By Lanford Beard
Updated August 03, 2020 at 06:11 PM EDT
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As 2011 comes to a close, EW.com wanted to honor some of the hardworking names and faces from behind the scenes for their outstanding achievements. It was a massive year for Katy Perry, and Floria Sigismondi (who has directed iconic videos for Christina Aguilera and Marilyn Manson, as well as 2010’s The Runaways) was no small part of that success. Helming “E.T.” and “The One That Got Away,” two of Perry’s most evocative videos, Sigismondi discussed how she stepped away from Perry’s candy-coated style and see the finished product. For more behind the scenes access to the year’s best TV and movie scenes, click here for EW.com‘s Best of 2011: Behind the Scenes coverage.

As told by: Floria Sigismondi

Normally I get the songs and just live with them for three days to a week and kind of let the concept shape itself. I get inspired by the lyrics and can hopefully bring another layer to the story. I try not to be affected by [an artist’s] previous work. I don’t study [other videos of theirs]. I always think that somebody’s coming to me because of something I bring to the table and because I can open up a different view of the artist. Once I have images that I’m ready to put on paper, that’s the biggest challenge as an artist — to get what’s in my mind out into reality.

On “E.T.,” I was a little bit skeptical that an artist of Katy’s stature would be an alien, but she was so up for anything, which was fantastic. Half the video is her in alien form and how she is shape-shifting from an alien to a human as she gets closer to earth to save humanity through this kiss. Then she gets her signals crossed, and there’s a little bit of animal lust [shown by] her fawn legs. It’s a very interesting extraterrestrial love story, but it paints a bigger picture about humanity and what happens on earth.

There’s a bit of a Barbarella influence at the end there. She’s kind of a sexual goddess. She has intentions to save the world, and she’s a very strong character, but she has a lot of passion that you can see in her eyes. Hopefully they go off and create a new kind of being that inhabits the earth.

NEXT: Sigismondi on the indie vibe of “The One That Got Away”

For “The One That Got Away,” there was talk of making it like an independent film, and that’s when I got excited. At first, we were talking about using an actress to play Katy as she was older, but I was really excited about aging her. I think that is what makes it different and very special. You feel her because you know it’s her. You really connect to the song from the young Katy to the old Katy. We sculpted her face with an artist who made a cap of her face and who had really studied facial aging — kind of like a doctor in that way. I think they did a great job.

I wanted it to be such a contrast — to really show how this woman had made certain decisions and how she’d come to be. In the beginning, her life is sort of sterile and very cold and very pristine. I wanted the life that she left behind to be full of fire and passion. [Diego Luna] came to mind, and I thought he really brought a lot to the role, giving us all those textures and layers. You can see he’s a very opinionated, passionate kind of person. She’s left that world behind. He represents the artist — that part of yourself when you’re growing and trying to find who you are and you’re experimenting and growing as a person.

Ultimately, they’re going in different directions. The main thing is how ego got in the way. If she had maybe said something, if she had not closed the door on him… It’s those regrets that you look back on and wonder if certain events wouldn’t have happened. When we filmed, we talked about letting go of the beat, really hitting it on the layer of the lyrics. I like the juxtaposition of having this upbeat track to a more regretful character. Katy stands out that way. I love mixing things that are on different end of the spectrum. When you put them together, you get something new and fresh.

For more on the Best and Worst of 2011, pick up Entertainment Weekly’s new issue, on stands now.

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