Interview Russia May 2012 : Vanessa Paradis by Boo George
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Join Date: May 2009
Vanessa Paradis by Boo George | Interview Russia May 2012
st: Karen Kaiser
hair: Serena Radaelli
make-up: Francesca Tolot
nails: Madeline Poole
Scanned by Stereo_Flo
by GASPARD ULLIEL
Paradis’ new role in the drama “Cafe de Flore” is fundamentally changing our idea of the univer¬sal notion of a sweet girl from Paris. The actress grew up under the floodlights and can now stand on her own.
In her fortieth year, Vanessa Paradis has the status of one of France’s most important artistic exports. Fellow actor Gaspard Ulliel, who played young Hannibal Lecter in 2007, met with Vanessa in Tokyo: both came to support Karl Lagerfeld’s photo project “The Little Black Jacket”. Ulliel, Paradis and other friends of the designer were photographed for the exhibition in the brand’s legendary black jacket. During the break between the press conference and the show, Vanessa and Gaspard lock themselves up in a room on the 67th floor of the Park Hyatt hotel in Tokyo in order to have a heart to heart talk. The futuristic stone megalopolis lies outside the window as if in the palms of their hands, reminding them of astronauts flying in space capsule.
GASPARD: When they proposed that I meet you, I didn’t hesitate for a second, I immediately said “yes”. And only then did I think: “How terrible! How stupid journalists must feel”. Even giving and interview is at times far from pleasant.
VANESSA: Relax, think of it as a conversation between two fellow actors.
GASPARD: And so it shall be! You are already doing something similar with Patti Smith for Ameri-can Interview. Do you frequently visit Japan?
VANESSA: No, I just flew here for the second time in my life. My first trip here was 18 years ago as part of the promotional campaign for the film “Elisa”, I worked like mad, I didn’t really see anything.
GASPARD: That happens a lot. People come here to work. I’ve been here five or six times. First my fiance wanted to settle here, and I came for her. And then for work. Frankly, I don’t like Tokyo—it’s not very hospitable for foreigners. There are no signs in English, orienting yourself is impossible. There are people who simply love it, but this is really not me.
VANESSA: Yeah, most of my friends love Tokyo. I’m amazed by the politeness and delicacy here, the local residents are very touching.
GASPARD: There is an island here called Naoshima. It was created completely by the architect Tadao Andohe is considered to be a living god. This is real contemporary art—and the entire island is filled with art objects. It’s worth seeing. Although it seems that this time we again won’t manage to see anything, Karl thought up a full program. Have you known him long?
VANESSA: In 1992 I was already the face of the perfume Coco by Chanel, where Karl was creative director. And in 2005 he chose me for a handbag advertising campaign. Unfortunately, almost all our time together we are working. I feel an incredible respect and fondness for him. He is very witty, is never angry or rude, even as a joke. His deliberate polite¬ness is something from the Japanese.
GASPARD: How did the shoot for The Little Black Jacket go?
VANESSA: Everything was decided in five minutes, thanks to Karl’s energy. The photographs turned out so spontaneous, people are totally relaxed in them, so that you feel each one’s personality.
GASPARD: You know, in studying your biogra-phy, I noticed that we have a lot in common. I got into cinema completely by accident. I’ve been in films since I was 11—12 years old, after I became acauainted with a friend of my mother. At the time she was working in an agency and was looking for a young actor. It was only after some time that I be¬gan to have real passion for this work. But at first...
VANNESSA: It was just by chance?
GASPARD: Yes. Well, you also got into movies early. I wanted to ask you: did you work towards a film career for a long time, or did someone offer you a role right after your first album?
VANESSA: I always wanted to work in cinema. Musical comedies were my first love. There is every-thing there: music, film, dance. I also began to sing due to this love. The first 10 years my own uncle was my manager, so my meeting with music wasn’t acci-dental. He took me everywhere, including to the studio, where I met the producers of Franck Langolff and Etienne Roda-Gil, the future writers of my first album. Before that they worked with Sophie Marceau. I remember when I met her...
