MARRAKECH — Attending the Marrakech Film Festival to receive a career tribute and present her latest film, Eric Poppe’s “A Thousand Times Good Night,” French thesp Juliette Binoche took the time to sit down with a handful of film journos at the Mamounia Hotel.
In “A Thousand Times Good Night,” Binoche – one of Gaul’s best-known actresses, whose credits include “Chocolat,” “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” and “The English Patient,” stars as a top war photographer torn between her family and her passion for her work.
Variety: While working on this film, how did you relate with the character you’re playing and what questions did it spark?
Binoche: I met with a war photographer who decided to stop, because it was too hard. Putting himself in such a dangerous place, there’s a moment where you think about your life, about why you need to go there. You can find reasons why you’re there, you want to show the world, you’re angry. But to put yourself in danger, to witness some horror, there’s a question of what I want to do with my life and what I want to report to others. These are interesting questions, because there are more and more war photographers, and especially among women, because of the Western world situation. Why is it that as a woman, having a dangerous passion isn’t accepted in the same way with a man going to a war zone and having a family as well? People don’t accept that, they’d think “she’s a bad mother,” but they wouldn’t think the same for a father. It brings up all these questions.
How did you prepare for the role in “A Thousand Times Good Night?”
I talked with Lynsey Dyer, a war photographer who went to Afghanistan several times. It’s amazing how she prepares her trips before going. It’s not improvised at the last minute. It’s pretty organized, especially when it’s very dangerous.”
Can we draw a parallel between you character in “A Thousand Times Good Night” and your life as a mother and an actress?
I’m a fighter as a mother. I’m fighting to be a mother but I can’t say no to my passion. You have to combine those crazy situations anyway, because that’s what life gives you. My children have a special mother but they’re very special as well. You adapt with what’s going on, because life is changing all the time. My work is here and there, sometimes theater, sometimes something else. The best mother is the one who adapts, the best child is the one who adapts as well.
How do you feel about getting this homage in Marrakech?
Homage to me is a strange word, for me it comes from another time. But also, “honor”… what is honor? I try to understand what it means. Defending an honor, is a a concept from old time. “So I say “Thank you… I’m not at that age yet,’ or ‘Why not?” I’ve been so lucky, I still have a lot of passion for what I do, I encounter so many great people. I’m happy to come and show my new film. It’s about present, and about future.
You have such a long career and you’re still getting interesting parts in compelling movies. How do you think the parts you’re getting today differ from the ones when you were getting at an earlier stage in your career?
At the time I was given the parts. Now I’m going where I want to go. Like “Sils Maria,” I gave a phone call to Olivier to read the script, and he wrote a beautiful script. For “Godzilla,” no, I didn’t have to, but I wish I had.
In the U.S., there are many daring, ambitious films being made outside of the studio system. Do you have any projects set up in the U.S.?
Not at the moment, but I’m coming out of four films, so I’m not in a hurry, I’m knocked out.
Is there any particular issue you’re engaged in? Political, social…
Making this film (“A Thousand Times Good Night”) is a political statement, in a way.
You mentioned you brought the original idea of “Sils Maria” to Olivier Assayas. Are you at all interested in directing?
Well, I brought him an idea of “Sils Maria,” but then it became his film. That was the beauty of it. I gave him sort of a sprout, and then after that, he went with it.
It was such a blessing to work with (Assayas). I made a film before with him, and I was angry with him because I felt we didn’t have a connection while shooting the first film, so I wondered who I was going to do ask to do this, and then I thought “Olivier,” because he missed me. When shooting I felt so blessed, thought that was my dream coming true.
What’s the status of “Another Me,” your project with Isabel Coixet?
I don’t think it’s going to find its financial reality. Raising money from TV channels is becoming very tricky; it’s quite dramatic, and they want to go more for comedy. And (Coixet’s film) was pretty hard-edged.
Did you really reject the screenplay to Jurassic Park?
Yes. I’d already said yes to Kieslowski, there was no way I could back out and say “Goodbye, I’m gonna do Jurassic Park.” I was very touched that Spielberg thought of me and said “You know, it’d be fun for you.” But it just didn’t happen.
There’s a new breed of French directors — for instance Olivier Assayas, Arnaud Desplechin, Guillaume Canet — making films in English now. What’s your take on that?
I think it’s great. It’s the international language, so it opens up a range of possibilities and opportunities for filmmakers.
What do you think about young French actresses, like Lea Seydoux or Marion Cotillard who star in big Hollywood productions and then come to France to make auteur films? You were one of the first French actresses to work on American productions.
You know, I never really worked in Hollywood. Producers came to Europe to shoot films with me, so it was a different situation. And “Godzilla” shot in Vancouver. To go to Hollywood was not my aim, I wanted to work with people form the world, with different minds and visions. It was not my idea to be in Hollywood, because then you’re part of a system. If you know how to work the system, you can do other things. But the bargain, of doing two commercial films to then do one auteur film, that’s not for me.
Why did you come on board “Godzilla”?
Well, I received the most beautiful letter from Gareth Edwards, and so I said ok, I’ll go for it.
What are your other projects? You mentioned in Berlin that you’ve been trying to get back together with Abbas Kiarostami.
Abbas was supposed to do the homage, but he didn’t feel good physically so he stayed home. For the moment, he needs time off. He’s into photography, poetry, but he’s probably thinking a lot.