French actress Julie Delpy had been acting for over a decade before most Americans were introduced to her in Richard Linklater’s 1995 movie Before Sunrise with Ethan Hawke. Nine years later, the trio were reunited for the follow-up Before Sunset, which got Delpy and her collaborators an Oscar nomination for their script. At the time, Delpy was already writing regular screenplays and she finally got the chance to make one of them into a film. 2 Days in Paris deals with the relationship between a French-American couple, played by Delpy and former beau Adam Goldberg, and how it’s put to the test when they spend two days in her native city of Paris, meeting her eccentric parents and encountering many of her ex-boyfriends.
As ComingSoon.net learned once again, having spoken to the actress for Before Sunset, Delpy is just as outspoken in person as the characters she plays in her films with a similar tendency to ramble on about sex and politics, but it’s especially amusing to hear her talking about American politics as if she were a native resident.
ComingSoon.net: Do you collect American idioms?
Julie Delpy: I don’t know if I notice them, but when somebody says something that I’ve never heard that I think is funny, I right away notice it. I don’t take note of it but I take a mental note. I use it a bunch of times at the wrong spot (laughs) and then eventually I learn it. It’s always a learning process for me, the English language. I pick on it right away. “Oh, that’s funny!” Sometimes I think things are funny that are not funny, like racist terms, but no, no, that’s not funny. You’re not supposed to say that ever. Things like that, so I’m learning all the time, so I’m not much more than someone speaking English since birth.
CS: You make it obvious how puritan Americans are when it comes to sex.
Delpy: It’s funny, because I have a lot of American friends that I believe are not that puritan, but there is a little element that is still puritan that’s in them, so even the most liberated Americans that I know are a bit more uptight than the French. It’s weird. I don’t know why that is, but even in your familyit’s funny because I visited part of my family in Tahiti recently and there was my cousin and his daughter, and my boyfriend was noticing that the freedom of the relationship between parents and children and how people talk to each other and how openly the 20-year-old girl was talking about her boyfriends or sex life with her parents was something that you don’t notice as much in America, that’s for sure. There’s something about the family and maybe it’s part of French culture and maybe that’s why we have the Marquis de Sade and Batai. It’s part of this weird culture where people they don’t do more than anyone else but food and sex, everyone talks about it at lunch with their parents. It’s a weird thing. Even the hardcore Catholics in my family, they talk about sex all the time. It doesn’t matter if you’re religious or not, it’s just the main subject of conversation. I don’t know if it’s better or worse and definitely with politics and sex. Our French politicians are reknowned womanizers (laughs) and it’s okay. It wouldn’t be accepted here. I think the liberal Americans would accept it in a way but there’s a part of the country that’s so rooted in religion and having sex with another woman is much worse than destroying another country but I won’t get into that. (laughs) I’m not saying the French are perfect. They have a lot of flaws and you can see them in the film, but I think on that level, I do like France and that sex is not taken as something bad. It’s bad to cheat on your wife, but it’s not horrible. It’s bad on a personal level, but it doesn’t hurt the world, you know what I mean? You agree, right? Or am I crazy person? (laughs)
CS: At one point, Adam says that “our last chance at a great Democracy was brought down by a blow job.” Can you talk about that line?
Delpy: Well, that was one of the first lines I wrote (laughs) because that scene was one of the first scenes I wrote. Sometimes I don’t write in order. Like when I wrote “Before Sunset,” I wrote the car scene first where they reveal each other, because I thought that was the moment of catharsis and I wrote everything else from then on. That was the first line I wrote because I thought that was such a crazy thing to think, if you think about it. The chain of events that came from that Monica Lewinsky thing is pretty crazy if you think about it. I don’t know if Bush would not have been elected, but I have a feeling if Clinton could have supported Gore more, maybe he would have been elected. Maybe, maybe that line is actually true. Maybe a blow job really brought down democracy. It’s sad to think about that. I hope it was worth it.
CS: Did you start this script before working on “Before Sunset” and how did you keep the lines you wrote for this movie ending up in that one? There are certain similarities between the characters, especially being in the same setting.
