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Martyrs - Mylène Jampanoï and Morjana Alaoui interview


Interview by Rob Carnevale

FRENCH actresses Mylène Jampanoï and Morjana Alaoui talk about some of their experiences of making extreme horror film Martyrs, how they coped with the screaming, a volatile director, broken bones and the subsequent reaction to the film afterwards.

Q. What was the appeal of Martyrs to you both?
Morjana Alaoui: I was totally driven by the suspense and the emotion, so I wasn’t really thinking about the violence at that point. I was touched by the story.

Mylène Jampanoï: Me too. I was surprised by this kind of script. It’s rare to read this kind of story. I was surprised and happy to do something different.

Q. How did you prepare mentally for what you had to go through?
Mylène Jampanoï: Lucie, my character, is a simple person. She was tortured and she is obsessed by getting revenge. So, it was not so difficult. I watched documentaries and tried to find the emotion of the character.

Morjana Alaoui: Anna’s character is simple as well. She’s there to help Lucie, she’s there for the love of her life. She’s willing to go beyond any point for love. I knew what I was going to do on set but getting these emotions that intense was another story. It was very, very hard for me because I don’t have a lot of experience. This was only my second film. So, I think the thing that helped me was just being on set and doing what I had to do. We often didn’t have much time to think because of the intense nature of the shoot.

Q. Did you get a sore throat from screaming so much?
Morjana Alaoui: Yes [laughs].

Mylène Jampanoï: I think we screamed too much in this movie!

Morjana Alaoui: We were screaming from 7am until 9pm some days.

Q. How draining did you find that?
Morjana Alaoui: It is somewhat draining but somehow, when you get back to your hotel room, you feel relieved with all the emotions that you gave out.

Q. Didn’t you break some bones as well?
Morjana Alaoui: Yes, I broke three bones and I had to stay in bed for six weeks. The shoot was chaotic. I think what you get from the movie when you watch it is what happened on set. The impression you get is very much in keeping with the way we shot the movie.

Q. What do you think about the reaction to the film?
Morjana Alaoui: I like the idea that either you love it or you hate it. It’s better than someone saying: “It was OK.” Or: “It didn’t make me feel anything.”

Q. What was the most shocking reaction you’ve had?
Morjana Alaoui: Someone told me I was the worst actress in the world! The review said something like: “The film is terrible and unfortunately when Morjana comes it gets even worse.” [Laughs]

Mylène Jampanoï: I can understand that some people don’t like horror movies, or they don’t understand it, or don’t like girls screaming… they don’t feel the emotions.

Q. Pascal seems like a very nice, gentle kind of guy… How was he as director?
Mylène Jampanoï: This is not true…

Morjana Alaoui: He has a very soft side and a very violent side. He wouldn’t be doing this film if he didn’t have a violent side to him. And I think he has a very violent reaction towards the world.

Q. Would you work with him again?
Mylène Jampanoï: Never! [Laughs]

Morjana Alaoui: Me never too.

Mylène Jampanoï: Can I just say, we’ve complained about it but we did have an excellent time there and professionally, as actresses, we learned a lot about each other. It was a huge experience.

Morjana Alaoui: And all experience is good. It was interesting to be in this project. It wasn’t bad.

Q. Would you do another horror film?
Morjana Alaoui: I would. But I’d love to do something soft now because I just did a very psychological thriller, which was very harsh as well, and very black. So, I’d like to do a comedy or something softer. But at some stage, another horror film would be OK.

Q. Are you squeamish in real life? What scares you?
Mylène Jampanoï: Nothing. I’m not scared of dying, so what else could scare me?

Morjana Alaoui: I’m terrified of disease and individualism.

Q. Individualism?
Morjana Alaoui: I live in Paris and I feel it every day. It’s just horrible. More and more people are committing suicide for social reasons because it’s a strange world in which we’re living in today. It’s becoming more and more individualist.

Q. What was the most challenging aspect of the shoot? And what was the biggest lesson you learned?
Morjana Alaoui: For me, the whole shoot was very hard in terms of emotions – crying all the time and screaming. I didn’t have a lot of experience in front of the camera, so for me that was terrifying. And the lesson I learned as an actress was to not be terrified and to trust the team.

Mylène Jampanoï: The worst was fighting a lot with the director. We would not agree about what we should do. I would try different emotions sometimes – one crying, one not – and we’d be fighting. He would say: “You should keep the same emotions! Crying and screaming all the time!” We were fighting a lot and we hated each other on set. We’d fight on the set but we didn’t speak so much outside. So, I had no idea what I would do the next day. So, that was the worst and the lesson I learned for this type of movie was to be confident and believe in yourself. You should know the film and your character when you go into it – if not, you’re lost. And I was really lost at times and I struggled.

Q. Is it important for you to move away from horror films soon, so that you don’t get pigeon-holed or stereotyped?
Morjana Alaoui: Not really because I’m not enough of a working actress to have that kind of view. I just want to work.

Q. But Mylène, you’re doing the Serge Gainsbourg movie. How was that?
Mylène Jampanoï: It’s amazing. I really love this movie. We’re in the middle of the shoot. I have a small part. I play his last wife. But it’s a pleasure to be a part of this project and I think it will be amazing. I’m very proud of it.

Q. Are you intrigued to see who’‘ be cast in your roles for the American remake of Martyrs?
Mylène Jampanoï: For me, I hate the idea of the remake. Why bother? We have the original.

Read our interview with director Pascal Laugier