EMMANUELLE SEIGNER ON ACTING
By Crash redaction
BORN INTO AN ACTING FAMILY, EMMANUELLE SEIGNER BEGAN HER CAREER AS A MODEL AT 14. SHE DECIDED TO DEVOTE HERSELF ENTIRELY TO CINEMA IN 1984, WHEN JEAN-LUC GODARD PROVIDED HER FIRST ROLE IN DETECTIVE. A GENEROUS AND DEMANDING PERSONALITY, SHE WAS TRULY DISCOVERED IN FRANTIC. A ROCK LOVER, SHE RELEASED HER FIRST ALBUM IN 2007 WITH THE GROUP ULTRA ORANGE, FOLLOWED BY DINGUE, WHOSE RELEASE WAS DELAYED IN 2010 IN SUPPORT OF HER HUSBAND ROMAN POLANSKI. APPEARING IN THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY, WHICH RECEIVED A GOLDEN GLOBE IN 2008 FOR BEST FOREIGN FILM, SHE WILL BE FILMING THE NEXT STEPHANE BRIZE FILM IN APRIL.
Interview by Théo-Mario Coppola
Are there films in your career that you like more than others?
Yes! There are films I don’t like at all! (laughs) I don’t like everything in my career, and almost don’t like anything in it! (laughs) I’m pretty harsh, demanding. Frantic is certainly my favorite film. I also like The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Place Vendôme.
In 2010, your second album, Dingue, was released. Is music a way of escaping the acting world?
I have a lot more freedom in music than cinema. Music came into my life by chance. I released a first album with the group Ultra Orange. At first, we wanted to have fun above all. We recorded the album in a studio in Spain. Then I signed with Sony. In the beginning it was a meeting, mostly an artistic meeting. On tour I realized that I really like music. It was a pleasant surprise and I didn’t expect so much critical success. I’ve always liked rock music. It was part of my life, but making music was just a game. I worked on a rock album in English, then a pop album in French. On stage I’m more comfortable with rock songs in English, so I want to continue in that style. I’ll certainly release a third album, but it should come from a meeting. As for music in general, I don’t think it’s as beautiful today. With Lou Reed, Bowie, and the Rolling Stones, there’s a real melody and a soul. I think technology leads us away from that.
You played the titular role in Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, directed by Roman Polanski. Do you think you’ll return to the stage?
I would like to. But theater is a meeting with a role, and it’s hard to find good roles. There are a lot fewer good roles for women, too. Hedda Gabler wasn’t really a good role, maybe, but it was good to play it.
What did Roman Polanski’s directing ability lend to your acting?
I’ve been with him for twenty-five years now. I see films with him and he taught me a lot: what works and doesn’t in a film. However, knowledge of cinema doesn’t give me the innocence my actress colleagues have. Very young I learned who could make a film, and who couldn’t, so I lost a lot of my innocence. But at the same time, Roman shows me movies and teaches me things, but I have no talent as a director. Talent is something we’re born with, and I don’t think I have any for directing.
Do you discuss roles with your husband Roman Polanski before accepting or refusing them?
No, not at all. Roman taught me a lot. I’m now able to decide on my own whether to accept or refuse a role.
What kind of film would you like to make with Roman Polanski? What theme would you like to approach?
We would really like to work on a comedy. We’re desperately looking for a theme. At one point we wanted to stop working together, because we both needed to do things on our own. But now would be the right time to work together on a film again, as long as we find the right theme for him and a good role for me.
Have you ever thought of directing with him instead of acting?
I have no intention of becoming a director. Though I think I could when I see some French movies and I say: “I could do that in two minutes,” but it wouldn’t be very good! Directing a film is a real profession. It’s not easy. I could try, but I don’t think it would be good, so I prefer to stay out of it.
Does a role as powerful as Mimi in Bitter Moon have an influence on your roles today? Does it place any demands on you?
I truly regretted this role afterwards. The film became a cult classic; but at the time, it wasn’t so simple for me. The movie was received in a strange way and things weren’t easy for me after. I think there are certain kinds of roles that you shouldn’t touch! (laughs)
Is cinema a family story? Are your kids drawn to cinema?
It’s part of their childhood. My grandfather was with the Comédie française, my aunt was an actress, my sister is an actress, my husband is a director, so the kids have grown up in this world and they’re more likely to become actors than mathematicians. Too bad! (laughs)
Do you have a drug?
I don’t have an addictive personality, but I like reading a lot, and watching American TV shows. I also like running, yoga, drinking coffee, but I don’t drink alcohol and I don’t smoke. I’m not very interested in all that. I really like Douglas Kennedy novels. At the moment I’m reading State of the Union.
How does an actor manage their relationship to their body throughout their career?
When I was younger, I put a lot of effort into my roles, then one day I let go and stopped trying to be good and things worked better. I think that we try to do too well sometimes.
How do you view the position of French film on an international scale?
I was talking with Ursula Andress about it today, because she’s my neighbor in Switzerland. (laughs) She lived through the golden age and said that all the French films were fantastic: Jeanne Moreau, etc. She finds current cinema to be very different from what she knew in the past. For her, French cinema doesn’t have the same aura. I think that there are still a lot of films produced in France each year. Although it’s true that French film doesn’t have the same international notoriety, some films still make an impact around the world. I’m especially thinking of Of Gods and Men.
Do you think you embody “the Parisian woman”?
I feel completely Parisian. I was born and raised in Paris. And I played a typical Parisian in Frantic. At the same time, I’m not really a Parisian physically. I look more German. But I try to be more chic or whatever.
You’re rather cool and natural. What kind of relationship do you have with appearance and fashion?
I love fashion. I lent my image to Marc Jacobs, Gap, Céline, Moschino, Uniqlo, Tom Ford, and Yves Saint Laurent. But I did all that more as a muse or icon than a consumer product. I find that actresses today are doing campaigns mostly as consumer products. I try to keep an artistic approach, because it’s the part of a campaign that reaches a cult status that people remember. I really like Phoebe Philo, Stefano Pilati, Marc Jacobs, and Tom Ford.
Do you have any film projects at the moment?
It’s been nearly two years since I’ve devoted myself to film. Apart from a brief appearance in a Skolimowski film, who’s been a friend for twenty years. But I’m going to put music aside for a while, because I have a lot of film projects coming up. I’m going to start shooting Stéphane Brizé’s next film in April with Vincent Lindon and Hélène Vincent. And I can’t talk about my other projects on the way.
Interview from #Crash 55