Q+A with Ludivine Sagnier at Cinemania

On this side of the Atlantic Ocean we know her as the sexy, bikini-clad temptress in the film "Swimming Pool". In France she is one of the most recognizable young actresses. She has been acting since the age of 10 when she accompanied her sister along to a casting call. Now at the age of 31 she has appeared in over 30 films and been nominated for two Cesar Awards (France's version of the Oscar). After her successful appearance in "Swimming Pool" she could have gone the Hollywood route, but declined to do that and still continues to make films in her native France.

She apologizes for her English, but it is almost perfect in that formal way that people from France speak English. Sagnier was in town recently for the Cinemania Film Festival where two films she stars in, "Love Crime" and "Lily Sometimes", are screening. They are two completely different roles and she is remarkable in both. After each film she graciously stuck around to answer questions.

Q: At Cinemania you play two very oppositional characters. In "Love Crime" your character works in the corporate world and is ambitious and lonely while in "Lily Sometimes" you play a free-spirited woman-child.

Ludivine: Yes, the two films are very different they're like ice and fire. In the corporate thriller Love Crime, Alain Corneau proposed a very cold and inner personality who is obsessed with order and discipline and who doesn't know how to handle her superior (played by Kristin Scott Thomas); she's almost in love with her and can't cope with that.

Q: The role in Lily Sometimes is the opposite – unglamorous with you hugging a turkey and putting a squid on your head. Were you trying to turn your image on its head?

Ludivine: No, II don't feel the need to work on my public image, I just love to blur the lines when I'm acting. Admittedly the turkey and the squid weren't the best times I've had in my life! It was very special to be able to play someone who has such a strong connected to nature. Lily says everything she wants, she's not crazy she's actually quite lucid, pure, brutal and that's so rare. What I like about Lily is that she's free.

Q: How did you go about playing Lily?

Ludivine: That is a big question. I threw myself into the adventure. It was a low budget film. We lived on the farm it was filmed at so were able to immerse ourselves into the life and the characters. The film was shot on video so we didn't have to worry about lighting. It felt like we were shooting a documentary as it seemed very realistic. A very particular film.

Q: How did you prepare for the role?

Ludivine: It was a subject that touched me. The relationship between the two sisters really attracted me. I have an older sister who I love. I tried to keep the childish side of Lily. I am a mother (of two), so I'm a lot more responsible than Lily, but a large part of my childish side is still in me. It (the role) was a gift that the director (Fabienne Berthaud).

Q: Certain scenes in "Lily Sometimes" challenge preconceptions of men.

Ludivine: Lily's purity causes people to accept her. Even when I read this scene (when the three travelling men arrive at the house) I thought "Oh, something bad was going to happen." What follows happens because of Lily's purity. It makes us address what we see as normal.

Q: How much of the novel is in the film?

Ludivine: Most of the scenes were written, but the director made us feel comfortable enough to improvise. Like the scene inside the bus was completely improvised. It was tough because the boys were so young. That one shot took 24 minutes to film, in HD. It was very intense; nothing was written, Fabienne Berthaud had us all improvise. I had to lead the boys like the MC in the circus, even though I was completely submitted to the situation. The boys loved it, but at one point all I could think was: When is she going to yell 'Cut!'?"

Q: How did you go from this character (Lily) to Isabelle (in "Love Crime")?

Ludivine: "Love Crime" is totally different. Isabelle is introverted and cold. I had only 48 hours to go from Lily to Isabelle. That's part of the schizophrenic nature of acting. Lily was still in me trying to get out at times.

Q: What did people say when you told them you were making a film with Kristin Scott Thomas?

Ludivine: People said, "Kristin Scott Thomas?! Oh, you will have trouble filming with her." She has a reputation of being distant. But despite the darkness of the film we laughed a lot while filming.

Q: What motivated you to choose the role of Isabelle, such a psychologically unstable character?

Ludivine: I usually pick roles where the characters are close to me. This was definitely not the case. It took me on a psychological trip to the end of the world. I don't really pick mysteries or thrillers, but once I read the script I was very interested in this story of a woman who has herself arrested in order to be found innocent.

Q: What was it like working with director Alain Corneau on this very feminine film?

Ludivine: He said if he had written the film for men it would have been a totally different film. Women don't have the physical strength, so they have developed more sinister methods of revenge. Corneau was a bit like Isabelle Guerin. One moment he was like a little boy building miniature ships inside of bottles and the next he was very serious. We could tell how happy he was about a scene based on how loud he yelled "Cut!" It's sad that he's not around to see this film being screened. He would've loved to come as he told us he'd been to Montreal several times with his films. He would've been happy with the way it turned out.

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