After auditions and screen tests, Michael Haneke zeroed in on Emmanuelle Riva, 85, whom he remembered as the star of 1959's Hiroshima Mon Amour. "He told me it was because I was the most moving," she says. Not to mention the most believable-looking. "It's not easy to find actors of our age who haven't had any plastic surgery," notes Jean-Louis Trintignant. "Especially actresses."
Sleeping On Set
As the nine weeks of shooting were about to begin, Riva decided that, due to the physical demands of her role and the long commute, she would sleep on the set. "There was no way I could be in a car for an hour with smoke and noise on the highway -- I'd be tired before I even showed up for work," she recalls. "So at night, it was just me and the security guard and a guard dog. I hardly move in my part, so when filming was done for the day, I needed to move and dance, and there I could do it. They brought me food to eat, I was like a spoiled child."
Actor Jean-Louis Trintignant
While he is a great admirer of Haneke's work, he wasn't prepared to give the director an automatic yes. "I told producer Margaret Menegoz I'd rather kill myself than make another film," the actor admits. "I don't think movies are made for actors. We do them out of vanity, for money, and it's more prestigious. I loved the script but I found it so sad, and I'm at an age when I've got to avoid sadness. But Margaret told me, 'Make the film and kill yourself afterward.'"
Actress Isabelle Huppert
"It's never sad or heavy working with him," says Isabelle Huppert of director Michael Haneke. "Never. To produce what you see on the screen is work, and we can't work in a melancholy frame of mind. Michael is actually a very joyful person. He's not too hands-on as a director, either. OK, he might make you do 10 takes to get a gesture just right, but in my first scene with Jean-Louis, he didn't give me any direction at all. Mostly he just says, 'Not sentimental.'"
Director Michael Haneke
"There was a relative I loved very much, and I had to look on as she suffered," the 70-year-old Haneke explains, recalling an aunt who suffered from rheumatism and ended up taking her own life. "I wanted to investigate this feeling of being able to do nothing about it."
The Challenges of Filming 'Amour'
In assembling Amour, Haneke faced two big hurdles: the film's subject matter and its casting demands. Haneke's story centered entirely on two people in their 80s, "and in our society, that is a total taboo," says Margaret Menegoz, head of Les Films du Losange and Amour's lead producer. "He may be the most important director working today, but we had one potential TV partner tell us, 'Forget it, you shouldn't show old people.'"
Director Haneke On Casting Actor Trintignant
"I don't know any other actor who exudes the same human warmth as he does," Haneke explains, "and that was really important for this story." But Trintignant, who had retired from film acting, resisted at first. The director had to talk him into it since he refused to make the movie with anyone else. "I think it helped that we got along immediately and talked about everything one can talk about, only a little bit about the script itself," Haneke says.