Juliette Binoche Interview – DAN IN REAL LIFE

     October 23, 2007

I’ve been a fan of Juliette Binoche since watching “Blue” and “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” I saw both movies around the same time and I vividly remember being captivated by her screen presence. And even though she hasn’t done many “Hollywood” movies, she’s in a great one that opens this Friday and it’s called “Dan in Real Life.”

In the film she plays a woman who causes all sorts of problems for Steve Carell as she’s dating his brother (played in the film by Dane Cook) but he ends up falling for her. And in these kinds of films you can usually script out all the sitcom type jokes that play up the situation… thankfully, the film doesn’t play by the typical rules. I really think audiences are going to like this film and it’ll be a good hit for Disney.

So to help promote the movie, Disney recently held a press day and I got to participate in a very small roundtable interview with Juliette. Needless to say, it was a great thrill to be able to ask her some questions. During the interview we talk about all the usually things, and she reveals at the end her future dance career. You’ll understand once you read it.

As usual, you can either read the transcript below or listen/download the audio as an MP3 by clicking here. And if you missed the movie clips I previously posted…you can watch them here.

“Dan in Real Life” opens this Friday at theatres everywhere.

Question: Having seen these two very serious movies again in Toronto, was it a relief or a release for you to do something like this which is a kind of genre that we don’t’ see that much you in?

Juliette Binoche: It was more difficult in a way because it’s like breaking the rule of my other like films, where I just plunge into it with a sort of an artistic rage somehow and this one I had to somehow have the horse inside me, but just controlling it a little more because it was, first of all I was part of the story and – this loving sort of a control because it’s his second film and it’s dangerous for him because he’s a very ambitious artist. But he, I don’t know, I had to adjust myself because after the Hou Hsiao-hsien film I was completely free, like not having any dialogue or anything. Suddenly I was like ‘OK this is page 1 – all the words have to be there’ so it was like an adjustment I had to make.

But working with Steve Carell there would have been some improvisation.

Juliette: Not that much, no. It wasn’t improved at all. You know, some people ask me ‘What was it to work with two comics’, you know, comedians, and it felt like ‘Well how does it feel for them to work with a dramatic actress?’ It was like two different worlds that have to meet. And I have to say that the commitment was serious, was really – on the set it was not like ‘ha ha ha things’. It was like very real and thinking as actors, trying to lift the story into a comedy but yet you have the inside of the characters.

Do you see yourself as this ultimate dream girl you’re portraying …

Juliette: She’s an angel. She’s playing the angel because I think inside her there’s so many needs unfulfilled. She’s like an orphan in need of family. So thie big house with a whole bunch of kids and good atmosphere just fulfils some kind of emptiness she feels. But I think that she needs to be perfect to hide her real person somehow, you know, the fragility. She needs to hide it.

Do you think French or do you think everything in English.

Juliette: I think the way it comes. So I think I think in English and I think I think in French. You know, there’s a moment I don’t know. You know, when I talk to you I don’t know whether it comes in French or in English but I know you’re an English speaker so it comes in English. Some words, you know, it’s amazing but some words would come only in French and when I speak French it would only come in English. And so the adjustment is very difficult sometimes.

Did you have a big family like this…?.

Juliette: I do on my father’s side. There’s a big, big family with lots of cousins like 25 cousins and we would gather every summer like this, you know. So I have this feeling very much of this surrounding of – there’s sort of a joy as a child. As an adult it’s a different story because you see all the layers and all the complications of your relationships and all that and I come from divorced families so now the gathering at Christmas is like ‘She’s not coming’. ‘He’s not coming, I assure you’ As we all know, it’s complicated. Families are not an easy job.

It must take a lot to entice you to want to work on an American film because you do work predominantly in Europe obviously. Why do you think this movie spoke to you in a way that made you come and work here?

Juliette: It was a combination. I didn’t know. I was not aware that it was this Disney film. I was not aware of that. I didn’t know it was like a Hollywood film. I know now but at the time when I read the script, there was something about it I liked, that I had to meet with the director to know – I hadn’t seen his films. So I saw Pieces Of April and I loved it. Because there’s sincerity in it. It feels authentic to me. And it touched me, the subject touched me very much and I think Peter, he’s very good at telling stories that belong to your heart and to the family kind of questions. I think he’s very good at that. And I could see that in pieces of April. At the same time the comic aspect but also the tragic aspect of life. And that I like very much because I think it’s so true, you know, in life. You don’t cry all the time but we have to laugh about crying, otherwise it’s unbearable. And I think that his films represent that.

