“Truf­faut had to have me, had to mo­nop­o­lise me. There was some­thing in­stinc­tual about his ap­proach.”

VOGUE Hommes International (English) - - DUEL -

rather, in love with his idea of me and his in­ten­tion to film me. He had to have me, had to mo­nop­o­lise me. He could have waited. There was some­thing in­stinc­tual about his ap­proach that I wasn’t ca­pa­ble of analysing as such at the time, I was far too young. I ended up by giv­ing in, as if he was ab­duct­ing me. It’s strange, when I think about it. My fa­ther lit­er­ally car­ried off my mother. Truf­faut must have been one of the ab­duc­tions of my own life. The Story of Adèle H. was a won­der­ful gift from him to me. When I come across sen­tences in his di­aries, where he writes things like “I’d like to film her even on Sun­days, France is too small for her”, I’m dev­as­tated. I say to my­self, my God, why has he gone, too? He would have helped me in this maze.

Another man gone who didn’t save you. VH

Yes, that’s true, what you say. Which goes to show that IA the other per­son, when they re­ally lis­ten to you, like you are do­ing, they hear what you your­self don’t know you’re say­ing. You’re right — it’s tragic, isn’t it (!laughs!) Of course, we would have made another film to­gether.

The gen­eral pub­lic of­ten as­so­ciates you with the pas­sion­ate, tem­pes­tu­ous, VH ro­man­tic hero­ines you play. Some­times to the point of mad­ness. Yes, that’s true, and that has got me into a lot of mis­unIA der­stand­ings. How of­ten have I wanted to say to peo­ple “Have you gone mad? Just be­cause you acted in a film called Pos­ses­sion doesn’t mean you’re pos­sessed.”

Do you think that the roles an ac­tor takes have an im­pact on their psy­che? VH

There are roles that have been a tran­si­tional ob­ject (#a IA sort of safety blan­ket#), in the noble sense of the word. Other char­ac­ters are like or­a­cles, pre­mo­ni­tions, or rem­i­nis­cences. It was re­cently dis­cov­ered that DNA is marked by the scars of trans­gen­er­a­tional trauma. Fact. It’s a spe­cial gene that con­tains in­for­ma­tion re­lated to the life of an ances­tor which is never trans­mit­ted di­rectly from par­ent to child, but skips gen­er­a­tions. And it’s now pos­si­ble to de–pro­gramme the cel­lu­lar mem­ory — in other words to re­move a story that isn’t yours from your DNA. And I won­der if, in the present time of an ac­tor’s life, in­for­ma­tion isn’t man­u­fac­tured that doesn’t be­long to her real his­tory but to her fic­tional past, and if it doesn’t res­onate with what she re­ally ex­pe­ri­ences. After all, the psy­che, your cells, don’t know that you’re only act­ing un­happy, so you could imag­ine that the neg­a­tive in­for­ma­tion you gen­er­ate is pro­cessed and in­te­grated as if it were the real thing. Putting your­self in dan­ger takes place in a closed cir­cuit. Haven’t some ac­tors be­gun to go down­hill be­cause of that per­me­abil­ity? Per­haps in­stinc­tively, it’s one of the rea­sons that have kept me out of the pro­fes­sion. I re­mem­ber that when I was liv­ing with Daniel Day–Lewis, he turned down parts in cer­tain films, Philadel­phia, in par­tic­u­lar. He said to him­self: “If I do Philadel­phia, I could die.” Said like that, it smacks of a very ro­man­tic state­ment, but it was thought out in a very mea­sured way. He said to him­self, in view of the way he works (#“I don’t act, I be­come”#), that it could do him a lot of harm and that he wouldn’t sur­vive.


