Julie Delpy would be the first to admit that she used to take herself far too seriously. But now, the still beautiful French actress is an acclaimed writer/director with early buzz generating from her delightful and all-too-real romantic comedy/drama, 2 Days in Paris. She and real-life ex-boyfriend Adam Golberg shine as a couple visting her home city, a 2 days that shows off the darker side of humanity. Delpy talked exclusively to Paul Fischer about Paris, Hollywood and filmmasking.
Question: How personal a film is this 2 Days in Paris and how much of it was based on your attitudes towards your own relationships?
Delpy: Well, it was definitely based on something I’ve observed or something I’ve witnessed. A few things I’ve experienced, but over all, the story itself is not autobiographical – bringing your boyfriend to Paris, bumping into an ex-boyfriend, having a crisis like this is not autobiographical. And it’s true that certain things towards the end about love, about, like, committing to someone and all that is something I believe in because I’m a romantic and I believe that, you know, you have to make… And also it’s true that one of the most horrible moments is when someone looks at you and in their eyes, you see no more love. I mean, I think everyone who’s experienced a break-up once in their life in that moment, when you see that person and there’s nothing left. In fact, heartbreaking.
Question: What makes you such a romantic, still?
Delpy: Because I think I was raised with extremely straight values in my life, but not values like moral, you know, it’s bad and good, evil, or stuff like that because my parents were not in that kind of stuff. But values in the sense that human beings are wonderful, unique creatures and you should respect everyone and everyone deserves to be cared for and loved, and my parents are extremely loving people, and when you’re raised by extremely loving people – extremely affectionate also. Kissing, hugging, always touching. You know, it’s a very, very affectionate family I have. And suddenly, you find yourself in the world, at like, 18 or 19 dating and going out with guys that are mean and not – you know, not caring and not loving and not cuddly, you know? And you’re like, “What is going on? I don’t understand it.” So I became romantic because I think – you know, my values as a child were extremely loving, and actually, I transformed this parent / child love into this idea of something really beautiful in love you know? And very caring. And at the same time, I can be very – have a sense of humor on it and be cynical about it.
Question: The surprising thing about this film is that having done the Sunrise, Sunset movies which are very talkiy and quite sort of melancholy in many ways – I was not expecting this to be funny. I didn’t think that you’re that funny. And the last time I interviewed you, you were not funny at all—-
Delpy: Really? I’ve changed a lot in the past 10 years. I’ve lightened up. I think it’s also out of going through really tough moments made me – either you know, to survive in this world, if you’re a sensitive person. Either you’re harden up and you become hard and cold, or you kill yourself, you know, or you’re totally destroyed and you become manic-depressive. Or, you step aside and you start having humor on things. And I think that’s what I did.
Question: Do you think being in this business, you need to take it less seriously, otherwise you go completely crazy?
Delpy: No, no. You have to take it lightly, you have to take it less seriously. I mean, I’ve had so many situations where people really were nasty, nasty to me to an extent that you have no idea. Like, sick. Sick people. And you think…
Question: In this country?
Delpy: Everywhere. In the world, everywhere, psychotic people, are everywhere, unfortunately. It’s international. No, but you know, really people in this business can be very destructive and I’ve had terrible experience with – not so, like, the creative people like directors and stuff, but like, agents and all the people around that. You know? And really, really – like right now, I have an agent I like, but for so many years, I was with people that were really terrible people, you know? And you realize something, is that it’s better to laugh about it. I mean, that’s the only way to handle it. And I have to say, those people crack me up, you know? And when I see this Machiavellian personality, kind of men who trying to break you so they can keep you, and I mean, it so doesn’t work on me anymore. Because now I’m just like, “F–ck off,” you know? I’m like… So, you know, and actually, my life is more important than making it, or I’m not after… Anyway, first of all, I’m not after material success because I’m not after money, so that’s already very confusing for some people because suddenly, it’s so much power when you’re not after money because suddenly, you become free. If you’re not after success… I’m not really after becoming a star, and the idea of a star. Actually, doing my own movies is more interesting to me, you know? And even if it stays small independent films, it’s more interesting to me. So suddenly, they lose power on you.
Question: With this film, what was difficult about the writing process that you were not expecting? Was it the isolation? Was it coming up with ideas? Getting the script organic? What kind of challenges did you face as a writer before you decided to direct?
Delpy: It’s creating a story out of very little. It’s creating some dramatic conflict, which brings the comedy out of little. Out of very little. Just bumping into ex-boyfriends. It’s not such a big deal, if you think about it, but it’s his reaction to it that. Yeah, I mean, it’s the conflict. It’s the fact that he’s bumping into an ex-boyfriend that he doesn’t like. And he’s having that almost epidermic reaction against him. You know, if he was meeting ex-boyfriends and was getting drunk and hanging out with him, it wouldn’t be funny. It’s the conflict.
Question: Can you identify with this character that you ended up creating for yourself to play?
Delpy: Oh, Marion? I liked playing her, I liked creating her because she’s a kind of – she’s not likable in a way because she’s flirtatious, she has many, many flaws. So does he. But I like that she’s fearless. I like the side of her… I mean, I wanted to play a character that is kind of like, very ballsy. She’s not scared of getting punched in the face. She’s ready to attack people on the street if she has to. And I kind of like that about her. The way she’s – she’s very raw. And I kind of like that. She’s not… I like her. I mean, she’s obnoxious, but I kind of like her.
Question: Does the film take cultural sides, do you think?
Delpy: It doesn’t take sides. It observes things, but it’s obviously more… You know, it is, for the comedy of it, it is cultural differences, but although it’s men / women relationships. So more than cultural differences, I think. But I play with the cultural differences, because you know what? They’re there. They exist. They do exist. It’s funny. If you look over all – we all wake up in the morning, go to breakfast, have a day at work, then go on weekends with family, blah, blah, blah. French / Americans, it’s all the same life. And then you get a little closer and you realize their family values are slightly different. They’re different between French and English, for example. But there are slightly differences that makes in a moment of crisis, they become bigger, those differences, you know what I mean?
Question: Is it fun for you to act in both languages?
Delpy: Yeah. And it’s very easy for me because I switch from one to the other all the time.
Question: I was reading about your next project as a director.
Delpy: It’s a period drama.
Question: It’s miles apart from this. How did that come about? And you wrote that, too.
Delpy: I wrote that years ago, and I’ve been trying to make it for about five, six years. And before that, I didn’t have a script I wanted to direct. In between this one and this one, I had another script I wrote – a comedy called World Wars and Other Fun Stuff to Watch on the Evening News, which is hilarious – I mean, I swear to God, this film needs to be made, you have no idea. It would be so successful. It’s just a to find a financier that has the balls to do it. Because it’s a very – it’s like Monty Python meets Dr. Strangelove type. So it’s a very lethal kind of mix.
Question: Is this your new direction now? Are you a filmmaker more than you’re going to be an actress?
Delpy: I love acting and actually, there’s a reason why I’m acting in the films I’m directing. I love acting. I would never give up acting if… But I would like to act on projects I’m interested in, and not just make it like a money job. Because I’m not interested in money. So I want to act because I like acting. I don’t want to make it something I do for money. In a weird way, I’d rather be totally broke than work for money.