×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

10 Directors to Watch: Xavier Legrand’s ‘Custody’ Wins Debut Feature Kudos

Emerging French auteur follows up his Oscar-nominated short with tense feature-length portrait of a family torn by domestic violence.

A self-taught director best known in France for his work as a stage actor, Legrand takes an everyday case of domestic violence an elevates it to riveting family drama in “Custody.” The movie, whose script he developed for several years, won two prizes, including best debut film, at the 2017 Venice film festival.

As a near-lifelong performer who appeared in Louis Malle’s “Au Revoir les Enfants” as a child, Legrand says he loves working with actors. He first tried his hand at directing in 2013 with the short film “Just Before Losing Everything,” which earned him an Oscar nomination, as well as a César award.

Custody” picks up where the short leaves off, once again suggesting rather than showing the domestic violence. “As Alfred Hitchcock said, ‘There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it,’ ” says Legrand, who also sees himself as a politically minded filmmaker.

“As directors, w e’re given a lot of money to create something, and I feel a responsibility to take a stand on issues and make films that are accessible to everyone, not just cinephiles and festival audiences,” he says.

Even so, Legrand’s style hews closer to the European arthouse tradition (think Maurice Pialat) than more overtly manipulative melodrama. In fact, he studied previous films about domestic violence to identify specific cliches he wanted to avoid.

“The script has to lay down every single detail, and I make my production design choices accordingly,” says the director, who emphasized sounds of everyday life in lieu of a conventional soundtrack.

For his next film, Legrand will go in a “different direction,” preparing a dark, twisted and suspenseful comedy dealing with the female body. “I’d like to make people laugh at things they’ve been told they can’t,” he says.

Though he has been approached by agents in the U.S., Legrand is “pacing himself” before jumping into English-language filmmaking, preferring to make films based on material he developed — at least for now.

Influences: Alfred Hitchcock, Claude Chabrol, Michael Haneke
Agents: Zelig

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Soho House

    Soho House Lands In Downtown Los Angeles

    Warner Music, Spotify and Lyft are poised to welcome a new neighbor to downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District with Soho Warehouse, the third California outpost of the Hollywood-loved members-only club — and the largest North American opening to date. Hot on the heels of the Soho House Hong Kong debut earlier this summer, the private [...]

  • Born to Be Live: 'Easy Rider'

    Born to Be Live: 'Easy Rider' Gets a Concert/Screening Premiere at Radio City

    In a year full of major 50th anniversary commemorations — from Woodstock to the moon landing — why not one for “Easy Rider,” Dennis Hopper’s hippie-biker flick that was released on July 14, 1969? That was the idea when a rep for Peter Fonda, who starred in the film as the laid-back Captain America, reached out [...]

  • Costa Gavras

    Costa-Gavras and Cast on Nationality, Identity, and Cinema

    SAN SEBASTIAN  —  Though he’s been based in Paris since 1955 and came up through the French film industry, director Costa-Gavras has never forgotten his roots. “Those who are born Greek,” said the Peloponnese-born filmmaker at a Saturday press conference,  “stay Greek all their lives.” The once-and-always Greek was not just in San Sebastian to [...]

  • Lorene Scafaria, Jennifer Lopez. Lorene Scafaria,

    'Hustlers' Director Lorene Scafaria: 'We Wanted to Treat It Like a Sports Movie'

    The star-studded cast of “Hustlers” didn’t just become strippers in the empowering female-helmed blockbuster — they also became athletes. When speaking to “The Big Ticket,” Variety and iHeart’s movie podcast, at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month, “Hustlers” director Lorene Scafaria explained the extreme athleticism required of the movie’s leading actresses, who all had [...]

  • Jonathan Van NessLos Angeles Beautycon, Portrait

    Jonathan Van Ness Reveals HIV Diagnosis, Former Drug Addiction

    “Queer Eye’s” Jonathan Van Ness is getting vulnerable in his new memoir “Over the Top.” In a preview of his book with the New York Times, Van Ness opened up about his early struggles with sex and drug addiction as well as his experience with sexual assault, revealing that he was abused by an older [...]

  • 4127_D022_00003_RC(l-r.) Elizabeth McGovern stars as Lady

    Box Office: 'Downton Abbey' Dominating 'Ad Astra,' 'Rambo' With $31 Million Opening

    “Downton Abbey” is heading for a positively brilliant opening weekend after scoring $13.8 million in domestic ticket sales on Friday. If estimates hold, the feature film version of the popular British television show should take home approximately $31 million come Sunday, marking the biggest opening ever for distributor Focus Features and beating previous record holder [...]

  • Gully Boy to represent India in

    'Gully Boy' to Represent India In Oscars Race

    The Film Federation of India has chosen Zoya Akhtar’s “Gully Boy” as its entry in the Academy Awards’ international feature film category. The picture, a coming of age tale about an aspiring rapper in Mumbai’s Dharavi slum premiered at the Berlin film festival in February before opening to a wave of acclaim at home in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content