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Sophie Marceau: ‘I have always been madly in love’

She is indeed 'a woman of our time', as the title of her latest film states. She started out at the age of 14 with The Time of the Apples and was then guided by her 'curiosity to go elsewhere'. Always without stuntmen. Because, she says: 'I am the Tom Cruise of French cinema'.

Give us more Sophie Marceau. To counterbalance the whimsical and the ill-tempered. Ask us to interview Sophie Marceau often, because her punk side will always prevail. Even on the little floral dress she's wearing today. We love Sophie Marceau. The transalpine polls make it clear: she never stops being 'l'actrice préferée des français', but even in our latitudes we claim the choice.

Sophie Marceau, a woman of our times

Sophie put us in a good mood when, at the press conference for the presentation of her latest film, Une femme de notre temps, at the Locarno Film Festival, she replied to the inescapable question "What links you to Switzerland?", "Chocolate, cuckoo clocks and banks". Yes, yes, she really did say that, only to add after a pause of perfect length, 'Entre nous', between us.

We went to reread the interview we did with her in 2000 for 007: The World Is Not Enough in which she played the villain and James Bond was still Pierce Brosnan. At that time, France loved her a little less – she was working too much abroad and her relationship with Andrzej Żuławski (father of her eldest son, Vincent) had led her into a world apart – so we asked her: "Did many people in France tell you not to do that, Sophie?"

She replied with the calmness of the Buddha: 'The French will be happy with my choice. Bond gets everywhere and they will like me. I am sure. Besides, it was not they who discouraged me, but the Americans. They hold European actors in high regard, they think we are another race. As if the fact that I am French condemns me to only work in low-budget psychological dramas where everyone smokes Gitanes and talks gibberish. It is since I started working that everyone advises and advises against me, but in the end I always do my own thing'.

Homage from his France

Her country, where today less Gitanes are smoked but low-budget psychological dramas are still being filmed, is about to dedicate a great honour to her (Marianne had already embodied her): from 29 September, the Cinémathèque française will launch a retrospective of the actress who, says Frédéric Bonnaud, its director, "was the most beloved teenager by the French". Tied by a double thread to superlatives, cine-nationalism and the far from whimsical idea of doing her own thing in a universe in which everyone surrounds themselves with advisors, Sophie Marceau replies that she does not see the homage as a vindication after art-house cinema had long neglected her, perhaps to punish her for Braveheart and Belfagor. On the contrary… 'I actually quite give a damn,' she explains to iO donna. 'I'm honoured and happy and I love talking about cinema – even in interviews. I say I never want to do them, but I actually like telling, especially to people who love cinema, because it is part of my life and my loves. But I am not very sensitive to honours and then I am shy. But fundamentally I don't have the problem of lack of recognition: right from the start, and I started very early, I felt there was a crazy love for me'.

Sophie Marceau's code of honour

The search for confirmation is one of the springs that drives many of your colleagues. Is this not the case with you?

"I have never gone in search of confirmation. Not even when I was very young, when I was inexperienced and had every reason to be. My beginnings were not gradual. I started off very fast and went straight to the top (she was 14 when she made her debut in Apple Time, ed). But I worked with incredible people and always did what I wanted. Two great fortunes."

Even in her latest film, which will be the first in the retrospective after its presentation at the Locarno festival, Une femme de nostre temps by Jean-Paul Civeyrac, she is a determined woman: a police commissioner, upright and demanding even of herself. Her life, however, plummets when she discovers her husband's betrayal.

A title like this, 'A Woman of Our Time', catches the eye. She is indeed a woman who takes her destiny into her own hands, but destiny eludes her because life is like that, we cannot decide everything. She has found a balance, she has an extraordinary husband, a daughter who adores her, a beautiful home. Cops have hard lives, they see terrible things, they need a counterbalance to anchor themselves in reality and she has built it for herself. But life prepares something else for her and she, despite everything, honest, upright, demanding, even of herself, will follow her own code of honour.

A very physical role, he had to learn archery. Did you have a stunt double for the more athletic scenes?
Ah no! I never have a double! I am the Jean Paul Belmondo, the Tom Cruise of French cinema! In fact, when I was younger, I would have loved to do more action scenes in my films. And I really loved archery, it is both physical and mental, I put a lot of effort into it, I wanted the result to be beautiful. To shoot you make movements that are really cinematic, your body is entirely focused on the gesture, your control over yourself has to be total. When you let the arrow go, the body starts with it and it has to be in perfect balance, all it takes is a little tension in a shoulder muscle to miss the target. There is a great harmony around this gesture and I find that the bow is the real protagonist of the film. My character resembles it: when the process of becoming aware of imperfection, of the lie of her life, begins for her, she becomes unstoppable. And she goes straight to the target.

Did you think of Jeanne Moreau from Truffaut's The Bride in Black when she was enacting her revenge?
No, but I did think of Simenon's novel The Truth about Bébé Donge and all the stories of women who murdered their husbands and then quietly confessed it. Women in film noir almost always assume a symbolic status, a transcendental dimension.

The gaze of others

It is a bit like the fate of actors, and actresses in particular, when as you said, they become the recipients of 'a crazy love'.
But one must protect oneself from loves that are too intense. I could have done 150 'apple times' if I had wanted to. They had put a highway in front of me, I could have driven down it and arrived at 30 like that, overwhelmed by general adoration. But I had the curiosity to go elsewhere, without knowing much about being an actress. But we cannot prevent those who look at us, and perhaps love us, from casting a gaze full of expectation on us. This I realised early on. To contradict expectations takes courage and recklessness: that's what Orson Welles did with Rita Hayworth, he cut her hair and dyed it blond (for The Lady from Shanghai, ed.). A scandal! It was no longer her… But that film became part of film history and she with it. Besides, I always want to be asked to do unexpected things.

Claude Pinoteau in Merci la vie ! Aventures cinématographiques recounted the audition he gave her for The Time of Apples: 'When she arrived with her father at the office at 15, rue Madeleine-Michelis in Neuilly, it was love at first sight. Unlike other teenage girls, she was more serious, with the slight smile of a Mona Lisa. She kept herself straight, charming, available…'. Do you recognise yourself?
That moment changed everything. And if no one teaches you how to be an actress, even less is taught how to be famous. I have tried all my life, while things were changing, to continue to be in harmony with myself, even when I happened to be lynched in the square and immediately afterwards adored. It was a long journey, suddenly at 13 you are someone else, they even change your name.

Does Sophie Maupu (her real name) still exist inside Sophie Marceau?
Today I would have a hard time telling them apart. Sophie Marceau certainly taught me a lot and opened doors for me. With that name certainly came a transformation, if I think that as a child I cried every time my photo was taken…

And you ended up playing strong women, an avenging archer, or as the protagonist of your penultimate film, It All Went Well, by François Ozon.
I love strong bodies, and I love the places where they are found, in cinema and in life: police stations, hospitals…I wish they would ask me again to play a policewoman, I had never done it, I don't know why no one thought of it! I had been in the company of soldiers in Fort Saganne, but I had crinolines. And then I love railway stations! I went to pick up my son from the train the other day and as soon as I entered the station my mind went back to Anna Karenina (which she played in 1997, ed), I saw the steam of the locomotive before the gesture. We are all imbued with images like that.

In your album, what spaces do you leave for future images?
I love growing old. I won't be the first actress to say it, but I really do. I have always imagined myself old, without anxiety. I know this will limit my possibilities in cinema. But I don't want to lose touch with reality, and I don't want to hide. Going against time would be a losing war, he wins, so I prefer to be his friend. And the screen has never betrayed me so far.



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