Eleonore Hendricks comes from groovy stock. Her father is a Fluxus archivist, who staged “happenings”in the 1960s as co-founder of the Guerilla Art Action Group. Her mother sells unusual antiquarian cookbooks from the ground floor of their SoHo townhouse. And like her folks, Eleonore’s experience has been one dedicated to bohemianism and art.
After graduating from Smith College, Eleonore took a job as a casting director and spent four years on the streets of New York and Paris photographing beautiful faces. The photographs would later become a photo series called “Lookers” and her experience would serve as the inspiration for her character in “The Pleasure of Being Robbed,” the first collaboration between Eleonore and Red Bucket Films director Josh Safdie. The film, which she co-wrote and starred in, premiered at South by Southwest, and was later chosen as the only American film to play in the prestigious Director’s Fortnight Festival at Cannes.
With over a dozen features to her name, the actress, writer, producer and exhibiting photographer has become a rising star in New York’s independent film scene.
MARC SANTO: You grew up in an artistic household. How has that shaped your own work?
ELEONORE HENDRICKS: My father was a political art actionist during the ’60s. He had a group called the Guerilla Art Action Group, and they staged antiart art movements that were against art as a consumerist product. My uncle Jeff Hendricks is a Fluxus artist, and my father wrote the “Fluxus Codex,” which was an early Fluxus book. I grew up attending happenings and absurdist performances, some of which were graphic and totally beyond me. As a kid I thought the adults and performances in my life were weird and I never really took a major interest in conceptual art. While I certainly have the bug my parents have, and an aesthetic that’s been diffused from them to me, I’m more into photography.
MARC: Tell us a bit about that.
ELEONORE: In college I worked as a street scout, walking around the city and photographing people who didn’t fit within the realm of beauty one would find at a modeling agency. From that I did a series called “Lookers,” which was about the period of adolescence when kids are shedding off their childhood and becoming adults. I was going through this phase too, so in a way I was looking for people who were mirroring myself. A couple years ago I began photographing my day-to-day, and I’ve since amassed a body of personal work that documents my life.
MARC: When did you transition from photography to acting?
ELEONORE: Somebody suggested I audition for a student film and my performance was recognized. I was too nervous and uncertain about myself to persue it, and it wasn’t something I wanted, either, so I pushed it aside. After college I thought it would be fun to get into films and I figured the best way to make myself useful on set was to use myself as an actor. When I met Josh Safdie, we decided to make “The Pleasure of Being Robbed.” We based my character on a fictionalized version of what I did with “Lookers,” which was float through life photographing identities, only my character in the movie floats through life stealing things to find her identity.
MARC: Andy Spade produced it. How did that come about?
ELEONORE: It was an accidental feature film that started out as a commissioned short for Kate Spade. Andy’s a generous supporter of artists and he gave us a creative license to do what we wanted. The project took off in its own direction and we began to see it as something bigger. We asked Andy for more money and he was in full support. It was received fairly well at Cannes and he helped finance “Daddy Long Legs,” which won the Cassavetes Award at the Independent Spirit Awards.
MARC: You also acted in “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints.”
ELEONORE: I get most of my roles through word of mouth, but this was a straight-up audition. Dito Montiel, who came up in the New York City hardcore scene with his band Gutterboy, directed it. I auditioned for a role in which I would have to play the sibling to Rosario Dawson, so for obvious ethnic reasons it didn’t work, and I didn’t get the role. The film started shooting and I was at Port Authority about to board a bus for Maine to work on a documentary when Dito called me and said, “I don’t have a character for you, but I really want you in this film. Just show up on set and I’ll write you into the script.” I canceled my trip and acted in his movie.
MARC: You’ve done a lot of arty indie films, but also had a turn in B-movies with “Bad Biology,” which was directed by cult hero Frank Henenlotter. How did you get mixed up in that project?
ELEONORE: When I was 16 years old I interned for Cary Woods’ company that produced Harmony Korine’s “Gummo.” The rapper, RA The Rugged Man, kept coming by to push a script and we eventually became friends. After college I ran into him on St. Marks Place and he asked me to play a crack whore in this movie he was doing with Frank Henenlotter. I’d never seen Frank’s movies, so I went to Kim’s Video and rented “Basket Case” and “Frankenhooker.” I remember watching them and thinking, “What the fuck is this craziness that am I getting myself into?” Of course I wanted to be a part of it and it ended up being an awesome experience. RA has an ability to bring interesting people together. He got Prince Paul to do the soundtrack and there were so many colorful characters involved. Frank’s considered an auteur of cult cinema. He got his education bouncing around the theaters on 42nd Street during the ’80s. It’s difficult to try to make a cult classic today, and making that movie seemed to take a lot out of him. I think his fans really liked it, even though I thought it was kind of strange.