Since captivating audiences on both sides of the Atlantic in 2001’s Amelie, French actress Audrey Tautou has become the poster girl for quirky Gallic charm. In the years that have followed, Tautou has dabbled in Hollywood (The Da Vinci Code), played a mischievous gold digger (Irene in Priceless) and embodied Coco Chanel, in addition to starring in the brand’s Chanel No. 5 ads.
Starting this Friday, Tautou can be seen in Delicacy as Nathalie, a doe-eyed Parisian business executive who tragically loses her soul mate after three years of marriage. Finding solace in her work, Nathalie’s lighter side is reawakened by her ungainly Swedish co-worker—a romance that leaves her friends and colleagues scratching their heads.
Here, Tautou discusses the powers of female seduction, rumors of her impending retirement (spoiler: they’re not true) and how actresses can sometimes be a drag.
W: In playing Nathalie, you have to cover two polar ends of the emotional spectrum: a die-hard romantic and a grounded realist dealing with tragedy. What was it like juggling two very different takes on love? Audrey Tautou: Well it was the challenge of this character to be able to express suffering, but without making it too obvious. She has something dead inside, but there is still the possibility of light, of life, of liveliness and that was what I had to convey. That was the challenge of the part. It was also so interesting for me to think about it, even in this really terrible time in her life—it’s an overwhelming sadness—there are still these individual moments, almost in brackets, of bursts of laughter or something really happy. I didn’t want to portray her as a depressed person.
There’s a funny line at the beginning of the film when you’re pretending you’re on stage and your friend says, “You should be an actress.” And you say, “I’d never be an actress—actresses are such a drag!” It was kind of funny and it was funny to repeat a cliché because it’s a cliché a lot of people have about actresses, just like every other job in the world.
Clearly not true, right? There’s always a little morsel of truth in a cliché… But, yes, there are some people who really embrace the cliché in its entirety.
One of the more humorous parts of Delicacy is how Nathalie seems to have no conception of her effect on men—every guy she meets falls for her. It doesn’t really play a part in her area of vision. But also, I think there are a lot of women who are very attractive who aren’t aware of the effect they have, and I think in this sense it’s a realistic thing. Nathalie isn’t the kind of woman who is very conscious of her power of seduction. That’s more the character of Irene in Priceless.
Which is easier for you to play? Well, I think definitely the closest in that part is Nathalie. I was even surprised to realize when I was in Priceless that I was not too ridiculous.
You have a Chanel ad, so obviously you have more appeal than you realize. Though in an interview you did last summer, you suggested you might quit acting soon… No, it’s not true. I just finished shooting a movie directed by Claude Miller called Therese Desqueyroux it’s the translation of Francois Mauriac’s novel which has the same name. And I’m going to shoot the next movie of Michel Gondry in April. And after that I’m going to do the third part of the trilogy The Spanish Apartment (L’Auberge Espagnole), Russian Dolls, directed by Cedric Klapisch. So it’s not the moment for any retiring.