VH You are very sim­i­lar to Daniel Day–Lewis in your to­tal in­volve­ment in the char­ac­ters you choose to play, and also in the rar­ity of your ap­pear­ances and sig­na­ture dis­cre­tion. Yes, bizarrely. But Daniel is more frag­ile and the same IA time stronger than I am be­cause he has been to­tally able to cir­cum­vent his fragility. He has sur­rounded him­self with su­perb direc­tors in or­der to chan­nel what could amount to an im­bal­ance in his life in an ex­cit­ing, artis­tic man­ner. He has man­aged to be the agent of his own dif­fi­culty. Which didn’t stop me be­ing afraid for him, of­ten. He goes fur­ther out on the limb than any­one I know. If he has to adopt an ac­cent for a film, he talks to you in that ac­cent. He never drops it for a sec­ond. At the same time, all that op­er­ates in a highly struc­tured frame­work or­gan­ised around pri­or­i­ties — the sort of thing English–speak­ing ac­tors do so well. They aren’t mired in France’s post–New Wave mess, where there’s all sorts of con­fu­sion. At the end of the day, to find your­self here, you have to be ei­ther ul­tra–struc­tured or mega­lo­ma­niac, or have bags of poise and self–con­fi­dence, which help you to fall on your feet in the right place. Take Va­le­ria Bruni Tedeschi, for in­stance. I find the way she has taken her­self in hand ab­so­lutely re­mark­able. Her films and what she says about the ac­tor’s state res­onate re­ally pow­er­fully with me. She doesn’t know how much I ad­mire her. After that, when you’re talk­ing about rar­ity and lever­ag­ing it, it’s prob­a­bly a lot eas­ier for Daniel. Scoop­ing up three Os­cars and work­ing with the great­est film mak­ers tem­pers the ques­tion of whether this pro­fes­sion is re­ally worth ru­in­ing your­self for.

What’s your view of Is­abelle Ad­jani the ac­tress? VH

I know what I can do, what I haven’t done yet, IA and the things I’ve done that I’m not proud of. I’m pretty un­com­pro­mis­ing when I look at my­self. I’m un­com­pro­mis­ing, but I can also look at my­self in the par­tic­u­lar con­text of a film. That’s why I like to go in the edit­ing suite. I can’t re­strict my­self to sim­ply act­ing. And be­cause by def­i­ni­tion I have a prob­lem with obe­di­ence, things can get com­pli­cated. I’m in the habit of say­ing “I have to work with some­one, not for them”. Un­less I find my­self face to face with a great di­rec­tor, of course. In that case, there’s no way you can chal­lenge a re­quest or a cre­ative re­quire­ment, not even for a minute.

When “Adolphe” was re­leased, its di­rec­tor Benoît Jac­quot said of you: VH “Is­abelle doesn’t have tal­ent, she has ge­nius. Some­thing im­pal­pa­ble and sin­gu­lar, some­thing in­com­pa­ra­ble, which ap­peared fully–formed, im­me­di­ately.” That’s called an aura and it in­flames pas­sions. Are you aware of that? Benoît is so gen­er­ous when he talks about an acIA tress. That pas­sion thing — I ex­pe­ri­enced it very early on. When I left the Comédie Française, theatre­go­ers came to see me to tell me off and lec­ture me. As if I was be­tray­ing them, abandoning them. There were also weird things like anony­mous let­ters. I wasn’t pre­pared for it. I didn’t have the codes, and I wasn’t shel­tered in the fam­ily cir­cle. If I had been born into a fam­ily of psy­cho­an­a­lysts or ther­a­pists, per­haps I’d have been bet­ter able to deal with it. But I’ve never felt se­cure — it goes back to my child­hood. Be­cause of that, it was a dou­ble or­deal, and the suf­fer­ing was dou­ble, too. I did what I could, but I wasn’t al­ways even up to that.

“The gift of des­tiny is any­thing

but a gift.”

The list of films you turned down makes ed­i­fy­ing read­ing: “That Ob­scure Ob­ject of De­sire” by Luis Buñuel, “Loulou” by Mau­rice Pialat, “Ren­dez– vous” by An­dré Téch­iné, “The Pi­ano” by Jane Cam­pion. Any re­grets? You don’t judge it like that. Ob­vi­ously, if I drew up IA the list, start­ing with That Ob­scure Ob­ject of De­sire and end­ing it with I don’t know which Amer­i­can film, it looks like an aber­ra­tion. Jeff Berg, one of the big­gest Amer­i­can agents, who runs ICM, used to say you could or­gan­ise a fes­ti­val of the films I’d turned down and that if I hadn’t be­come the big­gest star, it was be­cause I hadn’t yet de­cided to be that star. I re­fused the role deep down, that’s all. At the same time, when I read the bi­ogra­phies of cer­tain Amer­i­can stars, I tell my­self that I’m not the only one. But per­haps I do take the top prize. Re­grets? My only choice is to kill them off with the grace of an an­gel and the agility of a devil!

