When Italian-French actress and director Valeria Bruni Tedeschi was in her twenties she had the formative experience of attending the prestigious acting school at the Théâtre des Amandiers in Nanterre, France, led by late great auteur Patrice Chéreau. Her fifth directorial effort, “Forever Young,” which is in competition in Cannes, is a tribute to that time and, ultimately, to any young person’s passion for the theatre. Tedeschi spoke to Variety in Cannes about how she mixed remembrances and re-invention to make this film. Excerpts.
How did you go about looking back at your time at Les Amandiers?
There was no preset recipe. What we [she and Noémie Lvovsky] did is start from autobiographical material and then elaborate on it. We changed it, mixed things up. Did some rethinking. Added to it, then subtracted. We had fun with reality to make up a story that has its rules and coherence. Reality is chaotic. The elaboration of a screenplay means putting order in the chaos and trying to see things about our existences more clearly.
Tell me more about the school itself and the two people who ran it: Patrice Chéreau and Pierre Romans
Well, I’ll tell you that first of all we had to decide if we wanted to keep these characters because it was difficult for those who did not attend that school to understand who they were. Usually in a school there is a single director. But in this school there were these two [leading] figures that we decided to keep, because they were the particularity of this school. This was not an academic school. It was a weird, alternative school. A sort of laboratory. One of the particularities is that the head of the acting school was this very brilliant director Pierre Romans and the director of the theatre and the school’s top chief was Patrice Chéreau. These two men had been together in the past and they were still a couple in a way, even of they were no longer together. But they were a sort of wonderful couple; for us they were like two gods on Olympus.
They were totally mythical. And so we tried in the writing process to understand how to narrate their relationship: we had to characterize them. Slowly what emerged is that one, Pierre Romans, in doing drugs preferred heroin; while Chéreau’s drug of choice at that time was cocaine. So they had two different types of energies due to the different types of drugs they did.
Talk to me about casting and directing Louis Garrel as Chéreau.
I was quite intimidated about the idea of asking an actor to play a character inspired by Patrice Chéreau. Even though it’s not him. He’s a fictional character. When I proposed it to Louis, he immediately accepted. Because I think that within himself he had his own personal mythical secret Chéreau – with whom he never worked with, but whom he had met. And for whom he had a huge secret admiration. So I let him work with that. I didn’t give him any kind of direction except asking him to smoke the little thin black cigars that Chéreau smoked, which for those of us who knew him at the time are like Proust’s madeleine. They bring it all back.
How did you chose Nadia Tereszkiewicz who plays Stella, the character based on yourself?
Stella is inspired by me, but of course even in the screenplay it isn’t me. And it’s even less me because it’s become her. It’s now what’s she’s done with this person, who initially was me. But there were things in her that were familiar to me, and that’s what caused me to chose her for the role. Something that reminds me of me in my twenties.