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Having played a wide range of characters in close to 200 films, Hülya Koçyiğit is always ready and full of enthusiasm for a new shoot.
“ I've had several narrow escapes from death while making films, but I went into the cinema because I really wanted to and I believed in it.” Thus did my interview with Hülya Koçyiğit begin. She had been injured slightly during the filming of one episode of Çağan Irmak's new DVD series, House of Nightmares. But that didn't matter to her, because she had to do her best in order to do the role justice. And most of all for herself... The film 'Susuz Yaz (Dry Summer)', in which she played the young bride, Bahar, when she was only fifteen years old, had won Turkey the coveted 'Golden Bear', in that year's Berlin Film Festival. Ever since that day Hülya Koçyiğit has been steadily developing, moving from romantic parts to character roles. She has won more awards both at home and abroad than any other Turkish actress. She has always stood for what is right and has been cited as an example. Older sister, mother, star - always with a light in her eyes.
You got into films in 1963 with 'Dry Summer' when you were only fifteen and a half. Your dramatic power was acclaimed when you were too young even to comprehend such emotions. How did you play that role? What did you think about?
I had never been outside Istanbul and I had no experience of life. I was a boarding student in the theater department of the State Conservatory in Ankara. The main reason for my success was that I worked with a very important director, Metin Erksan. He left me alone for the first few days after we arrived in the village. Instead I lived with the villagers and virtually became one of them. When I finally stepped in front of the camera, I was no longer an actor; I felt like somebody from that village. I gave myself over completely to the director, and that is what made it a success.
You've played in almost two hundred films! Among all the characters you've played, by which ones were you touched most deeply?
In the early years the films were either based on Turkish novels or were adaptations of Hollywood-style films, and I played romantic and emotional young girls in them. Later on, roles of that nature ceased to satisfy me. And of course you change and develop as the years pass. The more you work, the more you observe the conditions in your country, the conditions of women, and you want to express those women. Most women are compelled to live the lives that are forced upon them. But a few among them make an effort to stand on their own two feet. I wanted to bring those women to life. I really like the work of Lütfi Akad. He portrayed life, events and people more clearly, more starkly, through a wide open window. I made a trilogy, “Gelin, Düğün and Diyet”, with him. Migration was a real experience in the lives of the Turkish people. Those films were very well received and they occupied a very important place in my career. After those films, I wanted to portray the Turkish woman as she really was. I made the film 'Gülşah' with my husband, Selim Soydan, and it was around that time that I started working with Şerif Gören. We made some very important films together, like 'Firar', 'Derman' and 'Kurbağalar'. Character roles challenged me more than other roles, so I liked them better. I was exposed to all kinds of dangers while making films, but I never minded, and I never worried that something was going to happen to me. Because cinema is a profession that demands sacrifice.
And those successes of yours were crowned by awards. You have received more prizes than any other actress in Turkey.
For me it's a question of pride and honor. How fortunate I am that my films were not only loved and appreciated by the people, but also admired and honored by the film critics. Some of them even won awards abroad.
You've filmed 12 episodes of the DVD series, House of Nightmares, which is being produced by Çağan Irmak, one of your favorite young directors. It's also your first horror film.
To my mind Çağan Irmak is the genius of Turkish cinema these days. He's able to produce very different films. In House of Nightmares especially we are confronted with something very different. I found it quite exciting. He did something never done before. Suspense, and stories that are very real.
What else do you want to do in the cinema?
It's a little embarrassing to say, but I feel as if I'm just starting out. Films have been being made right and left in Turkish cinema in the last few years. And this makes me happy and gives me hope, because if you look at the statistics for last year it seems Turkish films are being watched more now. There are still so many things I want to do... I'd like to play one of those enterprising women of Anatolia, for example. The kind of woman who has self-confidence and can stand on her own two feet even in the moment when she feels most desperate, wounded, alone and cursed.
So, do you always have in mind roles of exemplary women?
Probably. I think that's my mission somehow. In other words, I am that kind of person and my aspirations always lie in that direction. I could never portray a person who knowingly did wrong. I'm afraid I could never get the audience to feel something I don't feel myself. You might ask then what kind of actor I am. I don't know. But if Çağan ignored that and suggested something different, I would force myself to do it simply because I believe in him. I do have a desire to do something I've never done before.
You have always been an actor who believed in giving yourself over completely to the director. Are there any other directors from the new generation besides Çağan Irmak that you like?
Yes. I think Zeki Demirkubuz is very successful; his films too are very special. I like directors who try to tell their story through the actor. I like Ferzan Özpetek a lot too. I like his gentle and emotional films that portray love and the respect of one human for another.
How would you like to be remembered?
I pray inside that I will be remembered. For one thing, I do want to be remembered. I want future generations to watch my films. I want them to say that I was good, that I pursued my career with honor and respect for my profession, that I inspired many young people to go into it. I want them to say that I played a certain role so well that they can't imagine anybody else in it. I want to be remembered as a good person, a person who truly deserved respect. And there is one more thing I want. I want Turkey to achieve the kind of international success that will make our country and our people proud. 'Dry Summer' won as a film. I want to win as an actor, or rather as the actor in that film.