Delpy: Yes, I started writing bits of it before “Before Sunset”, and I did put stuff in “Before Sunset” that I thought about for the other one, some lines I wrote for Ethan, the more comedic stuff like “You’ll be a great mother ” things like that, because that’s more the tone of this film, but it was a very different storyline. Even though it’s set in Paris and it’s a French/American couple, it’s such a different film, because one is about two people reuniting. It could have been in Brussels or Germany. It didn’t matter because there’s no interaction with their environment in “Before Sunset” where in this one, it’s all about their environment and the parents and the ex-boyfriend and the friends and Paris and the cab drivers. Because “Before Sunset” was talking about love and love that you don’t have and love that you can’t get and love that you missed, while this one is about relationships and how do you handle this beast that is being in a relationship.
CS: The political discussions in the two movies are somewhat similar as well.
Delpy: Oh, yeah, yeah, well it’s different in tone. The political stuff here, I kept it less You know in “Before Sunset” when she talks about working for environmental issues and how water borne disease kills so many people a year and stuff, I did all my research on that and it was very straightforward in explaining what she does. Here, they’re not helping the world. They’re not making the world better. She’s a photographer, she probably takes a lot of fashion photos, she’s not doing anything to make the world better, but I felt that the political stuff needed to be on a comedic tone and always in a sense of being more conversational all the time. They don’t talk about politics. The political stuff is always in a joke or in a middle of talking about sex, like when you’re talking about a blow job you go into a political statement. You talk about politics in the middle of conversation, but for me, that’s important. Or you have a fight with a cab driver, who’s a racist. To me, it was more like in-the-moment kind of things, less than talking about it.
CS: I was going to ask what you had against cab drivers.
Delpy: No, but you know it’s true that in Paris, when you’re in a cab, you don’t have that window, you don’t have that separation so much as in other countries that you have now where you can have the radio on and you barely hear each other. You constantly talk to cab drivers in Paris if you’re French. They engage conversation with you. I don’t know why they start talking to you or they look at a woman driving and go, “Ah, that f*cking b*tch!” (laughs) Hating all women drivers. “They can’t drive!” It’s so weird that they’re so angry, because driving in Paris is so horrible that it would turn anyone into a fascist, I believe that, because it’s so horrifyingly awful to drive in Paris. Like if they see you crossing the street, they push on the acceleration pedal just to make sure they might hit you maybe if they get lucky. So it’s like really a nightmare there. It’s such an aggressive, but mean. They’re mean, so mean, and it’s true, and the only revenge is that in the film I snap back at them. In reality, I’m quiet in the back seat (grumbling), because I’m an actress and I don’t want to be punched in the face. I’ll never work again. In France, the taxi drivers express their political views almost after two seconds, they usually do, because French also talk about politics. There are three subject matters in Paris: sex, food and politics.
CS: How did your relationship with Adam affect the on-screen relationship?
Delpy: I would say because I know him so well, I was able to give him a part. I’ve known him for years, like 12 years
CS: Did you two have a romance at one point?
Delpy: Yes, a short thing like ten or twelve years ago, but it’s not based on that, this film, not at all. He never came to Paris and he’s nothing like that at all personally, so it was hard to keep Adam from laughing with my dad because he was never offended by my dad. He loved my dad. It was really funny actually. It’s not really based on that at all. How it affected the work, I would say most of the time it didn’t, sometimes maybe it’s a little harder to be directed by an ex-girlfriend than it is by a regular person (laughs). It’s kind of like, “What do you mean you want me to do this?” “You just have to do it. I’m the director.” And he’s like, “Okay, you’re the director.” He wasn’t bad. He was always funny about it.
CS: Was there any room for improvisation between the two of you, considering that you had a script ready to go for such a long time?
Delpy: There were moments that were improvised but they were in the limit of something that was already written and it was actually controlled improvisation. I would say that there are little glimpses and we did do moments of improvisation, but really what ends up in the film is very much the script in the end.
CS: How cool are your parents about bringing people home to meet them in real life?
Delpy: They’re very sweet my parents and very funny. They’re both actors and I made them play those horrible people, but they’re very cute and very funny. In real life, they’re the sweetest and most loving people you’ve ever met, not like the character of the dad at all.
Delpy’s 2 Days in Paris opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, August 10.