Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux deliver heartbreaking performances in Blue Is the Warmest Color, an intimate tale of love and loss between two young women, each of whom belongs to a distinctly different social class. The romantic drama directed by Abdellatif Kechiche is loosely adapted from French writer Julie Maroh’s graphic novel, Blue Angel. Emma (Seydoux), a confident older art student, enters the teenage Adele’s (Exarchopoulos) life leading to an intense and complicated love story that spans a decade and is touchingly universal in its depiction. The film’s graphic sex scenes are beautifully lit and choreographed to reveal the intense and powerful love between them.
At the film’s recent press day in Los Angeles, Exarchopoulos and Seydoux talked about what inspired their performances, how they explored the different aspects of their characters’ love, Kechiche’s unconventional directing style involving hundreds of takes and spending many days on the same scene, the challenge of shooting intimate sex scenes surrounded by multiple cameras, their close friendship, and why they are proud of the film. Seydoux also discussed her upcoming projects including Grand Central, Beauty and the Beast with Vincent Cassel, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Saint Laurent, a biopic about French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent starring Gaspard Ulliel. Hit the jump to read the full interview.
LEA SEYDOUX: Yes, I was very inspired by someone that I know. I kept his attitudes for my [performance]. Was I in love with him as deep as in the film? Yes. This man that I’m talking about is someone that I really loved deeply. I was crazy in love with him and he was a good inspiration.
ADELE EXARCHOPOULOS: For me, I didn’t try to remember someone or a feeling because every experience is so different. I just tried to remember how far you can love and how many states you can experience when you’re in love, especially the first love when you think you’re going to die.
There are so many different aspects of love showcased in this movie, was there one that was more difficult for each of you to act?
EXARCHOPOULOS: All the scenes could be difficult. It’s hard to be natural in a scene when you pick up the phone and no one is there. A violent scene is art, as much as a sex scene is art. For me, all the scenes were a challenge. Abdel (Abdellatif Kechiche) worked all day and built different scenes. If you took the train to go to the shoot or if you had lunch, he would shoot you. That’s why my role is called Adele actually because he was shooting even when we were not on the set. So people were calling me by my [real] name. After we had been shooting for three weeks, he told me, “I don’t really know your name in the movie” and I was like, “Yeah, but maybe we could find what we call me now.” And he told me, “I like Adele and I have a good scene for this. And also, it means justice in the Arabic language. So do you want to keep it?” and I was like, “Yes.”
What was the atmosphere like on the set during the sex scenes?
SEYDOUX: Of course, the atmosphere was very difficult, and Abdel shoots with three cameras, sometimes four, and so we were surrounded by cameras. It’s difficult to find an intimacy sometimes, but it’s part of the film and it’s a very important part of the film. I had to escape from the moment. Sometimes, in a way, I was trying to think of something more and I tried to not look at myself.
Did it take ten days to shoot those scenes?
SEYDOUX: We spent many days. I don’t know if it was ten days, because sometimes when we shot, we could spend two days on the same scene, and then go back to another scene.
EXARCHOPOULOS: It was not just doing a sex scene, but we were using the day to show the evolution of their sexuality together. It was like, “Today we’re going to make the sex scene for …” For me, my role was supposed to be like she hasn’t experienced any lesbian sex. At the beginning, she is shy and she’s like, “Wow,” and after, she takes more responsibility and risk sexually. So, it was like this. Of course, it’s always complicated to shoot a sex scene, but even a food scene with Abdel [could be complicated]. Everything could be so intense. The food scene is art, but with him, you do so many takes that you’re really [exhausted]. One day, I ate a kebob sandwich at eight in the morning, and I managed to eat five more kebobs, and I was like “Oh my God!” But really, try to eat eight kabobs at eight in the morning. It’s hard, but we just had to let it go and trust Abdellatif and trust ourselves. I didn’t try to escape because I couldn’t escape Abdel or his cameras. I was naked so it didn’t work. I just tried to be focused and concentrated, and that’s all.
For both of you, when you first came into the roles, was your acting approach broken down by Kechiche in terms of any inhibitions, tics or mannerisms? How long did it take into the shoot before you managed to feel free and at ease with the roles?
EXARCHOPOULOS: I can say, “Never,” and also I can say, “From the start.”
SEYDOUX: When Abdellatif cast me for the part, it was ten months before the shooting [began], and during those ten months, I had to spend time with him, and it was already the start of the work. He was already directing before the shooting. We could spend hours and hours talking about women, about life, and we were already working. And then, also, I took painting lessons. I had to go to do some training to have a sculpted body, and also I had to read a lot about painting and philosophy. And then, we started to work, but because it was shot chronologically, he started with Adele. I’m not at the beginning. So I had to stay where we shot in Lille. It’s a little town in the north. I went to the museum. They have a beautiful museum. So the transformation was already complete. And then, after, because he does many, many takes, we had the possibility of searching (exploring) things, so it was always in movement. It was never fixed. It was like a work in progress.
