“I don’t want to be a brand!”

Léa Seydoux

Interview

  • INTERVIEW PATRICK HEIDMANN

Glamor, smarts and eroticism come together in Léa Seydoux. In an interview, the French actor talks about her role models, success in Cannes, how she enjoys family dramas and traveling between Europe and the USA

Ms. Seydoux, You are a star of French cinema. What did they offer you to get you to accept a supporting role in It’s Only the End of the World?

The size of a role is not important to me. What I like best is to play characters who are as different from me as possible. Women for whom life is a struggle. Like in It’s Only the End of the World. Tattoos, greasy hair – that’s perfect! The only thing you have to give me is a script that I can fall in love with, that moves me and grabs hold of me.

What did you like so much about this particular script?

It contains all the frustrations, fears and hopes that people feel on a daily basis. It’s also about the way you consider yourself and the way you consider others. All of this is expressed through the family in the film, which is a vehicle for looking closely at all human emotions. Irritation, anger, sadness, love. To me, that is what real cinema is about.

Does your praise extend to the director and author Xavier Dolan?

Certainly. His vision, his intelligence and his sensitivity are amazing. All of us were dying to work with him, even Marion Cotillard and Vincent Cassel.

Music was my thing, I wanted to be a singer

Is it strange to work with such a young director? After all, Dolan is four years younger than you are …

In certain ways he is very much like a kid, which I find incredibly refreshing. At the same time, he doesn’t have any age and can be very mature. That’s hardly surprising because he has made more – and better – films than many older directors. His energy and his empathy are unique. He laughs with us when we laugh and cries with us when we cry.

It’s Only the End of the World premiered at Cannes, a place with special meaning for you …

Oh yes, I’ve been very happy to return ever since 2013, when we screened Blue is the Warmest Color there. Being in Cannes always reminds me how that film changed my life. It was very hard to make but there are few films I’m prouder of having done.

For the first time ever, a Palme d’Or went not only to the director but also to both of the principal actors …

That was very special, as was the entire film. If it hadn’t won in Cannes, Sam Mendes might never have seen it and offered me a part in the Bond film, Spectre, for instance.

Léa ­Seydoux in Its Only the End of the World

A chance to be snotty at last: Léa ­Seydoux in Its Only the End of the World

© Weltkino

Is it difficult to switch back and forth between big international productions and small French films?

I don’t find it difficult at all but exactly what an actor would wish for. It’s fun to do different kinds of films, travel, and immerse yourself in different worlds, even disappear behind your character. I want audiences to be unable to recognize me because the characters I play are so different – just like my great role model Marlon Brando. The last thing I want to become is a distinctive brand.

What is the difference between France and Hollywood?

To be honest, I don’t really have any experience with Hollywood. James Bond isn’t Hollywood, Woody Allen and Wes Anderson aren’t either. I never left Europe when filming Mission: Impossible.

But working conditions on the set of a blockbuster are different, right?

What you do in front of the camera is ultimately the same, but everything else couldn’t be more different. I don’t have
a preference, I’m very happy to be able to do both, even if the schedule is crazy.

How is that?

I shot Only the End of the World and Spectre at the same time. Sometimes I had to fly to Montreal from London for only 24 hours. It’s an eight-hour flight, so I was very jet-lagged filming alongside Daniel Craig. It was so exhausting that I needed to take a break afterwards.

It’s been 10 years since Mes copines. What has changed?

Now I’m older, that’s all (laughs). And I understand more about what I’m doing.

You probably had a good idea because you come from acting stock: your mother was an actor, and your grandfather and his brothers were important film producers in France …

But for many years I wasn’t interested in that one little bit. Music was my thing, my main focus; I wanted to be a singer and study at the conservatory. It wasn’t until I made friends with an actor that I really started thinking that acting might be something I could do.

And that’s when your family connections kicked in?

No, my grandfather wasn’t very interested in what I was doing, and the rest of the family didn’t lift a finger to help me, either. But I was glad! The last thing I wanted was to disappear behind my family name. I wanted to be independent and stand on my own two feet.

Was your name perhaps even a hindrance?

No, it wasn’t nearly as bad as all that. My acting ancestry only caught up with me when unimaginative directors tried to cast me exclusively in roles as a member of the blue-blooded aristocracy or a girl from a good family.