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||The Cesar-winning French actress is known for playing outcasts and losers. In arresting films like The Dreamlife of Angels and Lovers, Bouchez makes the outside the only place to be.
JEFF: I know that you like to spend time in Los Angeles. I even read that you bought a house in Beverly Hills.
ELODIE: When I go to LA, I stay in Silver Lake, which is very different from Beverly Hills.
JEFF: Would you ever move to another country?
ELODIE: Yeah, I don't like France.
JEFF: Maybe it's the weather.
ELODIE: It's the weather and the people they aren't very nice.
JEFF: So where would you move?
ELODIE: I don't know. I like Los Angeles a lot. I like the way of life there.
JEFF: Because it's more relaxed?
ELODIE: That and the palm trees, the sun, the heat and I love to drive. I don't mind spending a lot of time in my car. I have more of a feeling of freedom there. Here, when people recognize you, it's like you owe them something, which isn't very nice. But it's very French.
JEFF: The French critics have referred to your characters as marginal people. I'm thinking of Isa, the drifter in The Dreamlife of Angels, or Lucie, the prostitute in Poetical Refugee. I see them as very real people, coping with difficult situations.
ELODIE: They always accuse me of always playing the same part! It's true that I've played some unusual characters, but they're intense characters too. Lucie is one of my favorites. In the beginning, she's in a trauma ward because she's a nymphomaniac. Then she meets a Tunisian immigrant and becomes involved in his struggle to live in France illegally. After all, directors usually want to make movies about special people. Otherwise, what's the point?
JEFF: In France, people are called marginal when they come from the country, don't have money, or aren't cool. It seems like the French public and press would like you to start playing standard bourgeois characters.
ELODIE: In that sense, I'm in a complex situation. I've won all the biggest European film awards, so I'm certainly well regarded within the industry. At the same time, I'm considered an underground actress because of the characters I choose to play. I think I'm respected for the coherence of my choices and the risks I'm willing to take.
JEFF: Do your characters ever reflect something of your own emotions?
ELODIE: The character is never me. If a script feels too close to my own experience, I don't want to do it. To act as the person I am in life doesn't interest me.
JEFF: Then, how do you start to build a character? Do you envision her personality?
ELODIE: It's a very unconscious process. I let myself be very open, right up to the moment shooting starts. I wait for inspiration. For example, for Dreamlife of Angels, I thought Isa might be a little bit of a cliché, you know, the girl on the street and all that. I had confidence in the director, Erick Zonca, but I wasn't sure about Isa. Until the first day of shooting, I was uncertain about how she would turn out. But when we shot the first scene, something came to me which gave me the right note the mood of the character that would continue throughout the film. Erick liked that first scene, and it just evolved from there.
JEFF: I teach at an art school in Paris, and Isa reminded me of about half of my female students. They smoke cigarettes like her. They talk the same way. For me, your portrayal reflected a new realism that has developed in independent film over the past ten years with directors like Lars Von Trier.
ELODIE: That realism really speaks to this moment. It interests people because there is no artifice in it it's honest and intimate.
JEFF: It's a perspective that has evolved in the age of television and twenty-four-hour-a-day entertainment. The realism that's appeared in the last ten years represents a way of escaping from that world. Does this have anything to do with your own development?
ELODIE: I grew up in the suburbs of Paris, in Montreuil. I watched whatever was on TV. I'd go to the mall to watch the big American movies dubbed into French. When I was in my teens I started to act in films. The people I met began to introduce me to real cinema.
JEFF: Tell me about your first movie.
ELODIE: When I was sixteen, I was represented by a teen modeling agency. Serge Gainsbourg saw my photo and asked me to play a role in Stan the Flasher, which he directed. Not many people saw that film, so it didn't exactly start my career. But Serge gave me an understanding of quality, and the importance of paying attention to details.
JEFF: Was that the moment you realized you were destined to act?
ELODIE: I'd always wanted to be an actress, but I never really admitted it to myself I was always afraid it wouldn't work out. I also studied dance for many years, but there were always one or two girls in the class who had that special something, and many others who merely danced pretty well. I was in the second group. But I liked being on stage, whether it was at school or camp or at family parties.
JEFF: Dance is a particular kind of work. To me, it's like being a wrestler or a tennis player. Acting is a different type of thing.
ELODIE: You build the character with your own material. But a lot of it is about the interaction with the directors and the other actors.
JEFF: When you read a script, do you wait for a character to jump off the page?
ELODIE: Some scripts have characters that I can really visualize. Poetical Refugee, by Abdel Kechiche, and Too Much Flesh, by Jean-Marc Barr, were like that. But I can respond to a script that I don't entirely understand.
JEFF: Barr is a director you work with quite a bit. When you did his film, Lovers, you followed the many Dogma rules. Among other things, the Dogma method dictates that you couldn't use any props or sets, and the camera had to be hand-held.
ELODIE: Yes. It was the first French film to use the Dogma process. We followed the rules, but we were a bit playful about it. We did work with a minimum of people and equipment. It added enormously to the film's subject intimacy. But I think it would be silly to do a Dogma film today it only made sense for a short moment a few years ago.
JEFF: Do you think about working in America?
ELODIE: I've done a few indie movies there. Shooting Vegetarians, which was directed by Mikey Jackson, was a real punk-rock movie. We shot it in New York, and I played the manager of a coffee shop. It was a good experience even though it was never released. I also did CQ, directed by Roman Coppola.
JEFF: CQ is about an aspiring director who's making two films at the same time. One is very personal, and the other is a sexy sci-fi romp.
ELODIE: Yeah, Roman is really inspired by European cinema. CQ is about the confrontation between European and American filmmaking. The American filmmaker wants to be an auteur but his audience has a different idea.
JEFF: Do you go to the movies a lot?
ELODIE: I like to go to the movies. But since I've had my baby I watch more movies on DVD. I watch everything.
JEFF: What have you liked recently?
ELODIE: Mullholland Drive by David Lynch. His movies are abstract, sexy, and scary all at the same time. Another one that I liked was What Lies Beneath. I screamed so much when I saw it.
JEFF: Films are like emotional theme parks. You can decide if you want to be scared, or made to laugh or cry. Some thrillers really work, such as, say Blade Runner or Terminator 2. I've heard that your next film, Le Pacte du Silence with Gerard Depardieu, is a thriller.
ELODIE: It's about a young girl in Brazil who has a strange malady. Depardieu plays the doctor who's trying to cure her. Graham Guit directed it. He's a young filmmaker, but I've already done two films with him, Les Kidnappeurs and Shooting Stars. He usually writes his own scripts, but this time he didn't.
JEFF: What was it like working with Depardieu? He's such an icon.
ELODIE: Gerard's a character! We got along right away. It was especially interesting to follow his rhythm of working it gave me a lot of energy.
JEFF: Who do you play?
ELODIE: I can't really talk about my character or the story because I don't want to give anything away. But I kill another character in a prison scene!
JEFF: That's a departure for you.
ELODIE: I don't like making movies with too much action because they're dangerous. They tend to push you to go further physically, and I'm always scared of injury from one bad movement. But I'm happy to have done it. As a viewer, I like it when you're manipulated by a movie.