Is it true that you turned Buñuel down be­cause you re­fused to do VH

nude scenes?

Yes, I waited un­til I made One Deadly Sum­mer to de­cide IA that I had a body and was en­ti­tled to make it ex­ist on–screen. When I did it, my fa­ther was still alive and I was very afraid of the way he would re­act. It both­ered me enor­mously. And yet, I was 27 years old. But in the end, he died be­fore the film was re­leased.

Tell me about your fa­ther. VH

The First Man. Very hand­some. He took me to see films IA star­ring Paul New­man be­cause he looked like him. It was a pas­sion­ate fa­ther–daugh­ter re­la­tion­ship. In fact, I’ve made a lot of films where the dia­lec­tic nu­cleus is the fa­ther–daugh­ter re­la­tion­ship. The Story of Adèle H., The Slap, All Fired Up, One Deadly Sum­mer, and so on. My fa­ther was a deeply un­happy per­son, an au­to­di­dact with a gen­uine level of cul­ture, when you think of the child­hood he had had, thrown onto the streets when he was 14. He wanted to study to be a doc­tor but he found him­self in an emi­gra­tion sit­u­a­tion re­duced to the low­est common de­nom­i­na­tor. It was crush­ing. The main thing was to avoid be­ing no­ticed, to make your­self in­vis­i­ble, almost bury your­self. And then there was a lot of trauma, things I don’t know about but which I knew were a ter­ri­ble legacy. Not to men­tion zero re­silience. Un­for­tu­nately the re­la­tion­ship put me in a mud­dle very early on. A fear set­tled inside me and I wasn’t able to grow up straight. I desperately wanted to show him I loved him so that I could force him to tell me he loved me back, so that we could emerge from this toxic sit­u­a­tion that did a lot of dam­age to me and which would have caused me a great deal more if I hadn’t been able to es­cape by be­com­ing an ac­tress. That was what my dither­ing cost me be­fore go­ing into psy­cho­anal­y­sis. On the other hand, it was what de­stroyed my brother, in a far more di­rect man­ner. He was simultaneously the fa­ther you love and the one you weren’t able to save. And who we weren’t able to save from what he in­flicted on us.

Françoise Sa­gan said of your face that “it bears the hall­mark VH

of the ir­repara­ble”. What does that mean for you?

It’s ex­tremely el­e­gant, but at the same time it’s so fi­nal. It’s IA al­ways the same. It means ac­cept­ing that stuff hap­pens to you, as if it was pre­des­tined. The gift of des­tiny is any­thing but a gift. Yes, my des­tiny ex­ists, and per­haps I’ve ill– treated it. I took that for free­dom, but it’s bad free­dom to ig­nore your des­tiny be­cause you shouldn’t take lib­er­ties with your des­tiny. Not ac­cept­ing it com­pletely means set­ting your­self up for some nasty sur­prises. I must have up­set some­thing sa­cred: through care­less­ness, through fear. There’s noth­ing worse in this world than fear. It fucks you up.

And yet, in your artis­tic choices, and in some of your po­lit­i­cal com­mitVH ments, not to men­tion your read­ing from Sal­man Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses” in the midst of a fatwa when you were col­lect­ing a César award for Camille Claudel, you’ve un­doubt­edly shown a lot of courage. When I read that ex­cerpt, I wasn’t aware of a sense of IA courage, there weren’t any re­li­gious fa­nat­ics wait­ing for me on the street cor­ner to kill me, so let’s not ex­ag­ger­ate. There’s still no fatwa in view ("laughs") . If I’m some­times coura­geous, it’s for oth­ers, not for my­self. I’ve never felt se­cure about my right to ex­ist, to think. There again, it goes back to my early child­hood. I’ve al­ways been ter­ri­fied about putting my­self for­ward. So when you sud­denly find your­self im­por­tant in other peo­ple’s eyes, through their vot­ing for you or the care they take of your ex­is­tence, that’s on a di­rect col­li­sion course with your own sense of im­por­tance, since peo­ple at home have also ex­plained to me that I wasn’t — im­por­tant. You can be re­as­sured by awards, or praise, but if you aren’t re­as­sured deep down, the snare will come back to trip you up. It was ex­plo­sive.

