Jan chats with French actress Julie Delpy about her new film ‘2 Days in Paris’
Julie Delpy made her film debut at age 14 in a Godard’s DETECTIVE (released in 1985), and she’s been a successful actress ever since. But for years now she’s been yearning for more, and the success of Richard Linklater’s 2004 sequel ‘Before Sunset’ (for which she shared screenwriting credit) opened new doors. In ‘2 Days in Paris’, she not only stars and directs but also wrote the screenplay, helped produce, composed some of the music, and contributed some of the still photography. Jan met Julie when she came to Chicago in late July for a Press Day at the Four Seasons Hotel.
‘2 Days in Paris’ is scheduled to open in limited release on August 10, with wider release scheduled two weeks later on August 24th.
Jan: Julie, tell me about the evolution of your character “Marion” in your new film ‘2 Days in Paris’, and about Marion’s relationship with “Jack” (Adam Goldberg). In your mind, how has all this evolved from the relationship “Celine,” your character in ‘Before Sunrise’ and ‘Before Sunset’, had with “Jesse” (Ethan Hawke).
Julie: Well, Marion, she started off as a fish and then she came out of the water. It’s kind of the same thing for Jack; a little different though, different plumbing…
Jan: OK, I deserve that, but really, you’re so strongly identified now as being part of the Celine/Jesse relationship, and watching ‘2 Days in Paris’, I could see that in many ways Marion is similar to Celine, but then she breaks new ground.
Julie: “New ground?” Well, I think she has similarities, but I think she’s very different. Marion is not the “ideal creature” that Celine is. Marion’s not like the typical “dream girlfriend” you’re dreaming of, like a guy wouldn’t dream of dating a girl like this. Marion was fun to write because she’s angry; she’s far from perfect; she’s flirtatious. Celine has an edge and stuff, but she’s not…
Jan: Okay, drop back: when I tell people about ‘2 Days in Paris’ obviously I will mention that you got an Oscar nomination for your contributions to the ‘Before Sunset’ screenplay, so you must have had a hand in the creation of Celine.
Julie: Of Celine, yeah, more than a hand, two feet or so, my two feet.
Jan: So talk about the creative process, creating these two women as their author as well as their embodiment.
Julie: It’s like a collage; I always like to go from somewhere that seems very real to me, like a feeling or a sensation. When I write I try to have something that I want to say through that character and then I write it.
Jan: Okay, so what did you want to say through Celine and then what did you want to say through Marion?
Julie: Through Celine I wanted to show a modern woman that’s conscious about the world around her. Celine is very modern in the sense that she’s in the environmental world. She’s trying to better the world.
Marion is not trying to better the world; she’s not at that step yet. What makes me laugh is when Marion says: “I realize that we use four times more toilet paper than men because we wipe every time, so every time I wipe I’m depressed.” Marion is more kind of like “lost in the storm;” she has glimpses of consciousness of what’s going on in the world more than she’s really involved in making the world better. She’s not; it’s not her first purpose.
But Marion is modern in a sense that she’s very much the next generation in feminism. To me, I was raised by a feminist, so I’m not a feminist. I don’t need to be. I’m equal to men. I have no issues with the idea that I’m the same as a man. I have my differences; I have breasts, and different plumbing, different stuff down there. But outside of this, my consciousness, my capacity at creating, my capacity at doing things is the same as a man.
I wouldn’t argue that men are physically stronger; I have no problem with that strength. But the mind is more. Marion is at that stage where she feels equal to men.
Jan: Marion is very brave physically. You make her very physical, for example, in the scene with the cab driver and in the confrontation in the restaurant with the ex-boyfriend.
Julie: She’s ready to attack people physically. I mean she’s “the guy” in the relationship with Jack. She’s protecting Jack when the horrible taxi driver tells horrible racist and anti-Semitic comments. She protects Jack. And she’s the one ready to punch guys in bars if they’re rude to her boyfriend.
She’s this kind of person, and, in a way, she’s not like the typical “likeable person.” But I like her better for being like that than if she was just a cutesy, you know what I mean, a “nice” girl? And even when she’s flirting with the firemen in front of Jack, I don’t dislike her. You know what I’m saying? It doesn’t make her a bad person, and that’s a very important trait of the film to me.
I’m not like that. I’m actually very, very serious about my relationship and I know it would hurt the feelings of my boyfriend if I would look at other men. I’m very exclusive, but I don’t judge people that are not. It’s not because a girl is a little flirtatious that she’s a slut, or a girl likes to have fun that’s she a bad person. It’s not because a President has a high sex drive that he’s necessarily bad person or a bad President.
Jan: Okay, you’re being elusive here, so I’ll try once more. Did you experience frustration when you were creating Celine? Was there something that you didn’t get to say through Celine that you’re trying to say now, or was that just a different world?
