The artist

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Audrey Tautou is one of those rare birds. She is simultaneously one of the most famous actresses of her generation (Amélie is the highest grossing French movie of all time and even managed to break America – a country notorious for their disdain of subtitles) and yet she is also completely underexposed in the realm of media and clearly does not court publicity. When researching for my meeting with her, I noticed that the interviews found online were marked by a large timescale elapsing between each one, and that her media presence centred only around compulsory press junkets that accompanied new releases. Also, each interview focused on the film and character at hand only; there were no personal details or indulgences, no extravagant photo sessions accompanied by interviews speaking of her childhood, love-life or desires.

Tautou is a consummate professional, an artist. So when the Glass request to photograph Audrey Tautou in haute couture, and to conduct an interview with her, was acquiesced we knew we had been granted a rare treat. Even rarer, there was no time frame by which we had to complete the photo session: we had been allowed the whole day. I had searched for clues in her previous interviews as to her behaviour or characteristics so as to brace myself and the team, but none could be found; it seems she gives very little away in her press encounters. As I awaited her arrival in the opulent foyer of the Hotel de Crillon in Paris I had no idea of what to expect. I hoped for the best but prepared for the worst.

When a petite figure of just 5 foot 4 came through the large, revolving doors dressed in jeans, biker boots and winter coat, with gloriously dishevelled hair, chatting away nonchalantly on her mobile phone, I approached cautiously and courteously. My caution was, however, unnecessary. Tautou greeted me with a brilliant smile that took over her whole face and a firm, vigorous handshake while she carried on chatting on her phone. We walked to our suite and a few seconds later, her phone conversation completed, she apologises, “I’m so sorry, my friend is locked out of my house and doesn’t have a key!”

She is warm and enthusiastic, she shakes hands with every member of the team before asking, “Is my agent here?” At this I feared a diva tendency but my worry was ungrounded. As we talk her through the dresses, the concept behind the shooting, the location, Tautou simply oozes amiability and promptly, and neatly, tucks herself onto a small chair to allow hair and make-up to commence.

She is easy-going and quiet; she refuses room service in preference for the sandwiches that are laid out for the team and prefers to shoot with only the photographer in the room: a group of people watching makes her feel anxious. She is also, however, very firm. And as we work our way through the series of dresses, Chanel, Christian Dior, Valentino, Elie Saab, the clock edges its way towards 5.30pm – our allotted interview time – and by 4.45, still with two dresses to shoot, she says in no uncertain terms. “Ok, we shoot two more dresses but at 5.30 I am in my jeans and I am talking to you.” Needless to say, by 5.31 the interview had commenced.

What draws you to certain roles and what do you look for when you’re choosing them?
First I would say I look for something new each time, you know? I want to have a feeling that I meet somebody new and that she will give me the opportunity to explore a new part of me. Which will require me to have some new sensitivity to be able to play it. I really try to explore some departments, I would say, of me.

New departments of yourself
Yes, yes. It’s something like that. I wouldn’t … I don’t feel that I go to the facile.I am not looking for facile-ities. For Easiness? Yes, easiness. Easiness… That’s the word.

What do you hope to achieve with each film?
I try, if I think about myself, to refine what I try to give and what I try to obtain. And in a more general aspect of the movie, just that the movie can create some emotions and memories for the person.

What does it mean to you to act? Because you weren’t very interested in acting in your early years.
In fact I like this idea, the playfulness of it. I like that chemistry between technique, cleverness, intuition, sensitivity, vision of your character along the journey, I like all those aspects of the acting. I am really into the pleasure of acting for all those reasons.

And the experiencing?
Yes and the experiencing of the new character.

Even though you’re playing other characters, do you feel you learn anything more about yourself with each role? Or about human nature?
You learn more about human nature, not only because of your acting or the character you play, but because of all the different people you are going to meet when you make a movie, so it’s a social universe. Of course you learn many things, but what I hope is that I improve and that I can have a character which will make me improve. Not as a person, as an actress. I can’t say that I don’t keep a little distance between my work and who I am. And for me it’s really almost a discipline. You understand what I mean?

