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Emmanuelle Seigner Delivers for Husband Roman Polanski in Two-Hander 'Venus in Fur'

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood June 24, 2014 at 5:58PM

Roman Polanski's latest play-to-film "Venus and Fur" opened at the end of last year's Cannes Film Festival because it was the only day its star Emmanuelle Seigner could get away to the Riviera. Thus the film was a bit of an afterthought at the fest. It finally arrives via IFC stateside with terrific reviews.
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Polanski and Seigner at Cannes
Polanski and Seigner at Cannes

Roman Polanski's latest play-to-film "Venus and Fur" opened at the end of last year's Cannes Film Festival because it was the only day its star Emmanuelle Seigner could get away to the Riviera. Thus the film (adapted by playwright David Ives) was a bit of an afterthought at the fest. It finally arrives via IFC stateside with terrific reviews.

Fair to say that Seigner dominates the film (S & M male-female power dynamics are central to the story) as over the course of a night she comes to overwhelm and control playwright Thomas, well-played by Matthieu Amalric, who happens to be a dead ringer for her real-life director husband. 

"Venus in Fur"
"Venus in Fur"

Seigner and I talked on the phone from Paris. 

What was different about the film from the play?
I haven't seen the play, but I read it in French. That makes it different. The girl that was playing the role in America was very young. Maybe that's different. 

I didn't think too much about how we were going to do it. I learn my lines-- a lot of them-- that was a big job, I didn't want to fabrique--make it in a way that was not organic. I wanted it to be very organic. With Matthieu playing it, I let myself be invaded by the character. I didn't try to do things, you know, mostly I had fun with it. It didn't feel difficult or struggling, I didn't try to perform anything. I had a lot of pleasure doing it, it was like being a kid and playing games.


Also, she's funny.

Arianda in 'Venus in Fur'
Arianda in 'Venus in Fur'

I enjoyed the fact that the woman manipulates and controls the man.
What's really good is, the film is a feminist film. Mostly in movies women are victims--like a prostitute, or like objects, like the wife of somebody. It's nice to play a character who is strong and in control and a woman. And she wins, also, that was really good. 


Was it weird to play opposite Matthieu Almaric, who so resembles your husband? 

He does resemble Polanski. But he was not hired for that. Roman hired him because he's such an amazing actor. There are not so many French actors that could do the role. The fact of his looking like him was bothering him more. At the same time it's great that he looks like him, it adds something to the piece. 

Maybe it's because he had a Polish grandmother. When he did the "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," Julian Schnabel cast our son to play to Matthieu when he was a child, a little boy dancing at the station. That was our son, so we knew Matthieu was looking like Roman. I can promise you Roman did not cast him for that. He thinks he's the best actor in France.

You need a good actor to do the job, it's not easy. We're the only two in the thing. It had to be right. If one is not doing the right thing it's not working. It's not easy to find the right actor for that particular role. He's great, such a good actor, and his role is more difficult than mine, because she's in control in a way. It's always more flattering. 

Also, he's funny.


How long have you and Polanski been married? And how many films have you made together?
A long time, we were married in '89. We have two children, 21 and 16. Three times on a movie, one time he directed me in a play, and he directed one of my music videos. I've been in a rock band for ten years, first called Ultra Rage and now Emmanuelle. He made a few of them, eight or something. He directed the last one, which is not out yet. 


Your husband has a reputation for being a demanding director. 
It was fun. It was one of the best moments of my life doing that with Roman and Matthieu, in the theatre, in the winter, snowing outside. It felt like we were doing our first movie, like a youth movie, something very special, intimate and fun. And the crew was great, it was a really good moment. We were not struggling. 

This article is related to: Venus in Fur, Emmanuelle Seigner, Roman Polanski, Roman Polanski, Interviews, Interviews, Interviews


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.