For example, here’s something that annoyed me no end: I went on the ‘Before Sunset’ journey for about three-quarters of the film, and then when Jesse starting complaining about his wife and how he would only stay in the marriage because of his son, I was so angry with him. But I was more angry with Celine for not walking out on him that very minute. I thought that was such a trashy thing to say to her. So I’m dying to ask you: Did you buy into that? Were you comfortable with that?
Julie: I don’t know, you know, I didn’t judge his character. I think it’s not simple for people in a relationship if it’s not the right relationship and you have a kid. What do you do? Do you stay for the kid and have lovers? That’s what French people do. They stay in relationships…
Jan: My interpretation is that if Jessie had said those same exact words to Marion, Marion would have rolled her eyes and bopped him.
Julie: Yeah, Marion would be much more tough. She wouldn’t be so sweet or so accepting. She would be like: “What’s your fucking problem? You want to fuck me, you bastard?”
Jan: See what I mean? I experienced ‘2 Days in Paris’ as Marion having the last word. Marion can say things that Celine was not brave enough to say. Anyway, that’s how I experienced it.
Julie: Yes. Celine is more sweet. She doesn’t argue. She’s not ready to fight with people in the street. She would never do that. But Marion? Yeah, she’s a bad ass; she’s fearless.
It was fun, actually, for someone who is actually quite fearful in life, well, not fearful of telling people what I think and stuff, kind of the opposite… But if, for example, if a taxi driver would tell me what the taxi driver in ‘2 Days in Paris’ says, I would probably get upset and eventually leave the taxi, but I wouldn’t fight. I would be scared to be punched or have my head smashed on the wall. People can get violent, and I’m scared of physical violence. It terrifies me.
Jan: So was it fun for you to be Marion?
Julie: It was so much fun! Of course, you can’t react always as Marion does because otherwise you’d get in trouble all the time. But it was just very liberating because it’s kind of like a fantasy of what I wish I could do. Physically I’m a little woman and I don’t dare, and I’m an actress as well, so if I get punched in the face, break my nose, it’s over for me.
Jan: OK, so now let’s talk about Jack. Adam Goldberg is…
Julie: Is Jewish.
Jan: Very Jewish, yes. I mean he’s not only Jewish, he’s like…
Julie: Very Jewish. Yeah, he’s great in the film, very funny.
Jan: Well it was just so wonderful to see him get a lead role besides just THE HEBREW HAMMER. You gave him a lead role and he just flew with it; he really expanded, which was so wonderful for you and for the film.
Julie: Definitely! Something else than “the best friend” or “the funny guy.”
Jan: So you had a world of leading men to choose from, and you picked someone who is so Jewish in all his mannerisms and affects; you picked the guy who’s probably best-known as “the Jewish guy” on the ‘Saving Private Ryan’ team. Please tell me about this choice.
Julie: What I like about him? I like many things. First of all, he’s a wonderful comedic actor, which is what I needed, someone really, really funny for the part. Also, he’s kind of a weird mix. He has that Jewish “nerd quality” (a little bit neurotic and all that), but then also he really works out and he’s tattooed. So he’s the modern, hip version of the neurotic Jewish man, and it’s a fun contradiction to play with.
Also, I needed a sad, angry clown, meaning the more he looks angry and sad, the funnier he is. The more you hit him on the head, the more funny he is. I don’t know if it’s because he’s Jewish. I think it’s just his face.
Jan: So you didn’t really think about the overlay of having such an identifiably Jewish character and how that would create chemistry?
Julie: No, but I think it’s kind of fun to have him come to Paris, a very New York, Jewish man. Like Lenny Bruce, there are comedians coming from that world and I like that. It’s funny, the other day, on like a serious science magazine, there was a test of humor. Where is humor in the brain? And they did a test: What is your kind of humor? I did the test and it said: Your humor is exclusively Jewish New York! Ha! How did that happen?
Jan: So what does Marion like about Jack?
Julie: He’s sarcastic; he’s funny; he’s witty; he’s smart. He’s also a pain-in-the-ass a little bit — complaining and all that.
Jan: Yeah, a little hypochondria?
Julie: Yes, exactly, but all those qualities can be quite endearing for a woman. You know what I mean? They’re typical, kind of accepted.
Jan: Yes, and at the end, it turns out that Jack is a real mensch. Do you know that word? Jack’s a real mensch, so your casting was superb.
Julie: Thank you, that’s good. Because the goal was to have this very funny film and then the end is more…You have a sense of what’s happening; you don’t need to go into details of what’s happening… Kind of like a poem more than a scene in a way… For you, was it like that?
Poster & all still photos: © 2006 Samuel Goldwyn Films. All rights reserved.
© Jan Lisa Huttner (8/7/07)