Louise Bourgoin: our interview with the French actress
MyFrenchLife.org correspondent Emily Arbuckle and Fondatrice Judy MacMahon sat down with Louise while she was in Melbourne for the Alliance Française French Film Festival. We chatted all things art, film, French women, her unique story and how to mimic true Parisian style!Cliquez ici pour lire cet article en français.
Louise, in three words, how would you describe your personality?
Determined, vulnerable and optimistic
You studied at École régionale des beaux-arts in Rennes, so you evidently have a creative streak. Do you still practise art?
Yes, I try. It’s difficult to do because my job takes up a lot of time, but it is still a hobby of mine.
You create ‘Plastic art’ – what exactly is that?
It’s drawing with a quill and ink. It’s very simple, so it means that I can bring it with me when I’m filming. [My style] is very erotic, so I can’t really show you!
Actually, there is a men’s magazine in France who asked me to draw a piece of erotic art for a monthly column. It’s called ‘Lui’. It’s like ‘Playboy’. It’s quite fun. And I like the idea that it’s a woman making these erotic drawings. Often it’s men [who do it]. I like that I can give the feminine perspective.
Although you’re from Brittany, you live in Paris and you seem very Parisian, all chic and nonchalant, and the dry humour. Do you consider yourself a Parisian?
I always dreamed of moving to Paris. I think that I chose to work in television mainly so that I could go to Paris. I was bored in Rennes because I found it too small.
When I arrived in Paris I didn’t want people to know I was from the provinces, so I constantly made a big effort to imitate le look Parisien. When people say that I look Parisian, in reference to my style I’m very flattered. Giving off that impression is important. That’s my goal!
But can someone really be Parisian if he or she wasn’t born in Paris?
Well, there are actually very few Parisians who are really from Paris, since it is a financial capital. All the jobs are in Paris, especially for actors. We are all provincial.
But Parisian style is very hard to imitate without being obvious. It is a very particular style, nothing like Australian or American style.
“True elegance is making it seem as though you haven’t done anything and you are naturally elegant.”
It is really effortless. And yet it requires a lot of work. For example you have to refrain from showing that you’ve made an effort, but still look presentable. So you have to find a seemingly accidental harmony with your look. It’s quite specific. And you can’t wear obvious branding! It’s fascinating!
You arrived in Paris in 2004. What were your plans there?
My plan was to work in television. When I was in Rennes, I did a successful audition, so I moved to Paris for work. Working in television was really a financial decision, so that I could earn good money. It’s a fact that after studying fine arts, it is very difficult to find a job.
You were born Ariane Bourgoin, so why do you go by Louise these days?
That’s a good question! It was funny, when I started in television, although ‘Ariane’ is a rare as a first-name in France, there was already another woman on television called Ariane. They told me that, since she had been there for a long time, unlike me, I should change my name.
“Louise is the name that I would have liked to give to my daughter, I really like it as a name.”
What is also amusing about this name is that, while my career as an artist sort of fell through, it’s fun to have a name that resembles that of the famous artist, Louise Bourgeois. It’s as if I chose to call myself ‘Pablu Picassi’ instead of ‘Pablo Picasso’.
My mother was a bit sad that I changed my name, because she loves the name Ariane. But it has actually really helped me, having a ‘screen name’, because it’s good to have an anecdote to share, but also because I could almost hide behind my character.
It allowed me to do more in my sketches on television. If they had have introduced me by my real name, I would have been a lot more timid.
How did you get into the film industry?
I was noticed by Anne Fontaine when I was on the television. She said “Oh my God, you play [a] weather girl, a real weather girl!”, so I did an audition and she cast me after six tries. I never had time to take acting classes because I filmed twelve movies in five years.
After that, I received other offers from producers and directors who were interested in me because I had never taken acting classes. It’s unfair, because there are a lot of actors who take all sorts of classes and yet can’t get work.
That means you have a natural talent.
Maybe, or rather there are a lot of directors who like to craft and mould actors, and who are happy to work with an actor or actress who isn’t too structured from acting lessons. I think that is why I was chosen.
You do comedies, dramas… all genres of film, so, which is your favourite role to play?
I like dramas because I find that often the storyline in dramatic films are more profound and resonate deeper. I don’t often come across comedies that I really enjoy in France. I hope that that doesn’t stop me from continuing to make movies, but it is true that in theory you’re more likely to see me in independent movies that might be considered a bit melancholy.
Yes, there you go. For example, ‘Love Punch’ is a comedy, but it is an English comedy. I love English humour, more so than French humour. It’s completely different. Firstly, English humour is self-mocking, whereas the French make fun of others.
Also, the English language, with intonations on individual words – stress words – and not on the sentence as a whole, creates a rhythm, while French sounds more monotone. I find that the intonations created in English – like “you’re so niiiice with me” – it helps creates a nice rhythm in comedy.
And ‘Mojave’, I filmed that in September and it will be released in the US this coming October. I’m not sure if it will be released in France, since it’s an independent American film.
I speak in English in both those films, but I was chosen because I have a French accent. I don’t think I would have been able to lose my accent regardless. In ‘Mojave’, I play a French girl who lives in the US, but who is still very French.
For [Americans], the French cliché is a women who always has a cigarette, a glass of wine, bare feet and no bra !
Are you tempted to pursue an international career?
No. I try to be prepared to take on a job if there is an amazing role in English. I have had an American agent at WME for two years, who is like a friend, but really I am happy to work in France. I know a lot of French directors that I’d like to work with.
‘L’inconnu du Lac’ (which isn’t part of the festival) is my favourite film from last year. But from the film festival line-up, ‘Un Chateau en Italie’ by Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi. This battle to try and have a baby, and the way she makes light of it, it is very courageous and witty. I found it really moving.
Louise’s list of favourites…
Place in Paris…
There is a new place in Paris called Wanderlust, in the 13th arrondissement. It’s a club, a restaurant, an open-air cinema.., and right on the bank of the Seine. There is a lot of room to dance so it’s nice, often in Paris, the bars are relatively small. There are lots of great DJs. It’s really artsy, trendy, very young, and not too expensive.32 Quai d’Austerlitz, 75013 Paris, France
Métro: Quai de la Gare ou Gare d’Austerlitz
Merci Louise, for speaking with us – it was a pleasure to get to know you better!
What is your favorite film starring Louise Bourgoin ? Share them in the comment box below!Image credits:
1. Louise Bourgouin, by Studio Hancourt Paris via Wikimedia Commons
2. Opening night via the Alliance Française de Melbourne Facebook page
3. Louise Bourgouin, by John via Flickr.com
4. Louise Bourgeois, by bruno collinet via Flickr.com
5. Louise Bourgoin, by John via Flickr.com
6. Affiche du film Love Punch via The Love Punch UK Facebook page
7. Alain Guiraudie, réalisateur français, by Jean-Gabriel Aubert via Flickr.com
8. Going Away/Un beau dimanche via the Alliance Française de Melbourne Correspondent Emily Arbuckle conducted this interview face to face with Louise in French