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The Swimming Pool - Ludivine Sagnier Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Warning - this interview contains plot spoilers

Q. At what point did you become involved in The Swimming Pool project?
A.
After 8 Women was released, François Ozon and I were never really apart, because we promoted the film together. I sensed he was thinking of a new project and he offered me the part fairly soon after he’d cast Charlotte Rampling. It was the first time he’d cast me without asking for a screen test, which was very flattering.

Q. Were you not worried about shooting most of the film in English?
A.
I was very excited about having to perform in English. I’d done it before, but not with a character present throughout a film.
The real challenge was physical because I really had to compose a character from scratch. I had to come up with a kind of sexual aggressiveness and make it work, which meant quite heavy physical training and also building up one’s sexual bravado.

Q. How did you work on Julie’s look?
A.
Julie needed to be, in Sarah Morton’s eyes and also in the audience’s eyes, an obvious sex symbol. That meant working on my body to make myself more like a ‘cagole’, a Provencal sex bomb. I also worked with the costume designer, the make-up girl and the hairdresser to define a look that matched Julie’s extrovert personality.

Q. Was playing in the nude not a supplementary difficulty?
A.
Playing in the nude was not really a problem. I’d done it before in another of François’ films, Water Drops on Burning Rock, so I felt comfortable with the crew. And the physical training gave me extra confidence, so I was able to handle being naked throughout the shoot.
The hardest thing about playing Julie was dealing with the psychology of her fractured persona. I had to delve into slightly painful corners of my imagination to create the character.
Julie was invented with François’ help. The character was built by two people. But since the character develops according to Sarah Morton’s fantasies, I let her evolve naturally, according to the situations François created for us.

Q. Swimming Pool is your third François Ozon film. Has your work together evolved in any way?
A.
On our first film, Water Drops… I was 19 and knew very little about film-making. I was more naïve and also more risk-averse. It was not until he cast me as his doppelganger in 8 Women that I realised we were artistically compatible.
On Swimming Pool, François did something I thought was very good: he let me get involved in the creative process of designing a film. He gave me more freedom and let me participate in each stage of the process. I saw it through from writing to recess: we viewed dailies together.
I was better able to understand the nature of his choices and because of that, I was able to make my own more freely.

Q. What did you learn from working with Charlotte Rampling?
A.
We worked together quite naturally. I felt she was part of the family because she’d worked with François on Under the Sand. She was very encouraging. Charlotte is someone who is fairly relaxed about the process of making a film.
Our relationship was cemented by the English language. On set, everyone understood English, but only Charlotte and I spoke it. It was like having our own dialect and it made us more intimate.
Also, she is an artist, who can deal with her character’s emotions quite light-heartedly, whereas I am much more naïve and wilful in my work. I tend to be consumed by my character. Charlotte Rampling has learnt detachment, without losing the sense of pleasure.

Q. How would you explain Julie’s relationship with Sarah?
A.
At the start, when my character appears by the pool, it seems Sarah and Julie have nothing in common. Then Sarah’s peculiar attraction for Julie brings about change, which passes into fantasy.
I have a sense that by bringing Charlotte and I together on Swimming Pool, François has brought two aspects of his work into one. I come from the artificial side, the theatrical and concept-led side of Water Drops… and 8 Women, whereas Charlotte comes from Under the Sand, which is much more intimate in tone.
I feel that in Swimming Pool, these two currents collide electrically through Julie and Sarah’s relationship. Julie is artificial, almost vulgar. Sarah is introverted and intellectual. In the film, these two people confront each other and become altered: Julie develops an inner life, while Sarah blossoms physically.
I think Swimming Pool is François’ attempt at telling a highly personal story, a story about a creative artist and his muse, that shows how fine the line between fiction and reality can be. How an author can be utterly overwhelmed by his muse and, conversely, how the muse can have the blood sucked out of her by her author.

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