TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. Our guest, the French actress Juliette Binoche, won an Oscar for her performance in the 1996 film “The English Patient.” She’s also recognized in America for her roles in the films “Chocolat,” “The Unbearable Lightness Of Being” and “Clouds Of Sils Maria.” She’s now on stage at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in the title part of the Greek tragedy “Antigone.” This production of the Sophocles play, with a new translation, was initial performed in Luxembourg, London and Edinburgh earlier this year and will tour in October with performances in Chapel Hill, Ann Arbor and the Kennedy Center. We’re going to hear the interview Binoche recorded for our show with FRESH AIR contributor Anna Sale, who hosts the podcast Death, Sex & Money. In “Antigone,” Binoche plays the daughter of Oedipus. Her brother fought and died in a civil war. He’s deemed a traitor by her uncle, King Creon, the ruler of Thebes. Creon has decreed that the brother should not be afforded the dignity of a burial. Antigone defies the order, buries her brother and is sentenced to death. She says she’s responding to a larger demand than the ruling of an authoritarian king. This clip is from a BBC film made of the production.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, “ANTIGONE”)
JULIETTE BINOCHE: (As Antigone) What they get in touch with law did not commence these days or yesterday. When they say law, they do not imply a statute of these days or yesterday. They mean the unwritten, unfaltering, unshakable ordinances of the gods that no human becoming can ever wrap around. These laws reside forever. No one particular knows how they were born. You believed I would transgress them for fear of some mere mortal man’s decree. No.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
ANNA SALE, BYLINE: Juliette Binoche, welcome to FRESH AIR.
BINOCHE: Thank you extremely much for getting me.
SALE: What about this play in distinct, this tragedy, have been you drawn to?
BINOCHE: Sophocles is still – 2,500 years following, he’s nevertheless bringing so much truth in our lives. I am fascinated by it and how can a play – can survive that quantity of time, ’cause it does bring the concerns about the politics, the gods, the belief. It really is a extremely potent play.
SALE: One particular of the concerns is what is the suitable remedy of terrorists – men and women who had been deemed terrorists by the state? And just months just before the play opened in London, there were, of course, the shootings in Paris, the Charlie Hebdo shootings. I wonder how did that – did that affect your interpretation of the play and how you saw your character?
BINOCHE: It did bring some inquiries to me due to the fact I was reading in the newspaper that the criminals who did that – nobody wanted to bury them. The area, you know, exactly where they had been born or were raised did not want to bury them. Everyone was trying to steer clear of it, and a Muslim neighborhood, finally, in the middle of the night, buried them, hidden from the other folks. And it truly brought the question to me, you know, simply because Antigone, my character in the play, is burying her brother, who’s a criminal, as well. And no one wants to bury him. But Antigone, his sister, wants to bury him. And so I believed, OK, this is the case of the jihadists, you know, who – no one wants to bury them, and yet they are becoming buried. I know me, Juliette, I would bury anybody. If you happen to be a human being, no matter what you have accomplished, you have to bury your people. That is the law that is beyond, for me, queries. It’s part of what we do. We have to bury our men and women. It says in “Oedipus At Colonus” that if you do not bury somebody, their soul will wander about for the – till the eternity – the end of the eternity, which is in no way. And so, for me, most likely ’cause I am a mother and there is something about providing birth, you give the body the possibility to live. You have to take care of it till the finish. It’s – there is no query to me. The moral judgment, you know, the very good and bad is somehow on yet another level.
SALE: A single of your very first starring roles, in 1985’s “Rendez-vous,” was co-written by Olivier Assayas. And, practically 30 years later, he wrote and directed you in the film, the “Clouds Of Sils Maria,” which came out last year. In the role he wrote for you, you play a lauded and prolific actor, a lot like yourself, who is returning to a play that created the character well-known. The twist in the film is that when you had been young, you played the young ingenue, a character named Sigrid. Now you happen to be playing an older, somewhat bitter woman named Helena who falls in enjoy with Sigrid. Let’s listen to a clip, and to set it up, you have been giving notes to the young actress who’s now playing opposite you – the actress is named Jo-Ann, played by Chloe Grace Moretz – and you happen to be asking her about a pivotal scene where you’re playing the older character, Helena. And Jo-Snn, the younger actress, is playing Sigrid, the part you played years before.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, “CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA”)
BINOCHE: (As Maria Enders) I wanted to ask you. You know the scene at the starting of act three, when you inform me you want to leave and I get on my knees and I beg you to remain – you happen to be on the telephone ordering pepperoncini pizza for your coworkers in accounting. What – you leave without hunting at me, as if I did not exist. If you could pause for a second, you know, Helena’s distress would final longer when she’s left alone in her office. Properly, the way you’re playing it, the audience follows you out but instantly forgets about her, so…
CHLOE GRACE MORETZ: (As Jo-Ann Ellis) So – so what?
