my life!'”
Though she broke out this year and is even earning Oscar buzz for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” Bakalova took the time Wednesday to talk on a virtual panel with the filmmakers and stars of “The Father.” Bakalova said she loved two of their previous films “Glory” and “The Lesson,” and because she only learned general acting while in school, she credits Grozeva and Valchanov as teaching her to become a film actor specifically.
Bakalova only appears in the movie in a brief photograph and in a snippet of black and white video footage seen on a TV, but her presence is felt throughout the movie. That’s because though the movie is called “The Father,” she plays the main character’s mother who passed away just as the story unfolds, and the filmmakers dedicated the film to their own mother who died and inspired the story.
“The Father” follows a father and son who hear from a neighbor that their recently passed mother has called her phone from beyond the grave, leading her widow to try increasingly reckless and foolish measures to communicate with her in a spiritual seance. And though we never get to see her son speak with her, we do see Bakalova playing a young version of his mom on an old TV show filmed while Bulgaria was still under a Communist regime. Bakalova says in that sense, the movie still has a “really, really strong female message.”
“The movie is about how this father is going to live his life without the mother, is he going to survive,” Bakalova said. “It is important, the story is something about the family, how we should support each other and how we should get back together and love each other more.”
Valchanov and Grozeva say they met Bakalova while she was still in school and praised how great she was on set, wearing an old Communist uniform during extreme heat and needing to hold fake blood in her mouth so they could properly nail a take in which her character is shot on screen. Now that she’s become a big star however, they can’t thank her enough.
“She has a physical and spiritual connection with the prototype of the character of the mother,” Valchanov said. “Now is the moment to congratulate her and to say to her a big thanks.”
Check out TheWrap’s full interview and Q&A with Bakalova, the directors of “The Father” and stars Ivan Barnev, Ivan Savov and co-writer Decho Taralezhkov, here and above.