French-born, L.A.-based Julie Delpy is best known for her role in Richard Linklater’s cult indie romances Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset, in which she starred alongside Ethan Hawke (in 2005, she was nominated along with Ethan Hawke and Linklater for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for the latter).
Her well-received 2007 directorial effort, 2 Days in Paris, which she also wrote, edited, produced, starred in and composed music for, is a comedy of cross-cultural misunderstandings and manners. Delpy is Marion, a French expat photographer traveling to Paris with her American boyfriend Jack (played by Adam Goldberg, Delpy’s ex) to meet her nutty family, played by Delpy’s actual parents, the hilarious and charming Albert Delpy and Marie Pillet. She invented a slutty sister named Rose (Alexia Landeau) and cast her own cat Max (screen name, Jean-Luc).
Delpy has since had a son, lost her mother and made a historical drama called The Countess as well as a French comedy, Le Skylab, about childhood in 1970s France. Her fourth film, 2 Days in New York, an official selection at this year’s Sundance and Tribeca film festivals, opens August 10.
In this follow-up to 2 Days in Paris, Marion is at home in Manhattan, now living with Jack’s young son and her new boyfriend Mingus (Chris Rock), along with his daughter from another marriage and Jean-Luc. This time, the French are storming New York, bringing with them contraband sausage, politically incorrect stereotypes, unapologetic sexuality and the goofy enthusiasm of American-flag-tie-wearing, snap-happy tourists.
The following are excerpts from a conversation with Delpy about using her real life as a jumping off point, the joys of collaboration and dealing with critics.
Co.Create: Why did you decide to make a sequel?
Julie Delpy: In 2 Days in Paris, it’s like this couple could be 25 to 35. They still have the freedom to break up because they don’t have a kid. I just wanted to explore life, like how do you handle as an adult certain things like having children, losing your parents, all that stuff that’s kind of difficult? But to make it as a comedy.
Why does Marion have a new love interest? Was it to avoid seeming too much like the Before Sunset/Sunrise movies?
That was one reason. And I kind of liked the idea of a sequel without the same guy; it’s more true to life. I like the idea that for Marion it didn’t work out with Jack and now she’s moved onto another guy and maybe it’s not gonna work out either. Maybe nothing will work out with her, she’s too crazy. But that’s the thing, now we get more than one try.
These two movies aren’t autobiographical but you like to use elements of your real life, like your dad and your cat.
It’s some kind of weird almost superstitious thing. I worked with Krzysztof Kieślowski and I spent a lot of time with him after we shot Three Colors: White. He was very supportive of me becoming a director and he always told me, like, always stick in there something that’s true to you, and I took him literally and put my dad and my cat in the movie, because I’m not that smart.
Do you find that people think the character is you?
It’s me and it’s not, it’s a weird combination. But it’s very fictional. I like mixing it. I mean my favorite directors do it, Cassavetes or Woody Allen. In a way obviously with Woody Allen films a lot of the characters are him. I mean what would a Cassavetes film be without Gena Rowlands?
I mean it’s a weird approach and I might not do it every time because I like doing something that has nothing to do with me or my life, like The Countess. Basically I think it’s just fun to do and I don’t feel that exposed, because it is really fictionalized, so if people don’t like it, it doesn’t really affect me. I mean the criticism is sometimes "Oh my God, I don’t like neurotic people." And that’s fine. I mean if you like psychotic people who shoot people better, that’s OK with me. Or if you want a movie that is devoid of any personal work that’s OK too.
I like Marion, she’s more impulsive than I am, she’s a bit of a slut. I love sluts. I wish I had been more promiscuous.
It’s not too late.
It’s not too late? You think I can become a slut now?
In one scene you have Marion do a take down of an art critic who doesn’t like her photography.
I think she doesn’t think about the things she does having repercussions in her life, I mean like going after the critic.
I mean I love people like that, it makes me laugh, but it’s so wrong to do that and also I’m not like as offended by people not liking my work. I mean it’s not nice but you know it’s a movie, some people will like it, some people won’t like it, some people don’t like me. I mean that’s fine too. I remember in school some people hated me and some people really loved me and it’s great I mean I really like that. At least people were reacting to me, and some people ignored me too which is fine too. That’s how it goes in life; you can’t please everybody and when you do work, when you do make movies, you have to expect some people to like it and some people not to like it.
Was the scene with the art critic a fantasy?
Sometimes when I read critics I’m not offended that they don’t like it I’m just like "Oh you really didn’t get it." And I’m like "Did you really watch the film or were you texting at the same time? You didn’t see the reference to this film, you didn’t see the reference to that film, you really have no film culture whatsoever."
I like the fantasy of having the critic facing you and telling you he didn’t like it but obviously in this one she’s aggressive which is funny, too, she’s gonna snap his neck! A lot of artist friends of mine were really enjoying that moment, it was the moment they enjoyed the most. You would like to be face to face with the person that trashes you once in awhile.
In the movie, the French are food and sex obsessed as expected but they’re not the sophisticated French of many people’s fantasies.
Before France was gentrified by the Romans, the Gauls were like these rough people who would fight and eat meat and party a lot apparently.
I think it’s funny that people have this image of France that is very refined because there’s something that’s very raw about French people. My French friends especially those that are here were laughing their heads off, they’re like "Oh my God, it’s my mother, it’s my father, it’s my uncle, I mean I totally relate to it." It’s so weird, the only people saying you should be ashamed to portray French people like that, it was Americans. I mean what the fuck are you talking about? I’m French! I was raised in France!
And the Americans in your movie aren’t stereotypical ugly Americans, some of them speak French and they are educated and civilized.
Yeah, they’re very civilized and the French are the barbarians! Obviously it’s not every French person who is like this. But I mean I have part of my family in France that’s a version of white trash beyond what you can imagine. So if people want to see an ideal cute version of France where all the girls are wearing pretty haircuts and cute clothes and are very meek, it’s not that.
For 2 Days in Paris, you wrote, directed, acted, edited, produced wrote music, everything.
For 2 Days in Paris I had to do everything myself because there was no budget, I didn’t have a choice, it was really really hard. I mean it’s lovely to be editing with somebody else. I have this editor who did Skylab and 2 Days in New York, Isabelle Devinck, who’s just great. We get along so well. But it’s a great editing experience, to edit your own film. And I do do a lot of editing. I mean the truth is that I am at the computer editing but then I like to share with someone. Collaboration is great, I mean that’s what movies are about.
You co-wrote the screenplay this time with Alexia Landau and Alex Nahon. What was that process like?
I was writing the screenplay by myself and my mother was in it and then she passed away. So I put it away for six months. I wanted an homage to her a little bit, but making it a comedy, and light, since she was such a fun person to be around.
But I couldn’t do it myself, so Alex helped me recentralize the story without my mother, figure out how to include her without her actually being in it. Alexia is someone I’ve known for a long time, so she joined and we started writing together. It’s fun to write with friends. I’ve worked with other people before like on Before Sunset and Before Sunrise, I wrote with Ethan and Richard and I love co-writing, it’s a lot of fun.
So is this the last in the 2 Days series?
It totally is.
Or maybe not?
Ok, 99.9 percent. I can’t imagine doing another film with this character, she drives me crazy!