Lili Bordán is set to appear in the new film “The Nun,” which arrives in theaters today, but the latest installment in the “The Conjuring” franchise is only one rung on a ladder that the New York-born actress has been climbing hand over fist this year. Featured in the film “Book Club” opposite Diane Keaton and Jane Fonda, and also starring in and associate producing the biopic “Curtiz” about “Casablanca” director Michael Curtiz, she is a star on the rise with an infinite sky in front of her to shine down from.
We recently sat down with Bordán to discuss her passion for performance, how she found creative support in her mother, and why she’s happiest when on a set.
TrunkSpace: Film and performance is in your blood. Do you think you would have been set on this path had you not been exposed to it so early in life?
Bordán: No, actually I’m a very impressionable person and go with the flow. I attribute it partly to being a Pisces. My interests are also varied. In college, I was studying everything from philosophy, international relations, and economics, to theater. Of course, theater has always been part of my life because I had an inclination towards it that was beautifully supported by my mother. She steered me on that path. It was interesting, because my dad was always sort of steering me in another direction.
So to answer your question, I probably wouldn’t have been an actor if left to my own devices, but I did always have a passion for it and it’s just the way my life has gone.
TrunkSpace: Did the passion for performance begin on the stage or was there was always a pull towards film and television?
Bordán: My first film project was a short film that I did with a Columbia University female film grad student named Rodney Hunter. It was called “The Curve of the Smile” with Lisa Roberts (Gillan). Lisa is Julia Roberts’ sister, and I played her as a child. It was a beautiful story and my mother, my very own mother, Irén Bordán, played my on-screen mother as well.
It was very natural sort of birthing, being born into this through my mother. That first project is what sealed the deal for me and I was only maybe five years old when we started the project and I ended up being much older, about nine, when we finished. I don’t know why it took that long. Maybe to raise money? But it was a beautiful little film and then I did theater. In school I was Annie in “Annie,” I was Wendy in “Peter Pan” and I recently watched the videos and I can really see the love that I had for that and how 100 percent committed I was on stage, even then. And I still feel that. When I get a project it becomes my focus. That’s my life, my child, and my family. It’s everything. My passion really is acting and I guess it has always been.
TrunkSpace: At the time of that short film when you costarred alongside your mother, were you able to appreciate the fact that she was acting opposite you in it and that you were able to learn from her?
Bordán: Yes. She was always looking out for me on set. But then kids are the most natural story-tellers. It was a very organic process and a labor of love for all of us. I’ve learned a lot from her, but I’m pretty sure she’d say she’s learned from me, too. We are very supportive of each other’s craft and careers.
TrunkSpace: As kids, we tend not to appreciate our parents and what they’ve passed on to us until we’ve grown and understand it all better.
Bordán: Yeah, I completely agree. I do look back at my mom and say, “She’s amazing! She’s a natural!”And I’ll see her on stage – she’s part of a theater company in Budapest, one of the best – and she’s also filming several times a month. She’s always shooting a movie or working on something and I’m constantly inspired by her and her stamina. She paid attention to things growing up and would tell me, “You need to work on this or you need to work on that.”
I’ve been honing my craft since I was a kid. I took some breaks, but when I was 16 I delved in with a great teacher named Susan Batson who took me under her wing and mentored me. I steered away from it a little bit in college, but I’ve always gone back to it. It always finds me. The last two years, working on have been a real confirmation for me. Even if I steer away from it, like I always do, I always come back to it somehow. It’s like the Mafia, you know you want to get out but it pulls you back in. (Laughter)
TrunkSpace: Sometimes the best thing we can do to stay passionate about our passions is to step away and refuel the tank.
Bordán: That’s true and I guess life reminds me of that all the time. I’m interested in psychology. I’m interested in natural healing techniques like Reiki. I teach dance to kids with Autism. I’m very interested in working with children on the spectrum. I have these really random interests and talents and they’ve all come up by accident through connections with other people. What can you really learn from yourself? I’m always learning from other people. I have so many gurus in my life and so many teachers in my life. I just follow that.
TrunkSpace: Which is a great mindset for the world of acting because, if you can view the world through that lens, you can step onto a set and be inspired by the work of someone else, which in turn, pushes you to be better.
