Melanie Laurent – (as Shosanna in Quentin Tarantino’s latest, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS)
Q: [INAUDIBLE QUESTION:] ….the musical theme, which Tarantino’s films with music…yeah…
[Laughs, inaudible dialogue]
Melanie: Let’s have a dance right now!
Q: What was it like setting that whole shot up and being in that? Did you get to play the music while you were in it?
Melanie: Yeah. He would just bring all of the crew on the set this morning—that morning—not this morning. And he just said, “Ok! We’re going to do that!” And it took two days to do the Shosanna scene where she gets prepared for the party, and—“I’m gonna film her like this and like this and—oh! You know what? Can we have the music?!” And we have the music! [He’d] explain to everybody what’s going on. Then, next to that, I was (gasps)—is that for me?! I like that! “And like this! And a close up of that! And this and this!” But it’s a good example just to explain to you how he’s working—like—like a captain at [she indicated the press roundtable] a very huge table!
Melanie: Um—he’s a captain on a boat. So it’s like—“Ok! Today we are going to do that!” And everybody’s like: “Yes sir!”
Q: What kind of demands did Quentin make upon your performance prior to shooting?
Melanie: I don’t know. Erm—we didn’t work like this. We just—with me. I don’t know with the others. But he said, ok, “Give me one take. And maybe two. And after that I’m going to fix here and here.” Sometimes like that. And so: “Ok!” and sometimes: “Cut!” He just come to me and say, and whisper me one word. And you like: “Oh my god! Oh yeah! Ok! We’ll do that!” Change all the scene in one take. It just take one word. It’s so clear, so precise. It’s an amazing director for the actor. He’s really respectful and he loves actors. So he just understands how it can be difficult sometimes. But you know what, when you have that sort of mis en scene, it’s kind of easy to play, because you have everything around you. So it’s just—you know—for example the lunch with Landa. I’m here, company of German, German, German, German—they just speak German German German—and I’m—I don’t understand a word. And I’m like this [she shrugs] and suddenly, I just heard a voice. [She gasps]! And after that, I have a hand on my shoulder. And after that, I have the face of Landa. Ok, then shoot!
Melanie: You know? And, “Ok! You’re tense! He’s just here, in front of you! And you’re like, Oh my god! He’s here!” You know. It’s just like—duh na na na! You have amazing music at the moment. The light is great. The action is so great. You just have to be concentrated, you don’t really have to even work for details. Because he’s [Quentin] the details, and he—you have everything on the pages—on the script!
Q: What’s striking to me is—you just said it—less is more. But when you watch a film like this, when you watch any of Tarantino’s films, you think it’s completely opposite: he’s going over the top, he’s throwing all this in, but yet you’re saying that he achieves this with a sense of simplicity?
Melanie: But you know what, maybe it’s with me. Because—for example, Landa: it was, I think—Did you have Christopher already?
Melanie: Well, you’ve got to ask him, because he had a lot of more text, and it was more difficult because he has to have different languages and just find the right smile, the right humor, at the right moment, be really funny, or completely scary, so it’s like, um—I think he wanted Shosanna very strong, very fragile at the same time, but not over the top. So, it’s not so, you know—except for my crazy laugh at the end—
Melanie: I did not know how to do that for the life of me. For months, I was like, (gasp) “How am I going to do that?” Because in the script it was like, “She’s laughing like the evil, during 5 minutes.” I’m like—“What? What? During 5 minutes? I’m gonna be like—huh ha ha ha ha ha ha ha hunh ha ha—it’s gonna be a nightmare!” And I remember that day, I was like, “Ok Quentin, you know what, I’m so stressed out. I really don’t know what I’m going to do. ‘Cause I never took some theater lessons, for example. I just made movies. So I have very—and I’m French. We are lazy! You don’t work on that laughter in 6 months. You just like, “Oh my god, it’s tomorrow! My laugh is tomorrow!” You know? Well maybe, just for me. So, and I was like, oh my god, how am I going to do that. And so I said, “I’m stressed out! Because it’s so important. Ok I’m stressed out more now.” So he says, “Ok, ok. You know what. I’m gonna fire everybody!” So he just asked people to get out. And I was like, oh my god, is this a sick scene? Because usually when—“Can I have the script please?! I just want to check something!” And he was like, “Ok. We are 5 here.” In a huge set. You can imagine. It was funny because the set was like—in the stairs—but in the very corner on a huge, huge set. So we were just 5 people, just for the camera and me, and and he said—and he took my hand and he said, “You know what? I just trust you. You’re gonna be great. You’re gonna give me a great evil laugh.” “Ok! [She clears throat] Action!” And I just did something. You know. First day. And he was like, “Ok. You can do it. Ok, let’s work.” He just wanted to know if I could just forget everything. And it remembers me a little bit of like the scene in Kill Bill 2, where she just finally goes—find Bill. And she’s on a car, and she’s like front of camera, black and white, and she says, “And I’m gonna Kill Bill!” And we’re like, ok, why are you saying like this. And it’s because, it’s completely unreal. And at the end you just love that sort of scene. Because it’s just completely creative. And on your imaginary end—it’s just like—and he’s so stressed out for you—because he knows it’s going to be hard to find the right way to say it, but at the end he just—here—takes your hand and say “You know what, I trust you.” And you’re like, “Ok cool! You are the only one.