They say that it was pre­cisely be­cause he saw you read­ing from “The VH Satanic Verses” dur­ing the Césars cer­e­mony that Daniel Day–Lewis de­cided he wanted to meet you. Camille Claudel was be­ing pre­mièred in London and IA Daniel knew Sal­man Rushdie. It’s all very well be­ing an ac­tor or an ac­tress, but some­times we dis­cover our­selves through the me­dia and we feel a sort of won­der when some­one comes up to us and starts talk­ing about a film. Some­thing like that hap­pened for him at that pre­cise mo­ment. He wanted to meet me. I went to London to pro­mote the film and when I ar­rived in my room at Clar­idges, I found a note say­ing “Wel­come to this mis­er­able coun­try”, with his phone num­ber. I called him, telling my­self: “we have to be­have like the col­leagues we are”. We hooked up in Paris. It was like be­ing struck by light­ning. Light­ning fi­nally stuck'… ("laughs")

“I waited un­til I made One Deadly Sum­mer to de­cide

that I had a body and was en­ti­tled to make it ex­ist


And did you get to meet Sal­man Rushdie?

VH He sent me some mes­sages, and asked if we could IA meet up, but it never hap­pened. Another missed ren­dezvous. It hap­pens all the time to me, as if ev­ery­thing could be in­def­i­nitely post­poned. I think I’m daunted at the idea of meet­ing peo­ple!…

Are you afraid of dis­ap­point­ing them? VH

There must be some­thing like that. Or else it’s me IA who’s wor­ried they’ll dis­ap­point me. I’ve been be­trayed so of­ten that I can’t do that sort of thing eas­ily any more. You know, I think this is go­ing to be the most de­moral­is­ing in­ter­view of the year (!laughs!).

Brando wanted to meet you, too. VH

Yes, when I went to the United States for the preIA miere of The Story of Adèle H., and the Os­car nom­i­na­tion. It was re­ally very strange. There was Christian Mar­quand, Nadine Trintig­nant’s brother, in this huge house full of small au­tomata. It was re­ally tacky and sleazy. And Brando was there — a legend in all his glory, with all that in­suf­fer­able side of be­ing a legend. It was bor­der­line im­ma­tu­rity. I was fas­ci­nated and pet­ri­fied at the same time. Both he and Bar­dot had been pul­verised in their iden­ti­ties by what they had been made to be­come. Ab­so­lute leg­ends. It’s a kind of curse. Even if it means ex­ist­ing for all time and be­ing the stuff of dreams for peo­ple, should it be nec­es­sary to pay that sac­ri­fi­cial trib­ute? For me, th­ese are lives that should be in the leg­endary cru­elty hall of fame.

How can you be charmed? VH

(!Long si­lence.!) I love be­ing sur­prised by a way of thinkIA ing that isn’t my own. I don’t mean knowl­edge or cul­ture. I had ex­pe­ri­enced that with Sa­gan. I said to my­self: “I would never have thought of think­ing like that.” Even Bar­dot had that. A way of rea­son­ing and rant­ing that is hers alone and which I find mag­nif­i­cent pre­cisely be­cause it’s uniquely hers. It’s self–ev­i­dent, at the same time as it’s to­tally icon­o­clas­tic, bold and sin­gu­lar. There’s also Pierre Rabhi, the philoso­pher–farmer. You lis­ten to him and you say to your­self, that that’s how it is and that’s how we have to rein­vent the world. He’s some­one who sud­denly breaks the mould of uni­for­mity and stan­dard­i­s­a­tion. To­tal ad­mi­ra­tion.