Bordán: Oh my god, yes! I always have experiences like that. Every set I go on, I see someone and I’m like, “Yeah, that’s who I’m going to learn from. That’s my guru on the set. That’s my teacher.” It can be a kid actor or it can be a director or it can be an adult actor. It can be my mother.
TrunkSpace: All of those projects you’ve mentioned – “The Nun,” “Book Club,” etc. – they’re all being released within a pretty tight time frame. What’s more exciting for you at this stage in your career, is it being on set and shooting a project or seeing that hard work come into fruition and being released to the world?
Bordán: It’s definitely being on set. Of course, I love going to these amazing Hollywood premieres and international festivals. I used to not go to them. I used to look at the pictures afterward and hear about these events. Now I really make an effort. No matter how big or small my role is, or how involved I was, I show up. I go and I make it happen because that’s important as well.
I think that filming the project is where the magic happens. The rest of it is the icing on the cake. Not even the icing – maybe more the candles. It’s a sort of celebration. And I think it’s equally important to celebrate your work – your own work and the work of your team.
I actually just got back from Montreal World Film Festival where our film “Curtiz” had it’s world premiere. The film is about the making of “Casablanca.” It was a biopic about a very famous, important director, I would say, but not someone who is very widely known outside of the film industry these days. His name was Michael Curtiz. He made something like 117 movies in his career and he won Best Director for “Casablanca.”
TrunkSpace: And he is someone who did not get the amount of attention as some other directors did, not only of his time, but just in the history of film in general.
Bordán: Yes, but I have a feeling he didn’t seek that attention. He was actually kind of a withdrawn, moody person. The movie explores him as that type of personality. There have been books about him, recently a biography came out, but this is the first biopic that’s a scripted movie about him and how he was on set.
TrunkSpace: And you actually served as producer on the film as well, correct?
Bordán: Yeah, that’s right. I was a producer on the film as well as actor. I played Irene Lee. She was the Warner Bros. story editor. She found the un-produced play, “Everybody Comes to Ricks,” written by Americans Murray Burnett and Joan Alison that “Casablanca” was based on. Irene brought it to Hal B. Wallis, who brought it to Warner Brothers. Michael Curtiz was attached as director, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman were cast as the leads, and history was made.
TrunkSpace: Between that film and “The Nun,” which is a big release, is it important for you as an actress to tamper expectations about a project in regards to how it might impact your career moving forward?
Bordán: Well, there’s so much expectation and disappointment in this industry I try to minimize both as much as possible. I feel that every project that I do lifts me in some way. It’s another rung in the ladder, another stair, another step in the right direction. Someone asked me that just a few days ago. “Do you feel like having been in ‘Book Club’ changed your career?” I’ve sensed that I’m getting more opportunities. It’s a good calling card. There are moments in everybody’s career where they feel “this is the one that will catapult me to world stardom.” I’m certain that can happen, but for me, it’s been more of a steady climb. I’m just happy to work, I’m happy to be on set and thrive in this environment.
TrunkSpace: Has there been a perk of acting, something that you experienced or that came into your life, that you never would’ve expected by going down this path?
Bordán: The love of the work. Being on set. Being part of a team. Knowing we’re creating something amazing. When I’m on set I feel like that’s where I’m meant to be. I wish I got to do it more. I think as I continue to move forward in my career, I hope that I get to that point where I’m like, “Okay, now I’m on set as much as I’d like to be.” Being on set, period, is amazing. Now, as I’ve mentioned, I’m making an effort to be at all my premieres and all of the events and festivals. That’s a perk. I enjoy that. I enjoy traveling – having seen Montreal for the first time, going back to Hungary from time to time to film something, or for a premiere.
TrunkSpace: Those work experiences become life experiences.
Bordán: Yes, and I can’t find any reason for now to separate them. My life is my art. I want to raise a family soon. For now, my work is my baby. That sense of fulfillment is what I imagine holding your child for the first time might be close to. I want to experience it all, and there is no need to choose between the two. Always, I will follow my heart and strive to make my dreams continue to come true.
“The Nun” arrives is in theaters today.