An interview with Adèle Exarchopoulos

The morning after the premiere of Le Fidèle by Michaël R. Roskam, I meet Adèle on the terrace overlooking the beach at the Excelsior Hotel. She’s having French fries for breakfast when she greets me with a smile, inviting me to her table.
 In two hours, she has to leave for the other side of the Adriatic, for Croatia to shoot a scene for her new role in The White Crow by Ralph Fiennes, but she has graciously waited for our interview first. 
 Interview by Alexander Darkish

Despite the rapid success which followed La Vie d’Adèle Adèle Exarchopoulos seems to remain humble and professional, which is pretty unusual, especially in light of her age.

After La Vie d’Adèle you’ve confirmed your ability to take on very demanding roles. In this film you play a successful racing driver in a context almost exclusively dominated by men and, at the same time, a woman capable of self-sacrifice for an impossible love.

You have to know that for this film I had to get my driving license. The production even paid for it, without deducting from my fee. That wasn’t easy at all, but it was an exciting and unusual experience for me and an unusual role for a woman in general. That’s what I love about my job, because I can potentially be faced with everything: motor racing, in the case of this film, and the world of dance in the next one, since I’m going to play Clara Saint, who aided Rudolf Nureyev’s defection to France. I didn’t know anything about dance and I had never taken classes, not even in childhood. In terms of the role, Ralph Fiennes specifically asked me to be classy, which is hard for me (She laughs).

Well, I think you were pretty classy in your race clothes. What I really liked about this film was the characterization of your role, the way you interpreted it: cold and decisive at work and, at the same time, sweet and passionate. 
What did you like about the character and more generally what will you remember about the making of this film?

All the small details and technical aspects of this particular field I didn’t know before were exciting to me. 
For instance, I enjoyed the dressing-up part a lot, trying on all these race outfits. I would have loved to keep the costumes, but what would I do with them? I could wear them in my apartment, but I would feel stupid hanging out in the city in them. 
The director is himself a racer, so he was able to transmit me all the passion he has for cars. He even brought me to a 24-hour endurance race in Belgium, where I could experience what it was all about.

As regards the character, for me it was more about how she feels when she is inside the car and when she is outside, and the transition when love enters in her life – the bravery of the character, which remains the same both in racing, in its discipline, and in her relationship troubles. She’s a little like me. I am able to sacrifice myself for the people I love: for my family, my friends and my lover. And I also make many sacrifices at work.

I assume that your life has been changing after La Vie d’Adèle. Do you feel more responsibility now? What are your priorities when you apply for a role?
I’m grateful for the chance to have made La Vie d’Adèle. I wanted to prove to myself that I could exist in this tough business. I didn’t even know if I could do it, If I could be an actress. You know, It’s not always easy. For example, my first American experience, with Sean Penn, scared me a lot in the beginning, but then I did the film and I’m happy about it. Now I feel a lot of responsibility: I have to be serious and I try to choose only the roles I would really like to do. That’s why I prefer to go through the audition process, as in the case of my next film, to be sure from the beginning that I can manage the role.

Who inspires you? Which actors/directors would you like to work with?
My biggest inspiration are Gena Rowlands, Susan Sarandon, Beatrice Dalle and Kate Winslet.
I would like to work with Cristian Mungiu, Ken Loach and Martin Scorsese.

What about your family?
I have to say that my family have supported me from the beginning, even if they don’t know anything about cinema and they didn’t watch any of my movies: they are my biggest motivation. 
My father came to Cannes for La Vie d’Adèle. It was awful, as you can imagine. 
My parents then texted me from home after the prizes but, like me, they didn’t understand that each of us had won a Palme d’Or, so they simply wrote me: “Oh, that’s cool, what time are you coming home?”. 
 A year later, I received the physical Palme d’Or at my parent’s place and they finally realized that I had won it, too – so strange!


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