Diane Kruger was my translator for the afternoon. Or really just for the thirty minutes I spent talking to her and Benoit Jacquot, the aging French director and mastermind behind Kruger’s new Marie Antoinette vehicle, Farewell, My Queen.
But for those thirty minutes, Kruger hung on my every word. In a way it felt (to me, at least) as if we were a young couple in love, anxious to impress her sleazy French uncle. Plus, she kept calling me Josh, the same name as her longtime boyfriend (Joshua Jackson) who people said I looked like in high school. Except, of course, unlike his character on Dawson’s Creek, I wasn’t secretly sleeping with my sexy teacher –– we didn’t even have any sexy teachers –– and I didn’t get to go with Ms. Kruger to the Whitney later that afternoon for the Louis Vuitton & Yayoi Kusami show like he did.
Alas, life isn’t fair. Which, it turns out, is the whole point of Kruger’s new film. Like a reality TV show set in 18th century Versailles, Farewell follows a cast female frenemies jockeying for favor before a mercurial and homoerotic Marie Antoinette.
What’s amazing is that Farewell, although somewhat inscrutable in its underlying concerns, will appeal to both a staid audience eager for a hint of skirt-lifting, and to jaded Gossip Girl fans who might recognize their own Facebook highs-and-lows in the decadent intrigue of the aristocracy. Plus there’s an amazing cast of sexy French actresses including the gorgeous Léa Seydoux and Virginie Ledoyen. And at the center of the ensemble there’s Kruger, as the desperate Antoinette: the Queen Bee whose milkshake brings all the boys (and girls) to the yard.
So Benoit, I wanted to start by asking you about the New York Times profile that ran a couple days ago. It said your two favorite things in life were books and …
Kruger: … and women! (Laughs)
Jacquot: It’s not true! (Laughs) What I prefer are films and making films. Cinema is what I breathe. You can ask Diane, when I’m making films it’s the only thing I think about. Not seducing girls or reading books. Well, in fact it’s a little true for me. I had many affairs with actresses. Now everyone knows I’m interested in the actresses in my movies!
What about you, Diane. What are your two favorite things in life?
Kruger: Well one would be making films. And the second would be traveling. I just love traveling. I left home when I was fifteen and I’ve been on my own since. The minute I finish a movie I want to travel. I want to see every continent on this planet before I start a family.
Jacquot: It’s true because you never know where she is. When you want to call her, she could be anywhere.
Where are you coming from now?
Kruger: Paris. I live in Paris half the time and L.A. half the time.
How would you compare the two industries?
Kruger: It’s a much smaller community in France. I know most of the actors. I know many of the directors even if I haven’t worked with them. Especially as I’m not French, I feel the French industry really welcomed me as one of their own.
Jacquot: Absolutely. You’re at home in France.
Kruger: I feel like they’re my family.
And in L.A.?
Kruger: Well, it’s such a big industry, a big machine.
What drew you both to the French Revolution as a subject?
Jacquot: Nothing! I was not interested in the French Revolution, but rather in the sense of panic at the time.
And Marie Antoinette? What grabbed you about the role? Was it hard to play a queen?
Kruger: I don’t really believe in fate, but every once in a while there’s a movie or part that comes to you at a specific time in your life. I had never thought about playing Marie Antoinette. But this film came along and I really connected with how Benoit portrays her in the film. She’s a bit borderline. It was really interesting to portray a woman who is so aloof and unaware of what is happening around her. But she picks herself up at the end, at the end of the era.
Jacquot: It’s as if she crowns herself. On the one hand she was the capricious princess who transformed Versailles into a Cabaret. But in those few days at the end she becomes a tragic queen. In the film, Diane plays both roles almost at once.
Did you both expect comparisons with Sofia Copolla’s film? Was that on your radar?
Kruger: For me, sure, because it was the most recent film about Marie Antoinette. But it’s hard to compare the two films. They’re set in two different periods of her life. And In Sofia’s film, you can see how much she empathized with the queen. And that’s her right and it’s what’s beautiful about the film. But I’ve never said in an interview what I feel about Marie Antoinette.
Jacquot: Sofia’s film takes place over a five year time span. Our film takes place over four days. And Farewell picks up exactly where her film stops.
What was it like working together?
Kruger: Benoit makes me nervous.
Kruger: Yes! Look at him! I don’t know what it is. He has a laissez-faire attitude which is so unnerving. I tend to want to work really hard on a role, but he doesn’t like to rehearse.
Jacquot: It’s not that I don’t like, I don’t believe in rehearsing! But, honestly, what I try to do is cast actresses against their natural tendency. Look at Diane: She is so scrupulous, so fastidious and hard-working. I wanted to put her in a role that was capricious and whimsical. She would arrive on set; we’d get her made up and ready to shoot; and then I just threw her in the pool. And for an extremely difficult role she did marvelously.
Kruger: I did?
Jacquot: Absolutely. You were wonderful. I was constantly surprised by Diane’s performance.
You’re so often paired with men. Was is different falling in love with a woman?
Kruger: Let me tell you it’s so easy with Virginie (Ledoyen). She is one of the most beautiful women I know. I don’t have lesbian tendencies but I can’t stop looking at her one way or the other.
Did you identify with the obsessive lover?
Kruger: Well, not exactly. But I think you can identify with a part of it. The lives we all lead, they’re very exposed lives sometimes. And you can wonder whether a person loves you for who you are or if they love the actress, the celebrity. That can be difficult and can make any betrayal of an old friend or lover even more difficult.
What’s next for you?
Kruger: My next film is an American film and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s about the early days of Abraham Lincoln, directed by AJ Edwards and produced by Terence Malick. And I play his step-mom. So I’m going to do a Kentucky accent, in the 1800s.
Do you plan on keeping up a career in L.A. and France?
Kruger: It’s been my dream. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, but it’s been my dream not to be stuck in one place.
Jacquot: But that’s exactly what you’re doing.
Kruger: It’s not always easy but it’s very important to me to keep making movies in France. And in French.