Q&A: Isabelle Huppert


Isabelle Huppert is no stranger to the festival; she's been a jury member, Master of Ceremonies and has won two best actress awards during the course of her nearly 40-year career. This year's jury president took time during pre-festival filming in Lille to chat with The Hollywood Reporter's France correspondent Rebecca Leffler.

The Hollywood Reporter: How have you changed since the last time you were on the Cannes jury in 1984?

Isabelle Huppert: I hope I haven't changed at all. I hope I'm the same person. I hope that now I can see things with more lightness, more simplicity, but also with a certain sense of responsibility.

THR: How has French cinema changed since then?

Huppert: I'm not sure French cinema has changed. It has certainly evolved with the eras it has passed through. Maybe it's more fragile than before, but it stills offers a huge diversity that's the trademark of French cinema. It's very ambitious, sometimes a bit more difficult to watch, or inaccessible to some audiences, but to me, a good movie is a good movie and I try not to put films into categories.

THR: Does the typically critical Cannes audience scare you?

Huppert: No, it doesn't scare me, but one needs to go to Cannes with the understanding that there is a very reactive audience that expresses itself with a great deal of force.

THR: You've done some pretty provocative things onscreen. What wouldn't you do?

Huppert: I didn't feel that these things were provocative at the time. Each time, they were part of films that offered a vision of the world, a topic of reflection, and dealt with issues or ideas that needed to be expressed in a strong way. That's what the cinema is. The greatest films say provocative things.

THR: You've worked with some very strong personalities ve worked with some very strong personalities Godard, Chabrol, Haneke. What director did you learn the most from?

Huppert: No one has taught me anything. That's not how it works. We either get along with someone or we don't. It's not something we teach, it something we give.

THR: Name one book, movie or piece of music that changed your life.

Huppert: I couldn't choose just one. Even if cinema can't change the world, it can change the way we see things or change our spirits. That's why we care about it so much.

THR: In "Villa Amalia," you play a woman who all of a sudden abandons the life she knows and takes off, leaving everything behind. Do you ever think of doing that?

Huppert: Yes, but not for forever. When we're busy doing a lot of things, we always dream of another life. But, as an actress, I change lives all the time so I'm not as tempted to do what she did because my life, as is, is a perpetual change. I'd never do that myself, but I understand how someone might be driven to do that.

THR: You've only done a handful of American features. Do you despise Hollywood?

Huppert: I've chosen the films I've shot because I've wanted to film them, American or not, it wasn't a conscious choice. Of course, I'd love to do more American movies, but not just because they're American. I just want to make good movies.

THR: What do you think is the main difference between French actresses and Hollywood actresses?

Huppert: European actresses work more often than American actresses. In the U.S., once one has attained a certain status, one tends to work less. I also think it's only natural that we'd work more here since we make a lot more movies in France and more quickly, so there is more work.

THR: What actor or director would you most have liked to work with?

Huppert: Hitchcock. I would have like to have filmed with him.

THR: Did you always know you wanted to be an actress?

Huppert: I didn't always know when I was growing up. I knew I wanted to be an actress when I became one, but I didn't dream of it as a child.

THR: What would you do if you weren't an actress?

Huppert: I couldn't even imagine that.