FROM THE ARCHIVES : AN INTERVIEW WITH LAURA SMET
By Crash redaction
DISCOVERED AND RESPECTED BY HER PEERS FOR HER ROLE IN XAVIER GIANNOLLI’S FILM, EAGER BODIES, LAURA SMET IS A BORN ACTRESS THROUGH AND THROUGH, SUBMITTING BODY AND SOUL TO EVERY ROLE. CLAUDE CHABROL, PHILIPPE GARREL, AND PASCAL THOMAS ALL CAST HER IN SUCCESSFUL ROLES. THIS YEAR SHE STARS IN LES GARDIENNES, A FILM BY XAVIER BEAUVOIS, ALONGSIDE HER MOTHER NATHALIE BAYE. TAKE A LOOK AT OUR INTERVIEW WITH HER FROM 2015.
What are you working on?
There are a lot of rumors going around about the projects I’m doing. For example, I didn’t end up shooting the film “Les Ames de Papier”. At first I was supposed to do the film with Nicolas Bedos, but then the production team switched actors for some reason, replacing him with Stéphane Guillon. I didn’t want to do the film with him. I don’t really like his kind of humor or the way he acts. It’s not him so much as what it meant for the film. It was supposed to be a love story… It was a project I was really excited about, a Belgian production by Vincent Lanooo.
Right now I’m getting ready to shoot the next Frédéric Schoendoerffer film with Gérard Lanvin, Sylvie Testud, Niels Arestrup, and Anne Consigny. It’s a great cast! I’m also really looking forward to another project I’ll be doing: Laurent Perrot’s second film, called “La Bête Curieuse”. I was really impressed by the role: it’s the story of a girl changes her identity after ten years in prison and tries to build a new life before her past comes back to haunt her. It’s a great project. So I’ll soon start shooting Frédéric Schoendoerffer’s film, and then in September I’ll do Laurent Perrot’s film. I’m also doing a project with Maïwenn. She’s someone I really respect and her movies mean a lot to me. She’s doing a TV series and I’m delighted to be a part of it. I love her work. She has a ton of talent and a stellar personality. I loved her film “Polisse”, I saw it maybe fifteen times in the theater. And I also liked “Pardonnez-moi”. Other than that, I’m also doing a music project: I’m working on an album that’s currently in the writing phase. It’s going to be something personal. I’m not a singer, but I take singing lessons to help place my voice for acting. I’m working with a friend, Nicolas Boualami, who produced “ElleSonParis”, an album I worked on.
All the songs on the album tell a story from my life. do you write your own songs ?
We are both involved in writing. It will be pop rock with a couple of covers. I enjoy it, I needed new projects to give me energy after these few years of absence.
Are you going to sing in English on your album?
There will be maybe two or three songs in English. I really like British rock groups and singers like Adele and, lately, Lou Doillon’s album.
Do you already feel close to the music world?
I do, but at the same time I’m kind of intimidated by my father’s career. It’s tough to get started with that in mind, even though his music is a lot different than what I want to do, so it isn’t necessarily comparable. I sang a duo with my brother David, who really helped me open up to music. Singing classes have helped, too.
I’ve never done any theater, since I’m pretty intimidated by the stage. I did take theater classes when I was younger, but it was mainly a chance to see how actors worked because I wanted to become a talent agent at the time. At one point Elizabeth Depardieu contacted me for a short film, and I got the part without anyone realizing whose daughter I was. No one pulled any strings for me, and I was really proud of that. Later on I learned a lot with Xavier Giannoli and all the directors I’ve worked with, including Philippe Garrel on “Frontier of the Dawn“ and Pascal Thomas. These were two completely different projects by two totally different directors. Sometimes I’m like a chameleon: I adapt to each new personality.
Most of the films you’ve done are arthouse films…
It wasn’t really a conscious choice on my part. I don’t have a categorical preference for arthouse films. But my dream is to work with Jacques Audiard, Claire Denis, and Christophe Honoré. But once you start doing arthouse films in France, you keep getting offers in the same genre, even though you might like to do more “popular” movies. I like to make people laugh, but I haven’t received many offers for comedies. So far my parts have been more dramatic, but I have to admit I would really really like to do a good comedy. I really like American sitcoms and British comedy.
What are your parts like in the Schoendoerffer and Perrot films?
My character isn’t on screen very long in Frédéric Schoendoerffer’s film, but it’s a key part. The film takes place in a closed room and I play the daughter of a gangster and the mistress of a police officer. In Laurent Perrot’s film, on the other hand, I’m in every shot. It’s the kind of movie where dialogue is sparse but the tension runs high. I really like the title: “La Bête Curieuse”, or the “Curious Beast”. Laurent Perrot thought of me for the part and we had a great meeting about the film. He’s a very reserved and respectful kind of man who knows exactly what he’s doing.
Do you get stage fright before a shoot?
Definitely! A week before every shoot, I can’t eat and I don’t go out. Then, once the first day is done, I’m fine. Each new crew is like a new family.
Did you have any training as an actress?
I took some acting classes, but I have no formal training, so my acting style is mostly spontaneous. I listen to what directors have to say and I read my screenplays over and over to immerse myself my parts. What I really like is the teamwork that goes into photo and film shoots.
What do you do to prepare for each film shoot?
Screenplay readings and costume fitting, for example. The costumes characters wear also tell a story and suggest a development. This kind of preparative work helps me get into the skin of my characters. But you have to be careful with roles that are really involved. You have to remember how to find your way back out, how to go home and get back into your own skin. At least that’s what my mother tells me to do!
Do you have a little withdrawal when you wrap up a film shoot?
Of course, there are gaps in the acting life when you don’t have anything or much to do. But that’s when you have a chance to learn a lot more. It’s difficult to depend on the needs of different directors. There are times when you no longer feel wanted and you so you just want to give up. But film is a passion, so you always come back. Age plays its part, too. Few lead roles are offered to young actors, so once you reach a certain age you start to get bigger offers.
What do you think about the fact that some actors’ careers are getting longer and longer?
I really like Isabelle Carré, for example, and Benoît Poelvoorde, who was great in “Entre ses mains“, where he plays a psychopath and expresses a wealth of emotions without saying anything, just through his facial expressions, and that’s really amazing. I’m also a diehard fan of Romy Schneider. She’s stunningly expressive in all of her films. She makes you feel things.
Have you ever considered directing a film?
I have, but I think you need a certain level of maturity. I’m really impressed by Xavier Dolan, for example, who is still really young but he manages to do great films where he does the costumes, editing, writing, and even some of the acting. It takes a lot of guts to direct at such a young age and face all the critics. Success upsets us in France. We have such a weak sense of solidarity and we rarely think about our common French identity.
Would you like to live somewhere outside France?
I love Paris but I would like to travel and see other places. I really like India, Canada, and the US. I’ve got plenty of dreams and I love challenges.
What do you like in fashion?
There was a time when I didn’t care about fashion at all, but now I love it. When an outfit makes me feel good, I feel totally safe like I’m inside a shell. I’m fascinated by the fashion world. It’s full of magic and really close to my own personality. It’s definitely not shallow or superficial. It helps me feel good and comfortable with myself. I like mixing elegant and vintage things. One piece of jewelry can do a lot to dress up an outfit.
What are your favorite brands?
My favorite brands are Barbara Bui, Isabel Marant, Paco Rabane, Antik Batik, and Carven.
Interview by Armelle Leturcq.