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Julie Delpy, Keeping It Real In '2 Days In New York'

Aug 14, 2012
Originally published on August 16, 2012 1:07 pm

Actress Julie Delpy first beguiled American audiences in 1995, playing the enigmatic French student in Richard Linklater's film Before Sunrise. Ever since, Delpy has enjoyed life on the Hollywood fringe, preferring indie projects where she can help shape her roles.

She co-wrote the Oscar-nominated script to Linklater's sequel, Before Sunset, and has also begun directing her own projects. For her latest, 2 Days in New York, she directed, produced and helped write the script.

It's the story of a New York couple: writer Mingus, played by Chris Rock; and photographer Marion, played by Delpy. Hilarity ensues when Marion's French family drops in for the weekend.

The movie works in part because Delpy's Marion is not like the women usually conjured up by Hollywood. She's approaching middle age, and is a bit of a mess.

Delpy spoke with All Things Considered's Audie Cornish about the myths and realities of being a woman on and off the screen in Hollywood.


Interview Highlights

On creating a realistic female character

"Yeah, she's not really together. I mean she's kind of a — she's neurotic, she's confused, she's not sure what she wants, she's impulsive, she has anger issues. ... She's far from perfection, you know. It's fun to create a character who is not, like, you know — sometimes in films, the women can be more like fantasy women, like she's not really real. I wanted someone as real as possible. I love to write my characters as real as possible. I think it's more fun."

On why meeting the parents makes for great comedy

"When I see my friends meeting the family or spending time with the family of their husband or wife, I see [that] either they go back to the dynamic they have with their family, which can be very scary — which is the case in the film — or it's actually really hard to deal with the people they come from. ... It multiplies all the bad side of that [person] — and it's so revealing also about the person."

On pitting Mingus against an "old-fashioned French" family

"I love situations where it's embarrassing, and I love putting the character of Mingus in this situation that's constantly embarrassing. You know, this family [including Delpy's father, Albert Delpy, as Marion's father] is just putting his life — [within] 24 hours, basically, his life is hell. ... It's so much fun to put people — to torture people, basically, in movies; to make them suffer a little bit."

On avoiding the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope

"I like to describe women that are a little bit [of] a handful, and not necessarily the dream. Because men get away with it, to be all full of flaws, and women fall for men full of flaws. They love it. But then, for the women, it's not as much like that. ... I love describing women that are more real and not perfect. I mean, who is perfect? I don't know anyone perfect, do you? ... I mean, she has quality, and I'm sure she's good in bed. No, I'm kidding. ... She's obviously — they get along, with the character of Mingus. She's probably funny, and things like that."

On being a female director

"It's a hard thing, because, you know, I think directing is very much about problem-solving, and it's very rational. You know, you have to wake up at this time, you have to know your shot list, you have to know what scene you're [doing] — I mean, you have to know your stuff. It's not something you can take lightly. Not that acting is something you can take lightly, but acting is more emotional, so it's a different kind of job. So I feel a lot of studio heads and stuff, or people that are handling millions of dollars and putting that on the table to make movies, are very concerned with the fact that women have the reputation to be more emotional and not as rational or as organized or as meticulous — I don't know, something like that. ...

"But the truth is, I am an emotional person when I need to be, but I can also completely shut down that part of me. You know, when I know I have to make a movie, I really think of the money that I'm spending, I'm really thinking of the time that I'm spending. I'm pretty rational when I start working on a set as a director. I don't feel that creative when I'm directing, I'm just really, really, really focused on making everything work. Just like any other business, you know; I feel like I'm dealing with doing business."

On her future behind the camera

"I love directing, obviously. I love acting, too, but I'm never going to stop directing now. I mean, unless no one gives me money. But even if no one gives me money, I have a great sock-puppet show I want to do. ... So that's very cheap. But it's funny, I have no — you know, a lot of people get stopped by things. And for very many, many years, when I tried to become a director, I stopped myself, because I was like, oh, I need this amount of money to make the film, I need this to do the film, I need this. And then I decided, you know, forget it, I'm going to make a film for no money — that was my first film, 2 Days in Paris — I'm just going to do it. And now I'm kind of in that mode of, I'm just going to do it. I mean, it's very freeing, it's like, you know what, no one can stop me at this point."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

And I'm Audie Cornish. French actress Julie Delpy first beguiled American audiences in 1995, as the enigmatic French student in Richard Linklater's film "Before Sunrise." Ever since, Delpy has enjoyed life on the outskirts of Hollywood, preferring indie projects where she can help shape her roles. She co-wrote the Oscar-nominated script for Linklater's sequel, "Before Sunset," and has also begun directing her own projects.