What’s the best com­pli­ment any­one has ever paid you? VH

You have changed my life (!laughs!). On a more sober IA note, it could be “Thanks to you I’ve be­come a sculp­tress”, or “Thanks to you I’ve had the courage to!…”. In­ter­ven­ing in peo­ple’s lives in a pos­i­tive way. On the other hand, a “Thanks to you, I be­came an ac­tress” re­ally de­presses me — and I’m

IA only half–jok­ing.

If you had to choose just one scene from all the films you’ve made, VH which would you choose? The hys­te­ria scene in the Metro in Pos­ses­sion. And God IA IA knows how I steer clear of the mem­ory of that film. I could only have made it at the time I made it. I can’t say I like that scene. I don’t know what it is!… I don’t know what I was able to de­liver my­self of there, at a time when I was far more in­tro­verted than I am to­day. I won a César and a Best Ac­tress award at Cannes for Pos­ses­sion, so I can’t not say thank you. But Zu­lawski!… what an in­tro­duc­tion to tor­ture! He ex­plained to me that his ruth­less­ness pro­tected. You can only im­pose

that sort of sub­mis­sion on young ac­tresses who are ready to go all the way, be­cause you have to gauge what they are ca­pa­ble of giv­ing and prov­ing it at the same time. That’s an il­lu­sion, but you only dis­cover that later. Or else you work with an ac­tress like Romy Sch­nei­der, lit­er­ally lost in her life. At that point, you have a tar­get, a tar­get that you’re go­ing to trans­fig­ure. And suck the lifeblood out of. It took an aw­ful lot out of me to go there, just as some scenes in One Deadly Sum­mer took an aw­ful lot out of me. In fact, I was scared of mak­ing that film; and there again, as with Pos­ses­sion, it was thanks to Bruno Nuyt­ten, who I had been liv­ing with since Barocco, that I did it. I felt I wasn’t pretty enough and I didn’t want to take my clothes off. He said some­thing like “Lis­ten: it’s sim­ple. If you don’t do it, I’ll never speak to you again.” How about that?

And you wouldn’t have done VH it? No. I turned Jean Becker IA down, first off, even though the pro­duc­ers were of­fer­ing me a small for­tune, sim­ply be­cause it was un­think­able for me to show my body. When I came back, I was ready to go for it, even though my fee had more than halved. But I didn’t re­ally care. I knew what I could do ar­tis­ti­cally, in emo­tional terms, with the character, some of whose traits I shared. I re­mem­ber a scene in the barn, where I had to climb down a lad­der, naked, wear­ing high heels. Jean Becker sug­gested I put on a shirt. I looked at him and said: “But what you’re ask­ing me to do is ter­ri­ble — we’ll be be­tray­ing Japrisot. If I do that, that’s it for the character, that’s it for the novel, that’s it for the film, and that’s it for me.” He was so kind — he wanted to re­spect my mod­esty, but that was com­pletely out of the ques­tion. The same with that scene where I’m sup­posed to take a pee out­side. I told him I would do it in the nude be­cause that’s how it was writ­ten. There was no run­ning away any more. That was it. I’d al­ready run away.

One last ques­tion: can you sum up Is­abelle Ad­jani in three pos­i­tive VH words? Ide­al­is­tic, even if I think that it’s a mug’s game. Re­belIA lious, but that goes with the ide­al­ism. And com­pletely hu­man. In your gen­eros­ity and in the way you give as much im­por­tance to oth­ers as you give to your­self. For bet­ter or worse. So, hon­est, too. But that’s four words.

I don’t think that’s a prob­lem. VH But it is a prob­lem: I don’t like the num­ber four — it’s the num­ber of death for the Ja­panese. And I love Ja­pan. We have to find a fifth word. Any ideas?

What would you say to “pas­sion­ate”? VH Yes, well spot­ted (!laughs!).


“Both Brando and Bar­dot had been pul­verised in their iden­ti­ties by what they had been made to be­come. Ab­so­lute leg­ends.”

KIN­SHIP, by Carey Perloff. Di­rected by Julien Col­let Vla­neck,

with Is­abelle Ad­jani, Car­men Maura and Niels Sch­nei­der, pre­mieres at the Théâtre de Paris on

21st Oc­to­ber.

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