TIFF: Julie Delpy Talks Romantic Comedies and Sociopaths

Courtesy of Venice Days
Julie Delpy in 'Lolo'

She is back in the director's seat with a new Parisian set comedy titled 'Lolo.'

Julie Delpy returns to the director’s chair with Lolo, a hysterical French comedy set in the Parisian world of fashion and art.

Delpy plays a neurotic fashion insider who meets on holiday a country bumpkin, Jean-Rene, played by Dany Boon. The two fall in love, and the new couple think they have found happiness at last.

Yet their romance doesn’t stand a chance against her artist son Lolo, who has a history of keeping his mother all to himself. In what has been called her most mainstream film yet, Lolo is tinged with playful humor and running gags that make for a smart romcom.

The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Delpy about writing vs. running and finding humor in psychopaths.

Lolo feels like a classic Hollywood romantic comedy. What inspired you during the writing process?

When I wrote it I was having fun. When people ask me what is your favorite Woody Allen film I think of Bananas, which has a lot of silly jokes in it. I love people laughing and talking about sex or making jokes or being silly or being crazy. My sense of humor goes from something quite sophisticated to something very fun and simple with not too much complexity. I can laugh at a lot of things. I kind of liked to mix mainstream humor with weird humor with darker humor. The film has a dark side to it as well, a creepy side. I grew up thinking The Shining was a comedy. It’s so creepy, but it’s funny to me. I always thought psychopaths or sociopaths could be funny more than scary.

I was thinking of The Bad Seed when I wrote the film. Maybe that’s why I put Village of the Damned in the movie, which is a film I love. Weirdly enough I was more inspired by dark stuff than by comedies. When I wrote 2 days in Paris, I was thinking of Jaws. The weirdest films inspire me.

How much of yourself is in your character Violette in the film?

Every character I write, and even Jean-Rene, everything you write is more or less about yourself. Characters are who they are. I happen to be mostly neurotic.

Psychotic people always make me laugh more than neurotic people or narcissistic people. In my business it’s everywhere. 4 percent of the general population is sociopathic, and maybe 40 percent in Hollywood, people driven by their own personal goals to the point of being self-absorbed and narcisstic. It was interesting to explore this kind of dynamic.

What did you learn from Richard Linklater making movies?

I learned English from him. He’s a person that lets a lot happen by itself, which is great, to let people let go and let actors take care of their own things. I’m much more controlling than that. I plan my shoots a lot. It’s different because I’m acting in my own films. I have to be super duper prepared to do anything. There’s not one single prop that hasn’t been chosen before the shoots. I've chosen every piece of clothing for the film.

You were nominated for two Oscars for writing with Linklater and Ethan Hawke. What was that experience like?

Those films were so much about writing and collaborating over the years. It’s fun to be a novelist. The first nomination was great for me because we had worked for the screenplay on the first film. And for the second film, to not only get credited, which we should have gotten on the first film, but the recognition was really a great honor.

I was writing for years and my agent or boyfriend would always say, ‘What is wrong with you? Why are you wasting your time? You should be at the gym.’ To be acknowledged as a writer has been a great thing. People around me were kind of very condescending saying, ‘What are you doing, you stupid idiot, you should be on the treadmill losing weight.’ Which I do also, but it’s not my favorite thing. I know a lot of people who do that, but I’m not a typical Hollywood person.

Do you have a preference for directing/acting, or in an idea world, would you do both?

I started off wanting to direct and no one wanted to be in my films. When I did 2 Days in Paris, I was looking for actresses that would do the part, and no one wanted to do it. I said forget it, I’ll do it. I could of gotten actresses, but no one who could help me with the financing. I had no choice. I kind of enjoyed it. It’s almost with actors I feel the energy and tone of the scene when I am acting. There’s a side to love in just directing. It’s like taking a holiday. It’s so much work to do both. 

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