One of the icons of modern French cinema, Sophie Marceau is the star of two French films out at the beginning of this year, De l’autre côté du lit and LOL. The radiant actress, 42, sat down with France-Amérique to talk about her career as an actress and director, her relationship with actor Christophe Lambert, her ideas on love and her feelings about the United States.
You’re currently starring in De l’autre côté du lit, a film by Pascal Pouzadoux, in which your husband is played by Danny Boon. What was it like to work with the most famous “Ch’ti” in France?
Sophie Marceau: We already knew each other a little. We were very happy to work together because it felt very natural for us to play a couple (laughs). We had a lot of fun. His film Bienvenue chez les Ch’ti was like a tidal wave in France. It’s very complicated to handle success like that, and I find that Danny Boon does it with a lot of intelligence. He tries to take things calmly. He’s very generous and very “normal.” Work and family always brings people back down to reality.
F-A: In the film, you and your husband switch jobs. You become the manager of a construction rental equipment company, and he becomes a jewelry vendor. When you’re not in front of the camera, would you ever want to switch lives with someone?
S.M.: Sometimes I think that if I were a man, I would have less responsibility and I’d be freer. I know that will make some men groan. I am raising my children alone and I also work. My days are long. The evolution of women’s role in society has been quite rapid, but we don’t yet have the same “privileges” as men, even if men in individual couples do often share the load.
F-A: You’re an actress, but you’re also a director. What pushed you behind the camera? Did you want to be more in control?
S.M.: Yes. It always happens the same way-there is a desire to create. It’s how we fight our mortality. We all know we are going to die, and we want to make a mark, leave something behind. Acting is very emotional, but in the end it’s simply abstract. You can see yourself on screen, but it’s not really you. When you write and direct a film, there’s a sense that you are transmitting a message, creating something. When one is acting, which I love, the creation is someone else’s. Actors use their emotions and their bodies to interpret, but it’s not their message.
F-A: You directed Parlez-moi d’amour in 2002, a film largely autobiographical. Why choose to be inspired by your own love life?
S.M.: I didn’t want to do an autobiographical film just because I thought people would relate to it. It’s a fairly banal topic. But the story seduced me because it was about people. I was inspired by things that happened to me personally, but I changed things too. My second film, La Disparue de Deauville, is also very personal. It’s about an actress, about split personalities, manipulation, and several other themes present in my own life. It seems quite realistic but it is not entirely non-fiction.
F-A: Do you like talking about love in your films?
S.M.: Yes. I love love and all that it evokes-we need that. I think life would be better if love between people were more prevalent. There are many forms of love, and even so, people find it difficult to express their love. People want love, but don’t really know how to love.
F-A.: Your partner, Christophe Lambert, was in your film La Disparue de Deauville. How was it to work with him on a professional level?
S.M.: I think it was very natural. We didn’t know each other previously. I interacted with him as an actor. Yes, we met on my film, but the film was the most important thing. To put things simply, we began seeing each other long after the film was made. During film production, there isn’t time for anything else. You work 15 hours a day. When I have any time to myself while filming, the first thing I do is hug my kids, or call them. There are certainly occasional affairs on-set, but I think that’s because the film world is small. I don’t engage in these sorts of affairs. If you want a serious relationship, a film set is not the ideal place to find one!
F-A: But when your film came out, people talked a lot more about your relationship than about the film. Do you resent the press for being more interested in your private life than the film?
S.M.: It’s true that it was tactless. Christophe and I knew that since we were both well-known, we weren’t going to get away without any publicity. Unfortunately, the story broke at the same time as the release of the film. We didn’t mix the two things, the press did. The press doesn’t care whether I have a film out or not. I’m not someone who flaunts my life to the press. I don’t have anything to hide, but I don’t flaunt things either. I’m a person in the public eye, and it’s very difficult to hide how many children I have, or who my partner is. Since I was 13, I’ve been on the cover of magazines, and it’s impossible for me to keep my private life a mystery. We got together at the same time as the film came out. It’s the price of fame. What do you want me to say?
F-A: What kind of lover are you?
S.M.: You would have to ask my lovers (laughs). I can be very sweet, and I can be very difficult. I always need my space, and my independence, but at the same time, I can isolate myself with my lover forever. I can be exclusive. I don’t have a lot of friends and those I do have I don’t see often, because I have a very full professional life. Other than my children and my lovers, no one counts. I want to share my life with my lover. I adore couples who do things together.
F-A: You’re not afraid of becoming too dependent on each other?
S.M.: No. Bizarrely, the people I live with say that I am too independent. I don’t glue myself to lovers. I like the idea of being two people on their own in the world. That makes me happy!
F-A: What’s your relationship to the States?
S.M.: It’s a long-distance relationship. My daughter is half-American, so I do have that link. But I don’t have more of a connection to America than to any other country.
F-A: You were in Braveheart with Mel Gibson and you were the Bond girl in The World Is Not Enough. What are your memories of your American career?
S.M.: It was not at all an American career. Those were films that have been part of my career. I have been in Polish films, English films, Italian films. I feel that I have an international career. I’m lucky, because these have been films that have been viewed all over the world.
F-A: What in America inspires you today?
S.M.: I’m both inspired by America, and not. In this country [The United States], you can’t make generalities. We are Latin, and therefore more philosophical. Americans are more pragmatic. What I see there leaves me cold or perplexed. I have the feeling that interpersonal relationships and the relationship to the self have a lot to do
F-A: Do you have any interest in doing big Hollywood productions again?
F-A: What is your wish for 2009?
S.M.: That those I love stay healthy. There’s nothing more important. The rest is all work. I’ll take care of it! (Laughs).
LOL (Laughing Out Loud) and De l’autre côté du lit are both out in theatres in France.
Sophie Marceau will be the guest of honor at the Focus on French Cinema Festival at the Purchase Performing Arts Center from April 3-5, 2009.
10 films starring Sophie Marceau:
La Boum 1 (1980) and La Boum 2 (1982), directed by Claude Pinoteau
L’Amour braque (1984), directed by Andrzej Zulawski
La fille d’Artagnan (1994), directed by Bertrand Tavernier
Braveheart (1995), directed by Mel Gibson
Firelight (1997), directed by William Nicholson
The World Is Not Enough (1999), directed by Michael Apted
Belphegor (2000), directed by Jean-Paul Salomé
Parlez-moi d’Amour (2001), directed by Sophie Marceau
La Disparue de Deauville (2007), directed by Sophie Marceau
Originally published in the February 2009 issue of France-Amérique.
Translated by Anna Wainwright