How familiar were you with Steve Carell and Dane Cook before you started?

Juliette: I didn’t know them. Because in France, you know, I didn’t see anything of his. You know, Forty Years Old Virgin didn’t work. And the Office we didn’t get. So we started to notice him with Little Miss Sunshine. And then, that’s it. And Dane, we don’t know.

So when you signed on were they already attached?

Juliette: Steve was. Dane was like me. That’s why we met in LA because he wanted to see if the chemistry was working. And so was Peter – made us sing together. I had to sing with SteveCarell. I’ve met him, just sat down and said ‘Hi how are you?’ Good. And then I had to sing and so we sang, put the music on and I didn’t know the song. It was with Barbara Streisand, I remember her voice and said ‘Oh my God!’. And with Dane we had to dance together. See if the sexual chemistry was working?

And was it?

Juliette: It was. It was a little frightening actually. It’s like ‘Oh oh. No, no, no’.

Didn’t you have to do yoga for them too?

Juliette: Sort of a yoga. I think it’s more aerobic than yoga.

What are the differences for you in your approach to acting between – the two films you did in Toronto are obviously very serious. The Disengagement movie was a terribly intense, sad drama. And then this movie. Do you – are your acting muscles very different when you approach these three different ….

Juliette: No because I still feel and think that my character in Dan in Real Life has, I think everybody has his own tragedy and defeat. And when you play a character you’ve got to find it. And it has to be there somehow. Sometimes it emerges. Sometimes you don’t see it, it’s covered. But it has to be there, in order for me to feel what’s real in the character. So I have this kind of, you know, tragedy inside her and being an orphan is not easy. So I can lift into the comedy. That’s for me the mystery of comedy. It has to be related. But maybe I’m the only one to think that way. I don’t know.

Flipping the cards a little bit, I don’t know if you have a sister but have you ever been in the awkward situation of either falling for or being attracted to a best friends’ guy or …

Juliette: Yeah with my sister, when I was like nine years old we were in love with the same guy at school. It was awful.

Is she older, the sister?

Juliette: She’s older. And there was a moment we were remembering the time were, you know, of this boy and she said to me ‘No you were never in love with him’ and I said ‘Yes I was in love with him’, you know. It still wasn’t over, you know. But she was denying my being in love with him. And I just was so curious.

Who did he pick? Or didn’t he pick either one of you?

Juliette: No. No. I mean we were so little, it was just the heart beating at that point. His name was Glaviat and he was very blonde and this wonderful boy but I never really talked to him. I was just in love with him. That was enough.

Did you work out a history or your character, a kind of story …

Juliette: Yeah I had to. You have to. Even though it’s a comedy and all that, it has to be grounded.

What did you decide about her?

Juliette: I think then I shot three movies but from what I remember, I think she was, from what I remember, an abandoned child, from was it the father? I don’t know what I decided. But she was abandoned and that she had a French mother and an American father or something like that. And she learnt to live on her own very, very early on. And fathered herself really. That’s what I decided on.

As you said, I think you shot this on location?

Juliette: Yes, we did, yeah.

And so what was that experience like filming there?

Juliette: Beautiful. Beautiful space, I mean the sky is big. Very cold and windy and I felt the – because it’s where it’s all started right, so you have – I felt there was – racism happened quite a while ago but it happened there. I felt like black people were still in the kitchen doing the washing and the white doing the good jobs. That’s what I felt, you know.

Did you get to see any of the sights around there?

Juliette: No I didn’t go. Very quickly I went to Boston to get someone at the airport but I didn’t really have time to – because shooting is pretty amazing timing, you know. You have no time for your life.

Continued on page 2 ———>


Did they get you guys all together, the whole family together in the house early to get used to each other?

Juliette: Yeah we did that.

So was that crazy? Was it actually like a big party or were there fights? What happened?

Juliette: No I love my directors and the production and I understand it because it’s like theatre. You have to make a family and take the time for it and play around. So we had to write one another’s stories and we had to sing together and dance together again and there were games made because I had to learn all the games. I didn’t know. It’s very American. You know, the bowling, the pancakes, the – you know, so it was a process of me becoming an American.

Where did the actress in you come from? What fuelled that particular passion for you to become an actress?

Juliette: I think it comes from being at school and not belonging in the school system. I felt very, very unhappy in having to do the right thing and being – I don’t’ know. I felt that I didn’t belong to this kind of system so very early on. And also I was in a boarding school very, very early, when I was four years old. So I had to invent a sort of surviving system, which was fine. I played and played and played, and played and played and played, and played and played and played and the space that I gave myself in order I think to prepare myself for life and I think the imagination is really what made me survive.

