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Le 21 septembre 2005, Catherine Deneuve a été interviewée en public sur la scène du National Film Theatre à Londres dans le cadre d'un hommage qui lui était rendu. Cette interview fait partie de la série "The Guardian Lectures". Ci-dessous une retranscription de cet événement.

Geoff Andrew : I hate using the word iconic when used to describe people, but in this instance we are talking about an icon because Catherine Deneuve's face was used as the image of Marianne [the French national emblem of liberty and reason] for the bicentennial of the French Revolution. She is one of the most iconic stars in world cinema, and a great actress.

Before we bring her on stage, we're going to show some clips. We start with Roman Polanski's "Repulsion", then Luis Buñuel's "Belle de jour", then Francois Dupeyron's "A strange place to meet", and we conclude with André Téchiné's "My favourite season". And then we have Mademoiselle Deneuve.

[after clips and applause]

I think that's what's described as a very warm welcome. Thank you very much for coming. This interview coincides with the publication of your diaries, which cover some very recent films but go as far back as "Tristana". I just wondered why you decided to publish now ?
Actually, these were very private and personal thoughts and reflect the things I was doing far from Paris and outside my country. This book was company for me - I wrote these things when I was in hotels, far from where I normally live. I never intended to publish it. But I had an opportunity to work with an editor on a book of interviews done over the years, which I thought was an interesting idea. I did it because I knew I would never write an autobiography. But when I read a draft I had the impression that it wasn't me. Interviews are written by someone else - the journalist makes the decision to add or take things away and I couldn't recognise my voice, or anything of myself in that. So I told this editor that I had written some things in a diary a long time ago, some little pieces here and there. And he asked to read them because he really wanted us to do something together. So I looked for them and gave them to him to read, and he said that it could be a book. It was all a surprise to me. It's very difficult for me to speak about being an actor, but this book represents the sound of my voice when I'm working.

It's funny because my next question was going to be : do you have a secret to your acting ? I've interviewed many actors over the years and it's true, it's very difficult for actors to describe what they do because it's so intuitive. You've mentioned that these diaries were written as company in places where you were by yourself. The first clip we showed was of "Repulsion", which was shot here in London, and it's about someone who is very lonely. In the clip we showed, there are no words, just you walking around the flat.
Yes, I remember when I read the script, thinking that if only my lines were in the script, it would be a very, very thin script, because I speak very, very little in "Repulsion".

But what's great about that scene and the scene from "Belle de jour" is that your acting is very understated. And I think that if there is a secret to your acting, it is that you tend to underplay.
Yes, but sometimes, I think, too much. Directors have to push me because I never start [high] and then need to be pushed down ; I have to be pushed up. Not all the time, but often.

With "Repulsion", you were playing this lonely person. Did you find it a lonely experience making that film here in London ?

Not at all. I didn't feel lonely because Roman Polanski, who was doing his first film - he had only done "Knife in the water" before - he came here with Gérard Brach, the scriptwriter. The three of us spoke French together, we spent a lot of time together, even after shooting. It was set in England, but it was a French team, and even though Roman is actually Polish, he speaks perfect, fluent French. I didn't feel lonely at all.

In the film, you play a very disturbed character and I wondered if you ever find yourself getting very deeply involved in or affected by a character ?
I find sometimes that it's more difficult to do very simple, low-key films, like I've done with André Téchiné. Sometimes, at the end of a shoot with him, I feel very down, like I'm leaving something because these are low-key but novel characters. But when you do films like "Repulsion" or musicals, where you have to play someone so far away from yourself, what I do is I come in the morning and get involved in the character, but I'm always very pleased to leave it at night and have my life. No, I don't live that much with the character. I find it hard enough having to spend so many hours with the character during the day. Because you don't act all the time and you spend a long time waiting, but you still have to support this character all day long.

So you're not one of these Method style actors, who have to get very deeply into character and identify with it.

