Published at: Aug. 20, 2007, 11:10 p.m. CST by merrick
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
I got to talk to Julie Delpy, and if you know who she is, then you probably have a crush on her or did at some point in the last 15 years. If you haven't ever had a crush on her, I have nothing to say to you. And her work with Richard Linklater on BEFORE SUNRISE and BEFORE SUNSET set off a flurry of young American men bound for Europe looking, well, for her, or a version of her.
Her new film, 2 DAYS IN PARIS, is a twisted and funny version of her persona from those two films, and she does everything in her power to shatter what we think she's all about. She wrote, directed, produced, stars, and even did much of the music in this film, and the results are hilarious.
Here's Julie Delpy…
Capone: I noticed in the credits for 2 DAYS IN PARIS that you did the film's music as well.
Julie Delpy: Yes.
C: Can you tell me about that? I didn’t know that you had musical inclinations.
JD: Well, I did write an album, like, three, four years ago. It didn’t come out in the U.S. I didn’t even try to look for a label. It was done in France. It came out all around Europe. It did quite well, but I never really pursued…I’m not a very businesslike person, so…and the people working for me either, or they don’t really care about my business, apparently. But, they’re slowly disappearing from my life, which is a good thing. [Laughs]
And, basically, I did this album, and then…I’ve been writing music for about 10 years, and before that, I was playing classical clarinet. So, since the age of six, I think, I’ve been studying first music theory, then clarinet, then guitar, then piano, etc.
C: I thought I heard, at least, a song in the film that I thought might be your voice. Or, is there more than one?
JD: There’s, like, three songs that I did my voice in--something that’s, like, you hear a very short moment with the sister and Adam talking on the couch, and then there’s something when they’re fighting at the party, and there’s something at the very end, the ending credits.
C: Yeah, it’s the one at the end that I remember, because you hear the whole song.
JD: The end credit one. It’s the only one where I’m credited, actually. The other ones I didn’t credit myself for, because I’m, like, fuck it, I have enough credits. [Laughs]
C: I just found that kind of fascinating, because I had no idea that you had…
JD: No, no, I write music. I write music for years, so…I mean, computer music, I write guitar, piano, whatever comes to me.
C: I think a lot of people, in this county at least, will probably try to force the comparisons between 2 DAYS IN PARIS with the works that you’ve done with Richard Linklater.
JD: Yeah, yeah, but it shouldn’t be compared. It’s like apples and pears.
C: Right, I was going to say that the new film is sort of like a crude cousin to those films.
JD: Yeah, I know. Plus, it is true that, in a way, making it about an American guy with a French girl in Paris was a way for me to lure financiers into giving me money. [Laughs] And, then make a very different film, you know what I mean?
C: So, that was a very deliberate choice.
JD: Yeah, it was a trick. Basically, a friend of mine…I mean, I had thought about this story before I did BEFORE SUNSET. So you see, it comes from before. It’s, like, since 2000, 2001, so…In a way, I set BEFORE SUNSET in Paris, I’m the one that insisted in setting it in Paris, and the guys were okay with it, Ethan [Hawke] and Richard, and it was because of this film, because I wanted to do a film in Paris. I wanted to shoot a film in Paris for a long time, you know?
C: Right. I think I had read somewhere that you had done the first draft of the script quite a while ago, but then you kept making changes.
JD: Yeah, actually, I wrote the first draft, but it was more like in a novel version, and then I realized ‘Ooh’, and then I kept it aside for many, many years, yeah.
C: Was there any room while you were filming to sort of improvise on top of what was written?
JD: There are a few…I mean, the film is fully scripted. It is a comedy, so you need certain timing and stuff that you can’t make up, because I’ve done improvised films, and I know what’s possible to do and what isn’t. So, I’ve learned from it, a lot. There are a few lines within scenes, the few lines are ad-libbed or improvised, but they’re not even lines that are, like, out of the context or whatever. They were discussed before the scene even, you know. Even the lines that are improvised were actually kind of planned in a way.
C: I think Adam Goldberg is just such a funny guy, and I don’t think I’ve ever really seen him funnier than he is in your movie.
JD: I had to fight for a lot of lines that he wouldn’t say, actually. He didn’t want to say, “The mother is a slut.” He didn’t want to say a lot of stuff, because he thought it was too offensive. It’s funny, but I had to fight him because for a lot of the comedy, he was not really…Some he was amazing for, and he’s a wonderful actor. That’s why I wrote him that part. In the film, his character had to be funnier than mine. So, I wrote him all the fun parts, all the stuff about, like, “It’s a blow job that brought down America’s last chance at a healthy democracy.” All the really offensive, political stuff, I gave to his character.