Q: Are you bummed that your character didn’t get to see Hitler shot and killed?
Melanie: I’m sorry– ??
Q: Because your character died before everything really happened, like the fire and everything. Were you upset that your character didn’t get to be a part of that?
Melanie: No. I’m fine. Especially with that smokey effect of the face. I’m pretty fine with that end. And—no, and I was really really surprised when I saw the movie, when I discovered he put on some really romantic and mood music for my dying moment. I was like, Oh my god, it’s not really Quentin. You know, usually he— RAHRAHRAHRAH! I was like oh my god.
Q: Did you realize it when you were making it: You’re really the heart of the film? You’re kind of the center piece of everything, because you’re the one that suffered in the beginning. You’re the one that runs the cinema. You’re the cinephile too. You kind of cover every aspect of this film. And you’re also seeking revenge like the Basterds. Every time we come to you, and you have the most emotion really in the movie. Did you feel pressure in carrying that? Or did you notice that when you finally saw the end product that you really were the—kind of part of the—
Melanie: Well—when you’re just hearing it in front of Brad Pitt and producers and Quentin and everybody and your friends and you’re 26 and it’s your first movie and you don’t speak English and you’re going to spend 4 months here with this creative—and it’s just huge—and the translation in French is very difficult because it’s like period style, and so yeah—it was a lot of pressure. But I didn’t want to leave that like this, because if I did, I would, “ok, I’m just going to be stressed out every day. So he trusts me, ok. I’m going to trust that. And I’m going to try to just relax and have fun.” Cause when I see the movie, I don’t know about for you, but it just 2 hours of funny funny funny moment. You scream, I remember my gut: “Oh my god, oh my god! Ha ha ha! Oh my god!” for 2 hours! You’re just exhausted at the end of that movie. But, it’s like, your life, and it’s funny so. And it’s just so great on the set. We just had that dance every day, and that sort of line like—wee! “I want another take!” “Why?” “Because we love making mooo-vieeees!” And you just hear 100 people saying that every day. And, you like, “Oh ok. I’m going to have fun. I don’t want to think about the pressure of, ok it’s a huge part.” And he cut a lot of my part. When she first gets to the cinema—Maggie Chong??? And the movie was too long, so you had to make some choices. So the part was more big than you saw on the screen, but yeah—I was just away with the fairies most of the time, and just had fun, and and Christoph—I just love that guy. He’s amazing. He’s so sweet, and perfect. Daniel Bruhl—he’s so professional, such a great actor. So we just had—not fun every day, but just—wow! I’m just playing with great actors. So it was sometimes, hard because—you know what? No. It was not hard. It was just great. And it’s very rare. Because most of the people in that world want to do that job. Want to be actors. Why? Because they think we have fun, because they think we have lots of money, because everyday at 5 o’clock we’re like, “Hey! Let’s do that! That’ll be fun!” But most of the time it’s really not like this. You wake up at 5 and you’re just—want to stay in your bed—with a mystical director, and he’s just yelling at you, and yehhhhhhhhhhhh!– “I don’t under…” and sorry, but it’s not clear. You can scream a lot if you want, but—and at the end of that four month experience you discover the movie and it’s crap! You know? But sometimes it’s like this, but most of the time you don’t make movies with Quentin Tarantino. You know? So when you just have that amazing opportunity—when you are the most lucky French actress ever at that moment, you just have fun. You just enjoy it. I just forgot how lucky I am to do that job.
Q: How did you get to be part of this project?
Melanie: Oh very classical casting. I had three rounds, reading with him, reading with Daniel Bruhl at the end, that was the third one. But um—yeah. I just made like four movies in France just before Quentin’s movie, and after a while, it’s just like kind of a jobj like, ok, you just wake up at 5 every day, and you don’t really know why, and you just—you’re just so inspired. I just forgot that—being actress, it’s so funny and great—and with him—yeah, hysterical at 5 o’clock. I was waiting that moment. I was waiting my alarm clock. I was like, “OK! It’s 5! Ok! Let’s go!” And I remember, the last—almost the last day, I was crying in his arms, and I said, “It’s almost done! How am I going to do?” You know? …And I did another movie and it was great.