But I do get very involved with the character. But being a film actor is very different from, say, a theatre actor. You get involved with a character after spending a long time waiting, and this demands a lot of energy and concentration. So I am very involved with the character, but I have to leave it as soon as it's finished. And also, you always have to be at the right level when it's time to shoot, which is not always the best time for the actor. Sometimes, if you're shooting a complicated scene, you have to stay in a position and wait for the technician to do his job, and then you have to be where you're supposed to be, right on the spot. You don't rehearse all that much on films. If I think of the amount of time I spend on set compared with the time spent shooting, it's ridiculously short.

Do you ever find it boring to have to be on the set so much ?

No. I get irritated, I get nervous, very tense or stressed, but no, never bored. Interestingly, people who have come to visit me on set - which I don't like - they're very surprised and say that I'm not the person they know. I'm not available to them, I cannot go off with them, I cannot get involved in their conversations, so they get the impression that they're seeing someone else. I tell them, yes, I do love to see them after a shoot, but during the shoot, I am with the people I work with. They ask, how can I stand being on a set waiting for so long, and that it must be so boring. And I have to explain that to wait, for an actor, is not at all like someone who's waiting to see the doctor. It's not the kind of wait where you get bored. Even if I try to think about something else while I'm waiting, I am living with the film, with the scene. But I do often feel tired during the day, and I'm lucky because I can go to sleep very easily, for even 10 to 15 minutes, even if I'm in costume or under a wig, so I do.

You never actually had a great, burning ambition to go into acting, did you ? It was almost an accident, following your sister.
Yes, exactly. I had the opportunity to do a film during the summer school holidays with my sister, and I accepted because I was curious to see how it was done. Even after I'd done it once, I was still not sure if I wanted to go on doing that. But then I was offered another film, and my parents had to decide whether I should go on and leave school - my mother wasn't so keen but my father said, "If she's happy then why not ?" So, I carried on doing films. But until I met Jacques Demy I was not sure if I was going to carry on being an actress.

"The umbrellas of Cherbourg" was really the film that lifted your career to an amazing extent.
But even if the film had been different, meeting with him as a director and seeing the way he worked and the relationship we developed before, during and after the shoot, that became something really important in my life. It made me see film in a different way.

As you know, "The umbrellas of Cherbourg" and "Les demoiselles de Rochefort" are two of my favourite movies. In a way, "Umbrellas" is such an unlikely film. When you were told about it, did you think, "Why would I want to make this strange film ?" Did you suspect that it would be a hit ?
No. I've just always been very curious and my choices have always been determined by my interest in doing something new or interesting. So I didn't think that what he wanted to do was strange ; instead it appealed to me because it was very special.

Was it the fairytale aspect, or the musical side of things ?
When I met him, the music wasn't finished yet. He asked to meet me - he invited me to a cocktail reception for "Lola". He had seen me in a film I did with Mel Ferrer, which was my second film. "Umbrellas" took a long time to get off the ground because in the meantime I had my son, and I did "Umbrellas" right after giving birth to my son. Before shooting, it was a strange experience. Michel Legrand wrote the music and we all had to learn the film by heart because we had to do it completely in playback. I knew the music was very touching and though I didn't know what the film would become, I knew that it would be very unusual and emotional. It was very complicated but it was also very interesting. We had to do all the scenes with a clock to be sure that we got the timing right. He had to tailor his direction around the music which was very difficult - he would need to think about how long an action would take, how long we had to be in a room to do a scene, and then work with that on the set. It's very weird because you can't just go to the door and open it ; no, it has to be right on time and sometimes he had to do the direction between the sung dialogues. Very original, very difficult but a great experience.

It wasn't until "Demoiselles de Rochefort" that you got to act with your sister. So that must have been a very special film.
Yes. And that film, too, was very difficult to do because it was a huge project, very expensive for a French film. There was an English choreographer, American actors - George Chakiris and Gene Kelly. Very complicated because we were working on a natural set, and we were shooting in August, the warmest month of the year. So the dancers' rehearsals were very difficult. It wasn't like "Umbrellas" - it wasn't sung all the time - but it was an incredible project.

