“Secure the bag,” the singer Kim Petras deadpans at the end of her catchy new song Got My Number. It’s become a whole mantra, which can be traced back, perhaps, to the 2016 Lil Uzi Vert and Gucci Mane track Secure the Bag, and traced forward, I guess, to the sinecure universal minimum wage proposed by Silicon Valley tech bro-cum-Democratic candidate Andrew Yang. (His followers, the “Yang Gang,” have dubbed his idea of giving every citizen $12,000 for nothing in return “securing the bag.”) To “secure the bag” is to get what you want.
Juliette Lewis – the actor who deep-throated Robert De Niro’s thumb in Cape Fear, the one we put on our April 1994 cover with the strapline “Serial Killer” – is now 46 and “securing the bag” in a new campaign for Rimowa. The luxury hardshell suitcases come in a suite of colours by the LA artist Alex Israel, who has all but trademarked the pastel hues of a twilit Hollywood. His gradients have become something of a signature, and the resulting campaign – starring Lewis – depicts its star as a runaway damsel in distress, a Jayne Mansfield for the Real Housewives crowd.
So when Lewis posted the images, shot by photographer Luke Gilford, to Instagram with the hashtag #goontakethemoneyandrun, it seemed like the dawn of a new age of sponcon transparency. This legendary actress, who recently shone in Tate Taylor’s underrated horror Ma, was getting her money and shouting about it. (She claims it’s a reference to The Steve Miller Band.) Either way, it’s aspirational. And hours before she was due to jet to Vancouver to film a new limited series, she caught up with Israel over the phone for a crash course in “securing the bag.”
Juliette Lewis: Hi guys.
Alex Israel: Hey Juliette, it’s Alex, hi.
Where am I reaching you?
Juliette: I’m in Los Angeles. I have three hours to pack and then I’m going to Vancouver for a limited series. I’m actually looking forward to simplifying and being in nature and so I’m happier that it’s Vancouver rather than Toronto. I’m into it!
Happy belated birthday, by the way, too. [Ed note: Lewis’ birthday is 21 June. She is 46.]
Juliette: Happy belated birthday? Thank you. I appreciate it.
So how did the two of you first meet?
Juliette: Well we have a mutual friend, but did we meet then Alex?
Alex: You know, I feel like I met you once at Ethan’s Christmas party.
Alex: Not really, just like, ‘Hi, how are you. Nice to meet you.’ And then we met officially when we did our project, when we did this photo shoot.
Juliette: Yeah. So we’ve been in the same room, OK, yeah go on.
Alex: Yeah, I’m friends with Juliette’s brother-in-law.
OK, that sounds very Hollywood.
Juliette: And my other good friend, right? But we didn’t know that until… What was her thing we went to that was really groovy?
Alex: It was a party for the Jewish holiday Purim.
Do you remember when you were in The Face, Juliette?
Juliette: I had done an interview with The Face. I’m trying to think if it was in conjunction with What’s Eating Gilbert Grape or Natural Born Killers. But I don’t know. I think they would have used artwork already existing. I just remember liking the cover and stuff like that. Yes! That’s The Face! [Laughs] That’s cool.
Do you remember that?
Juliette: I do. They really embraced me as a lunatic and I think it was necessary and needed to have this kind of primal energy as a young female because females didn’t see that showcased a lot in cinema. It was fun to be exemplary. No, I don’t know the language. Of manifesting primal, you know, and sociopath—
I think we can say role model.
Juliette: [Laughs] Terrible word! I’m so into energy, so I was like, ‘Oh I’m unleashing this quality of energy!’ but you know, people still tell me how that made them happy. So that’s nice.
That is a good segue into the new images you and Alex created together for Rimowa, where you also seem a bit like a lunatic. Can you tell me what the brief was there?
Juliette: I know. What do you think Alex? Was this your vision? Or how did it come together?
Alex: So we wanted to do something that was really very LA, very Hollywood.
Alex: But, different. And that had a kind of unique perspective because really we’re—
Juliette: And subvert it.
Alex: Yeah, we wanted to subvert it. We wanted to do something that you don’t always see every day. And I’m an artist. I don’t get to be creatively involved in these kinds of projects very often. So I come at it from a different perspective and I think we have to give a lot of credit to our photographer Luke Gilford, who I had worked with for a long time then, who we reached out to to see if he was interested in doing it. And he was super excited and he also had been – you guys had been in touch about other things before right?
Juliette: Yeah, love him. It’s funny, in our time, the social connectivity. You can be fans of other artists and you connect through that medium. He was my Instagram friend and it’s so funny in our current culture where you meet people and you’re like, ‘Oh my God hi! You’re my Instagram friend!’
Alex: Right. It happens more frequently than you’d imagine.
Juliette: Yes. Yes. It totally does. So, Luke, I had seen the Pamela Anderson thing he did or where he does very heartbreaking but empowering images. So I’m just a superfan. And then I just think his range is so diverse and he’s so cool.
Alex: He was also my Instagram friend! We were in the same boat. We had this conversation about what we wanted to do and who we wanted to do it. And we really wanted to do it. And we felt like [Juliette] represented something really special about California and Hollywood and the history of LA culture – as we both know it from growing up in the ’80s and ’90s. And we wanted to combine a number of references. So I decided I wanted a DeLorean. I wanted a skyline view of Los Angeles, as if someone was escaping the city; you’re above the city looking at it from a certain distance or perspective.
Juliette: Alex, did you create all of that? Are you the art director who said, ‘This is what it should look like’?