BINOCHE: (As Maria Enders) Properly, when I played Sigrid, I held it longer. I thought it was a lot more effective and dramatic. I imply, it actually played nicely.
MORETZ: (As Jo-Ann Ellis) Effectively, no one actually gives a [expletive] about Helena at that point, do they? I am sorry, but, I mean, it’s fairly clear to me this poor woman’s all washed up. I mean your character, correct, not you.
SALE: You 1st had your breakthrough roles as that young ingenue, and you are at a diverse point in your profession now. Have you felt the require to reinvent yourself, as your character in this film does?
BINOCHE: You know, ingenue does not imply something to me, you know, because this innocence that has – the flavor of innocence in the ingenue word is, for me – you can be ingenue at any age. Innocence has practically nothing to do with age. And I would even say that as you peeling off in your life, you turn out to be far more and more oneself. You take away all the education, all the fears. For me, it is – there are changes in life, you know, that undoubtedly – you can not hold on to things when you’re reaching at a particular age due to the fact when you happen to be holding on, it doesn’t operate. And this scene you just played is a pivotal scene for my character in the film simply because it’s the moment where she sees there’s no going back. And when she accepts that she can not possess anyone, she can’t alter anything, she cannot – she does not have the power as just before, somehow she gets onto one more level of consciousness and onto a level of freedom. And you gain your freedom to get to the core of oneself. That’s truly what I am experiencing.
SALE: The character that you play in the film, named Marie Enders, has several similarities with you in your career. You both broke out…
BINOCHE: Oh, you consider that.
BINOCHE: (Laughter) And the director tends to make you consider that. That is how excellent he is.
SALE: You can tell me the methods that you’re really distinct from Marie, but there are notable similarities. You each broke out as young actors on stage.
BINOCHE: That’s what occurs to actors, largely.
SALE: That is true. You both performed in “The Seagull,” both you and the character in the film.
BINOCHE: Yeah, that – I stated to him, you tricky, you know, simply because you take real details and put it in your – into your film. And he laughed simply because he knows it is correct.
GROSS: We’re listening to the interview FRESH AIR contributor Anna Sale recorded with FRESH AIR – with French actress Juliette Binoche. Following we take a brief break, we’ll speak about how Binoche was found by the French film director, Jean-Luc Godard. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. Let’s get back to the interview FRESH AIR contributor Anna Sale recorded with French actress Juliette Binoche, who is now starring in a production of “Antigone” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
SALE: You were just turning 20 years old when a photo of you caught the eye of Jean-Luc Godard. And he approached you about a meeting.
SALE: You starred in his 1985 film, “Hail Mary.” Do you know what he was responding to from that photograph of you? Do you have a sense?
BINOCHE: Effectively, to tell you the truth, it was my initial boyfriend. He was an Italian, superb person, really, really good and quite generous. He really took care of me when I had no place to reside, no income, no practically nothing, and I was, you know, being a cashier in a large division retailer and performing my theater classes in the evening simply because my parents couldn’t assist me financially. And I bear in mind – he was taking images at the time. He had a camera and I asked him to take pictures of me. And I would create the images myself in the bathroom, you know, building my films and undertaking – because it was much less high-priced. So one particular day, I asked him to do the photos (laughter), and he did not want to do it. And I was really pissed with him simply because I required these images. So finally he took those photos, but my expression was, like, pissed off at him.
BINOCHE: And my eyes had been really saying it. So I think that the intensity of my face in this image – it was the picture that Godard liked, you know?
SALE: What was it like to work with Godard at the extremely begin of your career?