The thing I like about it is that it has such vitality and energy. And you looked like you were having fun.

Well, we didn't always have fun because sometimes, just to give the impression that you have the strength and the vitality demands a lot. You can't always give that impression when you have heels and a wig on and it's 40 degrees outside. And Jacques Demy was demanding a lot of us, especially so of the dancers, so it was very difficult for them. Us actors we were more protected. But he was hard with everybody - if he wasn't sure that he had what he wanted, he would make us redo it. But he had the energy and he gave it to everybody on the set, so he was very hard but he was giving a lot as well.

So we go from him being very demanding to Luis Buñuel, who I always have the impression...
He doesn't demand anything. That's the danger.

That's the thing - you always expect him to be very rigorous and precise, and slightly difficult because of his deafness.
No. Well, I think it was difficult for him, coping with his deafness. Some people said he was not that deaf, but I think, when you don't hear very well and when you're tired, everything sinks into a buzz, and it is very hard. French is not his language, so on "Belle de jour", I'm sure that it was much more of an effort for him to have to explain. I've always thought that he likes actors, up to a point. I think he likes very much the idea of the film, and to write it. But I had the impression that the film-making was not what he preferred to do. He had to go through actors, and he liked them if they were easy, simple, not too much fuss. He would say very little to actors. But then, there weren't many ways to do the scenes. You couldn't really fool around with the script - it was very precise.

You quote him in your book as saying once, "Spare us the psychology".
Oh yes, that was a scene in "Tristana" where I had to go on the balcony, and the boy was looking at me from downstairs. He knew that I had this artificial leg, and you see me throwing the leg on the bed, and then I open my robe. So Buñuel was downstairs with the camera, and just before we shot the scene, he said to me, "Please, no psychology." He had a great sense of humour. But we got along much better on "Tristana" than on "Belle de jour". On "Belle de jour", the producer was very protective and we were very separated and it was very hard for me.

In "Tristana", why do you think it was easier between you two ? Was it because you knew and understood him better ?
Frankly, he was quite different and I think I know why. It was the first time he had been able to go back to Spain since "Viridiana" ; it was a book that he had always wanted to do so he was very happy to go back to Spain to do it. He was a lot more open. We even had dinner together in my house, which was something very exceptional. I could feel he was very different, and being surrounded by the Spanish language was much easier for him. Everything went very smoothly and well. "Tristana" is one of my favourite films.

Another of the great film-makers you worked with around this time was Francois Truffaut, with whom you made, first, "La sirène du Mississippi" and then "Le dernier métro". And you became very close to him ; in fact he's one of your favourite directors.
Yes, well, Truffaut loved actresses and he was very intense. All the actresses I knew wanted to do a film with him and you could feel that he loved women, especially actresses. It's very rare that you find a director who's as intense as he was about actresses and the characters that he wrote for them. But "Mississippi mermaid" was a very special experience because he decided to write the script but no dialogues before the shoot. We only had the dialogues for the scenes we were shooting everyday the night before. It was very demanding for him, of course, because after a day of shooting he had to write the next scene. He had decided to shoot in order and to start from the beginning until the end, which is very rare. It was also difficult for the actors because you lack the time to think, and to rewrite or to change the scene. It was a very long, very intense but very interesting shoot.

In that movie you were playing opposite Belmondo. You've also played opposite Gerard Depardieu, Daniel Auteuil, Michel Piccoli, Marcello Mastroianni, Philippe Noiret, Montand, Trintignant. So many great actors, even Burt Reynolds.
I liked him very much, a wonderful man. He had a great sense of humour, for an American.

Apart from possibly Mastroianni, do you have a favourite leading man ?

