Film & TV

Alexia Landeau On Her Fear of Swimming and Moving to New York to Save Her Soul

Film & TV

Alexia Landeau On Her Fear of Swimming and Moving to New York to Save Her Soul

Photograph by Lexie Moreland

Alexia Landeau is an actress, writer, and model who recently co-wrote Julie Delpy’s 2 Days in New York, a sequel to 2 Days In Paris, which opened on Friday. She’ll also appear as the lead in Zoe Cassavetes’ The Business, set to shoot in the fall, as well as in Swimming Pool with Will Forte and Rosemarie DeWitt set to shoot late spring of next year, which she also had a hand in writing. We spoke to the New York-based actress who talks about her anxieties of bearing it all on camera and escaping the hard, plastic grip of Hollywood to avoid selling her soul.

How long have you been writing?
I just started writing with 2 Days In New York actually. Julie [Delpy] asked me to help her write the sequel. We had a project before that we had started writing together that never actually went anywhere.

Is it something you prefer over acting?
No, I love to act. I think what’s great about writing and what Julie always talks about — there is something very passive about being an actor, you’re sort of just waiting to be chosen all day, or waiting to be desired. Whereas, in writing, you’re much more the architect of your own character. To be able to write a part for yourself is kind of great. Thus far I’ve only written stuff for me to be in, but I do love writing.

Did you and Julie write the part with Chris Rock in mind?
She’s a huge fan of Chris Rock’s and I think she thought it would be interesting. Had it not been Chris Rock it might not necessarily have been an African American person, or an interracial relationship. They were both fans of each other and she just really wanted to work with him. She thought it would be interesting for Marion to be with a guy like that. Then to have Chris Rock play this sort of straight man as opposed to Chris Rock the comedian.

How was writing the role of Rose — the nympho, exhibitionist sister — that you knew you would eventually have to play?
I was definitely writing under Julie, if that makes sense, and it was always her movie from the get-go. She had specific ideas of what the characters were like and that was semi non-negotiable meaning that I might not have been necessarily portraying Rose’s character as myself. But within those guidelines I just went deeper and more in depth. But Julie was definitely my boss.

What is your favorite genre of writing?
I co-wrote this other movie called Swimming Pool with Will Forte and Rosemary Dewitt, about divorce. 2 Days In New York is a little farcical. I like comedy, but I like domestic dramas with comedy in them.

Is domestic drama a common theme in your life?
Yeah, I think so. You always sort of take from your own life. You know it’s always funnier when you write about it than when it’s happening.

Did filming in New York City, where you currently live, allow you to see the city in a different light?
The way Julie used the city was kind of interesting. When the family goes around sight-seeing we went on this ferry. We did some really touristy things that I had never done before. I’d never gone up to the Empire State building, so in that respect I got to see really touristy things. When you live in a city you don’t necessarily do those things. It was very appropriate for my character, to see the city through a tourist’s lens.

Do you have any sisters?
I do, I have a lot of sisters. I have one full, and three half-sisters. My dad has five daughters and one boy, so in that respect I know what it’s like having siblings. And my full sister and I are very close in age.

Do you feel you projected your relationship with your real sisters onto your relationship with Marion (Delpy) in the film?
Julie and I have become close friends through the years and we have a very sisterly relationship. We tease each other a lot, we get mad at each other and make up. At the heart of that I think it’s a very sincere, deep friendship that has a lot of the volatility that sisters can have.

Did you feel you and Delpy began to act as sisters would, on and off set?
Yeah, I think we have that dynamic a little bit. I think a lot of our dynamic as friends bled over into the way we wrote the relationship of Rose and Marion. So that really helped us.

I was watching the Q&A from Sundance and Chris Rock mentions not knowing any French. Was there language barrier on set between the French actors and the Americans?
Julie’s father doesn’t speak a word of English, so, in a lot of the scenes, Chris wouldn’t know when we were acting and when we weren’t. Julie wouldn’t necessarily call cut or action, so he couldn’t tell if we were talking lines from the script or lines from real life. He was kind of confused all the time, which really worked for him because Mingus [Rock’s character] is very confused. He said he didn’t have to act very much.

Did this create any unexpected surprises during the shooting of the film?
It just sort of added to that mayhem of filming an independent movie where you don’t have much money and you don’t have much time.

In the film Delpy sells her soul to Vincent Gallo, symbolizing her selling out as an artist. Where did this idea come from?
From the start, she had this conceptual idea of selling the soul. I thought it would be funny if Vincent bought the soul. We know Vincent, and you know just because he’s kind of a jack of all trades, we knew he’d be perfect. A lot of writing is just brainstorming and asking ourselves, “What if this?”

Have you ever sold your soul?
You know, I left Los Angeles before I started feeling that way. I feel I’ve been lucky to live a pretty uncompromised life. Thus far, I mean you never know. I hope to continue on that trajectory.

Was being an exhibitionist in your role as Delpy’s sister Rose foreign to you? Or are you someone comfortable with being nude?
No, I’m not at all. I don’t even own a bathing suit. I don’t swim, I hate swimming. In real life I do not show my body. I was not comfortable with that, and I argued with Julie on that. I was like “I don’t wanna do it,” and then we kind of just went with it and it was funny. But that’s not at all me, I’m not an exhibitionist. Nor am I a sex addict.