GASPARD: No way, you met Marceau?
VANESSA: Just imagine! On that day I stopped by the recording studio for the first time. I had never before seen how it all worked, and a new place is opening up before me, where you sing and music is recorded. I was impressed! No less than by meeting with Sophie Marceau herself. Our friendship essentially began then, if it’s really appropriate to speak of a friendship between a teenager, a grown woman and two 40-year old men. Franck and Etienne were just trying to please me: I was always singing under my breath, and as a result they wrote me one song. Not with a career in mind, but just for fun. And although “Joe le Taxi” became wildly popular, we didn’t create it for profit.
GASPARD: It was all spontaneous?
VANESSA: Absolutely. However, soon these adult men decided that they needed to sell this song, that someone would be interested in it. It came out in April, and it was a number one hit already in July.
GASPARD: I remember this moment perfectly. Unforgettable!
VANESSA: Such things very rarely happen. After this stunning success I also began to think about a film career. Everything actually happened so fast that I didn’t even have time to say to myself: “When I grow up, I will be a singer or an actress”.
GASPARD: I get it! I didn’t have this heavy phase when you wonder what you’ll do after you finish school. The opposite, you’re already working with all your might, while your friends are worried about how best to finish college...Do I understand right that Jean-Claude Brisseau (the director of Paradis’ debut movie.—Interview) himself got in touch with you?
VANESSA: Well, Brisseau was prompted by financial problems. First it should have been Charlotte Valandrey: Brisseau gave her a lot of work, she even lost weight for the role. But he could only get money for the project if it had a big star, and so to complete filming he decided to put me in the role.
GASPARD: That was your first offer?
VANESSA: No, there were others, but it didn’t want to do them, I wasn’t interested. But Brisseau is a serious, respected director.
GASPARD: But did you have time for school?
VANESSA: Nah. I quit. I didn’t have brilliant marks in school: there was no time, I was on tour in Germany. Do you mind if I smoke?
GASPARD: Of course not!
VANESSA: It was very difficult in school. (Rolls a cigarette.)
GASPARD: The same. When I returned after a film, it took a long time to adapt to school life. I was spending all my time with adults.
VANESSA: And in extreme conditions!
GASPARD: For sure, where you start growing up fast. Then you suddenly find yourself at your school desk, but you feel absolutely out of place.
VANESSA: I agree. You know there is this thing: in film you feel more protected than in music,
because you can hide behind a character and the director. In music, even if you don’t write your own songs (and in those years I was not yet writing), you are on the frontlines. This arouses admiration or hatred in people, but in any case this is a far more radical feeling, since it’s not filtered through a role. I never expected that “Joe le Taxi” would become a colossal success. I was living in the suburbs then, where there was no lycee. Every morning I sat on the subway and went to school with 1500 strangers.
GASPARD: Poor thing!
VANESSA: I had only one friend. Just like you said, this chasm between show business and every-day life was really shocking: on the subway at rush hour with all these people looking at me like a monkey in a cage, and right after this—on a film set with a constantly shouting director. In her time my mom received 19 out of 20 points on her baccalaureate exams, and for my relatives my academic success was vital. My father was the opposite, grew up in a simple family, worked since the age of 14 and learned everything on his own. So in my family there was some balance. The Brisseau film was being shot in spring at the end of the school year just when my exams would take place. There was no question about this. So I informed my mom that I was quitting school. To my surprise she answered: “Go for it!”
GASPARD: So your parents easily gave you your freedom? Without hysterics?
VANESSA: Yes, without a scandal. We were always very close and were able to listen to each other. I announced that I was going on a two-month shoot and will return just in time for exams—and without preparing there was no way to pass them. On top of that they are fatalists, and they passed that on to me as well. I really didn’t know how long it would last, whether I would continue my career, but to us it was important to not let the opportunity pass by.
