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'The Past' Star Bérénice Bejo on Her Cannes Award Winning Performance and Working With Asghar Farhadi For Half a Year

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire December 16, 2013 at 10:39AM

Returning to Cannes following her international breakthrough performance in 2011's awards juggernaut "The Artist," directed by her husband Michel Hazanavicius, Oscar nominee Bérénice Bejo returned the Croisette this year with another film to sure to return her to the forefront of awards talk -- Asghar Farhadi's follow-up to his Oscar-winning "A Separation," "The Past."
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The Past, Asghar Farhadi, Bérénice Bejo,

How long did you shoot "The Artist" for?

35 days.

That's a remarkably short period for such an ambitious project. I was dumbfounded to learn you shot "The Past" for a whopping four months, not including the two months of rehearsals.

I know, Michel [Hazanavicius] was like, "You're so lucky, you have so much time. We would have shot that in eight weeks." I guess because of the language, to be sure of what we say, and that's the way [Asghar works]. He needs to watch every take before going to the next one. He needs to see the editing. He needs to go slowly, and I guess then you're tired. Sometimes he would say, "Berenice, you don't look tired enough. Berenice you're smiling too much. Berenice you're laughing, come on!" [laughs] I don't know, he just needs to put this energy on the set. It's great.

I remember some technician on the set having a coffee, saying, "This is slow. We're going to get so bored over 15 weeks. But you know what? We're always in a hurry. Let's enjoy this ride and taking the time to make the movie." So after two weeks everybody was happy with going slowly, and everything was very precise.

Did there ever come a point where it was too much, especially given the heavy nature of the material?

Yeah, at the end I remember saying to Asghar, "I'm too tired, I cannot go on. Let's do it tomorrow." [laughs] And he would say, "No, you're tired. I like when you're tired, so let's go on!" I knew I was doing something special as an actress, so I would say, "Okay, let's go on." And the crew was the same. At the end we were all very moved and said goodbye, because it was six months. For France, that's very unusual.

The Past, Asghar Farhadi, Bérénice Bejo

How long does a normal French production usually take?

I would say, three months.

That's a lot. Independent American films on average take 30 days to shoot.

Yeah, us too, I would say with the preparation, three months.

You were asked yesterday about the fact that you stayed in France and worked with Asghar following your success in the States. What was it like to live down the nomination and the pressure that follows, on such a worldwide scale?

After the Oscars, I was very tired, and oppressed by people, and my little baby was just born, my second one, and I felt I needed to be home. I had an offer for a movie in the south of France and I declined, luckily because Asghar arrived. When Asghar arrived with this movie that was going to be shot in Paris, it was perfect. I didn't have to move away from my house and my family, I was working with this guy who just won the Oscar. For me it was like working internationally at home, and it was perfect.

Then I'm starting Michel's movie in August. I said yes to a French movie two years ago that I couldn't decline because I said yes, so I was really not free. My American agent would send me things, but I would say, "Listen, I'm not free until next year." So I was not free and maybe I was not ready to go away. But maybe, you know, if Ang Lee would call me and say he had a role for me, then I would find some time and come with my kids and everything. But I didn't have those kinds of propositions, and I have to be honest, nothing really came along, but I'm fine. 

Well I'd start gearing up for an another awards blitz. I mean, it's obviously going to be up for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film. I'd be shocked if it wasn't.

You think so?

Oh yeah.

A Separation
Sony Classics "A Separation"

Oh cool. [laughs] I hope you're right. 

I think it's just as strong as "A Separation" and I think "A Separation" is one of the strongest films I've seen in the past five years. Are you ready for that?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. If it really goes so far, I will definitely go with Asghar. I definitely will, because this project is as special to me as "The Artist" was, and I definitely totally fell in love with Asghar Farhadi and what he has done with me. So I will follow him, that's for sure. 

Unlike with "The Artist," you didn't get to share the Cannes spotlight with your husband this time around. What was the experience like of sharing something like this with him?

It was amazing, and I think it kept us together and very strong. I'm happy we lived that together, I don't that happens very often for a husband and wife to get a nomination together. For my personal life, it will always be a moment that I cherish very strongly.


This article is related to: The Past , Sony Pictures, Sony Pictures Classics, Bérénice Bejo, The Artist, Cannes Film Festival, Interviews, Asghar Farhadi, Drama, Awards Season Roundup, Academy Awards





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