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Interview: Mélanie Laurent On Advice From Luc Besson, Gerard Depardieu, 'Night Train To Lisbon' & Her Singing Career

The Playlist By Jessica Kiang | The Playlist February 23, 2013 at 4:37PM

It can be hard to remember that Mélanie Laurent had actually been acting for a decade, albeit largely in French-language productions, before breaking out internationally by killing Hitler in “Inglourious Basterds.” Of course the one-two punch of the Quentin Tarantino movie and Mike Mills’ well-received “Beginners” is a relatively recent phenomenon for the actress, but in person, too, Laurent has an engaging freshness about her and a genuine excitement about where she is and what she’s is doing that makes her seem more like an ingenue than a seasoned pro. Or so we found when we got to meet her at the Berlin Film Festival where her latest film, Bille August’s “Night Train to Lisbon."
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Melanie Laurent, Berlin
Aside from acting, you also released an album. Are you going to continue with the singing?
I’m taking a pause with that. The experience was not good. I loved making the album with Damien Rice, I produced it, I composed it, I wrote the lyrics, I did everything and then suddenly it was released and everybody was so mean. And it was so hard and I was like “I want to die right now.”

But in 2011 you also made your feature directorial debut with “The Adopted.” Tell us a little about that.
I really have more American influences: when the movie was released in France everybody said it is not a French movie, and I was like “oh, thank you!” I worked with Mike Mills and all that generation of great independent filmmakers and I feel close to them, I’m not saying I have his talent, but I feel close to the way he shot things, strange angles, out of focus all the time. I think the first day of the shooting of my movie three years ago, for the first time in my life I felt like “I’m in the right place.”

The Adopted Laurent Sofa
Did you get any advice from anyone in particular on directing?
Yeah. Luc Besson. I never worked with the guy, I met him once and I don’t know why, I just went to him “Hi Luc, it’s Melanie, do you have any advice, because I’m gonna start shooting in six months, I don’t know why I’m asking you, but hi…” And he said, “yeah, I have just one [piece of] advice. You’re gonna be surrounded by so many people who are gonna give advice all day long – ‘if that was me, I would film this angle, and I prefer that colour’ – just say no to everybody, just focus on your idea, trust your idea. Even your producer, they’re all gonna torture your trust but you’re the only one who knows what you really want."

And I had so many precise things, scenes and shots, and when my producer received the rushes he called me and he said, “ok there is no text, no dialogue, it’s out of focus, what the fuck?” And I said “wait for it, the third week the dialogue’s gonna be filmed” and at the end he loved the movie and he had to trust me.

Actually I’m supposed to have dinner with Luc for months now, because my movie had been released the same day as his movie, “The Lady,” so we were on TV shows together all the time and we bet something. He said “Your movie is not going to work” and I said “What?” he said, “You’ll get beautiful criticism and you only need that, but it’s not going to get any interest. It’s gonna do like, 300,000 maximum. And if it’s more I owe you a dinner, and if it’s less you owe me a dinner. “ And I did 200,000, so I owe him a dinner.

Speaking of famous directors, are you still in touch with Tarantino?
Do we keep in touch? I know in this job everybody’s like “yeah we’re so close, he’s my best friend forever!” No. But I went to the big premiere of ‘Django’ and he was there, and I loved the movie so much – I was so proud and I cried so much. I loved it, really really, so I wrote him a really long email.

Now You See Me Laurent Closeup
You have a busy upcoming slate.
First is “Now You See Me” – it’s an action movie. Crazy cast, I can’t believe I have my name after Morgan Freeman, Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg and then mine. Michael Caine too. Huge movie, French director Louis Leterrier, very, very fun to do. Not a big revolutionary movie about the resistance or something, it’s more like FBI against magicians. Which is fun sometimes to do … it’s gonna be released in June, I guess.

Then “An Enemy” – absolutely the opposite. Something very intellectual, a very complicated story from the book [by Jose Saramago] with a Canadian amazing director [“Incendies” director Denis Villeneuve], but really intense. Not really fun to do but intense and I’m sure it is gonna be something amazing.

And “Cry/Fly” for an amazing director [Peruvian Claudia Llosa] She’s so beautiful, I mean she looks so beautiful! So I’m gonna spend one month in Canada – I’m already cold – in the middle of the snow with falcons and with Cillian Murphy, and we go to have to meet, in the movie, Jennifer Connelly. So there is worse in life, and we’re shooting in three weeks.

Do you see yourself following in the tradition of legendary French actresses like Catherine Deneuve?
Whew, take it easy! I’m gonna have dinner with her tonight, and I’ll be like, “Hi, legend, I’m a legend too!” No, I’m not sure about that and no French journalist has ever said anything like that to me, but thanks.

This article is related to: Berlin International Film Festival, Mélanie Laurent, Night Train To Lisbon, Interview


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