“My beauty was my handicap”

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Reviewed on 04/18/2011 | No Reviews

Portraits

Julie Delpy: The most American of all French actresses

A complexion like milk, the blond hair flowing on her shoulders, July Delpy hated how the French media saw her at the beginning of her career: she looked like an angel and they saw her as an angel. Her beauty, somehow, was a handicap…
Photo: © AFP, Alberto Pizzoli

Photo:  © AFP, Alberto Pizzoli

At least in her mind.

“My appearance was absolutely contrary to my character”, she says today. She didn’t feel at all like that cherub-like being. Julie is more of a fighter, full of life and full of ideas. Somehow greedy. Would you imagine such a strong character hiding behind the star  you probably know best from her co-starring role with  Ethan Hawke in director Richard Linklater’s 1995 film Before Sunrise? I wouldn’t.

The day I met her, it was in a café in Paris, close to Montparnasse a few years ago, Julie was wearing jeans, Converse sneakers, she had no make-up on, and you could feel by the tempo of her speech that she didn’t have time to waste.

Not only an Actress

She wanted it all and she wanted it right then. Since then, she’s got it or, to be more precise, has taken it all: Delpy is an actor, director, she writes screenplays, she composes, she sings and a few years ago she became the proud mother of a little son. Delpy lives with the German film music composer Mark Streitenfeld. “Nordic men”, she says, “are different. They’ve got a feminist education. In the way they deal with women, they are the only ones who are not neurotic.”

She’s a bit melancholic too. Very sensitive, too sensitive, as she often says, extremely hypochondriacal, frightened by an early fear of death, more of an angst, really neurotic, because she herself finds it somehow absurd, but it is exactly that angst that make her move, that gives her the energy to create and to go further each time.

Delpy doesn’t fit into a category

Julie Delpy comes always straight to the point. She has an opinion and she doesn’t conceal it. She would never hide the fact that she can’t stand French president Nicolas Sarkozy, whose politics she finds racist. On the other hand she thinks that most Americans are reactionary. In other words: Julie is direct and she often gets people’s backs up, which doesn’t make her look very French. But she’s just different, I guess, she doesn’t fit into a category.

After more than two decades in the US, Julie Delpy became the most American of all French actresses for the French. For the Americans she still is and will always be the French girl: very pretty, very stubborn and totally uncontrollable. “Hollywood”, Delpy says, “is a macho place. For the people there I’m somehow disturbing: they can rely on the fact that I’ll never do what they tell me.”

Clash of civilisations

Living between two cultures is not an easy thing to do. Her film “2 Days in Paris” is somehow a funny self-portrait. She did not only write the screenplay, she directed the film and she played the leading role, Marion, a French girl living in New York City and coming home with her boyfriend for a visit. Delpy shows an amusing clash of civilisations: for him mould in the bathroom is an unmistakable sign of a huge health risk – for her it’s just part of life, like Roquefort cheese.
Here, in an interview, she talks about the film and how she has to adapt to the “rudeness of Paris” each time she comes back.

Delpy made the film with only 500 000 Euros, about 700 000 Dollars. It was a “friends and family project” is how she puts it. Her parents in the film are her real parents, actors themselves. They never pushed Delpy into the film business.

Twice nominated for the César

She became an actress by pure coincidence, she often claims. Truth is, that she wanted to assist Jean-Luc Godard because she always wanted to make films. But when Godard saw her, he wanted her to star in his film. Delpy was fourteen back then. Other roles followed. Within a short time, she was nominated twice for the César Award as Most Promising Actress.

Meanwhile, Delpy made other films and also composed music. She is no longer the angel-like looking girl. She is a forty something woman, with both feet firmly on the ground, still wanting it all – and right now.

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