2 Days in Paris: Interview with Writer-Director Julie Delpy

Julie Delpy is the writer, director, and star of the romantic comedy, 2 Days in Paris.

How did you get the idea?

Delpy: Ive actually been writing projects here and there for years but they were big, expensive movies. One was a movie set in the Pacific about Japanese soldiers during WWII, in Japanese, So a friend of mine advised me to make a lower budget movie as my first film, and especially one that would not be too different from what people are used to seeing me in. Since I had co-written BEFORE SUNSET, I knew that if I presented something in the same budget scale, it would be
easier to finance. But I also wanted to make a very different film. In a way, I wanted to do the opposite.

How is this the opposite of BEFORE SUNSET

D: I enjoyed writing that film very much and I believe its a very classy and beautiful film, but I try not to think about the past and always look forward. This screenplay is so different in tone. I wanted it to be crude, politically incorrect and a bit mean at times, whereas Sunset is very romantic and sweet which this film is not. Theres more edge in this one and much less romance, so the romantics might be a little surprised. It’s another side of my writing. My next film will be
something totally different. I like to write in different genres.

You wrote the script in a few weeks

D: Yes and no. That’s my way of writing. I do a lot of planning and thinking, and then it comes out very fast. I wrote the first draft of BEFORE SUNSET in about 5 days, but Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and I had worked on the idea for years. And then, of course, we kept on working on it. Same here, I wrote the first draft very fast and then worked on it for quite some time until the last weekend before the shoot.

Did you have to shoot very quickly?

D: We did it in four weeks. I would have loved an extra day to shoot the party scene, for example, but overall, I actually liked the urgency of shooting the film. We had no rehearsal time, which was the only difficult thing for me. Especially with Adam, I wanted at least a week of rehearsal, but he was making a movie and showed up 12 hours before the shoot, so we had to adapt. In retrospect, I think too much rehearsal time could have actually been a bad thing.

The friends and family in the cast, was that by design

D: Well, when you decide to make a movie with not a lot of money, you want to be surrounded with people you trust, just like a family. Plus, I wrote most of the parts with actors in mind. I wrote the part of Jack for Adam Goldberg; for Marions parents I had my parents in mind because they are wonderful actors.

How much of the film is based on your own experience

D: None, I would say. I mean, there are little things, like the encounters with racist taxi drivers that everyone has in Paris. But its as much things I’ve observed in other people as it is about me. Its not autobiographical at all.

Is 2 DAYS IN PARIS a romantic comedy

D: I’d say it’s more comedy than romantic. I really fought to keep the dark side of the film and the little political comments as well. The film is kind of harsh on everyone: men, women, the French, the Americans. Believe it or not, the only ones that were offended were the French. There is a long tradition in France of not criticizing anything that they do wrong. They think theyre perfect.

Is the film about France Vs. America?

D: No, I dont confront the two cultures, but because Ive lived in both countries I see the differences, even if overall its not so different. It is the same world, but then there is something deeply different as well in the way we deal with basic things like love, family, work. The film is a lot about jealousy. It talks about small issues that everyone deals with in their life.

The nationality gives you an opportunity for

D: I play with that, and I kind of trick people into thinking, yeah, it could be about French and Americans, in a way. But its also about men and women. Its a movie about a relationship hidden behind some cultural things. But when Jack says, Im an American. Private property is my first religion, its really about men more than about Americans. I like that he hides behind a cultural thing, but its really a gender thing. And more than a gender thing, its just the nature of a relationship.

What about attitudes toward sex There are some French and American stereotypes associated
with that

D: I made it bigger than it is. Its not that Jacks uptight, but I think what you see has to do with his own paranoia about being in a place where he doesnt speak the language. And I wanted to make it feel like every single person thats talking to him is obsessed with sex just to feed his paranoia that Marion is this femme fatale, which she really isnt. But I wanted to show his paranoia, so I made everyone obsessed with sex.

Thats kind of stereotype of the French

D: Yeah, but its his stereotype because in reality she didnt cheat on him and she probably bumped into the three ex-boyfriends that she has in Paris. Its serendipity and its his own paranoia and obsession with the idea that shes this crazy French woman that has had sex with half of Paris. But shes not. I dont believe she is at all.

What’s the attraction is between these two people

D: I think they have a similar sense of humor, when they dont fight. Theyre both cynical and kind of mean. Like when she says in the voiceover, He said kids are like rats, they carry disease, and she thinks its so sweet. Its like they have the same sick sense of humor. If you have the same sense of humor as someone else, thats a lot.

Has the film gotten a different response in France than in the U.S.

D: Its a little different everywhere. There are things that make people laugh more in the U.S., like I noticed people laugh a lot at the Mom and the cat downstairs and the screaming and stuff. People think its very funny and very French. And in France, they love the taxi driver scene. Everyone in Paris has had a fight with a racist taxi driver. But I was surprised; I was giving interviews to Brazilian and Russian journalists and they were saying, Oh, the film is so Russian. Or Brazilian. I was like, what do you mean

In a way its universal?

D: Weve sold the film to 54 countries. Its the most sold French movie in the history of French cinema. We just sold the film to Peru and Qatar. So I think its really more about men and women. In a way, it could be any culture versus any culture. It could be a German guy visiting Brazil; it could be an American guy visiting China. Its about two different cultures, but it doesnt matter that its French and American. Obviously, everyone knows French and Americans have had this love/hate relationship for a very long, so people are aware of that as well. But I think the film is more about a relationship.

Q: Humor in film compared to Woody Allen?

D: Its a very nice comparison. Early Woody Allen films are some of my favorite movies. But when I was writing the film, I never thought about Woody Allen. I hired Adam, who has kind of a Woody Allen quality to him, but a more trendy Woody Allen. The humor in the film is very close to my sense of humor in my every day life. I mean a lot of the things that Jack says are things that I said.

Did you have other influences?

A: I watched AFTER HOURS and I watched RAGING BULL. I always thought of Marion as Jake LaMotta. I always thought of her as this fearless, angry kind of person, and I just thought of Jake LaMotta. I think its more fun to inspire yourself from things that have nothing to do with your film. I watched JAWS
four times before I did my film because I thought Frenchmen are a bit like sharks. I was playing around with different genres. I didnt want to see many comedies because I didnt want to copy anyone. I think if you do a comedy, you should do something that comes out of you and not someone elses film.

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