Do you still feel like that in a way? Do you still feel a bit like the survivor or like the outsider or …?

Juliette: I always felt an outsider and it feels quite alright I have to say because for me you have to be independent in order to be with the others. I don’t like being dependent.

Are you surprised at the international success that you’ve attained or are you …

Juliette: Yes I am. But at the same time when I was eighteen I felt like ‘(gasps) I’ve got to go away from my country. (gasps) I can’t breathe here. (gasps) let’s get out the country and learn a new language where I can travel and to go somewhere else. That’s really what in my guts, I felt I’ve got to expand and express myself around the world. And it wasn’t especially American and it wasn’t a specific country. I just wanted to meet great minds, people with visions and integrity and authenticity and go in the world. But expressing it could acting, it could be directing, it could be designing, it could be – I’m going to do a dance show next year. And for me that’s part of it. It’s the same movement. I think we’re all about movement and so acting is one of them because you’ve got to do that, you know, you have expose something of yourself but it’s so deep inside and so hidden and intimate and in dance it’s another way of reaching something of yours that is, you haven’t – I don’t know. I think life gives us so much and we’re just exploring a tiny little bit of ourselves instead of trying new things and painting and writing, but it wasn’t an artistic layer I had to go because I can – it’ like my choices have now related to business, you know, and I see here that business comes first sometimes and when I got all the questions that I’ve been doing for two days now, I feel sick. I feel like ‘Oh it’s terrible to be a woman here’.


Juliette: Well because they tell you ‘Do you still get parts?, you know. And I feel ‘Well in ten months I did five films so yeah I still do get parts.


Juliette: No I tell you, ‘And so what’s your role about?’ ‘The role? You haven’t seen the movie?’

Would that be the TV journalists?

Juliette: Yeah. Oh my God.

Everyone complains about the ….

Juliette: But I’ve never felt that before. And I think because I’m doing this film with Steve Carell so I have to promote Steve Carell’s career the whole day. Because it’s very male oriented. Sorry. But it’s very male oriented.

But in Europe you don’t get treated that way?

Juliette: I don’t feel that. No it’s true. It’s shocking.

You just mentioned you did five movies in ten months. Can you talk about the other films that you’ve done?

Juliette: Well …. We were just talking about one which is the Hou Hsiao-hsien film called The Flight of the Red Balloon. He’s a Taiwanese director. He’s one of the most talented and interesting directors. I did a film with Cédric Klapich. He’s a French director. We did a film called Paris. And I did a film with Amos Gitai, he’s an Israeli director. It’s called Disengagement. It’s about the Gaza pull out you know. And the relationship between brother and sister. And I did a film with Olivier Assayas, he’s a French director, called Heure d’été, L’ (Summer Time).

And the dance film that you’re going to be doing?

Juliette: It’s not a film. It’s a show. Yeah. We’re going to tour.

Will it be in Paris?

Juliette: No we’re going to start at the National Theatre in London. And then we’re going to go to different places?

Will you go here?

Juliette: We will come to LA at UCLA theatre.

Really? When do you think that will be?

Juliette: January 2009.

What is the nature of the dance show. I mean what’s the …

Juliette: We don’t know yet because we haven’t stated the rehearsal and the idea is to improve and start from the unknown which is very scary but it’s where you have to find your true belonging things. So I’m going to do that with Akram Can. He’s an English, Indian dancer, of Catak.

Does it have a title.

Juliette: Inside Eye.

Inside Eye, E-Y-E- or in side I?

Juliette: Both.

And you’re going to perform in it?

Juliette: Yeah.

A whole run?

Juliette: I hope so.

How will it feel to you to get back – I mean when’s the last time you were on stage?

Juliette: That was in New York in Betrayal, I did on Broadway.

That was a while ago.

Juliette: A while ago. About six years ago.

Are you looking forward to getting back into …?

Juliette: Yeah, I do, yeah.

And this dance show is at the Royal National Theatre?

Juliette: No it’s not the Royal. It’s a National London theatre. But there’s the three theatres, the little ….

Well that’s the National Theatre. And that’s the one that Richard Eyre used to run.

Juliette: Absolutely. Yeah.

What’s the Richard Eyre movie you’ve done?

Juliette: Oh The Other Man?


Juliette: I’m not sure I’ll be able because I’ll be rehearsing for the show so I don’t know yet whether I will be able to do his film because we were supposed to do it next month and it was postponed because of money problems. So I’m not sure …

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