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This story first appeared in the April 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
I think films are made to provoke. It’s a very complex character because being in love with the father and the son at the same time — it feels totally wicked and wrong. The relationship [with Jeremy Irons‘ character, the father] is very sexual. So, as an actor, you have to just go and be courageous. Going into difficult emotions is as demanding as being naked in front of the camera. But if you allow yourself to completely connect to your craft, then you transform the fear or pain of it and it becomes artful. You lose yourself.
In Louis Malle’s ‘Damage,’ the actress played a woman who has an affair with her fiance’s father (Irons).
One of my best friends had lost her husband and child, and I was dedicating this film to her in a way. There was always such a clear purpose with [the role]. [Late director Krzysztof] Kieslowski had a natural kind of philosophical humor about life, death, acting. There was a real friendship [between us]. We laughed a lot. For me, that was really a gift.
The English Patient (1996)
I loved the book. And working with [director] Anthony [Minghella] was a joy. He had a sort of telepathy. Sometimes I would think something or was about to say something, and he would tell me that same thing. The first months of shooting, I was trembling all the time because I was frightened of not being as good as I could be. I remember the scene when I decide to give the last shot to the English patient. We knew it was a very important scene. It was very calm. We had Bach playing. It was a very mellow, concentrated moment. Then when [the cameras] turned to me, it was chaos. I broke a vial in my hands, and it cut my fingers and I had blood all over. Anthony continued shooting, and I remember being so upset in that scene. It came from being hopeless, powerless. He kept it in the film.
Binoche won a best supporting actress Oscar for her turn as a World War II nurse in ‘The English Patient.’
To tell you the truth, the shop was all fake chocolate. Because of all the lights, chocolate wouldn’t have been able to stand up with that heat. But of course we did have to eat some. I discovered that Johnny Depp actually didn’t like chocolate. He was spitting it out after each take, and Alfred Molina didn’t like chocolate that much, either. It was a funny experience dealing with them and the faces they would make.
Dan in Real Life (2007)
I saw Peter Hedges‘ film Pieces of April, and I liked it very much. He has a talent for combining comedy and drama, and that’s a difficult task. I was very excited to work with Steve Carell, Dane Cook, Dianne Wiest and a bunch of the actors mostly from New York theater. I remember a scene we did in the bathroom. [Carell’s character] is very upset with me, and his daughter is coming and he wants to talk to me, so he has to hide with me in the shower. I loved the old-fashioned comedy rhythm to it.
My role in this film goes as fast as a wink. I’m stuck behind the window with the nuclear leak. I had just a few seconds to express love, need, desperation both about death coming at me and my son’s future. It was challenging, of course. How can you know how you would react in those circumstances? I’d been through an earthquake in L.A. in ’94. I had my son, who was 5 months old, in my arms while it was happening. I got in touch with those fears, those basic fears.
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