Isabelle Huppert Addresses the #MeToo Backlash in France

Isabelle Huppert - H 2018
Isabelle Huppert (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images)

Following controversial statements from Catherine Deneuve and Brigitte Bardot, the French screen icon says, "It's important that all voices be heard."

On hand at the Unifrance Rendez-vous in Paris to promote Michael Haneke’s new film Happy End, which was released in the U.S. this past December by Sony Pictures Classics, Isabelle Huppert spoke to THR about her fourth collaboration with the Austrian auteur and some of her feelings about the current #MeToo movement.

The 64-year-old Huppert recently appeared at the Golden Globes wearing black, in a sign of solidarity with attendees supporting the Time’s Up movement launched this month by Reese Witherspoon, Natalie Portman and other powerful industry women.

When asked about how that movement and the #MeToo campaign are being received in her homeland, especially in light of a recent controversial op-ed in Le Monde signed by 100 leading French women, including Catherine Deneuve, she had this to say:

“Just because we have different opinions in France, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t in solidarity with the movement," she said. "But it’s important that all voices be heard, that there’s not too much overzealousness on either side.”

While Deneuve eventually apologized for appearing to condemn the #MeToo movement, French screen legend Brigitte Bardot reignited the controversy when she labeled the #MeToo movement "hypocritical and ridiculous."

Huppert, who has more than 100 film credits to her name, and who won a Golden Globe last year for Paul Verhoeven’s Elle, told THR that the sea change affecting the movie industries in both the U.S. and France was an extremely positive thing: “Of course it’s great, especially because it gives a voice to women who didn’t have the possibility to speak up before. What’s important is that the movement doesn’t rest within the confines of the entertainment industry, but that it spreads to other ones as well. It can have a ripple effect that touches women of all classes and professions.”

Huppert also spoke about working again with Michael Haneke, whose Happy End premiered in competition in Cannes last May. The two previously collaborated on 2012’s Amour, which won both the Palme d’Or and the Oscar for best foreign-language film.

“Every project we do together is different," she said. "Happy End was a less intimate shoot compared to Amour, which was done entirely on one soundstage. This film is a network narrative with lots of different characters and locations, so working with Michael on a project of this scale was bound to be different.”

Haneke is famous for his precision and control, with each shot in his movies mapped out well in advance. Does that leave any room for an actress like Huppert to improvise?

“It’s funny because people always ask that question, as if acting itself isn’t about improvising all the time. Sometimes we make up the dialogue and sometimes we don’t — in my case I usually don't because I'm not a screenwriter and would never claim to be one. But either way we’re always trying to create something within the confines of our role. As Bob Wilson once said: ‘Acting is improvisation,’ and in that sense an actor is always improvising.”

Happy End is currently playing in theaters across the U.S.