Two Days In Paris - Julie Delpy interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
JULIE Delpy talks about what inspired her to write Two Days In Paris, why Adam Goldberg was always her first choice leading man and working with her parents.
She also discusses some of the politics involved in the film, why the French don’t like being criticised and why she would like to continue mixing writing, directing and acting in the future…
Q. Where did the idea for Two Days In Paris come from?
Julie Delpy: I always wanted to write a story about a couple coming to that moment in their relationship where either they keep on going or it ends. So what makes people make that decision to keep on going?
Q. It’s much less romantic than the Before Sunset and Before Sunrise movies in that it’s a little more real and a little ruder?
Julie Delpy: Yeah, it’s much less romantic. Before Sunset is about expecting someone that you can’t have and dreaming about someone, expectations and all. I like that film very much and it’s a very romantic idea about romanticism and love. But this one is ruder and examines the hard times of making a relationship work – and sometimes not succeeding so well.
Q. What appealed to you about Adam Goldberg as the male lead? You wrote the part with him in mind, didn’t you?
Julie Delpy: Yes. I knew him for a long time and I always thought he’d be great as a lead – an offbeat romantic lead. But he’d never had that chance because maybe he’s a different kind of personality that people didn’t dare to hire him to play a whole film. So I wrote it for him because I felt he was really like the sad clown. First of all he’s very funny, he has a very natural comedic talent even when he doesn’t want to! But I think that’s the secret to it, so that’s why I went with him. The sadder and more angry he looks, the funnier he is. There were times he didn’t even want to be funny but he just had that quality.
Q. I gather he came into it almost directly from Deja Vu, so you didn’t get much rehearsal time together…
Julie Delpy: He arrived 12 hours before the shoot which was pretty tough. He was also a week late. We had to postpone the shoot a week. But I can’t compete with a huge Hollywood film like Deja Vu so…
Q. But did that help in perhaps making the relationship between the two of you a little more spontaneous?
Julie Delpy: Well, we definitely had very little to practice. I’d met him in LA and gave him the script when we discussed about his character and different things. But then the minute I went to Europe he got taken up with Deja Vu and we barely echanged emails during that time. I was a little worried actually. But then I had a confidence that he would show up and be fine because Adam is great when he doesn’t think too much. When he starts to over-analyze stuff it kind of stops him. So to just be thrown onto the set was great because he is the fish out of water. I didn’t even have time to translate some of the scenes for him, so I’d give him the script and there were all these scenes in French and he’d ask me to translate for him but I was directing and doing this and that, no one spoke English, so it was quite amusing at times.
Q. Did it help that he has written and directed as well, in terms of understanding the kind of pressures you were under?
Julie Delpy: He did understand… to a certain extent. He was a good sport most of the time!
Q. How did you enjoy working with your parents? Was it ever daunting to have to direct them?
Julie Delpy: That was wonderful. They were amazing – they were always on and totally respected me as a director – apart from when I asked them to rehearse! My dad was like: “Oh, you’re not going to bother us with rehearsals!” So, I didn’t rehearse with anyone really before we started shooting… well except Alexia Landeau who plays my sister because we wanted to build something that I don’t know, which is a relationship with a sister because I don’t have one. I actually never thought I was directing my parents. The shoot was so hard and in an emergency state that I never even had the time to think: “Oh, is it tough to direct your parents?” I just did it without thinking.
Q. There are a couple of very barbed political conversations in Two Days In Paris, particularly about America and France. Is it true that the French have taken more exception?
Julie Delpy: They did. And I think the distributors got nervous because they don’t want to offend anyone. Well, they don’t mind offending Americans but they certainly don’t want to offend anyone in France.
Q. Is that because America has become quite an easy target?
Julie Delpy: They don’t seem to mind some fun being made of their problems. I don’t think they take it very personally. They have a sense of humour. Put it this way, I don’t think Borat would have happened in France. It just wouldn’t have worked because the French wouldn’t have let him and it would only have come out in one cinema.
Q. Do you ever find yourself having to defend any of the comments your character makes about the French?
Julie Delpy: Not so much to journalists, they’ve been OK. But some will get offended and I knew that when writing it. The French don’t like to be criticised. I mean, Paths of Glory was forbidden for 30 years in France because it criticised the French army. They have good sides in that they’re quite liberal and can talk about sex and all that, which Americans don’t have so much. Something like [former President] Clinton’s blow job story would probably never have happened in France because no one cares about a president’s lovers and stuff. But on the other hand, the French don’t like criticism.
Q. You received an Academy Award nomination for your screenplay on Before Sunset. Has that helped to open doors for you and made it easier to get your own projects made?
Julie Delpy: A little bit but not that much – maybe because it was assumed that we were co-writing so it wasn’t clear who wrote what. It’s almost like people thought: “Oh, she’s the only woman in a group of three writers so maybe she was just there, sitting on the couch being pretty or something…” [laughs] But I wrote the first draft and was very involved with the writing of that film.
Q. Have you started work on The Countess yet, your film about a 17th century Hungarian countess who embarks on a murderous undertaking in the belief that bathing in the blood of virgins will preserve her beauty?
Julie Delpy: Yes. We’re currently preparing to do it. I’m going over costume design, set design and meeting designers and stuff. So it’s very exciting. But it’s a very big step for me and it’s a very different film to Two Days In Paris. It’s a drama but it’s certainly interesting for me to be able to go from a comedy to a drama. I’d like to try as many different jobs and styles as possible.
Q. Is writing, directing and starring something you’d like to continue doing, or will you eventually pick and choose more?
Julie Delpy: I don’t think I’ll do it every time. I’m doing it next because it’s been set up for a long time. But I’d like to just direct something, or write and direct. But I also want to continue acting. The ideal situation would be to be able to alternate between the jobs.