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
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
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
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
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
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
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, 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 ?
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
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
Par : Geoff Andrew