My Interview With Julie Delpy

If I didn’t have the part of the brain that censors, I would go on another gushy mission when describing today’s interviewee. In honour of maintaining a level of restraint I will just request that your refer back to my review of Two Days in New York’ A quick scim read should educate you in my admiration for the Writer, Director and Actress. 

That said, if I was to write this with Marion in mind, Julie Delpy’s character in the duo of films about life, love and family, I would just let whatever was in my head blurt out for all to judge, with little worry about for how they might perceive my mental stability. 

When I interview or meet musicians/actors that are considered hot property or simply hot for example, I receive comments on Twittter saying how lucky I am or how jealous they are that I got to be in their presence. It has been a while since I have felt truly thrilled or excitable by the mere prospect of interaction with such people, because you quickly learn that despite the fact their careers may allow them to experience different things, and despite the fact their faces may appear on the TV and grace many bedroom walls, they also battle many of the same troubles, and hold the same flaws as the rest of us. What makes my job pleasurable is the opportunity to explore and delve into projects and work that have brought pleasure or inspired, or simply getting to chat with people who are interesting or fun to converse with. Before I digress into an essay about modern day’s way of putting people on a pedestal for their ‘celebrity’ status, what I am trying to say, rather inarticulately, is that speaking to the mastermind behind some of my favourite films was a pretty good day at the office. 

Upon hearing that Two Days in Paris was going to have a follow up, I had the usual anxieties. Would it second part taint the near perfection of the first outing, would Delpy’s continued story differ from what I hoped for the characters, and if so would I enjoy the ride she’d imagined. Thankfully, although opting for a different future for Marion than I had predicted, I felt completely satisfied in observing the life she has made a few years later in New York. However I did wonder how she came to the decision that she would have a new partner, one in the shape of Chris Rock, particularly as the dynamic between her and Jack (Adam Goldberg) was so hysterical to watch. 

Last week I had the opportunity to ask Ms Delpy just this, as well as finding out about Directing her father and the inaccuracies of many mainstream films portraying 30-somethings. Not that I am here to disassemble her personality, I am sure she wouldn’t have an interest in reading the judgment I cast, but she was exactly what I hoped she would be. She was open in a way that most actresses have been media trained not to be. She made knowing comment on the foibles of the US and the way it functions. She commented freely on PMS and sex. She also talked very honestly but lovingly about her father – which perhaps is unsurprising considering that family and the relationships within are the backbone of the films. She was also unguarded enough to give me clues to the activity that was taking place in the house that day, occasionally having to break in between questions to speak to her family who were having to deal with certain events that day.

The only slight disappointment of our twenty minute conversation was my inability to glean any information about her upcoming projects, including whether we would see her and Ethan Hawke have another romantic rendezvou. Whatever her next work turns out to be there’s no doubt my mind it will be a predictably refreshing turn with more than a bit of rebellion against Hollywood convention. 

I read that you didn’t feel that women of your age group of correctly represented in films. What did you particularly want to veer away from in the ‘2 Days’ films?

Well, its not that I don’t think we are represented right, I often see characters in movies, women in their late thirties, well I rarely see women with you know with kids, with… whatever.The first film was younger thirties and people having problem in their twenties still, dealing with issues of people in their twenties and early thirties and stuff. But late thirties issues of being in a relationships, having kids, being remarried, all the complications of getting older… losing your parents. Obviously it’s not often in comedies because it’s not that funny (laughs), particularly when you’ve lost your parents or something like that, a lot of people try to avoid that. You have a lot of actors in their late thirties who are really they playing characters who has issues of someone more like twenty eight. 

Like not being able to get a date for instance?

Yeah yeah exactly, worrying about getting a date, worrying about their looks, worrying about all that stuff. I mean when you have kids you don’t have time to worry about what you look like. I haven’t done my toenails in like 6 years, or something…. I exaggerate. But I am an actress, I should be worrying about that stuff.. a little bit at least!

Did you always know that you wanted to do a sequel or did you just find you had things you wanted to explore?

That came later actually. I decided as I was growing myself, in my life. I thought it was an interesting thing to kind of explore something else in a light hearted, fun way – a light movie, not taking it too seriously, even the serious matters in the film. A certain lightness to life.

