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IN A TENSE
By Brad Balfour
Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 12, 2005.
With high cheek bones and rich
full lips, 30 year old actress Cécile De France has been dubbed one of the
next big things to come out of France recently. The character she plays in
the just released slasher/psycho killer flick High Tension might
shock people into believing that. Though she first came to international
attention as one of the leads in Cedric Klapisch's
college comedy L'Auberge espagnole, this film will implant a very
different image of her in the minds of many young men in America after they
see this film. Be very afraid if she gets to run around in a sequel.
Obviously, this is a very different movie for you from Klapisch's comedy,
how did you get involved?
They proposed it to me some four years ago and we shot this three years ago;
they gave me the script and I went back home, and I read it in one
[sitting]. I devoured it and got scared. It's like reading a good book that
you don't want to end, because it gives you a real thrill. Also, it was the
first time that a director proposed to me a role that was so violent and
because I like this kind of film and am from the theatre then perhaps I'm
used to working with my character at first with my body. And of course, in
this kind of film, you speak more with your body than with your head. That's
why I was attracted to this kind of character.
Did you have any trepidation about doing a film like this?
No, I liked the script so it was okay.
What interested you in horror films and what horror films have you seen?
Because Alexandre [Aja-the director] is a huge fan of this kind of film, he
knows each scene, every detail, and so he asked me to see a lot of films
[like the ones he had in mind]. So I discovered great films like The
Hitcher, Duel, and of course, classics like Alien 2,
The Shining and Rosemary's Baby -
especially for the crazy part. For me, was cool to discover this kind
of film again, because I saw them when I was a teenager, and perhaps, I
changed the channel, sometimes, so I was rediscovering these films.
This movie is more like a 70's B horror flick like Texas Chainsaw
Massacre. Did you see that?
Yes, yes, I saw it.
Are these movies popular in France?
Yes, they are, but not like here [in The United States]; it's more part of
the culture but in France, it's not really in the culture, so it's a part of
the audience who are used to this kind of film.
You watched many American horror movies for this film.
What was your favorite?
The Hitcher [which starred Rutger Hauer]. Because they had no money
[when they made the film, they had] to be very clever. You have to work your
mind a lot to think, "how can I scare the audience with nothing, with no
explosions, and digital effects." It's only about tension. It shows what you
can do with a little image and a little acting.
Were you having fun on the set or was it very grim?
This had a lot of very physical shoots.
It was low budget film, so it was [made under] very hard conditions-shooting
only at night, in the cold; we were dirty and barefoot. We had to be fast.
It was very tough. We shot in Romania, but most of the budget went into
Giannetto DeRossi's budget. He's a master of special effects and make-up, a
real craftsman. He did the make up for Dune, Once Upon a Time in America
and Luchio Visconti's films and so, most of the budget went to him because
he's great! He did all of these scars by his hands. I was very [excited to
learn about] this part of this kind of film-the blood, and how he did it.
Yeah, it was cool!
You trained as a boxer?
Yeah, [I did] two months of training every day every day every day to learn
how to pass my limits. It was very interesting. I did physical work with a
Thai boxing champion because Alexandre wanted me to build up my stamina; he
knew that the film would be hard [for me to do under] these conditions. And
we did it in order for me to lose my too-healthy side and change my face to
be something more angular, so [I could] feel the dark part of my mind, and
Being so young, did that give Alexandre an advantage in directing this
Not an advantage but perhaps because he's part of this of generation that's
interested in horror movies he knows each scene and dialogue very well, and
this film and moment, so he has a huge culture of this kind of film.
There have been a lot of French films recently that incorporate violence
like Irreversible. Have
you seen and of them and do you think this film is in the same vein?
No, we knew that this film is more like a '70s film-that's why the car is an
old American car of the '70s, and the gas station [has an old
like an hommage to this kind of film. A film like Irreversible is
Were some of the news stories about the Belgian serial killers who had
captured girls and kept them imprisoned in the basement?
No, this film was not made to be a morality lesson or to talk about
homosexuality. It's only about the thrills and the about tension, about this
attraction and repulsion that we have for things that terrify us. That's
all. It's not about the psychological [implications]. It's only for people
who enjoy this kind of film.
After Lions Gate picked it up, they decided to dub certain parts.
Was the English version different from the French version?
I didn't see [the English-dubbed version] yet but there wasn't another
script. They decided [to change the story so that] Marie goes [to stay with]
Alex's family to learn English, [so they had] all of Alex's family members
speaking in English, but when I speak to the police, or to the gas station
man, it's in French. That's it, no? I haven't see the English version yet. I
went to the studio and they gave me the new lines in English and I said...
"okay, let's do it." I don't know if Alexandre had a look at this
translation. I trust Lions Gate.
Did you insist on doing your own dubbing?
No, they proposed it to me so I was very proud of that. It was better that
it was me and I liked to play [the part] in English, because it was more
dynamic [as well].
Some people have a problem with the twist at the end of the movie.
I had so much to do with my character I couldn't think about all the keys
and stuff. I had confidence in Alexandre and let him do what he had to do.
For me, it was more interesting to play this twist because that means my
character is very crazy. It's very interesting to play the schizophrenia and
to play the dark part of my character. I liked doing that.
Did you find
this role as hard as doing comedy?
I was a bit nervous about acting the fear, the confrontation with evil,
because it's a feeling I had never experienced. Of course I wanted it to
be as close to the reality as much as possible. I wanted people to
identify with me. It was very important to play the fear in a strong way.
Mentally it was hard to concentrate on this but [the American comedy
starring Jackie Chan] Around the World in 80 Days [in which she has
a supporting role] is comedic and that's hard too because it's about
Since you did High Tension three years ago, what
are the films have you done since, especially
the sequel to L'Auberge espagnole.
I don't remember everything! I did a film with Etienne Chatiliez, La
Confiance Regne. And then I did a film with Daniele Thompson,
Fauteuils d'orchestre with Sydney Pollack in a small role. I did the
sequel to L'Auberge espagnole. with the same cast of characters,
five years later called Russian Dolls and will go out in France in
a few days.
Having played a couple of lesbian roles [such as your character in
L'Auberge espagnole] are you concerned that you will be typecast?
In America I hope not. In France I am a very lucky actress. The
journalists always say that I am used to play so different characters. I
don't know what happens here, I am not calculating something but I am so
happy and proud that High Tension will come out here. I don't think
about what's happening in the future.
In The Spanish Apartment, the comedy there was very ironic. Was
it similar in Russian Dolls?
Yes! In Russian Dolls you will see a very difficult scene because I
had to play my character playing a very posh girl, and have to pretend to
be the fiancée of my friend Xavier. Having shown it in France, audiences
laugh very much.
How was it to return to that role [which was]
such a break out for you?
It was three years in shooting, but it's five years in the story. I just
watched L'Auberge espagnol again; we did a lot of improvisation and
a lot of work together. It was a preparation, for me to work with Cedric
Klapisch who is a huge director for actors.
Speaking of sequels, would you come back for a High Tension 2?
It depends on a lot of things. It depends on the script, my character, the
director, but because this was a low budget film, and Alexandre was very
young, and I was not famous, a lot of elements might change. It's like
when you do cooking and gasp! Something happens. If we do a sequel though
it would have to be with more money, I would like that.
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#2 © 2005 Courtesy of Lion's Gate Films.
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#3 © 2005 Courtesy of Lion's Gate Films.
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#4 © 2005 Courtesy of Lion's Gate Films.
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All rights reserved. Posted: June 12, 2005.