The Last Witch Hunter—a new action movie following the thrilling fight between the human race and a century-old, powerful group of witches—gives the actress Julie Engelbrecht her first moment in an American film as the almighty Witch Queen. The impressive cast also includes Michael Caine, Elijah Wood, and Rose Leslie.
Here, Engelbrecht talks about the appeal of playing a bad guy, her camaraderie with on-screen foes and the surprising training that’s made her a stronger actress.
You’re the bad guy in this movie. What made you want to do that?
It’s always a great challenge to play the villain in a movie, and I find that as a woman it’s pretty rare to have that kind of chance. I love the fact the Witch Queen is fighting for the people of her time. It’s been a theme since the beginning of time that witches were hunted by man because of their supernatural powers. People couldn’t understand or believe them, and I find that theme very interesting.
The role required quite a transformation. How did that happen every day?
The makeup was incredible. I had such a great team that would make the whole transformation happen step by step. It took five hours of makeup every day, and I had prosthetics that they put all over my body from top to toe. The nails and the face were all different steps. It was an incredible process—and then it took two hours to get me out of it.
You’ve got a background in circus. Did that play into the role at all?
I grew up in Paris—my dad is French and my mom is German—and we went to the circus quite often, like Cirque du Soleil. We learned how to walk on our hands, how to do acrobatic ballet, flying trapeze and tight rope walking. I must say it’s been helpful because I’ve been lucky to play a pop star and a dancer—and now opposite Vin Diesel with all the fighting. It’s great to have knowledge of the body and that kind of balance. I’m happy my parents gave me that chance to go and learn all these skills when I was a kid.
Speaking of Vin Diesel, your characters are definitely at odds. Did you enjoy working together?
He’s such a great team player. We had an incredible time together. We had a fantastic chemistry from the beginning. When we met each other, we kind of flew into each other’s arms. It was a very warm encounter from the start, so that added to our working together.
Not only did you train with the circus, you sing, dance, surf and play the piano! Which do you enjoy the most?
That is so difficult. They are all so special in their own ways. I think I love singing the most, it’s a thing that you always have with you. I love surfing too, but you don’t always have waves where you are working.