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After making two indie features that achieved minor success in France, actress-turned-director Maiwenn broke out onto the international scene in Cannes with her 2011 gritty cop drama, Polisse. Not only did the film nab the festival’s Jury Prize that year, but it went on to become a box office hit at home while receiving laudatory reviews abroad.
After making two indie features that achieved minor success in France, actress-turned-director Maiwenn broke out onto the international scene in Cannes with her 2011 gritty cop drama, Polisse. Not only did the film nab the festival’s Jury Prize that year, but it went on to become a box office hit at home while receiving laudatory reviews abroad. Back in competition with her fourth feature, Mon roi, starring Vincent Cassel and Emmanuelle Bercot (director of opening night film Standing Tall), Maiwenn talked to The Hollywood Reporter about her latest work and the fest that made her famous.
In your debut feature, Pardonnez-moi, you focused on a family struggle. In Polisse you portrayed the messy lives of a Paris police unit. What is the subject of Mon roi?
It’s the story of a couple. I really wanted to make a film that would be completely driven by sentiments, and that would show what happens when such sentiments are confronted by social realities. Most of the time when I observe couples around me, they love each other but they don’t necessary share the same centers of interest, and it’s ultimately such differences that pull them apart. I find it completely heartbreaking that love is not always strong enough to survive the facts of life.
You already worked with actress-director Emmanuelle Bercot on Polisse. Did you always have her in mind for the role of Tony, the female lead in Mon roi?
Absolutely. I had cast Emmanuelle in Polisse without knowing her too well, and I was extremely happy with the work she did. So when I started working on Mon roi, I wrote it with her in mind, even if she’s not a close friend of mine. My desire to film her is stronger than any sort of personal relationship.
And what about Vincent Cassel, who plays the boyfriend, Georgio?
That’s a very different story. When I was finishing the script, I thought a lot about him in that role and decided I should see him in person. So we set up a meeting and I found him extremely funny, though I wasn’t totally sure he’d be right for the part. During a second meeting I gave him the screenplay, and he called me the next day to say that it needed a lot of work and was far from ready. I assumed that meant he was refusing the role, but before we hung up he said, “No problem. I’ll do it.”
There are plenty of great films about couples. Did you watch anything in particular while prepping your movie?
I didn’t think of any single film because the story I was writing was so unique. But I did wind up watching a bunch of love stories because I wasn’t happy with the way the meet-up scenes worked in the script, and wanted to see some other examples. I’m interested in capturing the moment of love at first sight, and one of the examples I really liked – and please don’t make fun of me – was the encounter between Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke in 9½ Weeks. It’s completely magical. Another film I watched was Falling in Love with Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro – it’s about two people who meet and spend the day together, then separate with one final glance at each other.
The first time you were in Cannes to premiere Polisse, you went home with the Jury Prize. Is it less stressful to premiere your film the second time around?
Back in 2011 I had no idea what to expect, although people tried to explain the whole Cannes thing to me beforehand. The experience wound up being sublime and miraculous, even if I didn’t really know what was going on. This time it’s less stressful in that sense, but on the other hand I feel like people are waiting to take me down, especially the French.
Do you try to watch other films while you’re in Cannes?
I’d love to see everything, but it’s hard to do so when you’re representing your own movie. Two years ago I actually went to the festival incognito, avoiding the red carpet and watching every single film I could. I remember discovering Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Color during an 11 a.m. screening. When I walked out of the theater I was completely euphoric, and I said to myself: “I’ll never talk to anyone again who didn’t like that movie!” That’s the way I experience cinema: straight from the gut.
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