Well, actually, I would love to work with Robert De Niro or Al Pacino. I think they're wonderful actors. Even though today people say De Niro does too many films when he used to be so choosy and all that, I love to see him on screen. And I like Al Pacino and Sean Penn, too, very much. Sean Penn is one of my favourite actors.

All Americans.
All Americans, yes. But I wouldn't say no to being in a film with Jude Law. I love English actors.

We met once before - I interviewed Catherine in the late 80s, and I said to you then that you would have made a great cool blonde for Hitchcock. And you said that actually you were going to work on a project towards the end of his life. And then I discovered in this book of yours that you met him as early as 1968, when you had lunch with him.
I think it was later than that because I met him in Paris with Francois Truffaut after we had done "Mississippi mermaid". And I had a script - he wanted to do a spy story in Europe. And then he had this accident and the project was abandoned. But I would have loved to work with him. "Marnie" is a film I would have loved very much to do.

With all due respect to Tippi Hedren, I think I'd rather have seen you in it.
No, no. But it's a part I would have loved to play.

I think Hitchcock had something that was very precise about his film-making. Quite a lot of the film-makers you've worked with strike me as people who know very precisely what they're doing, whether it's Polanski or Buñuel.
Buñuel was, frankly, not a demanding director. You have to be very careful with him because you can be bad with him. I mean, he didn't push you, he didn't like to do too many takes. But I knew that already, doing "Tristana" after "Belle de jour". I could see when he was bored, or nervous, or irritated or just fed up. Actors have to be there and do the work, and that's enough.

Some of your other directors, though, must have been...
Polanski was very precise. I think he still is.

I think so, too. "Oliver Twist" is certainly the work of somebody who still works in that same very exact way. And then, there are people who give you a great deal of freedom. Raoul Ruiz, for instance ?

Yes, he loves to do very long scenes and to go around actors. It's very interesting for actors to work like that.

Do you have a particular preference ? Do you like things to be very improvisational or...
Well, improvisation, I did it for the first time with Lars von Trier. When we did "Dancer in the dark", he asked us to do some rehearsals just to see if we could ad lib. We would do the scenes as they had been written, but then he would ask us to redo the scenes and forget the dialogues but knowing where the scene was going. What I don't like is close-ups, unless the actor is in the camera with me. I have to feel his presence. If I have to feel the presence of the camera before my partner's, it's very difficult. I love to do very long and complicated scenes. I like to have this impression that we are all working together, where you can see all the technicians and everybody is really doing the same thing at the same time. With close-ups, of course you have the crew there, but most of them are just around and it doesn't involve that many people. But another experience I've had that's quite peculiar and you cannot do that all the time is when I did this film with Philippe Garrel ["Night wind"] and he told me that he wanted to try doing just one take. Which means that if we don't have any technical problems with a scene, he would want not to redo the scene at all. Which is so rare and such a big risk. But I said, "Yes, why not ?" But it was a very strange feeling, because when he called "Action !", you felt like it had to be there, now or never again. So it was emotionally very strange. But I liked it.

You've worked with other experimental film-makers. I've already mentioned Ruiz - and we're showing "Genealogies of a crime" here, which is a very bizarre film...
Very bizarre. But that's what I like about film - it can be bizarre, classic, normal, romantic. Cinema is to me the most versatile thing.

You've also worked with Manoel de Oliveira. I remember seeing "The convent" in Cannes and not understanding a word of it. And I wondered, when you work on a film like that, or "Genealogies", where the character doesn't make normal psychological sense, how do you prepare for a part like that ?
It was very difficult. And you're better off not preparing, because what you prepare will always be wrong. Manoel de Oliveira is very, very special. He works all the time, he writes the script during the night. But when we started work on "The convent", he told me that we would never do a travelling shot, and he didn't want to do any zoom. So we would only do straight scenes. Sometimes, he would ask you to move in a special way because he didn't want to change the lens. I remember we were doing a scene in the wood with John Malkovich, and he asked me to get in a strange position, to sort of lean on a tree, and I felt so awkward, and I told him so. But he said, "It doesn't matter because that's what I want in this scene". It was a little difficult at the beginning for me to get really involved in that experience, but after a while, it began to be fun. He has changed, though. I did another film with him, and this time, no zoom but he did travelling shots. So he would ask you to move forward, or to go backward or sideways or whatever because the camera was not moving. Very strange.