Julie Delpy's latest movie is called "2 Days in New York." She stars, directs, produces, and helped write the script. It's the story of a New York couple - writer Mingus, played by Chris Rock; and photographer Marion, played by Delpy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "2 DAYS IN NEW YORK")

JULIE DELPY: (as Marion) I'm going to be 38. I'm fat. I'm a pain in the ass.

CHRIS ROCK: (as Mingus) But you're French.

DELPY: (as Marion) I have a kid. I'm struggling with incontinence, OK? Don't tell anyone. I can't even sneeze when I'm doing my exercise, OK? I'm squeezing. Like right now, I'm squeezing. I'm squeezing all the time. Everywhere I go, when I'm taking pictures, I'm squeezing all the time. Like right now, I'm squeezing, squeezing, squeezing, squeezing, squeezing, squeezing, squeezing. OK, I'm letting go.

CORNISH: Hilarity ensues when Marion's French family drops in for the weekend. The movie works, in part, because Delpy's Marion is not like the women usually conjured up by Hollywood.

DELPY: Yeah. She's not really together. I mean, she's kind of a - you know, she's neurotic; she's confused; she's not sure what she wants; she's impulsive; she has anger issues. I mean, she's not the most liked. She's not - she's far from perfection, you know? And it's - yeah, I mean, it's fun to create a character who is not, like, you know, sometimes, you know, in films, the women can be more of like a - fantasy women; like, she's not really real. Like, I wanted someone as real as possible. I love to write my characters as real as possible. I think it's more fun.

CORNISH: And there's a great moment in that clip, where he says, "but you're French."

(LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: And I feel like that kind of sums up the whole film, right?

DELPY: You're a pain in the ass, but you're French.

CORNISH: Kind of undermining that notion of like - just being French will somehow make everything better, in a way.

(LAUGHTER)

DELPY: Yeah. I guess French women can get away with a little bit more neurosis, a little bit more - you know, it's a bit more charming, at least for a little - for a short time.

CORNISH: Exactly, because that's when the family comes in.

DELPY: Yeah.

CORNISH: And that's when essentially, you take any French fantasies people might have about what the French are like - and put them through a shredder, right?

(LAUGHTER)

DELPY: Yeah, exactly. Sophisticated people wearing Chanel, you know?

CORNISH: Her family - exactly.

(LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: Tell us what you were trying to show with this family.

DELPY: Well, you know, it's just like - it's always amused me to which extent - like, when I see my friends meeting the family, or spending time with the family of their husband or wife. You know, it's really hard to deal with the people they come from. It multiplies all the bad side of that - I mean, I just feel it's always - and it's so revealing, also, about the person.

CORNISH: And a huge amount of the comedy comes from the things that are lost in translation between...

DELPY: Yeah, a lot of it.

CORNISH: ...the family and then...

DELPY: Especially with the dad that doesn't speak a word of English. It's the old-fashioned French, you know? They are like, stuck in the French, and they're never going to move from it.

CORNISH: And your father, Albert Delpy...

DELPY: Yes.

CORNISH: ...as you said, plays your father in the movie.

DELPY: Yeah.

CORNISH: And we actually have a great scene - there's a wonderful scene in the movie, where they're at a restaurant. And Chris Rock's character, Mingus, comes upon an old friend who's now working for the Obama campaign...

DELPY: Yeah.

CORNISH: ...and he thinks he might have the chance to interview Barack Obama because he is - he's actually a radio show host.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "2 DAYS IN NEW YORK")

DELPY: (as Marion) Oh...

ROCK: (as Mingus) No!

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (as character) Yeah.

DELPY: (as Marion) Oh, sweetie, that's so great! This is wonderful.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (as character) Is it true? (foreign language spoken)

ALBERT DELPY: (as Jeannot) Good Obama.

ROCK: (as Mingus) Thanks.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (as character) He's so good-looking, so much better-looking than Sarkozy.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (as character) Oh - sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

DELPY: (as Jeannot) Obama, socialiste! Yeah.

DELPY: (as Marion) No, Papa.

ROCK: (as Mingus) No, not really a socialist.

