Julie Delpy is about to fly to Greece, so she’s making her last-minute arrangements. First she needs a dress — and she only has fifteen minutes to shop. And then there’s the weather — will New York have any more of those insane storm clouds that could delay her flight? And finally, she arranges to pick up a prescription for some anti-anxiety pills — not so she can take them, but so she can know that they’re there; their mere presence wards off “major crazy stress…so I can sleep.” Life has been so hectic, “I don’t even have a minute to myself,” the writer/director/actress confessed to the Playlist. “I can barely go to the bathroom! Don’t worry,” she laughed. “I can keep it in. I can squeeze!”
[editor’s note: FYI, later in this story, Delpy herself reveals the identity of the wickedly funny cameo in the film. If you haven’t seen it, we suggest you proceed with caution; though knowing who it is beforehand likely won’t spoil your enjoyment of this terrific film]
That kind of openness — baring her neuroses, sharing bodily humor — is part of what endears Delpy and her ‘2 Days’ alter ego Marion to her audience, especially women who see themselves in her. “I like to talk to women about her,” Delpy said. “Marion is endearing to women, for sure, because they identify. I’m not sure about men! But the blowjobs save me. She says, ‘That’s my specialty.’ She might be incontinent, but she gives good blow jobs!”
Delpy first introduced Marion in “2 Days in Paris,” in which she traipsed around Paris with her American boyfriend Jack (played by real life-ex Adam Goldberg), and we meet her again five years later in “2 Days in New York,” in which she’s settled down with another boyfriend, Mingus (played by Chris Rock), as both raise children from a previous relationship. Marion’s son Lulu, for instance, was conceived with Jack, giving him a presence in the film, “even though he’s not there,” Delpy said. “I thought of having him there for a while, and then I thought, it would be for too short a time. It would be weird and not realistic, like everyone else was there,” such as her father (played by Delpy’s real life father Albert), her sister, and her sister’s boyfriend. “Better to just take one moment in the life of Marion and Mingus.”
That one moment lasts two days, as the film’s title suggests, and it’s full of chaos as her French relatives clash with her American boyfriend and neighbors, with mistranslations and cultural differences galore. “I’m getting really good at chaotic, vaguely chaotic scenes,” Delpy said. “I think I have a really good sense of shooting table scenes, which are actually some of the hardest things to do in movies. It can’t be too chaotic, because then you can’t edit it. But I love to create this chaos of language and communication and miscommunication, this sensation of chaos.”
The whirlwind is funny enough on its own, but it feels relatable — and Marion feels so real, with her anxieties about approaching 40, her immature behavior around her sister “like two cats in heat,” her justifiable mood swings as she tries to address everyone else’s needs and demands. People often confuse the character with the actress who plays her and writes her since Delpy draws from her own life and the people in her own life to create Marion’s world. “Sometimes it seems like it’s me, but it’s not really me,” she said. “It’s kind of a weird mix. I expose myself a little bit, but not fully.”
Like her creator, Marion exposes herself “a little bit, but not fully” in her own art — as a photographer, she’s creating an exhibit of work to show the demise of a relationship, “taking pictures of herself from the beginning, as they’re in love, and slowly tracking it to where you’re alone in bed,” Delpy said. An art critic comes to the gallery, and tells her that she has a great idea, but it suffers in the execution. Naturally, she tells him off right back.
“Every friend of mine who is a writer or a director, that’s their favorite scene,” Delpy laughed. “Somehow, it’s kind of a wet dream for them. Because he’s saying, ‘It’s shit, really.’ What he’s saying is that she’s shit. And she is, actually. I don’t think Marion is an amazing artist. And he’s right, the concept is not bad. It’s kind of the concept behind my own films, using my own stuff, because I do that. I use one tiny chunk of a real thing, and then I build a story around it. And that’s the concept behind a lot of women who are conceptual artists, such as Cindy Sherman, or even photographer Nan Goldin. They’re all actual artists who use themselves.”
Marion’s biggest brainstorm (outside of pretending she has a brain tumor to avoid getting in trouble from a neighbor’s complaint) is to sell her soul — literally. As a piece of conceptual art, she offers her soul for sale. “I wrote that scene for Vincent [Gallo],” Delpy said. “I thought of all the people I know who would actually buy a piece of art of that sort, and only Vinny would. He’s an icon in cinema and everything, so it took a while to convince him because he doesn’t like to do cameos and stuff. They’re not his thing. But when he read the screenplay, he agreed. He said, ‘If there was one person in Manhattan who would buy a soul, it would be me.”
At first, it’s the only piece of art in Marion’s exhibit that sells — “pretty ironic,” Delpy laughed. “And then she’s too neurotic to sell it all the way. She wants it back.”
For more with Delpy, here’s a Q&A panel with her that the Playlist moderated in the spring.