A lot of people enjoyed the dynamic between you and Jack (Adam Goldberg). When did you decide you needed the split to make a satisfying sequel? 

Just because in a way, because even though she loves him, their dysfunctional behaviour was too dysfunction, and I don’t think it would go much further in a way. I felt it wasn’t right for them to still be together, and wanted to explore reconstructed families kind of thing. Hey… one second, we are having a family planning meeting…..Its a lot of work to have a child in America! 

I think you said that Chris Rock was almost the starting point with this movie. What was it about him that you felt was so right for the role?

You know what I don’t know, I trust my instinct in some way, and I had met him briefly at some luncheon in Hollywood or whatever. I was observing him talking to a friend of mine for a minute and thought this would be an interesting combination for a couple, like its not expected in a way, especially in Hollywood. Basically I thought it would be very interesting, our dynamic.We come from different backgrounds of acting, very different film and work. I’ve always loved his work,I’ve always love his stand up, I think he’s a very fun guy, you know provocative and a little bit politically incorrect, which is so refreshing in this country.

Obviously we are used to seeing Chris loud and almost manic on stage. How did he adapt to being the most ‘together’ and ‘normal’ character of the ensemble?

To be the straight man more or less? Although not really, still craziness in the family. He was interested in the film because the part was not that obvious. Not the loud Chris Rock part that he gets offered every other day. He really followed my ideas of the look of the character, the demeanour of the character, he really sort of listened almost religiously, not in a really religious way, gosh… I hate that word… he carefully followed my…umm… direction. 

Did you have chemistry immediately or did it take time to warm into?

You know chemistry is something that I know when I’m meeting an actor. I know if I am going to get it on screen or not.That’s something I’ve known as an actress since 14 years old. Sometimes it’s terrible when I’ve been on a movie and I meet the actor they’ve cast and I’m like okay this is terrible, I know there isn’t going to be any chemistry between us. And I can try, and I can be really friendly, and we can get on tremendously, but I can know there won’t be any chemistry on screen.

Its very unpredictable, but as I am Director I can choose the actor. So, I had a meeting with Chris, we have friends in common like Nelson George, who is a film-maker. We met when he was releasing Good Hair, which was really fun and cool, and basically I knew we would have that chemistry on screen. I could just see us you know what I mean. It just felt right. It wasn’t obvious, like ‘oh you guys are perf’ (trails off)…. but I could feel the fun, the spark.

Your Dad had a relatively major part in this film. Off set does he ever tell you that he wasn’t happy with your direction, or how you spoke to him that day for example? 

We just had one bad day. I talked about it and from then on everyone kind of like picked it up, because its kind of like funny, because its my Dad.

I see my Dad and my dad and at peace for all that growing up crap of blaming you parents for stuff, I’m so passed that. 

My Dad and I are like friends, really good friends, I can tell him everything and we have laughs all the time .Yes, we can argue, but like old friends.I’ve put away all that idea of your Dad is responsible for all your troubles thing. 

My parents weren’t perfect  they were actors,  partying all the time, they had crazy friends, all that stuff, but I’m like whatever. Obviously my Dad wasn’t a major problem in my life, like he was a fun Dad, crazy even. Some people blame their parents for everything, but I’m way past that. We had one day that was bad and it was partly my fault…. 

Uhoh. What did you do?

No no, I was just in a bad mood that day, PMS, you know what I mean ….. the thing that scares the financiers with women. I really have one day a month, I have my emotions out of control and that is the truth. I really have on day a month where I am not myself…once a month!! Its ok actually, I was not that bad, I know what it is so I try and control it a bit. He was the only person I was in trouble with, no one else noticed. 

He knows you too well I guess..

He was the one I was taking it out on. Poor Dad. He’s such a sweet person, so unfair. He’s like a sweet bear.He’s a very nice person, some people may not like that sort of person and that’s okay – some people hate their parents, or hate people in general. He’s actually a very loving person. I haven’t had one friend meeting him who hasn’t wanted to adopt him in some way. People fall in love with him.

