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Delpy branches out quite effortlessly
At 37, Julie Delpy has stopped waiting for Hollywood to call.
And she's stopped waiting for Paris or the rest of Europe to call, either. The French actress, a Hollywood transplant since the early '90s, still spends a few months a year in her home city. But starring in such acclaimed films as Europa, Europa; Three Colors: White; and Before Sunrise didn't guarantee her work there.
She became a screenwriter, earning a co-writing Oscar nomination for Before Sunset, the sequel to her romantic idyll Before Sunrise. She's been directing. She even composes the scores to her films, making her "the most ambitious actress working today" (USA Today).
Her latest is 2 Days in Paris and co-stars Delpy and her friend Adam Goldberg as a couple who fight and feud for two days as they stop over in her hometown, Paris. .
Self-effacing and charming, even in her second language, English, we reached her by phone in Los Angeles. Question: So, a feisty French woman, living in America with a foreign boyfriend, a torrid past and bad eyesight. Where does Julie end and Marion, your character, begin?
Answer: Oh, I have little to do with Marion, personalitywise, in my relationships. I am sure I'm not as dysfunctional as she is, I hope! I'm less aggressive.
The bad eyesight thing, yes, we have that in common. And yes, I do live in two countries and negotiate two cultures, I hope, very well. Well, maybe we have some things in common. Q.: Adam's character goes abroad and sees the backwardness of his countrymen. Marion sees the good and the bad in France. Since both roles were written by you, can we assume these observations are yours?
A.: By living elsewhere, you see the flaws of the place you leave behind, France in my case, much more easily. Being away from either the U.S. or France for a while, I see a side of each country that I might miss were I living there full time ..... behaviors, funny things, scary things, and some of those I put into the movie.
Q.: And everybody hates tourists, especially when they're a tourist themselves? A.: Oh sure, it's the same for every tourist, I have to say. I go somewhere and the first thing I see is some French family, loud, obnoxious, complaining about the food. Everywhere I go. I immediately stop speaking French, hoping that they won't talk to me.
Americans do this, too, am I right? You go abroad and these jerks from your country show up and make you ashamed of where you come from.
My boyfriend is German, and it's the same with him. He tries to avoid speaking German when there's a loud gang of German tourists around.
Q.: Well, German tourists are another matter. A.: I know. Don't tell him that, though! Q.: What is great and what is not so great about setting your movie in Paris, surely one of the most filmed cities in the world?
A.: I went to the places that I know, like the market that I know, which is in the 15th [arrondissement, or district], which has never been filmed that I know of.
I don't try to avoid the famous pretty places, the bridges, canals or whatever. A lot of people will tell me, 'There's not one shot of the Eiffel Tower.' But there is. It's so buried under what is happening in the foreground that you don't notice it.
Q.: Is your father [actor Albert Delpy, who also plays her dad in the film] really a crank who walks the streets of Paris, keying cars because they're parked on the sidewalk?
A.: Ha ha, oh no, not really. But just because he's not done it is does not mean that he doesn't complain about cars on the sidewalk ..... He's heavy. Sometimes, he can barely walk on the sidewalk. But this father is a representation of his braver self, just as my character, Marion, who confronts racist taxi drivers, is a braver version of me.
Someday I hope to be that brave, to just snap at them and tell them off. They'd punch me in the face, and I'm an actress. You punch me in the face, I'll never work again!
Q.: This movie is a lot like Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.
A.: You know, to get money out of financiers, I kind of had to trick them.
So I told them, 'French woman, American guy, set in Paris, dialogue-driven movie,' and then get the money and go do the film I want. I love Before Sunset and Before Sunrise, very romantic films. Two Days in Paris isn't that romantic. It's about trying to go through life in a relationship without killing each other, you know?
Q. Have you found the secret to that? You're over 30 and you're not married, so let's assume you haven't. A.: Hahahaha!
Q.: Come on, insights are what we go to your movies for. You have a character who comes in simply to tell us not to dwell on the past. Is that it?
A.: No, noooo, hahaha! The reason I make movies about relationships and love and all that is that I am trying to figure them out, still.
I don't know. I believe in love and I'm hoping to keep love going forever. I have no answer, but you know, I hope I can figure it out soon. I think I'm pretty close.