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For Julie Delpy, the last couple of weeks have been a roller coaster.
Delpy was in final preparations for her next film, My Zoe, when, in late November, a key financier, believed to have committed around 20 percent of the budget, pulled out, giving what Delpy says were “bluntly sexist” reasons.
“’Women directors are emotional, women are unreliable,’” Delpy quotes the financier as saying. “They told me that to my face in a meeting! They made their decision [to pull money from the film] on nothing except the fact I was a woman.”
Delpy has found a replacement investor but is currently trying to find more new backers for the film, which she wrote and is set to star in alongside Richard Armitage, Gemma Arterton and Daniel Bruhl, to close the financing gap.
Delpy penned the script for the drama, about Isabelle (Delpy), a mother who shares custody of her daughter Zoe with her ex-husband (Armitage). But when tragedy strikes this fractured family, Isabelle takes matters into her own hands. Bruhl and Arterton play a couple Isabelle turns to for help.
My Zoe was set to be Delpy’s sixth directorial effort, following such features as 2 Days in Paris, 2 Days in New York and French-language comedies Skylab and Lolo. The film was set up as a Europe-U.S. co-production, with New York-based Magnolia Mae Films, France’s Electrick Films, Bruhl’s Amusement Park Films and British firm Baby Cow producing. Protagonist is handling international sales.
The original schedule would have seen My Zoe go into prep in mid-December for an early 2018 shoot.
“If I don’t find a solution by December 15, we’ll have to push the film,” Delpy says. “I don’t want to be dramatic, it’s only a movie, but this is the shittiest situation I’ve ever been in my professional career.”
According to Delpy, the backer told her just before Thanksgiving the company was pulling out of the film. She blames the move on “a sexist American lawyer” who had been advising the company and, she claims, had been “an aggressive bully” through the entire process.
“Under his guidance, the company demanded more and more concessions and security,” she says, “things they wouldn’t have asked of a man if he were mentally ill and on drugs.”
Delpy declined to name either the lawyer or the company in question.
On both the commercial and artist front, the French multihyphenate has an impressive résumé. She notched two Oscar nominations for co-writing Before Sunset and Before Midnight with Richard Linklater and Ethan Hawke and had crossover success with her directorial debut 2 Days in Paris, co-starring Adam Goldberg, and its sequel, 2 Days in New York with Chris Rock.
My Zoe has been Delpy’s passion project for years. The idea for the film first came to her back in 1991, she says, and she wrote the first draft of the script seven years ago. Delpy has been actively trying to put the project together for the last three years. “I shot [French comedy] Lolo because it was taking so long to get My Zoe financed,” Delpy says. “It’s much easier to get money to make my comedies.”
Even if production on My Zoe is delayed, Delpy says she is determined to make the movie, one way or another. “It’s been my life’s project, it’s the best thing I’ve ever written,” she says. “It’s a very unconventional women’s journey and, I think, very groundbreaking. I’m not going to give it up.”
On Saturday, Delpy will get some moral support at least from the European Film Academy, which will present her with its lifetime honor: the Achievement in World Cinema award.
“It’s a strange irony to get this award now, just after this has happened,” Delpy told THR. “But it shows that this business isn’t just about achieving, it’s about longevity, it’s about hanging in there.”
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