Léa, did you have a hard time cutting your hair and dying it blue?
SEYDOUX: Yes, because he wanted me to have blue hair many months before the shoot started. So I had to keep the blue hair. For me, it was kind of strange to look at myself with blue hair. Although I can say, to the contrary, that it was not that hard. That’s what I wanted as well. I like to transform myself also, so it’s really a process that I like, and in France, you don’t have that possibility. It’s very rare to make a deep transformation. This is not a deep, deep transformation, but it had a certain influence on me. And maybe, because of my hair, I even started to work differently.
EXARCHOPOULOS: I never felt so involved in a movie as I did in this one. During the shoot, sometimes when we had free time, we’d be looking at a magazine and see Marion Cotillard in Hollywood, and we’d say, “She’s so lucky! We are here and smelly and making this movie, and we’ve done so many takes, and maybe it will never work.” Imagine if it never works. We are naked, and it’s not working. So, we were dreaming, but we stayed, and we loved that because we felt that we were making something where it was nuts. There was no fabrication. I mean, no make-up, no clothes. It was you, your skin, and your emotion, and it was so rare. It’s not like a conventional shoot where you come and you have to make this on time, and this, this, this. It’s like, “Okay, what are you going to do today? Adele, you’re going to hit a girl and cry. And after, we’ll see. We’ll work.” So, we felt free, even if sometimes it was hard.
What did you find was the most difficult aspect of the directing process and what was the most enjoyable or positive in terms of working with Abdellatif?
SEYDOUX: It was the repetition, to do hundreds and hundreds of takes. That was very difficult because you lose yourself in a way. It’s a good thing and it’s also very disturbing. When you see us in a scene eating a plate of pasta, you can imagine we ate that amount of pasta. It was crazy. And, it was not just one day, it was sometimes several days. We could spend one week on one scene, and it was the same scene the whole day. So, that was difficult. But I think it’s an experience, and it’s unique because this is his way of working. And, as an actress, it was interesting to go that far and to see how far you can go to experience yourself and bring out the best in yourself.
EXARCHOPOULOS: For me, it was my best learning experience. I chose Abdel because I knew he was going to give me justice and use the best take, not look at my hair or something else, or something in the way I work, but just the emotion. And also, it was because I never had the chance to work like this [before]. So, I learned a lot about me and about how you can make a movie about humanity between people. I really wanted to work with him because I think he has always given justice to women and to life. Even if it’s shocking sometimes, for him, a sex scene is like a food scene, and it’s long and sometimes it’s boring, sometimes it’s cool.
In the future, would you ever want to work again with a director that does so many takes?
At the end of the film, it says this was Chapters 1 and 2. Would you want to go back and revisit these characters again for another segment or portion in life?
EXARCHOPOULOS: If people don’t get bored with it, maybe.
The shoot ended up going three months later than planned. How did you keep yourself fresh and fully involved after it went from 2-1/2 months to 5-1/2 months?
SEYDOUX: In those things, we had no choice. We had to finish the film. And so, it was like work and work and work. We did only work, and even at the end, we shot seven days a week. We had to do this. It’s true that we couldn’t see the end sometimes and we were scared, but the result is here. The fact is that people like the film, and we won the Palme d’Or, and it gives something [to an audience]. This film tells something about humanity. I think it will be a very important film for now and the future. We are very proud of the film so that’s what makes me think that it was worth it.
When you finished filming, how long was it before you saw each other again? Was it right away or did you need a break?
EXARCHOPOULOS: No, we were very, very close. We had very strong complicity. No, we never got bored. We are very close friends now.
This film has revolutionized the way that French films are made, at least independently. Do you enjoy making films in France and are you comfortable in that style of filmmaking? How do you feel about working at home as well as abroad?
EXARCHOPOULOS: I just started in France so I want to see every country. It’s interesting, I think. There is no limit.
SEYDOUX: To work in France, on this film, was difficult. It was a very unique technique. I love it when people have pleasure working and when there is respect. That’s what I love. I love working here because people here are very respectful and in France as well. I think they can be. (laughs)
What are each of you working on next?
EXARCHOPOULOS: Nothing. (laughs) No, it’s true. Nothing. I’m not doing anything right now.
SEYDOUX: I did three films in a row just after this one. I did Grand Central. It was at Cannes. Then I did Beauty and the Beast with Vincent Cassel, the French actor. And then, after that, I did something in Wes Anderson’s film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. I’m starting soon a film about Yves Saint Laurent’s life called Saint Laurent.
Do you know who plays Yves Saint Laurent? Have they cast the actor?
SEYDOUX: Yes. They already have the actor. It’s Gaspard Ulliel, and it’s amazing because he looks like Yves Saint Laurent. It’s crazy.
Blue is the Warmest Color opens in limited release this weekend.