Also, as a safety, because since I was directing and writing and acting, I was a little nervous to do, like, acting/directing, and I was, like, okay, in case I totally fail at directing myself, at least someone will be good. So, that was my [strategy]. But, he’s very funny in the film. He’s a very talented comedian, I think. He has a natural talent for comedy.
C: You said you wrote this for him, so obviously, you’ve known him for a while. What was it about him that made you want to write a part for him?
JD: Basically, I needed someone who had a quality which could be annoying, but the goal was to make his character likable even though, because with all of that stuff that happens to him, he’s not very likable, just like Marion is not the obvious likable character either, you know? And, he has a quality that can be kind of, like, complaining…he can be very neurotic, scared of everything, skittish. And also, he has a quality which is important for comedy: he’s the sad clown. The sadder and more angry he looks, the funnier it gets. When Adam’s laughing, it’s not funny; when he’s upset, it’s funny. You know what I mean?
C: Yeah, yeah.
JD: He has a natural kind of quality that the more he’s brooding, the more funny it is.
C: His pain makes us laugh.
JD: Exactly. Not everybody has that. It’s a real quality to look in pain and be funny. That’s the main reason I wrote it for him. I needed that, because the character is suffering throughout the whole film.
C: This might be one of the best examinations of the clashes between American and French culture. Or maybe, it’s a clash that’s not really there, but you sort of exploit it anyway, the thought that it’s there.
JD: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
C: My question is, Does that sort of insight come from your having spent so much time working and living in both countries?
JD: Well, I’m sure it helps a lot. And, also, I’ve always been amused by this kind of love/hate that America and France have for each other, even more recently, more clearly, in the past few years, with the Freedom Fries and all that bullshit. I think it’s hilarious. My American friends are horrified, they were, like, “Oh, we’re so sorry. This is so embarrassing.” I was, like, “No, it’s so funny.” I take it just like humor, all that stuff, even though there’s a dramatic story going on behind it. I mean, there is still a war going on.
But, at the same time, obviously because I’ve been away from France--at times for, like, six months or whatever--when I come back to Paris, my point of view in Paris is almost like a foreigner. And, sometimes, I’m, like, Oh my god, what if on top of it I didn’t speak the language, it would be a nightmare. Because when you’re not used to Paris, it’s rougher than New York. Not necessarily in a bad way…I don’t hate it, I actually like the kind of toughness of the Parisians, you know, when they’re kind of mean. Sometimes I can’t take it, like, the way they drive is so utterly aggressive that it’s really obnoxious to the point that now I always have something in hand to hit their car with it. [Laughs] You have to defend yourself, because it’s really, they’re so aggressive.
But, yeah, I had fun with the differences and played with it. And, it’s also the point of view, in a way, of Jack, which is that everything seems out of proportion. But, the truth is, no one cares when you walk in a market in France to see a dead piglet. Nobody gives a shit, but I point it out because it’s about Jack being horrified by it.
C: One of the things that I loved about the differences between the American and French men is the jealousy issue, and how Marion’s ex-boyfriends all love to talk to Jack about the sex they had with Marion, and it drives him crazy. Her knowing that about Jack forces her to lie in certain situations.
JD: Yeah, and lie to protect him, in a way. She doesn’t want him to think, Oh my god, she’s had sex with half of Paris, even if she has. But, that’s funny. Yeah, the jealousy about men, that’s definitely…I don’t know if it’s French, but there’s definitely less of a…I’m sure there are crimes of passion in France, but I don’t feel there’s the same…Yeah, there’s the side of me that believes that when Jack declares “I’m an American. Private property. You come near my property, I'll shoot you.” That’s one of the first things I wrote for Adam, because I thought it was funny to write this, but I also feel like he blames it on being…like she blames being flirtatious on being French, he blames being jealous on being American. But really, the truth is that it’s them. It’s not being French or American, you know what I mean?
Like, I’m French, and I’m not flirtatious at all; I would never look at another man when I’m involved with someone, you know what I mean? So, I’m the opposite of Marion in that sense. I don’t keep close relationships with ex-boyfriends. I’m not like that. But, she blames it on being French. But, in a way, I think both are scared of committing 100 percent. She expresses it by still flirting with other guys a little bit, and he expresses it by always complaining about something, even when they’re trying to have sex. So, the jealousy, you know, it’s funny, because I think it could be something that’s more, like…I feel men have more jealousy in them than women, but maybe it’s because I’m so not jealous; I don't know.
