Vanessa Paradis on What Makes a Good Romance and Why She Hasn't Starred Opposite Her Husband, Johnny Depp
Here's one notable difference between France's film industry and America's: Vanessa Paradis is among the country's most famous actresses (not to mention a well-known singer and the wife of Johnny Depp), and yet she had never really made a romantic comedy until Heartbreaker, opening in the States on September 10. In it, Paradis plays a cool and collected woman about to be married who meets a romantic rogue (Romain Duris) hired by her father to seduce her and break up the wedding. She told Movieline how she lobbied to make the script more romantic, how she manages to balance all her separate careers, and why she didn't end up in the Pirates of the Caribbean role that sounded tailor-made for her.
I've heard you had a lot of input into the screenplay. What did you want to see changed?
When I first read the script, I liked it and I actually laughed. It was the first romantic comedy I'd been offered where I thought, "That's good! I think I like that!" I met Pascal Chaumeil, the director, and he talked about his influences and which direction he would like to take the movie -- and he was talking about Billy WIlder and Capra and Lubitsch and all those guys. I thought, "Yay!" He was talking about the charm and the quick pace that those movies have. I thought, "That is a man that I could trust."
Still, there were a few things missing. A lot of gags were written to be funny, and there are actors in the cast who could improvise a lot of tremendous, funny stuff that wasn't in the script, but what is it that makes a romantic comedy romantic? When you do a romantic comedy, either you're really bad and people say, "Oof. That was the worst movie this year," or if you're good, you make people want to fall in love. We just had to put our characters in situations that would lead the audience to say, "I want to be in their place." So we worked on making the romance more believable and not too cliched, even though when the movie starts, you know where it's ending. It's the way you get there that's the interesting part.
Most romantic comedies aspire to end with a beautiful wedding, but as Heartbreaker goes on, we slowly realize that it's exactly what your character doesn't want.
Yeah, but remember something like The Graduate -- these great movies you like -- where there's a twist at the end. I think it's more romantic this way because it's more surprising. She falls for the guy who...well, I was going to say, "who most women wouldn't marry," but you've got two kinds. [In romance] you can either be comfortable and surprised. Sometimes you get both, but it's difficult! [Laughs]
Your character actually has this free spirit--
--and yet society has sort of rushed her into this conventional life she may not prefer.
But it's not just society, it's her. She must have hurt herself in the past. You learn a few things that lead you to think, "OK, she's setting up her life and protecting herself so that she won't get hurt. She wants to be safe." Past experience has led her to behave through her brain and never again through her heart. A lot of people are like that.
An American remake of the film has already been announced. What do you think of that?
I guess it's a good compliment. Like when people copy designers' clothes, you can get annoyed all you want, but it's actually a compliment. I understand they would like to do it with well-known faces so they could reach a major audience, and that's pretty predictable, but it means that our movie has potential.
You haven't really made romantic comedies -- although your character is rather serious for most of the film.
Very, yeah. I'm the serious one. I was scared of that.
Why was that scary?
Because it's not nice to be a...
Stick in the mud?
Yeah! But they needed one, so...
But isn't it enjoyable to be able to torment someone like Romain Duris?
Very much! Especially in Chanel shoes and dresses and all those fabulous clothes. She gets to play with it and she eventually gets to move on to fun things when she has this crazy night and gets to swim and talk and dance and all that stuff. I get my part of the fun.
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