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Alicia Vikander Was So Nervous For One Blue Bayou Scene That She Was Literally Shaking

Did you know that Alicia Vikander is not just an exceptionally talented actor, but also has a beautiful singing voice? That’s not something that you’d necessarily be aware of from her past work, as none of the parts she has taken on have had that kind of musical component, but her performance in Justin Chon’s Blue Bayou is revelatory in that way. In a key moment in the film, her character gets on a stage and sings a rendition of the titular song – as I recently learned from an interview with Vikander, she was actually shaking prior to filming the scene.

I had the wonderful pleasure of talking to Alicia Vikander and Justin Chon this past weekend during the virtual press day for Blue Bayou, and I asked both of them in separate interviews about the scene where Vikander’s Kathy performs in front of a crowd at a party. Having never had an experience like that before, she was incredibly anxious, and she had to work to stop herself from visually shaking before “action” was called. She said,

I was super nervous because I'm not a professional singer, and I've never... Except for karaoke, I haven't sung like that in front of anyone in real life. So getting on set that day, I was actually going up on that stage shaking. I tried to hide that as good as I could cause that was not part of my character.

In Blue Bayou, Justin Chon and Alicia Vikander star as a married couple living in Louisiana who see their lives rocked when the former is processed by ICE and determined to be an illegal immigrant – having been adopted from Korea when we was just a few years old. The decision is made to fight against deportation, but that leads to even harder decisions that ultimately put an extreme strain on the couple’s relationship.

As Justin Chon noted in our conversation, the scene wasn’t really about Alicia Vikander’s Kathy sounding great, but instead the Oscar winner being able to use the moment to express an emotional statement about her connection with Chon’s Antonio. In essence, Vikander having a great voice was just a huge bonus, and it earned her a wonderful response from the crew. Chon recounted,

The thing that was important to me wasn't her ability; it was just the authenticity of her emotion when singing it. But it was an incredible surprise to find out that she's a great singer. And she might've been nervous, but we couldn't tell. We couldn't tell. She's just a professional. When I was watching her, we all started clapping after she did her... She wanted to kind of test out the mic and stuff before we shot. We all started clapping because we're like, 'Holy shit. She's fantastic.' I don't know what she thinks about her own singing, but it's a difficult song!

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Justin Chon actually wound up learning about that difficulty first-hand after Blue Bayou wrapped production. The writer/director/actor happened to be in Hawaii at the same time as Alicia Vikander, and they ended up together in a karaoke bar. She insisted that he go up and perform the song – originally co-written and performed by Roy Orbison before becoming a Linda Ronstadt hit – and it was actually a task he wasn’t up to. Chon explained,

She happened to be in Hawaii at the same time as me, and we went to the karaoke place, and she made me sing, "Blue Bayou." And I stopped halfway through, and she's like, 'Eh? Eh?' And I was like, 'Yeah, it's a hard song. Sorry.' It goes high! I'm thankful to her that she was willing to take the risk and put herself out there. It is scary, singing is a very vulnerable thing to do.

The amount of pride someone has after accomplishing something is generally correlated with the challenge of the task, and that’s something that’s certainly true for Alicia Vikander and her time making Blue Bayou. She explained that it is now a scene that she has great appreciation for, specifically in the greater context of the film. Said Vikander,

But in the end it's kinda my favorite scene of the film because there's a direct kind of connection between Kathy, my character, and her man, Antonio; they going through a very difficult traumatic experience at this moment, which is kind of pulling them apart, but this is kind of a way for her to get all those unsaid things out to him through the song.

Blue Bayou, which is based on an original screenplay by Justin Chon, also stars Mark O’Brien, Linh Dan Pham, Emory Cohen, Sydney Kowalske, and Vondie Curtis-Hall. Following its premiere earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival, it will be released in theaters this Friday, June 25.

Eric Eisenberg

NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.