Melanie Laurent on Working With Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt: "It Was Two Dreamlike Months"
The French actress discusses Jolie’s upcoming film ‘By the Sea’
Angelina Jolie wrapped production this fall on her third feature film By the Sea, an intimate account of a troubled marriage during the 1970s. Jolie stars with husband Brad Pitt as a married couple on a trip through France. In the film, the couple seems to be growing apart and begins to get very close to the inhabitants of one seaside town.
Actress Melanie Laurent plays one of those residents, speaking in both French and English in the film. Laurent is herself also an accomplished actress and director, having premiered her second film Breathe this year in Cannes. Based on the acclaimed YA novel by Anne-Sophie Brasme, Laurent deftly brought to the screen the possessive nature of teenage relationships.
She says their well-rounded backgrounds on both sides of the camera may be what drew Jolie to her for the By the Sea role. “I don't know, maybe she trusts me because I am doing both and she wanted that,” Laurent told The Hollywood Reporter from the Marrakech International Film Festival, where she served on the jury. “She's a great director and she wrote a really beautiful script.”
Laurent was at first overwhelmed working with the two global superstars. Jolie and Pitt were also on their honeymoon during the shoot, dogged by paparazzi on the small island of Gozo in Malta, where the film was shot. Laurent says that they managed to create a relatively quiet environment on set despite the commotion surrounding them.
“She's great, she's calm. She really loves actors. She has a real respect for us and I felt so lucky she chose me. And Brad was amazing too. It was two dreamlike months, working with them,” said Laurent of Jolie and Pitt. “They are really, really amazing actors and they respect everybody. They are just super simple people.”
“I think we share the same method to just love the actors,” said Laurent. “Sometimes directors, because they are not actors, they don't speak the same language. Sometimes when you're working with an actor it's easier in a way; we understand each other.”
She describes Jolie’s directing as very open and collaborative, allowing everyone to help define their own roles, up to the point of letting them choose their own costumes. “She lets you be really free. She trusts you,” said Laurent. “So you feel so comfortable. I love working like this. It's going fast because she trusts you. It's just easy.”
She also has some advice for some of her fellow directors. “I would love to, sometimes, put the director in the actor's position, just for a few hours, so he would just know that we are not machines.”
Laurent is currently working on her third feature, Demain (Tomorrow). The documentary will look at positive examples from around the world of how local communities are taking matters into their own hands to fight global crises across ecology, education, energy, democracy and economy.