(LAUGHTER)

DELPY: Yeah, not really a - I mean, I love situations where, like, it's embarrassing. You know, this family is just putting his life - in like, 24 hours, basically, his life is hell in such a short time. It's so much fun to put - to torture people, basically, in movies; to make them suffer a little bit.

CORNISH: I want to ask you about something you said earlier; about the way women are depicted in films.

DELPY: Mm-hmm.

CORNISH: When I look back at a film like "Before Sunset" and "Before Sunrise," and some of - some other characters over the years, it's very - kind of hazy writing; or sort of - image of the woman is a little bit romantic.

DELPY: Mm-hmm.

CORNISH: And it seems like when you do things for yourself, you kind of cut the legs off of that fantasy.

(LAUGHTER)

DELPY: Yeah.

CORNISH: I mean, am I misreading that? Or do you think there...

DELPY: Well, you know, those films - "Sunrise," "Sunset" - are very romantic films. You want keep it sort of that way.

CORNISH: And I don't mean to pick on those in particular, because I am a huge fan...

DELPY: No, no, no. But it's...

CORNISH: ...but sort of - the woman, they call her the manic pixie dream girl now, as a film trope; that's sort of like she's a little bit crazy and a little bit fun, and she'll change your life - woman.

DELPY: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

CORNISH: You're never that, when you get to write it on your own.

DELPY: No, no, because I get more into - I like to describe women that are a little bit a handful, and kind of not necessarily the dream, you know, because men get away with it, to be all full of flaws. And women fall for men full of flaws. They love it. But then, for the women, it's not as much like that. And I feel - you know, I don't know. I love describing women that are more real, and not perfect. I mean, who is perfect? You know, I don't know anyone perfect, do you? I mean...

CORNISH: But that - this woman is someone you could still fall in love with, I guess, is what the film sort of says, in the end.

DELPY: Yeah. I mean, she has quality - you know, I'm sure she's good in bed. No, I'm kidding.

(LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: No, that's your character.

(LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: I don't know - I think you can go with that.

DELPY: You know, that's one - you know, she has some qualities. I mean, she's - obviously, you know, they get along - with the character of Mingus - you know? She's probably funny, you know, and things like that, you know?

CORNISH: Moving into directing over time, do you feel as though you've kind of reached a point where you're able to feel confident in that role? I've read, in the past, you talking about people not being so helpful in that process, you know; especially men in Hollywood.

DELPY: Yeah. It's a hard thing because, you know, I think directing is very much about problem-solving, and it's very rational. It's not something you can take lightly. Not that acting is something you can take lightly, but acting is more emotional, so it's a different kind of job. So I feel a lot of studio heads and stuff - or people, you know, that are handling millions of dollars, and putting that on the table to make movies, you know - are very concerned with the fact that, you know, women have the reputation to be more emotional, and not as rational or as organized or as, you know, meticulous. I don't know...

CORNISH: So don't be emotional.

DELPY: ...something like that.

CORNISH: Do you find that you carry yourself differently in these situations?

DELPY: No. But the truth is, I am an emotional person when I need to be, but I can also completely shut down that part of me.

(LAUGHTER)

DELPY: You know, when I know I have to make a movie, I really think of the money that I'm spending. I'm really thinking of the time that I'm spending. I'm just really, really, really focused on making everything work. Just like any other business, you know? I feel like I'm dealing with doing business, you know?

CORNISH: At times, have you felt as though - that you're ready to move away from acting? I mean, do you kind of see yourself as a filmmaker, at this point?

DELPY: I love directing, obviously. I love acting, too, but I'm never going to stop directing now. I mean, you know, unless no one gives me money. But even if no one gives me money, I have a great sock-puppet show I want to do in my backhouse.

CORNISH: Wait. Did you say...

DELPY: So...

CORNISH: ...sock puppet?

DELPY: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

DELPY: So that's very cheap. No.

(LAUGHTER)

DELPY: No. But it's funny, I have no - you know, a lot of people get stopped by things. And for very many, many years, when I tried to become a director, I stopped myself because I was like, oh, I need this amount of money to make the film; I need this to do the film; I need this. And then I decided, you know? Forget it. I'm going to make a film for no money - that was my first film, "2 Days in Paris." I'm just going to do it, you know? And now, I'm kind of in that mode of like, you know, I'm just going to do it. I mean, it's like very freeing. It's like, you know what? No one can stop me, at this point.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CORNISH: Actress, writer and director Julie Delpy. Her latest film is called "2 Days in New York." Julie Delpy, thank you.

DELPY: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.