Operation Finale
written by Elise   |   Posted on Aug 26, 2018   |   3

Refinery29.com — Buenos Aires, 1959. A young woman in a movie theater stares rapt at a racially charged scene in the The Imitation of Life. Her attention is interrupted by the playful jostling of a few teenage boys behind her. She and one of the brawny blonde boys lock eyes knowingly. We’ve seen this movie before. We know what comes next.

Except that we don’t. This rom-com set-up at the start of Operation Finale, out August 29, veers into extremely dark territory, extremely quickly. The girl is Sylvia Hermann (Haley Lu Richardson), and the boy is Klaus Eichmann (Joe Alwyn), the son of high-ranking Nazi Adolf Eichmann, who has evaded capture since WWII. After meeting Klaus, Sylvia’s father, a concentration camp survivor, alerts a German prosecutor to Eichmann’s presence, setting forth Israel’s high-stakes capture of Eichmann depicted in Operation Finale. Sylvia becomes instrumental to the Israeli mission in 1960 — she uses her proximity to the Eichmann family to confirm Adolf Eichmann’s identity (in real life, Sylvia had known the Eichmanns since 1956). We spoke to Richardson about her charged role in this compelling historical movie about the very worst of humanity.

The movie’s action begins with a close-up of your face. What was your headspace like in that scene? How’d you get your face right? “That was the first scene I shot on my first day of work – I was nervous. In the script, it’s written that this would be the opening of the movie. I was aware of that, but I tried not to put too much pressure on it, because then I’d be focused on how I look on camera and other things don’t actually matter to the emotional core of the story. Even though the first connection between Sylvia and Klaus is so charming, it’s also so chilling and bizarre because of what they’re watching on screen. It’s an intense, horrific thing they’re watching as part of the movie The Imitation of Life. This sets the tone. They’re cute, but something’s wrong.”

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What was the mood on set like? “It was awful and loud. Every one of those actors and extras were so committed. They were really doing all that in the scene. I don’t know how Joe [Alwyn] did it. He had to watch that and hear that, and respond like he was into it. I’m glad that I was playing a character on the opposite end of the spectrum. How I felt being there as me was more in line with how Sylvia felt.”

What was acting alongside Joe Alwyn like? “I really liked acting with him. He’s really a gentleman. A sweet guy. He’s really focused and cares a lot about his work. I also love being surprised by how actors end up portraying things. When I read the script and I imagined the role before I was on set and met Joe, I imagined Klaus being colder. Joe managed to do this thing where he made Klaus warm in moments, even though he ends up following in his father’s footsteps. You have glimpses of empathy for him. You think he’s a little bit charming.”

As a public figure, do you ever feel like it’s your responsibility to show that being goofy is an okay way to use Instagram? To show we don’t have to be so serious all the time? “Just in general, the best way to lead in life is to set a good example. It’s more powerful to show through actions than endless paragraphs. I try to be the best person I can be. Anyone who cares about watching my Instagram videos maybe will see that and say, ‘Oh, she’s having a good time. Maybe I’ll have a good time and be nice to people, too.’”

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