One of the quotes in this book that intrigued me was when you said, "I need uncertainty in everything". You wrote that about the film "East-West", and your fear of seeming mechanical on screen. And you relate this to the time you didn't learn your lines properly for "Les voleurs", the André Téchiné film.
Most of the time, it's true. I always try to keep that feeling of being on the edge. It's very complicated but it's because I'm afraid of knowing too well and seeming mechanical. It's also a way to expose myself, like I was in "Les voleurs", to be in a difficult situation. Since then, I have thought a lot about that, but I cannot completely give up. I have to put myself in a little danger so as not to arrive completely sure. I'm afraid of being too sure, to just deliver. I think that's the biggest danger for actors - after a certain time, when you're known and recognised, people expect you to do what you're supposed to do, and there's almost no more criticism and that's very dangerous. I know because I've seen it. I go to the movies a lot, and I regret when I see this happen to some actor that I used to like, to find them offering no more surprises.

Have you found being famous a burden at all ?
Yes, sometimes. Not often, though, because it's not like in America where you need a bodyguard to go out. But sometimes, yes, when you're not working and you're just living, you forget and all of a sudden something happens to remind you that you're an actor. I'm not always the nicest person to meet, because I forget very easily that I'm an actress when I'm not working. I live very normally, I go out with my friends, we go to the movies, I queue, we go to restaurants. Then if something happens to remind me that I'm an actress then I become a little different and things become a little heavy. I like the advantages ; I know it's not right but I like being famous when it's convenient for me and completely anonymous when it's not.

Apart from being famous, you're also renowned as one of the great beauties of modern cinema. Has that been a problem at all ? Have you felt that people concentrate too much on your beauty and perhaps not enough on your talent ?
No, because luckily enough I did important films when I was very young. No, the burden comes more from the fact that people look at you first and expect a lot from you. They expect more from someone they think looks interesting. And it's a burden because, especially when you're young, you try to meet that expectation that people have of you. It can be very stressful. But with time it's become less of problem. Today, I know myself, I know who I am, how I was. I don't want to know how I will be because nobody knows that. But it's still sometimes difficult because being an actress is a very physical thing. Still, I know that if I didn't look the way I looked, I would never have started in films. That, I remember, and I know I have to accept it. But getting older is not nice for anyone, not for men, not for women, and even more difficult for people who depend on their physical appearance. But it's not a drama. I know some people who are much more stressed than I am. And also, I live in Europe ; I think it would be much more difficult if I lived in America.

You described yourself in the book at one point as a good soldier, which suggests that you like to be told what to do on set.
It's not so much liking to be told what to do, but more about understanding the reason why we're there, and what we're supposed to do, even if it's not something I particularly want to do. I have a strong sense of responsibility. I like to be directed, it's true. If I didn't like that, I'd do something else. Being an actor means being an instrument for someone else. That's why I like working with directors I like very much, because I want to be able to give myself completely to their vision. Otherwise I would only do what I could do, again and again. I want to be taken by someone in a different direction.

Do you always make sure you see all your films ?
Not only do I see the finished film, and usually I see it once, but I also see the dailies, which not many actors do. I know a lot of actors who don't like to see how they've done everyday. For example, on "Eight women", most of the actresses didn't go to the dailies, but I asked the director if I could see them every other day. Because I think it's very interesting to understand how we work together, the lighting and all that. And also, because you can change things if you see it from the beginning. But I'm not so different from the other actresses ; I know that when I first see the dailies, I look only at myself, but because there are two, three, four takes, you start to see the scene. But some actors I know cannot look at the dailies because they see only themselves and they cannot stand it.

