Berlin: Juliette Binoche Talks Sex Scene With Former Onscreen Son

Who You Think I Am-Publicity Still-H 2019
Courtesy of Berlinale

"It was pretty rapid, actually," the Oscar winner said of bedding French co-star Francois Civil in 'Who You Think I Am,' after she played his mother in 'Elles.'

Juliette Binoche on Sunday opened up about performing an intimate sex scene in her latest movie, Safy Nebbou's Celle que vous croyez (Who You Think I Am), with French co-star François Civil, who also played her teenage son in the 2011 drama Elles.

"It was pretty rapid, actually. He felt a bit shy and modest, and I found that sweet. But that's part of the things that happen to you in this profession," Binoche told a press conference at the Berlin Film Festival. The Chocolat star was touting Nebbou's dramedy, in which she plays Claire, a 50-year-old professor and single mother who creates a fake Facebook profile of a 24-year-old woman, whom she names Clara, to keep tabs on a former lover.

Having created a fictional character using the photo of a pretty young brunette, Claire manages to snag the assistant (Civil) of her former lover, only to see her unfolding life in virtual reality end in disaster. To stir intimacy between Binoche and Civil, Nebbou recalled deliberately separating the actors when they appeared in scenes where they flirted with one another on the telephone, before eventually hooking up.

"The film was shot chronologically, so when they are talking on the phone, they are just talking on the phone. And when they meet for the first time, they really meet," he told the Berlin media.

Binoche added that Civil felt quite convinced he'd been talking with a 25-year-old when doing the phone scenes, "and that was disturbing for him." The French star, who also serves as president of the international jury for the 2019 Berlin festival, argued the "emotional vertigo" that Claire and Clara face in Who You Think I Am is a product of social media, where you can reinvent yourself, and re-experience sexual desire.

"The screenplay allowed for a kind of Russian doll effect, with one story inside another. One is going through all kinds of emotions," Binoche recalled.

Nebbou conceded audiences may find it difficult to believe Binoche, the object of desire in memorable roles in The Unbearable Lightness of Being and The English Patient, for which she won an Oscar, could be rejected so many times in his movie.

"Well, it was pushing it a bit, it has to be said, yes," Nebbou said. "But when she's in my film, she's no longer Juliette Binoche. She's a 50-year-old professor who has been abandoned. That means she feels she has to go for a younger man. That's the world we live in. That's the image of youth and beauty and women."

His French-language film, which also stars Nicole Garcia, Marie-Ange Casta and Guillaume Gouix, is having its world premiere in Berlin as a Berlinale Special Gala at the Zoo Palast theater.

The Berlin Film Festival continues through Feb. 17.