Rufus Wainwright Talks ‘Rebel Hearts’ And Importance of “Sincerity And Truth”


One of this year’s standout documentaries, Rebel Hearts, centers on how The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary fought for social equality and freedom from a narrow minded Cardinal. Rufus Wainwright contributed the track “Secret Sister” to the film, and he talked to Deepest Dream about the project, what keeps him inspired as an artist, NFTs, and why The Harvey Girls is currently his favorite Judy Garland movie!

Your step grandmother attended Immaculate Heart College. Was that a driving reason to create “Secret Sister” for Rebel Hearts?

As any interesting project has, there are several veins that brought this creature to life (laughs). I am looking always for projects and movies and television, mainly because I live in Hollywood. We have a 10-year-old daughter and I can’t go on tour for 2 months anymore.

I was in the market searching for interesting stuff and this project came around and suddenly all these other aspects arose. Mainly that I remember hearing stories about these nuns growing up. For instance, I drive to Silverlake every day and I pass that convent every day. There’s a proximity thing as well. All of the elements conspired, and here we are today with the finished product.

A still from Rebel Hearts by Pedro Kos, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Speaking of the finished product, how pleased were you with Rebel Hearts?

I love it. It’s a documentary that really challenges the viewer to go out and be of service to the community. On the one hand it’s a very fascinating story. It’s very entertaining. There are some really funny moments. Especially in this day and age with the homeless crisis and environmental issues or political corruptness – we are in a time when we have to hit the streets and be aware of what’s going on and care more about the people around us. It has purpose which I really like.

Rufus Wainwright (CR: Tony Hauser)

You’ve mentioned in interviews that this is a time for introspection. Judging from your work, you have not had any problems with being instrospective. Do you credit your mother (Kate McGarrigle) and aunt (Anna McGarrigle) for that approach to your music? Or is that a separate thing altogether?

I’ve always been very introspective as well and my mother was very introspective. My father (was) a little bit more of an extrovert but nonetheless he can also recoil into his inner self as well. What’s funny is I think the COVID time that we are still in but thankfully less intense now, it kind of matched my ethos more than everyday life.

Except for the dying bit and the collapose of the economy, I did find, in the end, it really mirrored what I felt which was this need to stop and to observe and also take in the world a little bit.

It seems you have so many things on the plate. Is it your curious nature and overall passion which keeps you involved in so many different projects?

Well I remember hearing many many years ago, there’s a theory that Bach, who’s one of the most prolific composers who ever lived, there’s a theory that he wrote only one hour of music a day.

I don’t think it’s about how much you work, it’s about how intense you work. I certainly do more than an hour a day. It’s all about focus. At this point, I need that focus to keep my life in order (laughs). So I think work has become, for me, a slight crutch actually in terms of just finding a reason to be alive. It’s not a bad one (laughs).

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You always seem to a few steps ahead of the game, and I’m wondering if you have entertained the though of incorporating NFTs in your work?

Well you know I am so far behind in terms of that respect in terms of the financials. I’ve never been good at that. I will say though that there are people in my life and in my business who are seeing this whole new set-up that I very much, even though I don’t know if I’ll ever quite understand it, I would very much like to be a part of. Because the old system is definitely dead (laughs).

Samuel Taylor Coleridge said “comes from the heart goes to the heart” so that’s important. The other thing is truth. Truth on many levels and many aspects of society has to be fought for. Whether that’s politics or music. I do strongly believe if you stick with it, it will serve you in the end. Sincerity and truth.

I usually ask interviewees to name their favorite movies, but as a fan of Rufus Does Judy At Carnegie Hall, I’d like to know your favorite Judy Garland movie.

There are so many great ones. I had never seen The Harvey Girls before. It was really amazing. I like it the most right now, because it was like discovering a treasure trove. So I’m a big fan of The Harvey Girls at the moment.

Rufus thank you for your time, I really appreciate it.

Thank you.

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