The demure French actress whispers Beautiful Lies and reveals her greatest fear (almost).
Having confined himself to the carpeted walls of his Montmartre apartment for 20 years, Amélie’s brittle-boned neighbour passes his time repainting the same Renoir watercolour over and over. The one subject whose expression he has been unable to capture after all these years, however, is the young girl holding the glass. Today, curled in an armchair, wearing jeans and cupping a glass of water, Audrey Tautou is just as unassuming as she was in her breakout 2001 role.
Although she has starred as many a pretty-Polly in France, and enjoyed a fleeting stint in Hollywood with conspiratorial blockbuster The Da Vinci Code in 2006, when the camera stops rolling Tautou is not one to revel in her stardom, as LWLies found out recently when we met up to chat about reuniting with Pierre Salvadori for Beautiful Lies.
LWLies: In Beautiful Lies, your character, Emilie, is a hairdresser. This is a very behind-the-scenes job. Have you always wanted to be in the spotlight?
Tautou: No, no, no. That's my paradox: I love being an actress but I don't especially appreciate being in the spotlight; under the spotlight.
Because I don't feel comfortable when I feel all the attention, or too much attention. In fact, I prefer watching than being watched.
So how did you get into acting?
No, that's different, because I love acting, because I love playing a part and sharing a story with other people and I love the practise, the craft. Oui, yes, that's what I like: to create a character. But everything around it? Well, it doesn't really match with my nature, you know? But you have to do all the jobs.
So when you've finished making a film, do you avoid watching it?
Well, if I'm happy about what I did in the scene then it's okay. But if I'm not happy about what I did, it's a nightmare!
In Beautiful Lies, there is an unusual love triangle; between mother, daughter and admirer. Was it ever challenging to make comedy out of a situation that could have been potentially tragic?
But you always laugh about other people's problems. Comedy is made on mistakes and problems and troubles. You will laugh because someone will fall over the carpet… it's Chaplin!
That's the slapstick side of comedy; which there is actually quite a lot of in Beautiful Lies. But what about all the heartbreak in the film?
But you laugh at somebody else's problem; somebody else's tragedy. Comedy is usually a tragic situation that's done in such a way that it makes us laugh.
Is that why you're drawn to making comedies?
Yes, of course. Because that’s what makes me laugh too.
In the film your character also receives and sends love letters. Do you ever read your own fan mail?
Of course, but I'm quite far behind in replying.
You reply to them yourself?
Yes. I'm not that conscientious and it can sort of take over. I do try.
Have you ever received anything particularly memorable?
There was a guy who composed some music and a poem and he drove from Greece to deliver it. It was quite a long time ago.
Did you meet him face-to-face?
No, no, no, no, no, no.
Voila! I was extremely touched by it, but you have to keep a distance.
Certainly. In the film you have a distinguishing tattoo on the back of your neck. Is it real?
If you did get a tattoo, Audrey Tautou, what would you get?
I would never get a tattoo.
Is that a personal thing, or part of the job?
It's a personal thing. I don't want something permanent on my body because I get bored of things too quickly. But also because it clashes with being an actress. I need to be completely neutral in order to disappear into the character. Even though you could hide it, obviously, I don't have this sort of desire to get one anyway.
Have you ever been asked to do anything extreme to your appearance for a role? Ever been asked to put on tonnes of weight or anything like that?
No. I'm not very interested in those kind of roles.
So would you say you prefer to play roles that are similar to one another; that require little change?
Well, it's not the physical aspect that makes the difference. You can look very different and therefore you think the characters are different. I'm more interested in the personality of the characters. Also, for me, I like to develop the character with the director. I don't like to do my little bit on my own. For me it's a real… a director can take you further than what you can do for yourself. But maybe that's a very French way of going about it, rather than the ‘method.’
Beautiful Lies sees you reunite with Pierre Salvadori. Did he write the part for you?
It's easy to detect a lot of Amélie in the character of Emilie… the way she's a do-gooder, like Amélie; a matchmaker, like Amélie.
She wants to make her mother happy, but it doesn't work as well as she thought. She sets off by sending the love letter to make her mother happy but it doesn't work out. She's not as professional as Amélie!
After The Da Vinci Code, you don't seem to have been lured back into Hollywood. Was that a conscious decision?
Mainly because I had offers in France that really interested me first. And also because I'm not someone who's looking to be completely exposed, in the way you are if you're in a Hollywood film. And I prefer to be in my quieter space, in my craft.
So would you rather be remembered as the actress who played Amelie, or as the actress who played Coco Chanel?
It's not for me to decide. It's for the public to decide how they want to remember me; which character brought them the most happiness or pleasure.
So you're not more proud of one character than the other? Of one film than the other?
I am everything that I have done. It's not my decision anymore, it doesn't belong to me anymore. I've put it out there. And I don't care!
What is your greatest fear?
What is my greatest fear? Ah! No. I don't actually want to say it because I’m so suspicious.
So the fear of having a fear?
The fear of saying a fear.
How mysterious of you!