One doesn’t affect the other.
When I’m making a movie, when I work, I don’t see it. But now I realise that in fact I am very concentrated. And I concentrate each minute I spend on the set even if I am not acting. But it is something very unconscious and I realise only because some people told me. So I am really in a bubble that I protect and preserve. But I can’t say that a character will teach, will make me change. Sometimes it can reveal to you some aspect of your personality, even if this aspect was hidden.

Is there anybody that has inspired you that you admire, any actresses you aspire to emulate?
No. In fact I really admire some actors. But I always keep an audience’s eyes so I never thought I would be like them.

You never identify with them…
No. It’s just a real, real pleasure to watch a supreme performance. But yes, some actors for me are really, really brilliant. I watched Tootsie a few weeks ago. But the work of every actor and of course especially Dustin Hoffman is just wonderful. I like him.The women I like include Jodie Foster, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts. I really like actors and actresses. I really like to see what they did and how they managed to do that.

Do you like watching a lot of movies?
I do like watching movies, but sometimes I don’t have the time for it. Sometimes I can be a bit lazy. Does it feel like research to you when you watch a movie or are you purely in the place of a normal person, watching a film for the entertainment? No, it’s not a research. When I see a great scene I am really thrilled – it’s something I keep in my mind. It can be a moment of three seconds in the scenes.

And I think, “How did the actors think about that, that’s just genius,” but I’m not thinking, “I’m going to try and do this,” – not at all.But sometimes – the problem is I don’t really remember when, but sometimes I’m making something a little bit as though I’m making a little private joke to myself when I’m playing a scene – I like to give a little homage.

To an actor?
Yes, to an actor, or to a moment of a scene of an actor that I like. The problem now … maybe it’s the tiredness … I don’t remember when I do it.Maybe it’s good that you don’t tell me. Otherwise we’ll all be looking for your ‘Dustin Hoffman scene’.

 Is there anyone you would love to work with, dead or alive?
I would have loved to work with Robert Altman, the American director, and Claude Chabrol, who isn’t here any more. There’s plenty of directors.

What is it about those two that you really love?
I love their cleverness and they’re so personal, the way they tell a story.What I can sometimes be a bit upset with is that you have so many movies where you can’t recognise who is the director because they all look the same. There are such few movies where you can see the print of the director’s vision, and I love those kind of directors. Today, for instance, I really love Alexander Payne. Still, of course, many directors have a strong personality – David Lynch for example.

And when you’re not acting what do you try to do? Are you still able to do the things you love to do in Paris or are you too recognisable now?
Oh no, me in Paris, I do everything I want, I feel really, really free and the people are most of the time very respectful. So I like to go to museums, to exhibitions, to the cinema. I think that I take my free time to eat more culture and more travels. I really like travelling.

Where is the best place you’ve ever been?
I think that I would say Iceland. And Easter Island, it’s amazing. In every journey you always find a jewel. Always.

And where have you always wanted to go? What is your dream destination?
Now, even though they won the world cup (France recently lost in the rugby world cup), I would like to go to New Zealand. It’s been a very old dream. And I really, really want to go to this place. And I would like to go to Argentina and to Mongolia. And…

Are you one of those people who wants to tick off every country in the world?
If I could, I would love to. I should start counting how many countries I’ve been to.

What is the most important thing to you?
(She pauses and thinks for some time). That the people I care about are healthy and happy. That’s the most important thing.

The theme of this issue is Faith and we have asked all of our contributors, “In what do you have faith?”
Immediately I didn’t think about religion. But I think that I have faith in the fact that nature will always be the strongest. I mean, that human creates cycles of things in society and everything is always in hand but our time is much shorter, our perspective is more shorter than the earth’s time. So I have faith that nature has a power or superiority, it will be there long after us. I think it’s something … interesting.

And where are you going now?
You mean right now? Right now I’m going to my apartment because I have one of my best friends who will be homeless if I don’t give him the key!

Audrey laughs and with that she prepares to leave, not before thanking the photographer and his assistant and asking the photographer if he is happy with the shots. He replies enthusiastically, “Yes”. “Are you sure?” she says, “Do you swear on the head of your assistant?” She laughs again and rushes out into the cold November Parisian night.

by Nicola Kavanagh

Taken from the Glass Archive

About The Author

Glass Magazine editor in chief

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