GASPARD: You were lucky. The majority of parents wouldn’t have agreed, because it was all so risky.
VANESSA: You said it! Soon my daughter will be 13. Sometimes I wonder if she were to do the same as me, that everyone would watch my child, discuss, criticize. Terrible! Now I understand better how a mother feels, how it is to have a daughter that age that has begun working. My parents definitely cared, but they felt how important it was for me. And I wanted to sing and play in movies so much!
GASPARD: Do you have musical education?
VANESSA: None whatsoever. For exactly a year and a half I had ear training. But then I have a good ear, I always sang and learned along the way.
GASPARD: Well, you had great “teachers”: Lenny Kravitz, Matthieu Chedid, Gainsbourg. You’re generally surrounded by exceptional people. You’ve done movies with Belmondo, Delon, Depardieu. What is it—you’re power of attraction or the long arm of coincidence?
VANESSA: It’s just unfolded that way.
GASPARD: But have you still applied some effort to it?
VANESSA: How to put it. Take Gainsbourg— for me he was a real dream, I would have never dared to approach him. But when I heard what he said about me on the radio—and in such a sweet way! We were looking for a co-author at that moment for my next album. And so we went to Serge. He was very busy: preparing an album with Jane, shooting a film, doing a ton of things at the same time. We had a slate of 12 songs, and we proposed that he choose one. But he said that he liked them all. I just lost the gift of speech: “Yes, yes, of course”. So he recorded an album for us. Then there was Lenny Kravitz. My music label wanted me to do an album in English to advance me abroad. At that time Lenny had just put out his first CD, and I was crazy about that disc.
GASPARD: Did you learn English from him?
VANESSA (laughs): Yeah, during the process. The funniest thing was that after the first song came out I had to give interviews in English, and it was a real disaster. I made horrible mistakes, uttered things I didn’t mean, was made fun of all the time. In New York I was surrounded by these guys who used street slang, and as a result I began to talk like a guy.
GASPARD: In ghetto language?
VANESSA: Exactly! It was really not ladylike. (Laughs.)
GASPARD: Tell me about the differences between Americans and the French: did you feel it, living in Los Angeles and New York?
VANESSA: The first two-three years of my popularity in France were quite difficult. They love to put people on Olympus and then make every effort to pull them down. This is very French. When I recorded with Kravitz, I was 18 years old. I walked around New York, no one recognized me, I was free and happy. Americans generally are very friendly. Even if you’re just walking down the street and happen to meet some stranger’s eyes, he will greet you.
GASPARD: When it concerns work, they are also very friendly. But then you still have the thought that this is a double-edged sword. Of course, they have the appearance of being open, but this covers up something more. I don’t have the heart to call it duplicitous, but still.
VANESSA: This benevolence as an idea comes from the notion that in this country everyone has an opportunity, a chance.
GASPARD: Where do you live now?
VANESSA: 50/50. It depends on the work schedule. In recent years we have been spending a lot of time in Los Angeles, but every three months I come to Paris. I miss it very much.
GASPARD: And I sometimes miss Los Angeles. It sounds corny, but I like that there is real contact with nature there. You take a car and go to the desert or to the sea. This is what I really miss in Paris or New York. The longer I live, the more clearly I understand that I need to live outside a closed urban space.
VANESSA: When you live for a long time in the city, when you are tied to children, cares, you can’t go to the mountains or the desert. It just that you don’t have children, they change everything, a trip to nature turns into a whole story. In Los Angeles I like that there are no seasons, blue sky, palm trees. But when the sky is blue every day, it gets boring. Now everything is changing there, they are making fewer movies in Los Angeles, primarily due to the taxes.
GASPARD: In April your new movie “Cafe de Flore” comes out in Russia.
VANESSA: Yes, it’s a drama. It’s a strong film about what love does to you—and what you will do for it. I play the mother of small boy with Down’s syndrome; it is set in Quebec. It’s the story of a couple parting, and then reuniting. The film is a real love anthem.
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