When you are offered a film, what do you look at ? Is it your role, or the director, or...
It's the script and the director. So if the director's not the scriptwriter, it's a little more difficult, but most of the time I've worked with directors who write their own scripts. The story is more important to me than the part. The project of the film has always been more important to me.

Have you ever been tempted to direct ?
No, no, no. It's something else, you know ? I can be very critical on myself and on other people ; when I work, I can be very demanding. But to direct... I admire directors so much, I find them incredible : they manage such a huge number of people of different characters, think of the money involved. And they have to make decisions all the time, they have to answer all the time. I think it's incredible. No, no, I wouldn't be able to do that. I imagine that you have to forget about what the project represents sometimes because otherwise you become a monster. It's incredible the amount of responsibility and power you have. I wouldn't want that.

You do seem to work constantly. You've made a lot of films. Are you a workaholic ?
No, not at all. I love to not work. I love to go to the movies, I like to travel... I think I work maybe half the year. Sometimes, people think I've done three films in a year, but it's because I did a participation [cameo?] in a film. But I work for half a year, no more.

If you hadn't gone into acting, what would you have liked to do ?
How can I answer that when I started acting so young ?

Didn't you want to be a pilot or...
[Vigorously] Oh no, no.

A dancer ?
No. I suppose I would have liked maybe to be in architecture or painting, something connected to the fine arts.

Do you have any regrets about having gone into acting and devoted your life to it ?
I didn't devote my life to acting. No, no. I give a lot to my work, yes, but the time I work and the time I live, I think my life has always been more important. I've always been able to decide what was more important at different points in my life, but I never gave up personal things to work, never.

In that clip from "My favourite season", when you're having that very sad argument with your screen husband, at the end of it we see your real-life daughter, Chiara Mastroianni, who you also acted with in "Les voleurs", and who's gone on to have her own acting career. Were you happy that she followed you into acting, and were you surprised ?
I was surprised because I'd had the impression that she was more interested in writing for cinema than acting. But maybe she was too afraid to say it until André Téchiné asked her to do a screen test. Actually, he asked me first if he could test her as my daughter in the film and I said yes. She said yes and after screen tests with several other actresses, he chose her. But I was a little surprised because I never hoped that both my children would become actors, and knowing as I do what it's like over 40 years of acting, and there have been some very difficult moments, it's silly but I expected them to do something else. You know only too well what they're going to go through and what it can be like for them. And you suffer as an actor, so I wanted to protect my children from suffering. It's silly because they have their own experience of it and live something else. It's difficult to be an actor and live a good life, especially today.

We'll throw it out to the audience in a moment, but I just want to ask a couple of strange questions. They both come from the book. First, when you were talking about "Indochine", you mention that you could see the rats in your room, eating your yoghurt. But you say, "It doesn't matter. I like rodents".
Yes, it's true. It comes from my childhood. I like all these little animals that run and eat and hide all the time. I like their faces, I like the fact that they always seem to be scared and curious at the same time. I had mice that I kept as pets when I was very young, and I've always liked the way they look, all of them. Even rats. I'm not scared of them. But in that case, it was funny because the way they were eating my yoghurt, it was like a cartoon. They were cutting round holes in the carton and using their tails to carry it away. It was amazing. When I told the ladies who came to clean the house, they screamed and came back with things to beat and kill them. So I couldn't stay in the house with all those rats. I like them but they can be dangerous, especially if they bite you.

And the other rather puzzling reference in the diary was I think in the chapter where you talk about working on "Dancer in the dark". You mention the fact that you have a sheep hut.

Ah yes. In Sweden they use a very special thing to make a colour that I love. It's a very special red - very deep and flat. I thought it was so beautiful, so I asked about it, and I found out that it came only from one part of Sweden, where the iron in the earth gives this peculiar quality to the red. So I wanted to take this colour and paint the house of my sheep this red.

