Where the heiress of Jacqueline Maillan evokes her passion for Feydeau and the songs of yesteryear, in front of a pink duck breast and a tuna ceviche.
She speeds along on her bike, a real rocket with tinkling earrings. When she finally stops in front of the Wepler brewery where we are waiting for her, we notice her immediately. Multicolored floral dress, fishnet tights and stilettos with a bow: she has a pin-up look, which contrasts with her blonde mane and her marquise-powdered white complexion from another time. Émeline Bayart is a character. It looks like it escaped from the boxes of a tangy comic strip. No wonder the Podalydès brothers, her friends, asked her to play Bécassine, the most famous of the Breton maids, in the film of the same name released in 2018. “I only travel by bicycle, we she says after greeting a friend who is also having lunch at the famous place de Clichy where she likes to meet. It’s faster than public transport, and it’s the best way to enjoy the city, whatever the weather. Émeline Bayart loves Paris. Passionately. Even in the rain, even in the wind. If the 43-year-old actress assures that she is not likely to marvel, the big city has dazzled her for a long time. A little girl from the North, she had come to visit an aunt there. Her head already filled with dreams, she had whispered to herself: “This is where I will live. »
And to think that fate could have been quite different. If she had not met the theater director Jean-Michel Rabeux, Émeline Bayart would have become a teacher. But the day before submitting her entry file to the IUFM (University Institute for Teacher Training), he had encouraged her: “You have to go to Paris, you are promised beautiful things. “While her parents fear that she will indulge in leading a” life of patachon “on the banks of the Seine, here she is who integrates the National Conservatory of Dramatic Art, then the free class of Cours Florent. “I was able to seize the two gods of destiny, Chronos and Kairos, at the right time,” she explains with the utmost seriousness while methodically kneading a chunk of bread. By dint of talking, the bellies are crying famine: it is time to command. “The soy tuna ceviche is excellent,” she advises us. You can take wine, but I will stay in the water. »
Shine the carton
A confession before the server returns: Émeline Bayart would like to travel in time. She would have gladly lived her adventures in another Paris, that of the Roaring Twenties or the post-war period, when the streets were not cluttered with advertisements and, above all, where there was no “artificial sound”. “When you take the tram, for example, there is always this unbearable music which announces each station”, she scolds. The actress fantasizes about a beautifully sepia-toned city, like in the films with Arletty: the Paris of broths, evenings at the theater and café-concerts. An era that she strives to recreate today in each of her shows. For the past ten years, Émeline Bayart has been giving recitals where she unearths forgotten songs. The soundtracks of his rounds on stage unroll a series of outdated operetta hits, catchphrases that made our great-grandparents dance or popular songs that are kindly ribald, but never vulgar. In D’elle à lui, which she has performed several times at the Théâtre du Rond-Point and which she still performs regularly at the café-théâtre Le Kibélé, she revives Marcel Amont’s Julie, where it is a question of a young girl who wants to “roll in the grass when Monsieur l’abbé lunches at the château”. In Tout feu tout femme, currently at the Théâtre de Poche-Montparnasse, she performs, among other things, Les Nuits d’une demoiselle, a success by Colette Renard in which a lady has her “apricot cleaned”, “the berlingot shined” and “roll the crayfish”. Speaking of seafood, will we have fish for lunch? No, Émeline Bayart opts for a duck breast, which she asks for rosé.
Would the actress have liked to be a singer? “At the conservatory, that’s what my singing teacher suggested to me. But if I had been content to only do opera, I wouldn’t have had as much fun as I do today. She prefers to taste all the pleasures. A little cinema, with Bruno Podalydès, Jean-Michel Ribes or Michel Gondry, and above all a lot of theatre. Even if the music is never far away.
The self-tape shot
In her last play, We purge baby by Georges Feydeau, which she also directed, she did not hesitate to push the song, having a great time with La Tour Eiffel by Marguerite Deval, singer of operetta nicknamed in its time the “devil in a petticoat”. We must savor these words which slow the comparison between conjugal. Her performance, hilarious from start to finish, earned Émeline Bayart a nomination at the 33rd Molières ceremony, for the trophy for best actress in a public theater show. The second of his career. To celebrate this success, wouldn’t we have a glass of wine? “Yes, finally, I want a little Pinot Noir. Not you ? ” Finally !
Our guest does not understand why vaudeville is nowadays a denigrated genre, considered less noble than a tragedy by Racine or a play by Molière. “Feydeau remains a great author. He had a sense of rhythm, a comic instinct. She regrets that some directors force caricature when they stage her plays La Puce à l’oreille or La Dame de chez Maxim. According to her, the actors would be well advised to “play the tragedy of the text as closely as possible so that the spectators laugh out loud”. Humor is a gift for Émeline Bayart. The features of his face, which passes from one expression to another, make you burst out laughing in an instant. She is compared to Jacqueline Maillan, queen of the boulevard theater who, by her mere presence, managed to cheer up an entire room. “She was a virtuoso. Above all, she never fell into vulgarity. “If, for the moment, she remains subscribed to comedies, Émeline Bayart is convinced that one day she will land a great tragic role. Like Coluche in Tchao Pantin in 1983 or Michel Blanc with Monsieur Hire in 1989.
There remains a question for coffee, and not the least. Are we born funny or do we become it? Our expert drops her spoon. “Of course, it requires work, but I believe that we have a predisposition to be or not,” she replies. Émeline Bayart deplores the fact that more and more young people are embarking on acting careers without having the talent, or even the desire. The fault, according to her, to the telecrochet programs, which realized Andy Warhol’s prophecy on this damn “quarter of an hour of fame”. “Twenty years ago, when I started out, being an actor was still being an acrobat. Today, it has become too democratized. For Émeline Bayart, acting is a vital need. So much so that during confinement, when she could no longer go on stage, she felt like she was no longer breathing.
The pandemic has changed her job, she breathes. Recently, to play Cristóbal Balenciaga’s secretary, in a series on the life of the Spanish couturier produced by Disney+, she had to pass a “self tape” audition, that is to say by filming herself with a phone. “I’m too bad for that. The casting director had to come to help me. Although she’s not tech-savvy, she got the part. This summer, she will tour in Spain.
Undoubtedly, Émeline Bayart is an artist from another era, who during a lunch takes the time to discuss, to tell stories and more. We have been at the table for nearly three hours. So quickly, she has to go, get back on her bike, ring her bell… So that this Paris still looks a little like that of Arletty.
Author: Michael Zippo
Sources: VanityFair, IO Donna
Written by Michael Zippo
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