Isabella Bliss has come a long way from her home in Basildon (Essex) to the gates of damnation in Philipp Humm’s The Last Faust. The self-styled Marilyn Monroe of burlesque cuts a striking figure as the winged Angel straddling the suicidal Faust languishing in a bathtub. The image is set to become an iconic representation of the film itself. A masterclass of baroque theatre. Bliss is one of the UK’s foremost burlesque dancers and her Marilyn show is less tribute act and more a channelling of the screen siren’s soul.
“I’ve been modelling since I was 18 and now perform burlesque professionally with the An Evening of Burlesque show. We recently did a 10-day tour of Poland which turned out to be spectacularly successful, we had an amazing team and cast of around 12 people, a dance troupe, a host and compare and magicians. I’m now focusing on my Marilyn solo show, which I originally did as a joke for a friend’s birthday party but then somebody uploaded a video of my performance to You Tube and the offers came flooding in afterwards.’’
Although not a traditional actress Bliss has the stage presence to work in front of a camera. By sheer coincidence, Humm used as his model for the Angel, in his illustrations, the 90s American Texan glamour model Anna Nicole Smith with whom Bliss shares an uncanny resemblance.
“Before Faust I’d done a little TV work, quite a slick advert for Peugeot cars as well as an episode of the BBC’s Not Going Out with comedian Lee Mack in which I played a lap-dancer. Most of the roles I get are because somebody want’s something very specific and bold. At the casting the producer Daniele told me that they didn’t actually think they’d be able to find someone to play this particular role and so they were a bit taken aback when I showed up. When Philipp showed me the drawing for the bathtub scene I said ‘Oh wow! It looks like you’ve just drawn me! It really was uncanny.’’
“I really enjoyed the whole experience, it was really intense the way we shot and worked everything especially the way we shot the stills on one side of the studio and then we’d shift to the other side to begin filming, I’ve not done anything like that before but it was incredibly instructive.’’
“The scene we did on the cloud was really beautiful it was wonderful working with Martin Hancock and watching work his magic, he’s a really superb actor. And working with Philipp was great, he has such unique eye and is very confident about his vision.’’
Meanwhile, the infamous ‘bathtub scene’ nearly never happened at all. Following a gruelling three week shoot on such a tight schedule all the actors had managed to avoid illness or injury. Unfortunately on the eve of Isabella’s most crucial scene disaster struck.
“On the eve of the last day of filming I went horse-riding, the horse bucked and threw me off. It was a pretty bad fall and left me covered in nasty bruises, I was in a pretty bad state. However, the show must go on. The make-up crew did an incredible job in disguising my injuries but holding that crouched position while they got the shot was absolute agony. Finally they nailed it and the whole scene is the cherry on the cake, so we were all pretty happy.’’