Former Bond villain Mathieu Amalric, who is one of France’s most famous and busiest actors, is best known to Americans from Julian Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” He is also a New York Film Festival favorite. Amalric is back this year with “The Blue Room,” an erotic noir thriller based on the George Simenon mystery novella. He directed the film and co-stars with his real-life girlfriend, Stephanie Cleau, who plays his mistress. They also co-wrote the script.
The movie begins with the couple having noisy and violent sex in a hotel room painted blue. There’s plenty of equal opportunity frontal nudity.
At the press screening Monday morning, an appreciative male reporter commented, “There’s a lot of nudity. Thank you very much for that.”
Then he asked Amalric if it was easier for him to direct himself clothed or naked?
“What is important to me is to work with the same bunch of friends so they can make jokes, especially when I’m nude,” he explained. “To do those scenes you have to laugh a lot, especially also because Stephanie is not at all an actress. She’s a very shy woman. She never thought she could do that nudity and we live together.”
As for directing himself, “I don’t direct myself,” he said. “Sometimes it happened that I forgot to go in front of the camera. His crew, he said, would have to push him into the frame.
As for casting his partner – sometimes he called her his wife, although they are not married – she is not an actress. He wanted to cast an unknown, especially since the actress who plays his wife (Lea Drucker) is famous in France.
“We wanted people to ask themselves questions after in the street or at the café if she’s bad, if she’s dangerous. Of course she did it. Look at the face she has! That’s why it’s interesting not to have an actress, not to have a young face,” Amalric explained. “No one knows her you can really project off her.”
Later in the evening I caught up with Amalric on the red carpet before the public screening.
What motivated him about the book to make it into a film?
“It was I think a sort of love for a genre and to do a small budget film quickly, a police film, with love as a theme. It is about this sexual attraction that we are all capable of falling into and the fact that those moments you are someone else but maybe you are in fact yourself in those moments and you’re not allowed to live that.”
Added the charming actor who looks a bit like an elf, “You have to restrain that inside you in every day life, the fact that the body just talks at your place and you have to listen to it and that’s, I don’t know…Oh God!” Amalric called out. He just spied famed director Brian De Palma on the other side of the barricades where no one else noticed him.
De Palma came racing over to the red carpet and hugged Amalric, who thanked him for coming.
After De Palma went inside the theater, Amalric– who played the villain in “The Quantum of Solace” — pretended to bite his fingernails in nervousness.
What was it like to work with his wife?
“Well it was great because it was not like at home. You see what I mean? What was beautiful is she’s very shy. She’s not at all an actress and she put herself in danger by love and now I am playing in her play on stage. I never did that. I never played on stage and I do that for her, so it’s a sort of exchange trying to surprise each other, still surprise each other after ten years of life together and not to be dead.”
Before he went into the theater I asked him one final question. In the street did Americans recognize him more from the James Bond movie or “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”?
“More the Julian Schnabel,” he laughed. “The New York public is very sharp. That’s why I’m very afraid now.”