cur, the industry often gets overcome with a panicky need to get the star into something – anything! – before the tarnish fades.
“Yes, but I always tried to follow my instincts and I never try to reach anything in particular,” she says. “I don’t think of my work in terms of career. I took the opportunities I felt would be interesting. I didn’t have any special plan.”
After Amélie, she worked with Stephen Frears onDirty Pretty Things and, again for Jeunet, on the war drama A Very Long Engagement. Then, in 2006, she embarked on her first blockbuster with Ron Howard’s The Da Vinci Code. You may laugh. You probably should laugh. But the adaptation of Dan Brown’s dreadful conspiracy thriller made several fortunes and launched a peculiar franchise that hasn’t quite gone away yet. It premiered at Cannes. It caused critics to huff. It became the second-highest grossing release of 2006. Was she prepared for it all? “I don’t know. The budget? The expectation? There was such a . . . erm? Ferment? It’s a huge machine when you are in this type of movie, but when you are on set, it is the same. Nothing is different as an actor. Everything is bigger though. It was very interesting, but I don’t think I have the right profile for this kind of thing.”
Tautou won’t quite admit to consciously backing away from Hollywood, but, since helping that film to secure its riches, she has had nothing much to do with the dream factory. Over the past decade she has made only French films. She had a hit with Coco Before Chanel. Many critics liked her in the recent Thérèse D. Would she rule our a return to English-language pictures?
“I can’t say that,” she says. “It depends on the project. It’s not something I can really choose as an actor. But I am more concerned and interested in projects that have a personal vision – an independent spirit. The Da Vinci Code was a great experience. Fame is something that scares me more than it attracts me.”
Which brings us right up to date. Tautou is in London to promote two upcoming films. At the start of August, she appears in Michel Gondry’s characteristically crazy Mood Indigo. Next week, she turns up in Cédric Klapisch’s Chinese Puzzle as one of four pals having adventures in hipper parts of New York City. Following on from Pot Luck and Russian Dolls, the picture is the third in a series of comic dramas charting the progress of the metrosexual chums as they face up to the century’s challenges. Romain Duris, Kelly Reilly and Cécile de France are also still on board.
Promoting two pictures? This is the part of the job they actually pay her for.
“I think so. You are right,” she laughs. “Well, maybe not. Because I am here promoting two films, it is schizophrenic. It is important for the films. But talking about yourself is not really an enriching experience.”
Well, talk about Michel Gondry then. The director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep is one of cinema’s great eccentrics. Few men are more delightfully odd in person. I assume he doesn’t modify behaviour on set.
“Ha ha! No, not at all,” she says. “The environment created in Michel’s brain is a real storm of ideas. He has no barrier to stop creating. He creates a big mess but he still knows where he wants to go.”
She’s nofool. The onscreen battiness emerges from a cautious mind that is focused on avoiding wrong turns and retaining control. It is more than 10 years since the team got together for Pot Luck. In that time, Tautou must have learned a lot, suffered a few blows and discovered new routes to recovery. I assume she and her pals chatted about how life had treated them.
“No. I don’t think about that so much,” she says. “My face may change but apart from that I don’t think so much about that. It’s as if I was refining an old friend playing this part. But I make no comparison with my own life.”
She’s a mysterious sort. But then so are Deneuve and Bardot. Maybe, it’s a French thing.
Chinese Puzzle opens next Friday