ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images
"Blue Is the Warmest Color," the critically acclaimed lesbian love story from Tunisian-French director Abdellatif Kechiche, picked up this year's Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or. But according to its young French stars Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, that's the sole silver lining in the very dark cloud that was their filming experience.
During an interview with The Daily Beast at this year's Telluride Film Festival, the two actresses held nothing back about their feelings for Kechiche and his laborious process.
"The thing is, in France, it's not like in the States," Seydoux explained. "The director has all the power. When you're an actor on a film in France and you sign the contract, you have to give yourself, and in a way you're trapped."
For example, the moment when the actresses' characters see each other for the first time while crossing the street took over 100 takes to capture, said Seydoux. "By the end of it, I remember I was dizzy and couldn't even sit. And by the end of it, [Kechiche] burst into a rage because after 100 takes I walked by Adele and laughed a little bit, because we had been walking by each other doing this stare-down scene all day. It was so, so funny," she recalled. "And [Kechiche] became so crazy that he picked up the little monitor he was viewing it through and threw it into the street, screaming, 'I can't work under these conditions!'"
For another sequence, Seydoux had to hit Exarchopoulos over and over again, with Kechiche apparently ordering take after take. Seydoux quipped, "In America, we'd all be in jail."
As for that much-buzzed-about 10-minute sex scene, which took 10 days to film, Kechiche eschewed choreography, which was an uncomfortable proposition for Seydoux and Exarchopoulos. "Most people don't even dare to ask the things that he did, and they're more respectful -- you get reassured during sex scenes, and they're choreographed, which desexualizes the act," said Exarchopoulos. "I didn't know [Seydoux] in the beginning, and during the first sex scene, I was a little bit ashamed to touch her where I thought I wanted, because he didn't tell us what to do. You're free, but at the same time you're embarrassed because I didn't really know her that well."
Seydoux described the scene as "very embarrassing," and Exarchopoulos found it "a little too long."
As was the case with the five-and-a-half-month-long shoot. "What was terrible on this film was that we couldn't see the ending," said Seydoux. "It was supposed to only be two months, then three, then four, then it became five-and-a-half. By the end, we were just so tired."
While Seydoux summed up the entire experience as "horrible," Exarchopoulos was a bit more diplomatic ... at least in the interview. "[Kechiche] is a genius, but he's tortured," she said. "We wanted to give everything we have, but sometimes there was a kind of manipulation, which was hard to handle. But it was a good learning experience for me, as an actor."
Still, neither woman would work with Kechiche again.
Seydoux and Exarchopoulos do appreciate the final product, which has been hailed as a stunning portrayal and exploration of young love. "We never saw a film like this before -- a love story this realistic," remarked Seydoux. "And it says a lot about the youth of today. It's a film about love. I don't really think it's a film about homosexuality -- it's more than that."
She added, "Thank god we won the Palme d'Or, because it was so horrible. So now it's cool that everyone likes the film and it's a big success."
UPDATE, Sept. 6: While at the Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 5, Kechiche fired back at his stars, telling reporters, "How indecent to talk about pain when doing one of the best jobs in the world! The orderlies suffer, the unemployed suffer, construction workers could talk about suffering. How, when you are adored, when you go up on a red carpet, when we receive awards, how we can speak of suffering?"
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the director claimed that the shoot went longer than planned because Seydoux needed more time to get into character.
[via The Daily Beast, THR]