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Lou Doillon • Actress

“I need challenges”

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- The 20-year-old daughter of Jane Birkin and film director Jacques Doillon, a rising star on the French horizon, talks about her likes and dislikes in cinema

Lou Doillon • Actress

Lou Doillon may just be twenty years old, but the daughter of Jane Birkin and French film director Jacques Doillon, and the half-sister of Charlotte Gainsbourg, is well on the way to becoming a star of French cinema. She first performed before Agnès Varda’s film camera at the tender age of 5. The career of this talented young actress who is not afraid of speaking her mind really took off in a big way in 2002. The future looks rosy for Lou Doillon, whom Cineuropa met in Paris.

Following last autumn’s success of Blanche and Embrassez qui vous voudrez, do you think your career has entered a new dimension ?
"I have always been aware of the ambiguity of my position, since I was well-known before making my films. Because of who my mother is, I appeared on every TV channel to promote the films and ordinary people would stop me in the street and say they adored me, even before they’d seen my films. If you analyse the attendance for the nine films I’ve made since my debut, you will see that none was really successful. Most of them were inward-looking films that at most managed to attract between 300,000 and 400,000 people. Fans of my father’s films however really know me as an actress because the kinds of auteur-driven films I make are similar to those of my father. The overwhelming majority of the public thinks of me as a media phenomenon. So Blanche opened a new door for me without really making me more famous. Blanche was a risk but that is the only thing that excites me in this profession. The knowledge that I am an actress who takes risks lifts my soul. Knowing that you can fall, off a horse, or from a fence is a good feeling. I never thought that I would end up like this since I am usually offered films by well-known filmmakers. Even my father was super proud of me because this was like a John Wayne movie! It is rare for actors to do their own stunts in big French productions. Usually there are stuntmen on hand and you run fewer risks”.

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How do you choose your films? Do you have a master-plan for your career or do you react instinctively to the screenplay?
Doillon: “You really cannot afford to have strategies. If you knew that a given film will do will, that would be great for everyone in this business. But you are always making mistakes; saying this film will do well or that one won’t. It is therefore impossible to plan your future career; you just don’t know what the situation will be six months up the road. At the moment French cinema is not doing too well and even famous actresses are having a hard time finding work. There are too many actresses for the few films that make it into production and the number of films that are aborted before ever reaching the production stage every week is almost unbelievable. The films that are released depend on stars that have been on the scene for the last fifty years and are all big budgt projects. The situation is critical worldwide. That is what worries me. It is impossible for me to get involved in films that I don’t like so I just wait for a project that really tickles my fancy.”

April will see you on the set of a new film entitled Saint Ange, starring Virginie Ledoyen, a fantasy that is also Pascal Laugier’s directorial debut. What attracted you to this project?
“I liked the screenplay and read it in one go. Without giving too much away, this was something that neither I nor my co-star, Virginie Ledoyen, had ever done before. My role scares me a lot: it’s a real challenge that entails walking a really high wire without a safety net. Generally speaking, I prefer making people’s first films rather than working with an affirmed director. Young directors are really excited; it’s a life-or-death situation, and I am an eternal adolescent. Given that this is a passionate profession, I cannot say that upsets me but I feel I have nothing to do, that I’m not doing my job. I need challenges.”

Given your Anglo-French cultural background, would you like to make films outside of France?
“European cinema attracts me. I have had a few offers but it is a little more difficult for me because they take me for a French actress but when I arrive for an audition, I speak in a British accent. That represents a problem for English productions because they ask me to play French girls and to avoid using a French accent when I speak English. It’s a real muddle.! I adore Spanish cinema and am very sad that I am not trilingual. When you see films by people like Almodovar or directors of his style and calibre, you feel that there was quite a lot of improvisation and that the actors were relaxed with that. Even if I were too learn the dialogue by rote, phonetically, could I ever act with such apparent ease. The language barrier is a sad fact of life.
I like the work of Scandinavian directors like Vinterberg (Festen) but I don’t like Lars von Triers and I think that is because I am a woman. I don’t mean to be judgemental about that director because his actresses are always exquisite in his films. His films are always perfect: never a mistake or a lack of taste. But seeing the Holy Virgin being repeatedly hit on the head without saying a word is the absolute opposite of my character and I feel it is also the opposite of what three-quarters of the human race believe, be they men or women. As a mother, I cannot like a film where you allow yourself to be killed without reacting and without being there for your child.”

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