Julie Delpy :: Indie Triple-Threat with ’2 Days in New York’
Julie Delpy is best-known to American audiences for her performance as Céline, the French woman Ethan Hawke meets on a train enroute to Vienna in Richard Linklater’s romantic dramedy "Before Sunrise." In reviewing the film for Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman wrote, "Small movies can be as daring as big ones, and Linklater, in his offhand way, is working without a net here. ’Before Sunrise’ may be the closest an American has come to the discursive talk gamesmanship of Eric Rohmer."
Perhaps it is Delpy’s presence that brought to mind Rohmer, whose witty comedies are amongst the most trenchant in examining the relationship between the sexes, which Linklater deftly explored in this seminal indie movie of the 1990s. Its success led to her to again be teamed with Hawke (and Linklater) for a sequel - "Before Sunrise" - that has the couple meeting nine years later, this time in Paris.
She made her film debut with pretty auspicious company: at the age of 14 in Jean-Luc Godard’s "Détective." That was in 1985, since then Delpy has appeared in more than fifty film and television projects with such renowned directors as Bertrand Tavernier, Agnieszka Holland and Krysztof Kieslowski (in his trilogy of films called "Three Colors"). In the States she has appeared in films directed by Linklater, Lasse Hallström and Jim Jarmusch.
Perhaps all this behind-the-scenes-training influenced Delpy to want to go behind the camera. It would be hard to believe she didn’t learn a thing or three over the past 25 years. But what is most impressive about her directorial output is how distinctively her it is. Her mantra as a director seems to "be yourself," and the loose, breezily hilarious nature of her third film as a director, "2 Days in New York," is positively Delpy.
If the title seems vaguely familiar it’s because her latest, in theaters in New York and Los Angeles before going into limited release around the country, is something of a sequel to her 2007 "2 Days In Paris," her second feature as a director.
In that film, which Delpy starred, wrote and directed, she played Marion, a French photographer living in New York that takes a disastrous trip to Europe with her neurotic boyfriend. In the new film (which she co-wrote, directs and stars) she again plays Marion; but it is five years later and she is living with a new boyfriend - played by Chris Rock - along with children from their previous relationships. Their domestic bliss is challenged with the arrival of some members of her family, including her father (played by Delpy’s real-life dad Albert).
EDGE sat down with the acclaimed actress to talk about switching beaus for the new film and whether or not she had to wrangle Chris Rock to give such a quiet performance. And of course, we grill her on whether she’ll finally get around to a third "Before Sunrise" movie with Linklater and Ethan Hawke.
Another ’Sunrise’ film?
EDGE: So you really seem to love coming back for sequels years after the fact. You did the ’Sunrise’ series with Richard Linklater, popped up throughout the ’Three Colors Trilogy’ and now a sequel to a film you directed.
Julie Delpy: It’s a weird thing doing sequels to independent films. Because really, no one’s ever that interested! What’s interesting, to do a sequel with these characters, is that it’s almost like the Antoine Doinel thing, where Truffaut was revisiting the same character over the years in real time. It’s a real progression, it’s an interesting concept. To continue characters. To not let them die after the film is done.
EDGE: So is it safe to say we’ll be spending two days in another city eventually?
Julie Delpy: I don’t know if I’ll do a third ’Two Days’ anywhere! [laughs] I don’t know about ’Sunrise’/’Sunset’ - maybe, we’ll see - but it’s too early for this one to know if I’ll do a third one. And for ’Sunrise,’ we are talking about it. So I don’t know, we’ll see how we put it together.
Casting Chris Rock
EDGE: How’d you come to cast Chris Rock for the role of your husband?
Julie Delpy: Well basically he’s the first person who came to my mind when I decided to write a sequel. I love his work, I met him briefly at Comic-Con, and I was like, ’OK, if I do a sequel, Marion is not going to be with the same guy.’ Even if you did think at the end of the first film that it worked out for good and she’s going to accept all his flaws and he’s going to accept her flaws.... Eventually the compromise, well, she can’t take it anymore. She decided to move on.
You saw the film? [I nod.] You see the bit with the flashback where she explains that she hasn’t had sex in forever, and she’s complaining all the time about everything, so eventually she meets someone who maybe gets her more, and she moves on. I think -it was a funny idea to do a sequel with a different man. Because [it makes it more focused on] the quest of a woman to figure out her life. Which is often more given to men, in a weird way. Men have the complexity of questioning their own life when women tend to be more one-dimensional characters.
EDGE: It’s almost amazing how reserved he is throughout the film. The biggest surprise is that he’s the straight man, comedy-wise. Did you have to reign him in, as the woman behind the camera?
Julie Delpy: When he read the screenplay I think that is what he liked. That it wasn’t the typical Chris Rock, making his stand-up routine part of every scene. I mean there are a few moments that are ’Chris Rock moments.’ I did write those with that in mind, like the [talking to a cardboard cutout of] Obama thing. When I was writing the screenplay that was one of the first things that came to mind, the monologues to Obama. But I like to base things in reality, even in comedy. They could just be people, you know? It’s over-the-top at times, but it’s rooted in reality.
Working with great directors
EDGE: The amount of great directors you’ve worked with is staggering. But did any of them leave a particularly huge impact on your work as a filmmaker?
Julie Delpy: You know, they all did. The main thing that I’ve learned from all those people is that you shouldn’t try to imitate anyone, or do things that you’re not. The best example for me is like, David Lynch. Why is David Lynch making David Lynch movies? When you meet David Lynch, you know why he’s making David Lynch movies. Because he can’t do anything else! It’s the same with Godard, it’s the same with Kieslowski. Kieslowski makes these films because - when you meet Kieslowski you understand. What I’ve learned is to not imitate and to really be yourself as a director. I just do what’s in-tune to who I am.
EDGE: I read recently that you had been cast in a part for what was to be Robert Altman’s last film, before he passed.
Julie Delpy: I think that was misquoted, I wasn’t [it was actually Rock who had been cast in the unmade picture.] But I knew Bob Altman, I met him a few times, and I loved his films. I like the way he handles groups, and reality, and naturalism. I saw this film again, ’A Wedding’ - which is actually not a perfect film, but there are moments of brilliance. It’s like, you know, it’s so free. It’s great to see movies that are free.
Nowadays everything is controlled. Everyone is a control freak. And I love seeing movies where you feel the freedom of expression; it’s very refreshing. So I was watching ’A Wedding’ the other day and I had that feeling, and I was watching another film before that [where I felt it], a Pasolini film, ’The Decameron.’ That’s actually quite sexual but it’s so pure, so beautiful. I find now cinema is formulated, it lacks freedom - freedom of speech, freedom of thinking. It’s like bookends.
That’s why I love cinema from the 70s. Early Scorsese, late Huston - there’s something, it’s not perfect at the edges - it’s the cinema I love.
"2 Days in New York" is currently in theaters in New York and Los Angeles. On August 17, 2012 it opens in Berkeley, CA; San Diego, CA; San Francisco, CA; Coral Gables, FL; Chicago, IL; Cambridge, MA; Provincetown, MA; Washington DC; and Philadelphia, PA. Further openings are on August 24 and August 31 in other metropolitan areas. For more details, visit ww.magpictures.com/dates.aspx?id=f3bde890-a7a7-41b9-97a6-88722fde83c5:the Magnolia Pictures website.
Watch the trailer to "2 Days in New York":