Obviously the film tackles losing your mother. How hard was that to film? 

Not because I wanted to unload my problems on the public, its not what I do. In a way, somehow weirdly enough, I have had a lot of friends who have had birth and loss at the same time. So I didn’t think I was imposing my own personal issues. I feel like a lot of people have gone through it in some weird way, like its happened to a lot of people I know, this weird combination of birth and death.  I had to include it in the film, not because of catharsis, maybe a little form of psychotherapy through a creative process, but mainly because I thought it was right. The weird thing about growing up is you become a parent, you lose a parent, you lose both your parents eventually… all of us. Then you are next etc etc. 

You have an interesting cameo in the film and you cleverly play on people’s perceptions of him. How did you get him involved? 

Well I wrote it for him, and when I wrote it I knew he had such a great…well, people undermine that he has a good sense of humour you know. He’s a very provocative character/human being, so people assume he doesn’t have a sense of humour. He’s an extremely smart person. Basically, when I offered him the part – I wrote it for him – initially he wasn’t crazy when I told him about it because I said you play yourself and he said ‘ Ah I don’t like playing cameos’, and you know, playing yourself on top of it is not a very attractive prospect. A lot of people would have said no, you know its scary playing yourself. Either way when he read the scene he said ‘This is really something I like’, you know what I wrote about the soul, having a second one, even if there’s no soul, the conceptual piece of art bit. The whole scene really appealed to him and we ended up doing it. He was nervous at first he was like ‘what is that’, and then he read it, he was like ‘It’s perfect, its funny it takes the piss out of myself’. He loves that. So yeah….

Have you got plans for a third film, have you left it intentionally open?

No, I think I’m probably done with the Marion character. I just hope she finds her own peace and happiness in her its own dysfunctional way, because obviously it will always be dysfunctional with her.

Who has the perfect life? I don’t know anyone. Anyone with the perfect life, I’m very suspicious that something’s going.

Probably some people are less complex, less crazy, less neurotic than her. I don’t know, are people who are less neurotic, are they happier? Are they hiding something? Are they living a lie? I don’t believe in anything perfect.

Yes I don’t buy it. I don’t trust people that say everything is perfect…

Then you find out they never have sex! (laughs)They’ are like ‘everything’s perfect, the kids are happy,we love each-other, but do you know we haven’t had sex in two years!’ (laughs)

What are you views on the terms soul mates and true love?

I have no idea… well the truth is, you know, I’ve found a peace in life, our relationship is pretty amazing, I didn’t think I would end up like this, but it is unusual, its unexpected for me in a weird way. But, it’s good, it’s all good. Lets see what the future is like!

Soul mates? I don’t understand any of that. It feels a little new-agey for me. Im not spiritual…in that sense…you know. Some people find their soul mate, I guess in some sense. I think my parents had found each-other in a deep and profound way, and in a very funny way. They shared a great sense of humour which made half of their relationship and thats great. I don’t know many people like that.

A lot of my friends have settled for being moderately happy….

Moderately happy?! Like kind of happy… yea…fuck… I dunno is that the answer?

What is next for you?

Im writing a bunch of things. I don’t really talk about what I’m doing next, because actually I have a bunch of things, and I never know what will come out first. No clue actually…

What was the last film you really enjoyed at the cinema?

Ah, God I don’ t go the movies much anymore…I don’t have time. Weirdly enough I just watched a video which I love, The Decameron. It’s a movie from the 60s, late 60’s, its very much about sex actually, it’s very beautiful, a total sense of freedom in movie making and spirit. which actually made me cry. The film is funny and kinda free, but it actually made me cry to realize which extent we have lost our sense of freedom in movie making… and in life, and in our spirits.

The loss of freedom of these days in more worry-some than anything else to me. You look at the 60’s, 70’s, the films…We have gone into a space of total… well, the spirit is not free anymore. That film is hundred percent free and it’s worth seeing for the freedom within it.

Oh god, but I cry at anything these days..

Haha…Well anything that can move something within you….you know. Its particularly amazing because Its totally free.

And with that movie tip I let Julie carry on with what seemed a pretty hectic day… what an absolute pleasure though. 

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