C: I thought it was just funny that you cast yourself as this woman who is so desperate not to look like she slept with half of Paris, like you say. And of course, it makes her look more guilty when she tries to cover up. It’s very 'anti-' the character that you had played in the Linklater films.
JD: Very. Celine is a very nice girl.
C: I was just sort of hoping you’d talk a little about that. Again, you lure us in with the promise of maybe it’s going to be another ‘boy and girl in Europe’ thing, and then, of course, it’s the exact opposite of what you’ve done before. It’s a wonderful thing that you’ve done, whether it was a trick or not.
JD: A trick. I tricked them into giving me money. [laughs] I actually did, I mean, that’s the reality of it. But, the truth is, I wanted to show a very modern take on relationship, And, in a way, it’s goes beyond feminism, I think, the character of Marion. And, in a way, I didn’t even realize how far I went into it, but I realized, Wait a minute, she’s the one fighting in bars, she’s the one protecting him from enemies, she’s the one with men at every corner. So, I just realized, in a way, she’s the representation of …I mean, he’s the man that’s crying when they break up. Or, they both kind of cry, but he’s the one crying first.
In a way, I think the film is about the liberation of men, because I think, to me, men have been stuck in this… I mean, it’s not about the liberation of men, but it’s about this idea that there shouldn’t be any more difference on an emotional level between men and women. Like, men don’t have to be strong and tough. This old idea from the ’50s is kind of passé. I was raised by a father that when we would go see a Douglas Sirk movie he was crying louder than anyone else in the theater. I was raised by people like that, and my mom was the one who was taking care of shit. So, it wasn’t reversed. It was balance. It was more shared. It was more equal, in a way, men and women--really, at a very healthy level, you know? Not like the woman was wearing the pants, and she’s, like, really tough. It wasn’t like that, either. It was a good balance.
And, I feel that I’m the product of a generation that had found a balance in the men/women thing, you know? And, in a way, for me, I feel equal to men, but at every level, I don’t even think about it. And, I think that’s the thing with Marion and, maybe, what I have in common with Marion, is that there’s no issue about being feminist anymore. It’s past that, you know? So, I wanted to describe that and, hopefully, the problem that it brings to young men, that women are so liberated. I know this film could be basically a horror film for a very insecure man, men that are insecure about their sexuality, about their penis, and about power for women. This film is like a horror film for them. I know that. But, if men are comfortable with women working and being equal and all that, they’ll like the film. But, if they have an issue with that, then it’s like a horror film for them, for sure, for sure.
C: That’s very funny you say that.
JD: I mean, I hope it’s not a horror film for you. [Laughs]
C: No, no! It’s very funny for me, but I’m not quite as insecure as some.
JD: But, some men will take it as a personal attack. It’s pretty funny. I mean, most men won’t, but some men will. I feel it. For example, my dad really likes the film, but my dad has been liberated of being a man. I always talk about the liberation of men. [Laughs]
C: I’m not sure how much time we have, and I’ve got lots of questions, but I did want to ask one question in particular. Speaking of horror films, I had read that you’re working on this film THE COUNTESS, which is an extraordinary story; I’m familiar with it. That’s quite a leap. [This is the story of a 17th century Hungarian countess who allegedly went on a murderous spree over many years, with the belief that bathing in the blood of virgins would preserve her beauty.]
JD: Yes, it’s totally different. It’s a drama, I mean, it looks like it’s happening…It’s so hard to make movies, I tell you, it’s like a nightmare. But, it looks like it’s happening.
C: Who’s the female lead in that, you or Radha Mitchell?
C: Oh, it’s you!
JD: But, there’s also Radha Mitchell, there’s William Hurt, there’s Vincent Gallo, there’s Daniel Brühl, so there’s a bunch of people in there.
C: So, you’re treating it more as a drama than as a complete blood bath?
JD: Yeah, yeah. It’s more drama, more drama. It is a drama, not a horror film.
C: The only reason I was asking is that I know there’s a scene in HOSTEL: PART II that is very much like…
JD: …Erzebet Bathory, yeah. I've heard that. No, I didn’t see the film. I should probably see it just for that scene. Yeah, mine is not…it’s really about the drama. And, there was also a conspiracy against her, which was really interesting, because she was too powerful, and they needed to get rid of her. So, I tell both stories--a little bit about the conspiracy and how they pushed her into being more cruel and also how they made the murders…She might have murdered, like, 16 people, but they made it 650, turning her into a monster, because murdering 16 servants at the time was absolutely nothing. It was considered normal, I mean, you need to murder a few servants once in a while, you know? [Laughs]
C: Who doesn't?
[At this point publicists at her end of the phone shut us down something quick, and the lovely Ms. Delpy was off.]