BINOCHE: You know, when I feel back, I recognize him far more than at the time when I worked with him since, as a young actress, you know I was coming out of this school and the teacher – my teacher at the time was just so – taking time, being generous, you know, and mothering me. So when I went to Jean-Luc Godard’s film, I believed, he’s going to support me, of course, and it wasn’t that at all. He only had five individuals shooting, you know, the sound engineer, the DP, the – possibly a script. And I keep in mind he was very impatient. But when I look back, he always wanted – he always shot when he truly felt like shooting. So there was some type of sincere require that he was in touch with, with himself. And that I really appreciate now that I know it. At the time, I remember that I didn’t know which way to go ’cause one particular day he was providing me a monologue and stated I am going to put an ear plug in your ear and give you the text because it was a single day after the other and I did not have the memory to, you know, execute this monologue. And then I arrive on the set, you know, ready to go with this monologue and he mentioned, no, fine, you just say those two sentences. That is sufficient. You know, so I had to adapt with his emotions going up and down. So I was very insecure. I knew – couldn’t bear any makeup and – simply because I was obtaining red like crazy, at the time. You know, my emotions had been really close to my skin. So I remember becoming extremely ashamed of all the reds coming up my cheeks – things like that, you know, easy factors.
SALE: Both of your parents have been performers. Your mother was an actress, your father, an actor and director.
BINOCHE: So my father, really, was touring around the globe in a theater, you know, group he had.
BINOCHE: He was not sending funds so it was really insecure sometime. My mother – she was an actress. She was, you know, studying all – in all this. And then, at 30 years old, she stopped everything and went into studying literature – French literature. And she got her exams and she became a teacher. So that was very courageous of her. But then, at 50 years old, she stopped every thing and went back to acting and directing and writing, as nicely. So I had parents that have been quite sort of accessible to whatever they had been feeling they necessary to do somehow. They didn’t try to be too standard. In that way, that was a fantastic, you know, model as you go with what is inside. It does not appear secure from outside, but inside, you have to start off from inside. And that is truly what happened. So regardless of whether I was an actor or painter or dancer, it didn’t matter – or what ever I wanted to do, it didn’t matter. It’s just that you stick to what’s inside.
SALE: So you began studying theater and acting…
BINOCHE: Very young.
SALE: …As a teenager.
SALE: And then you lived with your sister right after leaving college?
BINOCHE: At 15 years old I was nevertheless at college and had the idea whether or not I was going to go to a boarding college, you know, an hour from exactly where my mother was living or go to Paris with my sister and live there with my grandmother, truly, was functioning. We were living in a Presbyterian since she was the cook of the priest. And we had – we rented to all – know all the details, sorry about that – and we rented a small old studio there where I lived with my sister.
SALE: You and your sister – how old had been you?
BINOCHE: I was 15.
SALE: And how old was she?
SALE: How did your connection with your sister modify when you became popular?
BINOCHE: She went to China for a year during that period of time when I became a lot more properly-known actress in France. So when she came back from China, she was extremely shocked. And she truly changed her name because every single time she had to sign a verify she had to say how we have been connected and all that. And it was really a discomfort in the ass for her.
BINOCHE: So, you know, I entirely understand. Almost certainly not simple for her to start off with. Now – I mean, we talked a lot about it. We’re very close.
SALE: I want to ask you about what occurred in your life in 1996 when “The English Patient” came out and was this crucial and commercial juggernaut, winning nine Oscars, such as yours for Greatest Supporting Actress. How did starring in that film alter your life?
BINOCHE: The shooting was – the – to start off with, actually, my hands were trembling. I was so frightened. I do not know why. I think it had to do with the challenge of it. There was one thing that I was playing this function scared me. I do not know precisely what it was but there was an inside feeling that produced me shake. And then the second month of shooting, I was entirely confident because I was in his arms, somehow, in Anthony Minghella’s arms, due to the fact Anthony Minghella was a force.
SALE: The director.
BINOCHE: He was – he has this capacity to assistance in being present and intelligent and adapting himself. And he had a vision of his film fairly clear and extremely supportive and loving. And so out of that, the whirlwind of the promotion and the quantity of interviews we did for the film around the world, traveling about, it was, like, new to me. But, you know, to tell you the truth, just ahead of the Oscar – three months prior to – I was fired from a film. And it was the most horrible knowledge I had because I’ve by no means been fired by anybody due to the fact I give myself so much – 200 %. I did not count on it. And I was genuinely at the bottom of the – how do you say – of the properly.
BINOCHE: That, you know, three months before – and so when I got the Oscar, it was like a large joke to me. I just could laugh inside so much because life is – it in no way ends, you know? It’s constantly surprising you.
SALE: Did it transform your life?
BINOCHE: It transforms my interviews.
SALE: That is funny. Juliette Binoche, thank you so considerably for joining us on FRESH AIR. Thank you extremely considerably.
GROSS: Juliette Binoche spoke with FRESH AIR contributor Anna Sale, who hosts the WNYC podcast, Death, Sex & Funds. Binoche is starring in a production of “Antigone” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with performances through October four.
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