So you do own some sheep ?
[Audience laughs]
Only a few.

And are they surrounded by rats ?
Well, there are a lot of rats because I live near water.

Okay, I'm now going to throw this open to the audience. I'm sure you have similarly interesting questions.

Question 1 : What was it like working with Björk on "Dancer in the dark" ?
It was a very unusual experience because she didn't want to be in the film after a while, she wanted to give up. But she had been so involved in writing the music for the film that in the end she decided to stay. But she knew she wasn't an actress so she would suffer a lot. I was suffering for her because I could see how hard it was for her to do some things, because she had to feel and really live the experience. And the film was very difficult. It took a lot out of her, and she said that she would never go back to it because it demanded too much of her. I remember a scene where she had to slap her son in the film, and she couldn't do it. We had to use someone else - she just couldn't. But she is a very original, very interesting person. I like her very much.

Have you ever been asked to do something that you said no to ?
I don't think so. Maybe sometimes, because I have no physical courage, I've asked for a double. Like when I did "The African" with Philippe de Broca, I asked for a change in some scenes because I felt that we were taking a risk for no reason and we didn't have stand-ins. So I said, "No, no, I'm not going to take the risk and fall into the water". Roles that require physical action don't appeal to me, and actually I'm not an admirer of action movies. I just think, "Oh my God, it must be so tiring", you know ?

Question 2 : Was Buñuel involved in choosing your clothes in his films ?
He was, but only a little. There was a little fuss over that - I proposed Yves St Laurent and he said he wanted to see some pictures, so we brought him some photos and some drawings, and he said all right. But he never came to the fitting. He was, I think, happy with the result but he wasn't interested enough. I've seen directors coming to the clothes fittings, like Ozon, for example, for "Eight women". I was surprised because most of the time, directors are very choosy and difficult - they know what they don't want: they don't want the clothes to seem new. Benoît Jacquot, when I played Marie Bonaparte [in "Princesse Marie"], he was very fussy at first. But after that, they lose interest and don't bother to come to the fitting because it's very boring for them. But with Buñuel, I think the clothes in "Belle de jour" are very important to the style of the film because even today, when you look at it, it is still timeless.

Question 3 : Which decade of cinema do you enjoy watching most, and which have you most enjoyed working in ?
I like some of the early silent films because I love to watch how actors had to play then. What would interest me today is to do a silent film. I think it would have to be short because not many people can stand a silent film that lasts an hour and 15 minutes.

Aki Kaurismäki made one called "Juha", which was about 70 minutes long, and even in Paris it didn't get an audience. Great pity because it was a wonderful film.
It's very difficult, but you can express a lot of things, a lot of action without speaking. I haven't given up on this idea.

You almost got that with "Repulsion".
Almost, yes. But I was not speaking but other people around me were. The period I like very much in films is the great period of American comedies - Billy Wilder, Capra. All those American-European directors I like very much.

You wrote about one film by Stuart Rosenberg, "The April fools", which was one of your few American films. And apart from hanging out with Jacques Demy and Agnès Varda, you were obviously not having a great time.
No, it was in 1968, which was a difficult time in my life and those were two difficult years of personal loss and I had a lot of problems. And to be far away from France was very difficult for me. And the shooting was not taking enough of my time to make me forget that I was there. I really felt like a European actress taken out of Europe to look very good in an American film. He was very nice with me, so it wasn't bad, but I didn't feel involved enough. I liked very much working with Jack Lemmon, but that was not enough for the time I had to spend there.

And did you enjoy making "Hustle" ?
Yes, because I was told that [Robert Aldrich] was a difficult director, especially to women, but we got along very well. And Burt Reynolds is an actor I really like very much - he's a wonderful person and I had a very, very good experience.

Question 4 : Any current directors that you would like to work with ?
CD: Many. I would love to work with Nanni Moretti, Jim Jarmusch, Jonathan Demme. Coppola, Scorsese, of course. A lot of very good directors I'd love to be involved with.

