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Sophie Marceau: ‘I hope love always stays a mystery’

Even if you’re over 50, romance can make you feel like a teenager, says Sophie Marceau talking about her new film I Love America

Sophie Marceau loves making movies for the same reason audiences love watching them – namely, a bit of escapism.

“The whole process of making a movie is very special,” she says. “To me, it’s like recreating another world. Also, you are part of a family. For two or three months, you’re totally taken care of. And life cannot get to you any more.”

Marceau is one of France’s most famous and prolific actors. To international audiences she is best known for Braveheart and being only the second main James Bond villain who’s a woman, in The World Is Not Enough (Lotte Lenya in From Russia With Love the other), and the 55-year-old is a megastar in her home country.

But despite being joined by her dog Litchi (French for lychee) for this virtual interview, she’s not feeling “strong and super happy”.

“To be honest when the movie comes out, all the process of promotion, this is heavy because you feel very vulnerable. It’s very paradoxical because when you’re an actor, you’re supposed to be seen and to be looked at.”

I tell her that acting in front of a camera, leading a film, would be much scarier for most people.

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“Yeah, I understand but that’s why you’re not an actor. A camera is totally impersonal. It is easier to confess yourself to someone you don’t know than someone you do, somehow, because there’s no judgement. It’s fiction, and fiction protects us, in a way.”

Her latest film is I Love America. Marceau plays Lisa, who decides to restart her life by moving from Paris to LA where she rides out the many lows but some highs of the modern dating scene.

The romantic comedy was closely based on the experiences of writer/director Lisa Azuelos, but Marceau could relate to elements of the story herself.

“I always relate everything to myself or my understanding of the world. If I’m able to understand something, it’s because I can share the same. I cannot share the feeling of a spider for example, that’s something that is totally strange. But everything that is human we should be capable to retranslate in acting.

“The only thing I’m really interested in, actually, is psychology. People’s stories, where they are from, why do they act and behave such at this moment?

“I don’t know what makes a person be an actor. Maybe the capacity of compassion or empathy. Like a universality. When I go to China, I feel Chinese; when I go to Albania, I’ll feel Albanian.”

When you go to Hollywood do you become somebody different?

“No, I’m resistant to certain places,” she points out.

“My experience is different because I’m not Lisa. But I leave my stuff and I’m interested in Lisa’s stuff. I understand what she’s going through when she’s going to America and why she’s in love with these lights. I share her happiness. She’s not bitter. She wants life to be beautiful and loving.”

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This is Marceau’s third collaboration with Azuelos, so playing her alter ego didn’t faze her.

“I’m an interpreter, what I need is direction,” she says. “Of course, I also have my opinion, but what I really need is a strong, opinionated direc- tor who makes me dance – if they want me to dance, rock ’n’ roll or paso doble, I follow their rhythm.

“To be like an instrument, you know, like a flute, like a guitar. The same guitar

can make so many different sounds. That’s what I consider myself to be.”

The film’s called I Love America – what’s the relationship between France and the US like at the moment?

“It goes up and down. We are very opposite, but opposites are attracted to each other too.”

I Love America explores an impressive range of relationships as Lisa dives into the dating scene with mixed results. In one scene, Lisa says her difficulty understanding how Californian romance works is because “In French we don’t have this word ‘date’ – doesn’t exist. Either we fuck or we don’t.”

Is it true that there is no word in French for date?

“Kind of… yeah, we don’t. What would we say… rendezvous amorous? Maybe I’m too old now. I don’t know if young people have a special word.

“In France, we sometimes get lost in subtleties. But also because I guess we don’t want to limit things into just one parameter. It suits us not being totally clear.”

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Are relationships and romance things that a person becomes more of an expert about as they grow older?

“I hope it always stays a mystery,” Marceau answers, “otherwise that would be horrible. It is so compli- cated to put two people together and make it work. Even with yourself sometimes you fight, so imagine with another person.

“No, it’s beautiful and it’s untouchable. And very fragile. That’s what makes it so precious.

“We all believe in love stories, even if we are sometimes broken or desperate. They are something that always gives you hope. And that makes your heart beat, it makes you alive.

“And when you get to 50, and more, are you more an expert?

“Love is ageless. It makes you suffer and makes you happy just as much if you’re 13 or you’re 70. If you fall in love with someone, how can you control that? Even at 50, you can behave like a teenager.”

I Love America is available on Prime Video

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