In the French film La Délicatesse (or Delicacy), directed by David and Stéphane Foenkinos, Nathalie (Audrey Tautou) is a beautiful, happy and successful business executive who finds herself suddenly widowed after a three-year marriage to her soulmate. To cope with the loss, she buries herself and her emotions in her work, until an office co-worker named Markus (French comic star Francois Damiens) catches her attention and an unexpected relationship develops.
During this recent exclusive interview with Collider, French actress Audrey Tautou talked about how she was offered the role in this film, what she loved about the character, the challenge of finding the right emotional balance so that it wasn’t too melodramatic, how much fun she had working with co-star Francois Damiens, and what it was like being directed by brothers. She also talked about working with director Michel Gondry on his next film, L’écume des Jours (The Foam of the Days), a fantasy drama about a woman who suffers from an unusual illness caused by a flower growing in her lungs, what attracts her to a project or role, why she hasn’t done more American films, and her surprise that Amélie still holds a place in so many people’s hearts, more than 10 years after its theatrical release. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
Collider: How did you come to be a part of this film? Was it a role that was offered to you?
AUDREY TAUTOU: Yes, I knew one of the directors for a really long time because, before being a director, he was a very famous casting director in France. He and his brother contacted me to propose the part to me, and he gave me the script to read. I loved how they told this story, so it was easy.
Was this a character that you felt like you could easily relate to?
TAUTOU: Yeah. I loved the humanity of this movie and the strength of this woman. I love the dignity she has, when she goes through this tragedy. I really tried to play her without composing anything. I didn’t want to try to do something too far from me, so I tried to stay very spontaneous with this character. The way all the events are treated in the movie is very realistic and very sensitive. The fact that she throws herself into work to try to keep living and go beyond her suffering is very touching.
Do you find yourself being drawn to characters with this kind of an emotional journey? Is that something you enjoy doing, as an actress?
TAUTOU: It’s not easy, but that was the challenge of this character and that’s the reason why I was interested in this part. I wanted to explore the journey of this woman. This whole period of mourning was very challenging to me. I didn’t want to make it too melodramatic, so it was a fine balance between being right and not being too much. It was important to keep a lightness, even if the beginning of the movie is kind of heavy and strong.
The relationship between Nathalie and Markus (Francois Damiens) is so interesting because it’s the first time, after all this tragedy that she’s gone through, that you see her smile and laugh with someone. Did you enjoy getting to play those moments?
TAUTOU: Yes. It’s a part with a lot of different aspects. It’s a very rich role with a lot of emotions.
How was it to work with Francois Damiens? Did he keep things light and have you laughing, during your scenes together?
TAUTOU: Yes, he’s a very, very funny person. He’s very known in France for doing candid camera. He’s very, very popular. He’s a genius in that aspect of his work. For him, it was something very new, to play somebody who is more authentic. He’s a very, very kind person. He’s very simple and clever. He was very enthusiastic to be in this movie, so we had a great relationship together.
How were David and Stéphane Foenkinos, as directors? Was there any sibling rivalry, or did things go smoothly?
TAUTOU: It went very easily because they had a very harmonious relationship on the set. The shared the responsibilities. Stéphane was the one who came to tell us the direction for acting, and David was more concerned by the artistic direction. It would have been very difficult if we had two different voices, telling us two different directions, but that was really not the case. It was very, very natural for them.
What was it that made you want to work with Michel Gondry on his next film, L’écume des Jours (The Foam of the Days), shooting in April?
TAUTOU: I really love his work. I’m a huge fan of his movies. So, when he asked me to be in this one, which is based on the novel L’écume des Jours, written by Boris Vian. The title in English is Foam of the Daze. This story has a lot of fantasy and was written for him. It’s amazing how he will have the opportunity to express all of his creativity, and bring to the screen the amazing imagination that he has.
Have you ever had a director pursue you for a role before, by making an animated short?
TAUTOU: Well, he didn’t have to pursue me, but that was the first time I had been asked to do a movie with that method. But, it was already such a gift. I was so proud, and I couldn’t even believe that he was actually proposing the part to me. It was very generous of him to make a little animation movie. I was very, very touched by the attention. But, of course, there was no way I would have refused, even if he hadn’t asked me with this amazing thing.
What do you look for now, when you’re deciding which films you want to get involved with and the roles you want to do?
TAUTOU: I haven’t changed my way of working or my goal. I always try to go on projects that will enrich me and bring me some new challenge, with a director who has a different universe that offers to explore something new for me. Maybe that’s the reason why I’m not doing five movies a year. I like to take my time and get truly involved with a project and feel something completely new.
With all of the great roles that you’ve gotten to do with the films that you’ve done in France, has it been a conscious effort to continue to work there, as opposed to doing more American movies?
TAUTOU: I didn’t choose to only have a French career, but it’s true that it’s easier for me to work in France. To make a career in America requires a lot of involvement and a lot of presence, and I’m not sure I have the shoulders for that. But, I love my experience with American directors, and I really hope that I will have another chance. In terms of career, I don’t think about a career in America.
You’re great at drama, but you also have a beautiful sense of comic timing. Do you have a preference for one over the other, when it comes to comedy and drama, or is it really just about the story you’re telling?
TAUTOU: Well, it’s really just about the story I’m telling. I don’t have any preference. I’m very happy to have the opportunity to do both. I’m really concerned about the cleverness and the sensitivity of the story, and how it’s being told, and the vision of the director. I enjoy doing comedy because it’s something a bit technical and different, but I also enjoy being deeper in a universe. I like to do different things.
Are you surprised with how much Amélie resonated with audiences, when it came out over 10 years ago now, and that it still holds a place in people’s hearts today?
TAUTOU: Yes, I’m very surprised about how that movie could go through the years and still be so loved today. In every country that I’ve been to, these past few years, even in South America, it’s amazing how that movie is very special in the hearts of the audience. Of course, I’m very surprised because I think it’s really, really rare for a movie to touch people that much.
Are you still as passionate about acting as you were when you started out, or do you find yourself needing to take more breaks from work, in order to creatively recharge?
TAUTOU: I’m still as passionate as before. I really try to protect my patience by not working too much or doing too many things. In fact, if I had a goal in my career, it has always been to protect my enthusiasm. That’s why today, when I’m starting a movie, I have the same desire and the same energy as the first time. That’s really important for me.