Juliette Binoche: The Secret Meaning of Binoche

"Do you know who runs the big studios in Hollywood? Or care?"

"No. I met a few of them, but I wouldn't remember the names. Also they're changing all the time, I heard."

"What's the best lie you've ever been told in Hollywood?"

"The best line?" Binoche asks.

"No, the best lie. You know, like, 'We won't use the nude scene unless you approve it.'"

"Lie, line, they have about the same meaning in Hollywood, no? But the best lie is probably, Juliette, you're the greatest.'"

"Do you like to gossip with your friends?"

"Is that what we're doing here?" Binoche asks suspiciously.

"No, this is called talking."

"I hate gossip," says Binoche. "Do you gossip?"

"Juliette, in America gossip is a national pastime. Of course I gossip with my friends. It's not like the French don't."

"Maybe they do, but not me. I don't understand it. People want to know the most intimate things. Why?"

"Perhaps they think your life is more interesting than theirs."

Binoche thinks I'm kidding.

"When you made The Horseman on the Roof, you fell in love with your costar, Olivier Martinez. Does he live here with you?"

Binoche gives a tiny shake to her head, which seems to be friendly Parisian for "Don't even think about going there." She is notoriously private, but it's rumored that Olivier moved into this house with her last spring. And when the front door opened, I caught a glimpse of the back of a man who certainly could have been Martinez. Martinez is not the father of Binoche's son--that man is a professional scuba diver named Andre Halle, and I'm sure Binoche is not going to talk about him, either. And she's definitely not going to speak about Daniel Day-Lewis, who was reportedly her lover during the making of The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

"Let's talk about Damage," I say, bringing up the movie that Binoche did with Jeremy Irons, who I can only hope was not her lover. "That was an incredible book about obsession, but I think it got ruined as a film."

"As a lot of people know, I wasn't very happy shooting that movie," she says. "It was a difficult film to make. Jeremy and I had wonderful conversations--I find him very intelligent--but it was difficult to work with him on the set. And I'm not hiding it, because that's what I feel. At the same time, I don't want to judge it, because you have to allow people to be different, and it doesn't mean that he's like that now."

"What about the sex in Damage? The movie was supposed to be sexy, but there was that scene where he's banging your head on the floor. . . and you kept doing it standing up. I've tried that in real life, and it doesn't work too well."

Binoche laughs. "I think Louis Malle had a different vision for the film than I did. But what can I do now?"

I am hesitating at the thought of bringing up Binoche's film Blue because I always have such an emotional reaction even to thinking about it. It's about a woman overcoming a painful catastrophe and then finding out an absolutely disillusioning secret and dealing with that and becoming an amazing, loving person. I cried my eyes out when I saw it and now I can feel my throat tightening.

"In Blue, you play a woman who loses her husband and her child in a car accident, and then, afterwards, finds out that her husband was not the man she thought he was ..."

Right at this point, I'm not kidding, I burst into tears! I am completely flustered. Binoche stops, the food in her mouth unchewed, while she takes all this in.

"Are you OK?" she finally asks.

"Yes, fine," I say. It's pretty apparent that I'm not. "It's just that movie really struck a chord in me. I'm so sorry." Tears are spilling onto the table. My nose is running.

Binoche just smiles and rubs my hand. "It's OK," she says. "Even better than OK. For a movie to make someone feel so much is a wonderful thing for an actor to hear."

God, no wonder she got cast as Hana.

"Kieslowski was a great man," Binoche continues, speaking of the director who died last year. "He had the capacity to make pictures that talked about more than just the story. Blue was one of the happiest experiences I ever had, because he knew how to communicate. You never had to guess. Almost everything in that film was done in one take. I'd ask a question, he'd say yes or no, and that was it--I understood completely. When he died my heart broke. That man could really make you cry."

Binoche stops, afraid she's making everything worse. But I've finally pulled myself together.

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  • Mike Dearing says:

    What an amazing interview with Juliette Binoche, by Martha Frankel. So revealing about many things borne out by what the actress said later in life. I only regret not reading it when first posted.
    Juliette B is an amazingly talented actor and painter; brimming with humanity and an example for other woman to follow. I absolutely concur with MF about The English Patient: I too was frustrated by the scenario switches to the desert away from the more compelling story of Hana and the patient; even more so after reading Ondaatje's novel. Still Minghella's film was a masterpiece and JB deserved her Oscar (should have been awarded for Best Actress though).
    Tant pis, c'est la vie