Q: Working with Quentin, did it inspire you to want direct more? I know you directed a short film that played at Cannes.
Melanie: Yeah. I’m going to make my movie next summer in France, and yeah—you’re right—because it was not about just actors, it was about everything. It was about—ok! He’s the most passionate person I’ve ever met. He’s crazy. Perhaps too much sometimes, but he just love making movies!
Q: Was there advice he gave you on making movies?
Melanie: Yeah! I’m going to stole him a lot. About utmost fear on the set, about—you know, you can just accept a lot of things from a director who just love making movies. When you are an asshole, and plus your movie is just not good, and plus! You don’t know how to speak to your crew, and plus! You don’t really like actors—I’m completely upset against all that directors who said that, “Oh the shooting part is just not my favorite.” Excuse me?! “Yeah, I like editing or writing. So I’m alone and…” Oh ok. You want to work with 100 people now!?! Ok what happens? You know? And I met a lot of you directors who said, oh it was a nightmare! Oh yeah? Was the nightmare really that bad? Ok. Why are you a director? Just to know? And for a lot of people, it’s just like painful and hard—so I don’t know, maybe. Maybe when I’m making little baby movies, I think it’s just amazing. The moment I’m writing, the moment I’m on the set, the moment I’m just direct my actors, the moment I’m just talking with the sound with the camera with the costumes. Blue green yellow! Ok, that that that! It’s just amazing! I’m not going to be actress all my life. I’m going to be director, because that is the best job ever. You are the boss! And you can make everything just great, not like—you don’t have to be an asshole to make great movies. They don’t know that. Most other people in that work. So yeah.
So I was a little bit tired about that—that not funny way to make movies. And he just, yeah, and after that, my life is quite crazy and funny. But I met—Damien Rice just after that. You know Damien Rice? I was just completely crazy about him. Like he is the best singer ever for me. And I met that guy, just after Tarantino. It’s so crazy. Like, “Oh! What I’m going to do without you!” “Ohp! I met Damien Rice! Sorry!” [She pantomimes scooting closer to her next greatest thing!] I was like—Masters! It’s funny to have just met two masters. They’re very different, because it’s music and it’s cinema, but I was like, “I’m so fucking lucky!” And so we are working on my CD right now. And I’m just like—he just explain me how the word “working”—like, ok “You wanna be a singer? Ok, so work!” Ok yeah. So you go in the bathroom, I lock the door, and you work two hours. Ok. Good. “Make some piano! Just go to work! Listen the birds! Caress a tree, be with the nature, and just be inspired!” And I just forgot that, you know sometime you just work, you work you work, and you have no life, no boyfriend, you have no more friends, you no more nothing, you just make movies, and you’re tired, and you don’t know why. Because everybody said, oh you are so lucky, you are working! And you’re like, oh yeah, oh yeah, it’s so great. And suddenly, I just—and I’m sure it’s kind of a sign—I’m not mystic at all but—I was like, “Oh, I met that master of making movies! And I met that master of making CDs, and I worked with those two guys!” And the common point is inspiration, and make that job with passion, and that’s all. And it’s so great, because I just have a new life now. I enjoy everything. Even after that moment, and I’m in jet lag!
Q: It seems like—you’re going into all these different fields, and you’re just completely fearless. Is it like—do you have any fears, or are you just ready to take on whatever comes next and follow your dreams in a way?
Melanie: Yeah. Know what, I’m so—I’m really confident, because the most great thing ever: I had a perfect childhood. I had perfect parents and grandparents. They just love me, simply. So I have no fears. I’m really sensitive—because (gasp, tear) I don’t know why people are so cruel or violent or something. I like to be [carefree and childish in a sing-song voice:] “Oh, this is the world!” But yeah, so I have lots of confidence. And I just realized that that job is completely absurd, it’s not life. So, I just want to take care of that. Ok: That’s not life. That’s not real. This is not real. I’m 26, and I’m in a poster with Brad Pitt. That’s not really Real. But it’s my life now, and I just want to take time, and go to Ireland, and make my music. And I’m so glad to see Quentin, and to dance with him and talk about movies and just protect myself. And you can—[escort arrives] No I don’t want to go!
Ok I have to go! So, be inspired and life is great! Completely mystic I know. Thank you! Bye!