If you were casting a cinematic version of a beloved French romance novel, you would be hard-pressed to find a more perfect female lead than Audrey Tautou, whose sparkling charm has captured audiences Gallic and otherwise since her debut in the 2001 “Amelie.” And that’s just what director Michel Gondry did for “Mood Indigo,” his latest work, out now, based on the 1947 book “L’Ecume des Jours” by Boris Vian. Set in an atemporal Paris—the incredible set designs have the haze of late ‘60s, ‘70s nostalgia—the movie follows the breathless love story between Colin (Romain Duris), a wealthy bachelor obsessed with inventions, and Chloe (Tautou), an arresting young woman he meets at a party. Soon after their marriage, Chloe is diagnosed with the most lyrical of diseases: a water lily is growing in her lungs and the only cure is for her to be surrounded by a constantly renewed garden’s worth of fresh flowers.
Here Tautou chats about floating above the Parisian skyline and dealing with Gondry’s famously unorthodox work style.
The movie is based on a very popular novel and you had read it when you were younger. What were your impressions of the book when you first read it and how did they change as you were working on this film?
When I read the book, I was really impressed with how the writer’s imagination had no limits. There was something about fantasy and poetry and this romance with these two young people: it was in a way dark and romantic and I think this touched the teenager I was, I think I was like 15. Also, it was not a book for teenager in a way, but I think many teenagers read it in that period of their life. So in a way after reading this book and enjoying it, it’s a little bit as though you felt more like an adult. I remember the pride I had to enjoy this book and when I read it again to prepare the movie and when I read the script, I think I was more concerned with the creativity and how Michel would be able to make it true.
The set they created is crazy! And to think it’s not digital…Did you have to do stunt training for the cloud scene in which you and Romain fly above the Parisian skyline?
I was just super freaking scared. We were above the buildings and we were just hanging via a crane and with the wind it was sometimes moving and I was like, Oh my god. I don’t think it was dangerous, but it’s really not reassuring. Because you are in this little bench, your feet are in the air, you have this belt and you have this cable, and voila, okay. If there’s any problem in the construction of the clouds, you know…for me it was really scary.
And the whole time you’re supposed to have a smile on your face because you’re so excited!
Acting is a good medicine, because when you act, you’re not sick anymore, you’re not scared anymore, it makes you really secure and you forget who you are and what you feel. So when I was acting, it was alright, but as soon as the take was over, I was like, It’s okay! Okay, put me down, you have it, thank you.
As an actress is it hard when you have all these special effects around you to make your character very human?
I think it’s more helpful than something else. Because when you have everything under your eyes and you can touch things, it makes it easier. I think it would have been much more difficult for us to act in front of a green screen with white marks and you pretend like you see that. And also because the sets were destroyed and degraded [on purpose]. And they did it chronologically, they actually destroyed the apartment as we went along. So one day you arrive and your bedroom is a hole. You can see the difference.
You have referred to Michel Gondry as being disorganized compared to your style, which is usually more controlled as an actress.
I think he wanted to create intentionally a big mess because of all these ideas and his desire to keep filming without usually ceremonial things for shooting, where you make silence when the sound is rolling and you ask for the clapper and after you say action you stop the take. With him there is no silence, there’s no sound rolling, there’s no clapper. You keep going. I think he wanted to forget the camera. And for me, I’m a very self-controlled person. So I had to break my own habits. I felt in a way freer. Because for the first time I had no idea about what I had done And I’m going to shoot again with Michel at the end of the summer [an untitled project], I have a small part, but I really look forward to seeing how it’s going to be shooting. Because his next movie is much less heavy than this one. This one was like pushing his creativity to the maximum. It was maybe the Michel Gondry-est and the perfect story and book to get that.
We’ll see if you’re hanging from a crane.
I will keep my feet on the ground!