LOS ANGELES — Mention Chicago to Hong Chau, and the actress best known for her roles in “Inherent Vice” and “Big Little Lies” starts talking bunnies — who have nothing to do with Hugh Hefner!
“I love Chicago for several reasons, but one of the best is that I was so intrigued that you have wild rabbits running around in the city. I never had seen bunnies in such a large urban environment before,” said Chau during a chat about her new film “Downsizing” (opening Friday). “I loved seeing them in several of your parks.”
Like many, the actress is a fan of the Art Institute, but she’s also learned to love a couple of things not frequently noted by celebrity visitors.
“The first time I went to Chicago was on a family road trip,” said Chau. “We had our dog with us, and when we hit Chicago, I couldn’t believe how many people kept coming up to us, telling us how handsome our dog was! He’s a Rottweiler-Australian Shepherd mix, and he is a good-looking dog, but obviously Chicago is very dog-friendly. So many compliments to him, from so many people!”
She also took a liking to the Old Town Ale House — “a real Chicago kind of tavern, just a comfy, neighborhood place where people love to gather.”
In “Downsizing,” a solution to global overpopulation is created by Norwegian scientists: shrinking humans to 5 inches tall — part of a 200-year plan to shift the world from big to small.
Chau plays a Vietnamese political dissident — forcibly downsized by her government and shipped off in a television box across the ocean with other miniaturized dissidents to live in the newly created “small world.” Chau’s Ngoc Lan Tran character is the only one to survive the perilous journey — and one of her legs has to be partially amputated.
She comes to know — and ultimately becoming very close to — Matt Damon’s Paul Safranek character, who voluntarily underwent downsizing in hopes of finding a better life. After all, in the upscale “Leisureland” small world community, $100,000 in assets translate to $12.5 million.
For her accent, Chau mimicked her Vietnam-born mother’s voice, “which was both reassuring but a bit odd to do.” Equally difficult was walking as if she had a prosthetic leg, and later a peg-leg for support. “I just had to figure out, tinker with it and put it all together — the voice and the physical movement — to make it into a seamless character. That was a joy for me.”