Bérénice Bejo was thrilled to be asked how she came to be involved in Michel Hazanavicius’ “Final Cut.”
The French-Argentine actor — who plays a mad make-up artist in the zombie romp that opened Cannes on Tuesday — revealed that it wasn’t easy convincing director Hazanavicius, who is also her husband, to let her have a role.
“He said, ‘I’m really sorry but this time I don’t think we’ll be working together.’ He said I was ‘too pretty’ and I said, ‘What is that?’ I got a bit upset,” said Bejo.
“Final Cut,” Hazanavicius’ eighth feature, is a remake of Japanese zombie comedy “One Cut of the Dead” (2017), which became a cult sensation. The film begins as a French zombie comedy, but soon lifts the lid on how the film was made and becomes more a commentary on — in Variety critic Owen Gleiberman’s words — the “creative innocence of terrible filmmaking.”
Bejo seemingly took great pleasure in explaining how it was only when Hazanavicius caught COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic in 2020 and she took care of him morning, noon and night that he finally relented.
“After a week of agony, he said, ‘Can you please read my screenplay?’ and I said, ‘Well, I’m too busy and I’m not even going to be in the film,'” said Bejo. “But I started to read the screenplay with my son and started laughing. He said, ‘What’s up?’ and I said it’s a great screenplay with good actors and it’s going to be a wonderful film. [I went to Michael and said], ‘Your film is going to be fantastic,’ and he said [I could be in it if I really wanted a role]. I sort of wore him down.”
Hazanavicius came to Cannes with silent film “The Artist” in 2011, setting the movie on a path that would eventually see it win the best picture Oscar.
On being back at Cannes for its 75th anniversary, Hazanavicius called the honor “very special.”
“We just emerged from the pandemic; it’s the first festival for the past three years that really looks like the festival we’re familiar with. There are certain current affairs which are crazy and give rise to anxiety. So coming here and opening the festival with my joyful film is both strange and a great honor,” he said.
Yet the film’s high profile at the festival hasn’t exactly been scandal-free.
“Final Cut’s” original French title, “Z (Comme Z),” came under fire last month when, as revealed by Variety, the Ukrainian Institute pointed out that “Z” was a pro-war symbol of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and had been used in pro-Russian demonstrations across Europe. Although Hazanavicius initially said that it was too close to the local release for the title to be changed, the pic was eventually renamed as “Coupé” in France.
The controversy over the film’s title change was not addressed during the press conference.