As anyone who’s seen any of Julie Delpy’s brazen and brainy turns in films like “Before Sunrise” and “Three Colors: White” can probably guess, the French beauty doesn’t make for a boring interview.
In catching up with Indiewire over the phone to discuss her latest directorial offering “2 Days in New York” (a sequel to her wry comedy “2 Days in Paris”), Delpy devotes a bulk of our 15-minute block to convincing me that she’s not crazy, following a profile of the actress/writer/director that ran in The Guardian, in which her “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset” co-star Ethan Hawke said she was just that.
While Hawke likely said that in jest, the fact that his comment irked Delpy as deeply as it did gives a good indication of how seriously she takes her craft. That craft is on full display in “2 Days in New York,” a rollicking culture clash comedy in which Delpy revisits the role of Marion, a New York-based artist with a wacky Gallic family. “2 Days in New York” finds Marion split from her boyfriend from “2 Days in Paris” and living with her new man Mingus (Chris Rock) and their respective children from prior relationships. When her family decide to pay a visit from France, their cozy domestic partnership is put to the test.
Below Delpy dishes on the status of the third entry in the “Before Sunrise” series, dicusses her reasons for penning a sequel to “2 Days in Paris,” and gets the fact straight on whether she’s directing a Joe Strummer biopic or not.
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Paris was like the third main character in “2 Days in Paris.” All the conflict seemed to arise from the surroundings. This time around, the setting doesn’t figure so prominently in the story. It just more happens to be where the couple live.
Yeah, it’s a little bit less of a city taking over. It’s not a fish out of water story as much. It’s more about the invaders bringing the mayhem. Paris is more stressful than New York. It is. New York is much more tourist friendly. You don’t have the same interraction with people. Cab drivers don’t talk to you in Paris. I feel that New York is a more friendly city. But I’m also Parisian, so everytime I go back there I can be aware of how rude people can be. I’m horrified sometimes. For example in “2 Days in Paris,” all the taxi scenes…during the period I was making the film, I literally had taxis who were doing what they do in the film.
What made you want revisit the character of Marion?
Because she’s quite annoying and I like annoying characters. But seriously, she’s an endearing and obnoxious person. I kind of like those characters in movies in general. I wanted to see something further in her life, like having a kid. How someone who is so unstable as Marion, could handle having a child, being in a new relationship, and having lost a parent. I just wanted to play with her a little more. I thought “2 Days in Paris” was such a tiny window in the life of Marion. I wanted to go a little further.
Is this a character you see yourself revisiting down the road?
I don’t know. I don’t think of sequels right after the first one comes out. It usually takes me a year. Even then I’m not sure. I have so many other projects I’m writing and other characters that are also really annoying [laughs]. Looking forward to more neurotic characters but in a different way.
Did you initially start writing and directing to create acting opportunities for yourself that weren’t coming your way?
It’s true that I was not offered comedies or anything like that. It was very limited. But me becoming a director had nothing to do with me not getting what I wanted as an actress. It’s totally seperate. I’ve always wanted to be a director. When I first started in this business, I became an actress because it was easy, I was pretty. People started hiring me like Godard. But even Godard, when I first met him, I said, “You don’t have to hire me as an actress. I can just come to the set, bring you coffee and watch how you work. That’s what I’m more interested in.”
I’ve always pursued directing. I wrote my first screenplay when I was 16. I wanted to direct it, but no one would give me money; I was too young. It’s always been my goal.
How is “The Right Profile,” the Joe Strummer biopic you’re attached to direct, coming along?
I’m probably not going to do it. It’s a weird situation. I said no to Film Four because I got scared. British press can be really tough. They were saying, “Julie Delpy, who does she think she is? A French director doing such a UK project?!” No matter if it’s good, I was going to be trashed. So I said fuck it. If they want a British director to direct anything that has to do with Britain, then fine. I was really annoyed. Maybe it was one guy, but it got me very upset. I was like, I can’t deal with this hate of French women [laughs].
The truth is he’s such a British icon, that maybe yes, it should be a British director. But then I met the photographer, who’s story it’s based on, and he said I was the best person to do the film. Then I found out that Joe’s daughter wanted me to do it, so now I’m all confused. I don’t know if I’m doing it or not, I’m just confused. We’ll see what happens.
I had great ideas for the cast. But I had the feeling that Film Four and some of the financiers didn’t want me to do it, so I got scared of that. If a financier hires you to do the film and they’re not 100 percent sure you’re the right person for the project, they make your life hell. Then it’s just such a struggle. I had that on “The Countess.” The French finaciers didn’t really believe in me.
Going on to another film you’re actually confirmed to do: the follow up to “Before Sunset.” When I interviewed Ethan Hawke earlier this year for “Woman in the Fifth,” he let drop that you were gearing up to start shooting this summer.
We’re writing it now.
How’s that going?
Good. I mean Ethan is crazy, but he’s a great writer. I’m saying that because I just found out he said that in an interview, that I’m crazy. It got me really angry [laughs]. It’s so unfair because he doesn’t understand that being a woman director is already such a complicated thing. Everyone assumed that women are crazy, so if you say that… I know what he means by saying I’m crazy — that I’m a goofball and make the craziest jokes. But I’m everything from crazy. I directed four films in five years and I had a baby in that time too. If I was crazy, I would not have had a baby and made four films. Obviously I’m so not crazy. I’ll direct him one day and he’ll see how not crazy I am.
But it’s annoying, because it’s not very friendly to do that. I don’t think he realized that it’s not a very nice thing to do. Already I’m French, I’m a woman, I’m directing movies where I play the crazy character. Everyone assumes I’m crazy! I’m so not crazy. I’m funny, but I’m not crazy.
How has that affected your working relationship?
It’s great. We’re having a fun time. When I work with those guys [Richard Linklater and Hawke] we have a lot of laughs. We work a lot but we’re also having a fun time.
You and Ethan put up quite the fight when you both weren’t credited as co-writers on the script for “Before Sunrise.” Is there any awkward tension between you and Linklater still to this day? Or is that all in the past?
It was a really stupid situation, because we went to Vienna and rewrote the entire film and threw away the original screenplay. Because of the Writer’s Guild we couldn’t do anything. But that’s OK, because in the second film we got the credit. But yeah, it’s fine.
I’m sure the Oscar nomination for the sequel helped.
Yeah it was fun. But the truth is when we started writing together on the second film, we just had so much fun. We could have not had the nomination and it would have been fine too. It was like the cherry on the cake, but the cake was already there [laughs].
That’s probably why he said I’m crazy because when you get the three of us together I come up with the craziest ideas. I come up with the crazy jokes, and things that would never come out of the mouth of a woman [laughs]. I’m more of a guy than they are. I’ll say the most crazy stuff. Even guys wouldn’t dare to say the shit I say. I guess I’m crazy.