Question 5 : Is there a woman from history you'd like to play on screen ?
Not really. I think one of the few times I've been involved with real-life characters was the story of Marie Bonaparte. I think it's really difficult to become someone that really existed. But that was very different because it was the beginning of psychoanalysis and she was a great psychoanalyst at the beginning of the last century. It was a very special character, that's why I got great pleasure from doing it. Also, people didn't know that much about her. It's less difficult than when you're supposed to look like someone who is famous from images and drawings. No, I don't have that much curiosity for interpreting a famous character.

Question 6 : Have you ever regretted turning down a part ?
Yes. Not turning down a part, but being part of a project and pulling out. I won't tell you which, because those films were done and they were very interesting films and the actresses they chose to replace me were very, very good. But it happened to me twice, yes.

Question 7 : Which film actresses do you most admire from the history of cinema ?
I admire very much Carole Lombard, also an actress called Judy Holliday. And I like very much Greta Garbo.

Question 8 : What did you think of Agnès Varda's film of Jacques Demy, "Jacquot de Nantes" ?
I haven't seen the film but I'm sure Agnès Varda is a great documentary film-maker - she is a very strong personality and she has a very special and personal eye, so I'm sure it's a very good and interesting film.

Question 9 : How was it working with Francois Ozon on "Eight women" ?
It was difficult because he was... I suppose he was afraid of giving more to one actress than to another, so he sort of treated us like the commander of a troop. And I was not too keen about that way of working. But he was very precise. The interesting thing is that he would do the camera himself, which is very rare. He knew exactly what he wanted and he showed us images from films. Our characters were a mixture of characters from English or American films and it was sort of like a pastiche, but we knew it would be like that. Once he had decided on the costumes and the style of it, he let us be quite free to work with that.

How difficult was it to hit Danielle Darrieux over the head, especially since she's played your mother four times ?
Oh, it was not difficult because it was a sugar bottle. And I knew she wouldn't feel it too much. It's always difficult to play a scene of physical violence because you're always afraid that you don't know your own strength and might hurt someone. But it was a sugar bottle, so it was all right.

She has played your mother four times. That's rather strange, isn't it ?
Yes. Sometimes I don't see her for years, but when we meet, it's like I've just seen her yesterday. She will always be my screen mother. She played my mother in my second film, a long, long time ago, long before "Demoiselles de Rochefort".

Question 10 : You mentioned that Jacques Demy changed your idea of cinema - how ?
It's not that he changed my idea of cinema, it was more that I didn't have any idea of what film could be like. He opened a door for me that revealed something. And the fact that he was very unique, and he would try to do things... Everything, even strange things, seemed natural and normal to him - singing in the street at midnight, to be in playback, inventing little machines to move his camera around because we didn't have cranes and it was too expensive to go high, so he asked people to build things. He was incredibly inventive and creative as a director. So it was like a Pandora's Box.

Do you have a favourite film from your career ?
I think I will always feel a special relationship with "The umbrellas of Cherbourg", because for me it was something very, very special. It was a modern opera, and to play the heroine in a film that became such a success at a young age, and learning from him when I was so young and impressionable - really it was one of my most important experiences.

In this book, at one point, you say, "I must make an effort to be more serious. I get pleasure from frivolous things".

I should have taken that out. Those are diaries that I wrote for me, and these things don't mean much.

But you wrote this after you'd gone out to buy classical music to cheer yourself up. So you're not that frivolous.
I am, I am frivolous. But sometimes, that's the problem of my Christian education, when I know I've been frivolous, and I know I have to do it, then I feel guilty.

So you enjoy yourself, whichever.
No, I don't enjoy. I suffer from enjoying. It's very Christian.

Sadly, I think we have to stop here. Would you please join me in thanking Catherine Deneuve.

Par : Geoff Andrew

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