TAK­ING AIM

Empire (UK) - - RE.VIEW - PHIL DE SEMLYEN WORDS

Is­abelle Hup­pert on Elle, rude di­rec­tors and Hol­ly­wood pol­i­tics

WHEN IS­ABELLE HUP­PERT was Os­car-nom­i­nated for her role in Paul Ver­ho­even’s

Elle as Michèle Le­blanc, a CEO who re­acts to a sex­ual as­sault in an un­ortho­dox man­ner, it was — as­ton­ish­ingly — her first. But that gutsy, fear­less turn was em­blem­atic of an en­tire ca­reer, not just in the per­for­mances she’s given, but her re­fresh­ingly hon­est at­ti­tude in gen­eral. A bold out­look that doesn’t show any signs of dim­ming… On play­ing Michèle, Elle’s pro­tag­o­nist “Michèle has a mix­ture of strength and vul­ner­a­bil­ity. [Work­ing with Paul] was the per­fect col­lab­o­ra­tion: I did what I wanted to do on my side and he did what he wanted to do. It’s not the kind of role you can sit down and say, ‘Okay, why do you think she did this?’ I think the story speaks for it­self.” On the mixed re­ac­tion to Elle “I was ex­pect­ing [it to pro­voke peo­ple], oth­er­wise the film would have missed its tar­get. There is no sen­ti­men­tal­ity or sweet­ness in Michèle, just a cold­ness in the way she ap­proaches these events. She wants to un­der­stand some­thing about her­self, about men, and about de­sire and vi­o­lence. She wants to make an ex­pe­ri­ence out of it.” On the film be­ing la­belled a “rape com­edy” “I think that is a con­fu­sion. The rape is a very im­por­tant mat­ter in the film, but on the other side there is this great sense of hu­mour. But a rape com­edy? I don’t even know what it means. The film is funny be­cause she’s funny, but it’s more iron­i­cal than funny.” On Paul Ver­ho­even “I’ve ad­mired him from the very be­gin­ning of his ca­reer. I liked Turk­ish De­light a lot, then I saw all his big Hol­ly­wood block­busters and I like Show­girls very much. It was re­jected at the time, but ev­ery­one ad­mits now that it’s a good film. As a di­rec­tor, he’s very pre­cise — al­most del­i­cate. His films are some­times quite bru­tal but he’s the com­plete op­po­site, very gen­er­ous and ded­i­cated.” On her Os­car nom­i­na­tion “The whole jour­ney was very nice, all the way to the Os­car and Golden Globe nom­i­na­tions. We didn’t ex­pect to get all this at­ten­tion and recog­ni­tion, be­cause we weren’t try­ing to set the film on this kind of path, but it gave it great le­git­i­macy. I sat next to Jeff Bridges at the Os­cars. I did Heaven’s Gate with him and we haven’t seen each other since.”

On star­ring in in­fa­mous flop Heaven’s Gate “It’s one of my great­est pro­fes­sional mem­o­ries. Michael Cimino al­ways said that he had to fight to cast me in it, but he had to fight over ev­ery­thing. It was a fight from the be­gin­ning. Of course, we wish it had been a great suc­cess, but you can’t dis­as­so­ci­ate the grandeur of the film from that re­jec­tion. Michael never re­ally re­cov­ered from it.” On work­ing with Otto Preminger

“[Rose­bud in 1975] was an ex­pe­ri­ence for me at a very early age. I played one of five girls who’d been kid­napped. Kim Cat­trall was one of the other girls and we’ve re­mained very good friends ever since. Did I like Otto? He was very rude to every­body. Ev­ery day he’d say in a big Aus­trian ac­cent, “If you’re not happy, go back to Paris.” That was his mantra. I ad­mired him a lot. He was a great di­rec­tor, though that was not his best film. On The Piano Teacher’s self-stab­bing scene, which took 52 takes “It didn’t bother me [do­ing mul­ti­ple takes]. El­friede Je­linek’s book de­scribes the ex­pres­sion on my char­ac­ter’s face [in the scene] as be­ing like a whin­ny­ing horse. Both Michael [Haneke, di­rec­tor] and I were try­ing to find this mo­ment. I don’t know which take we used in the end.” On miss­ing out on The Piano “I never au­di­tioned for it, but Jane Cam­pion did come to visit me. I was do­ing Mea­sure For

Mea­sure at the Odéon the­atre, and she came to my dress­ing room and talked to me about the project. I didn’t re­ally re­alise what it was. If I’d known, I would have thrown my­self at her feet and begged to do it. I don’t have any re­grets, though. We wouldn’t have had Holly Hunter and she was so fan­tas­tic.” On the lim­ited op­por­tu­ni­ties in Hol­ly­wood for fe­male film­mak­ers “When I’m in the States, I keep hear­ing about these con­cerns about how dif­fi­cult it is [for women to make films] and how the pro­por­tion [of fe­male film­mak­ers] is much lower. In France, it’s not re­ally an is­sue; every­body can make films.” ELLE IS OUT NOW ON DVD, BLU-RAY AND DOWN­LOAD

Is­abelle Hup­pert as Michèle Le­blanc in Elle. Be­low, from top to bot­tom: With Heaven’s Gate di­rec­tor Michael Cimino; 1975’s Rose­bud: Joyce (Kim Cat­trall), Sabine (Brigitte Ariel), He­lene (Hup­pert) and Gertrude (De­bra Berger); As tu­tor Erika Ko­hut with her pupil Wal­ter Klem­mer (Benoît Mag­imel) in The Piano Teacher.

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