You have made a name for yourself in the theatre, in cinema, on television and as a singer, and now you find yourself behind the camera. How did you switch from acting to being a director?
I was only 14 years old when I acted in Téchiné’s Les Egarés (Strayed), but I already wanted to be the one that said “Action!”. The feeling was confirmed later when I saw other great film-makers like Honoré, Tavernier or Guédiguian at work. What I needed to find to make a full length movie was the legitimacy of being an author. I didn’t want to write just to give myself a role. I had to have a story to tell, in a style that was my own. It came by writing poetry. Writing in verse gave me that authority, in my own eyes.
You are an admirer of the great classics, which you often perform in the theatre; what are the poetic references for your film?
The concern for colour and rhythm in the sense of the words, that’s what poetry means for me, the beauty of the language. Paul Valéry is my favourite poet. As to the poetic references in the film, of course there’s Baudelaire and that wonderful way of writing verse that happens in the street, but then of course there is also Racine for the scenes in alexandrines. I could mention Aragon and Supervielle for some of the octosyllabic passages.
I was only 14 years old when I acted in Téchiné’s Les Egarés (Strayed), but I already wanted to be the one that said “Action!”. Grégoire Le Prince
Tell us how the movie, which you also star in, came about.
Originally, the script was based on a series of six or seven poems that I had written some time ago. Poems about emotion, but which also had a dreamlike quality. When I put them into a certain order with the idea of bringing them together in a collection, I saw that there was a dramatic thread, the beginning of a narrative. I fleshed out the story, and little by little the characters became more rounded. After a lot of rewriting, it became a feature film.
What sort of problems did you have to deal with during shooting? Do you have any anecdotes perhaps?
We had to shoot the movie in several phases because of budgetary problems, but that turned out to be a really good thing. The limitations were very beneficial because I was able to rework scenes between shoots, and as a result I was better prepared. I do have one story: the last scene in the film was shot in day-for-night, which means you shoot in daylight with a filter on the camera to make believe that it’s night time. So when you see the character addressing the moon, our cold, shape-shifting star, the actor is actually talking to the sun!
How did you handle the issue of performing with your fellow cast-members?
I have to say it’s marvellous to be an actor in your own movie, because you have a direct handle on the direction, at the heart of the action. And then as well, the whole crew sees that you’re taking a risk so they are very supportive. The other actors like Pauline Caupenne or Amandine Truffy, directed me at the same time as I was directing them. At the end of a take, I would tell them what I thought of their performance, but I also asked them what they thought of mine. It kind of empowered the actors, so that we trusted each other more and that gave us all a lift.