La dif­férence

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

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

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