Encounter with Émilie Dequenne, member of the Un Certain Regard Jury

Emilie Dequenne © Amandine Goetz / FDC

Discovered at the age of 17 by the Dardenne brothers in Rosetta, Émilie Dequenne became a leading actress in French cinema in the early 2000s. With her passion for dramatic expression, the Belgian actress has distinguished herself in films by Claude Berri, Catherine Corsini and André Téchiné. Her role in À perdre la raison  (Our Children, 2012), by Joachim Lafosse, garnered her a second Prize for Best Actress at Cannes, in the category Un Certain Regard. Eleven years later, Émilie Dequenne returns to this selection as a member of the Jury, alongside John C. Reilly. An interview.

Two Best Actress awards at Cannes, three Magritte awards for Best Actress, a César for Best Supporting Actor… What did these awards bring you?

They gave me confidence in myself. Like a booster, it made me want to go on. Each award had its own story. The first ones allowed me to have the choice. They gave me the strength to establish, at a very young age, a kind of legitimacy. Receiving an award reinforces my choice to continue to live from my passion.

In 1999, you won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival, it was your first film role. How does one manage such a career start at only 17 years old?

Starting out so strong and so fast kept me focused on the fact that I wanted to do this job as long as possible. I know that at 17, you can quickly spiral into a sort of quest that isn’t necessarily the right one. This was not the case for me at all. I come from a very down-to-earth family, I was very well surrounded. When I expressed my desire to do this job, my parents pushed me to take classes, to do as many things as possible related to my passion, while reminding me that it was important to continue school. They were very selective in my casting choices. When they saw that the Dardenne brothers were looking for an actress, they told me, “Yes, you can go for it.”

?What impact did the Cannes Festival have on Belgian cinema?

The Festival has had a very strong impact. It started with filmmakers like Festival  Jaco Van Dormael and Chantal Akerman. At the time of Rosetta, in 1999, there was a positive impact that developed real possibilities for Belgian film creation. Today, we continue to fight to preserve it.

Are there any traps to avoid when you’re a young actor or actress, 

We are our own worst enemies. I think that the traps lie there first of all That said, I think that you first have to learn to be patient. It’s a very difficult job, in which you’re essentially dependent on the whims ofothers. Many people want to be actors, but there’s no guarantee you’ll be wanted. You have to be patient and thoughtful.

What do you like about dramatic roles?

These are the roles that move me the most. I can’t go to a project or a character that doesn’t touch me. Comedy appeals to me but it’s not easy to do. Laughter touches me, but I like it when it escapes me. In dramatic roles, there is something close to the truth that will catch me more easily.

Do you have any model actors/actresses?

I always think of Daniel Day-Lewis, who is brilliant in Jim Sheridan‘s  In the Name of the Father.  That’s my favorite movie. There’s also Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Michel Gondry. And how could I not mention Isabelle Huppert in La Cérémonie by Claude Chabrol.

What roles do you want to favour today?

I have no idea, and each project still manages to surprise me. I think that when you try to have a precise objective, you end up being disappointed. I prefer not to know and let myself be surprised by the scripts I receive. I like the novelty, the challenge.


“If we don’t bring our role to life, we can kill a character who exists in the eyes of a writer or director.”


What has been the biggest challenge in your career?

I feel in danger with every character. If you don’t bring your role to life, you can become kill a character thwhoat exists in the eyes of a writer or director. Every start of shooting is a big risk for me, the first days of work terrify me. It’s very stressful because it’s a matter of life and death for the characters. I am entrusted with someone’s “life”.

Finally, what are your upcoming projects?

There are many to come. Christine Dory’s film, La Fille d’Albino Rodrigue, has just been released in cinemas. There is also Marinette, which comes out on June 7. Garance Marillier plays Marinette Pichon in this biographical film about the life of this great soccer player. I’m really looking forward to it, I hope people will be curious because it’s worth the detour.