Juliette: I didn’t realise. That’s pretty cool.
Alex: I didn’t have much to do with your clothing because of the stylist, but I picked the backdrops and I picked the car and of course we have these suitcases [that I designed]. And when you added it all up, the equation turned into somebody escaping with a suitcase full of money, on the run. This is a getaway kind of moment. And that’s how it happened.
I’m wondering if either of you had heard of the phrase “secure the bag”.
Juliette: Never. I mean, I can guess. It sounds like a good metaphor for many things. But what is it relating to? Well I think high rise, drugs… I’m not sure.
There was a popular song from a few years back called Secure the Bag by Gucci Mane and it has bubbled up in pop culture and been reappropriated by LGBTQ people and it’s in a new Kim Petras song Got My Number, if you know her.
Alex: Oh, I do know her but I didn’t know the phrase. But I have to say, I noticed it in the comments on the photos that we posted.
Essentially, it means getting something that you want. But it’s quite funny because recently, Andrew Yang, the Democratic candidate that’s sort of come out of nowhere, has this loyal following called the “Yang Gang”. He is proposing this $12,000 annual salary for people. And his followers have started referring to that as “securing the bag” – as in this universal basic income, which I think is quite funny.
Juliette: That is! It’s always good to have a catchy phrase.
Can either of you think of a time when you’ve “secured the bag”, so to speak, on something you really wanted? By nature of hard work or whatever.
Juliette: Yes. The twist is that here I am, in my forties, and I’ve been getting campaigns that are quite cool. So when this came my way, I just was over the moon because, at the end of the day, I’m not a salesperson. I want to create art. I want to create things that are impactful, joyous, dangerous – whatever they may be. And so this collaboration had all the qualities of that. And then I love donning a blonde wig and being disco and adding the element of danger. Take the money and run. I kept thinking of Steve Miller Band’s song Take the Money and Run.
But securing the bag. I would say this union has that feeling to me because I got to work with a brilliant artist who is unique and fresh and I feel like what Alex said makes me happy. And then there’s Luke, with whom I’ve been wanting to collaborate. So it was just a cool union. That was much more impactful or provocative and exciting than just being a person to sell something. To me, it’s much more layered and we’re creating creative stuff.
Alex: That’s so cool. I think that this project was an example, not just an illustration of a character securing the bag, but an embodiment of all of us together securing the bag to make this thing happen. To make these photos.
What is your wildest travel story?
Juliette: Oh my God. Alex go. I have so many from touring in a band, but you go first.
Alex: Oh my God. Wildest. I mean I travel so much. I don’t know that any got wild.
Juliette: One of mine, it became one of my biggest missions when I had a band to go to the most unfamiliar places to me, to the places I was so ignorant about. For example, Turkey. We showed up in Istanbul, Turkey. My only little American brain reference was Midnight Express for Turkey. [The locals] didn’t really love this when I mentioned this point of reference. But I fell in love with the place. I fell in love with the bazaars. I fell in love with the food, the flavours, the people, the streets. And we showed up on a train. I think we had come from Greece. The train had bullet holes in it. And man, it was just me in the bazaars. I always joke that I have a bullseye on my head [saying] charge me lots of money because I’m not a haggler. I felt like I was in a Fellini movie.
The pope was visiting Turkey, so all the highways or the boat crossings were all blocked. So we were zipping around all these streets. It became this whole adventure. And then we stopped in a little town to get some sweets. And we were like, OK, we’re not going to make it because everything’s blocked. We can’t make it back to our hotel. And I kid you not. This is why I love this place. The neighbourhood we were in, nobody spoke English. And my drummer started doing a beat – like a beatbox, and the kids would rap Eminem. And so it was us on a street corner doing American rap. And that’s how we communicated.
Alex: I went to Istanbul for the biennial. So I was there and there was a museum group from Los Angeles that I ended up joining because I didn’t know anybody else in the entire city. There were all of these festivities going on around the biennial. In the museum group, one of the patrons was [Star Trek actor] Leonard Nimoy. And he’s no longer with us. He was there and we spent this weekend in Turkey on this tour. This museum group absorbed me into their little group.
Everywhere we went with Leonard Nimoy, the Turkish were so excited, and they were doing the live long and prosper [hand gesture]. We were walking through the bazaar and everyone held up their hands and did the live long and prosper thing and it was amazing. And then I remember I also ended up connecting with a friend of a friend from college. And he took me to a rave out somewhere in the suburbs of Istanbul and it was this massive rave. And it was so overwhelming and intense. I didn’t stay. I had to go, but I saw it. And I was a little bit out of my comfort zone.
Juliette: Wow. A real live rave in a foreign land. And you feel like you’re in a time warp. That’s intense.
Alex: It was very intense. I also was thinking about that movie that you mentioned [Midnight Express]. Didn’t want to do anything bad or wrong.
What is one place you would like to travel that you’ve never been to?
Alex: I want to go to Egypt and see the pyramids.
Juliette: Yep. I could agree with that. Never done that. I want to go to Morocco. I guess India – beautiful.
Alex: I want to go to India and I want to go to Egypt. Those are my next two bucket list spots. Last year I went to Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu. So I’m making good headway on the bucket list.
Very Seven Wonders.
Alex: Yes. And two weeks ago I was in Spain and I went to Granada and I went to the Alhambra, which was so beautiful.
Juliette: I love all parts of Spain. I would do that. I like that. More on what you’re saying in the smaller places. I’ve been to Barcelona and Madrid but to go to the other spots in Spain.