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French director Benoit Jacquot has made a career out of trying to figure out women, from 1998’s The School of Flesh to 2012’s Cesar-nominated Farewell, My Queen.
“For me, it’s always a woman in a strong situation which is going to change her life,” he says, part of a lifelong effort to understand women. “It’s because I’m a man, I think. No man really knows women, and as far as I know it’s impossible to find out. I try to approach it as a search, like an explorer.”
His next project is a remake of Diary of a Chambermaid, starring Lea Seydoux in the title role made famous by Paulette Godard in 1946’s Hollywood version and Jeanne Moreau in the 1946 French adaptation.
Though it’s opening in April in France, the director is hoping to have it ready in time for Berlin in February.
“If I am ready to go there technically, it would be very good to be there, but I don’t know if I will be. There’s enough left to finish to be uncertain about the time,” he said.
However, Spectre, the latest James Bond movie, might derail his plans. “Lea is involved with the film in London, and it depends on her schedule as well. If the premiere is not with her then it’s not necessary to be there, but I would like it to be.”
With Seydoux’s Bond girl status solidified and her star rising, the director praised Seydoux. He called working with the French star “heaven, a paradise.”
“I could do all of my films with that girl,“ he said of the Palme d’Or-winning actress. “She’s temperamentally, intellectually and physically able to support a part from the first shot to the last one, which is very rare. It’s the way she works with me. She is so light and serious at the same time. It’s exactly what I have been waiting for in an actress.”
The script was originally written for Seydoux, though Marion Cotillard was attached for a time. The intense shoot for Macbeth in England put new projects on hold for about a year for Cotillard, finally bringing Seydoux back on board.
“I knew it was for Lea. All this time I said to her, I’m sure something will happen with Marion. If you really want to do it, just be ready.”
His follow-up film will be an adaptation of Don DeLillo’s 2001 novel, a psychological exploration of love and loss. He is currently casting actors from the U.S. and England for the film that will be linguistically “mixed.”
The story sees a wife conjure her late husband during her mourning process. “It’s a very bizarre film, and a very peculiar film,” he says of the story that will shoot in Portugal in the spring.
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