Film & TV

For 'Sibyl' Star Adèle Exarchopoulos, Acting is About Growth

Ahead of her latest film's screening at the New York Film Festival this weekend, the French actress and youngest recipient of the Palme D’Or talks fashion, acting, and motherhood.
Reading time 7 minutes

Photography Danny Lowe

Styling Vanessa Bellugeon

The last time Adèle Exarchopoulos attended the Cannes Film Festival, she made history by becoming the youngest person awarded the Palme d’Or for her portrayal as 15-year-old Adèle in director Abdellatif Kechiche’s critically acclaimed Blue is the Warmest Color, an earnest and bold exploration of sexual identity and self-exploration. Six years later, 2019 marked the actress’s return to Cannes, this time along with her fellow cast for the screening of Sibyl, which was selected to compete for the Palm d’Or. Directed by Justine Triet, the psychological dramatic comedy explores the complex dynamic between a therapist, the movie’s titular namesake (Virginie Efira), and her patient, Margo (Exarchopoulos). Pushing at the boundaries of psychological convention, Sibyl increasingly becomes enmeshed in the life of Margo and, as the film progresses, the two are ever more dependent on the other. With its crackling dialogue and charged sensibility, the film calls to mind the likes of François Ozon’s Double Lover, itself a keen exploration of the feminine psyche and send-up of the “women on the edge” genre. For Exarchopoulos, the role of Margo continues the actress's streak of performances, noted not only for their vitality, but also their breadth. Case in point? Her upcoming role in Quentin Dupieux’s Mandibules, a surrealist comedy of sorts revolving around the discovery of a giant fly. To be sure, Exarchopoulos continues to play parts that entrance audiences. Here, she sits down with L’Officiel USA and reflects upon her career, her interest in fashion, and how being a mother has changed her life.

 

 

Julien Welter: Both this year and the year ahead look to be your busiest, including several rather unexpected roles for you.

Adèle Exarchopoulos: This is true. I’ll have several films in the works, from Mandibules to Jessica Palud’s Revenir

 

JW: Mandibules is a departure from your earlier films you have starred in. What drew you to its story? 

AE: It’s true that comedy is a genre which I very much am interested in, but it also scares me. That said, in spite of my reservations, I am very intrigued to explore the genre. In France, as an actor, you can become labeled very quickly based on the roles you play. If you appear in three films that have strong social themes, you become associated with that as “your” genre, so to speak. The difficulty, and perhaps what I am trying to avoid, are any labels regarding the roles I choose to take. I’ve been asked to star in comedy roles, but have, in the past had reservations, but I think that has since changed over time.

 

JW: While Mandibules may be your venture in comedy, in Revenir, a drama directed by Jessica Palud, you return to a genre you have made a name for yourself in.

AE: Yes, but what was so different about Revenir was the opportunity I had to star alongside a first-time child actor. I love the magic of children and non-professionals. There is a freedom and an instinct that over time, as you act more, gets lost. Also, this is the first time I've played a mother, which is all the more poignant as a new mother myself.

 

JW: Has becoming a mother changed how you decide which roles to take on?

AE: Not really. I’m not going to read every script that comes my way from the perspective of a mother. That being said, my sense of priorities has changed and, in many ways, being a mother does shape me creatively, one way or another.

 

"Being a mother does shape me creatively, one way or another."

JW: Is there a character, a role that you haven’t yet played, but would like to?

AE: To be honest, I'd like less to star as the dramatic ingénue and try something out different, like a sci-fi or horror movie. Ultimately, it’s the imperfection of a character that draws me to them, less so than the genre of the film that they are framed within. That said, I would love to do a voiceover for Disney—something that would take “me” out of myself.

 

JW: You are very selective in the roles you play.

AE: What's the hurry? I believe I grow with every part I play. A solid career is often built on refusals. And, when I have too many doubts, I know the part is not for me.

 

JW: How does playing a part transform the image you have of yourself and how others perceive you?

AE: When I arrive on set, I'm totally in character. I do not bother myself so much about image—my image—especially since I know that misunderstandings of it, of how others perceive me, cannot be prevented. Many people consider me to be very sensual, for one reason or another, but I think I’m in reality very modest. Ultimately, when I’m on set, it’s not my image that the director is concerned about, but rather the vision they have of my character—and that’s what matters.

JW: Indeed, it would seem you relish the roles that require you to really inhabit them.

AE: Absolutely. For the Rudolf Nureyev biopic directed by Ralph Fiennes, my character was very far away from who I am—her presence, her stature, the very way in which she inhabited a space. I incorporated a lot of physical routines in order to work out what became a very distinguished posture for the role.

 

JW: Fashion holds a deep interest for you. What do you find so compelling about it?

AE: I didn't have access to true fashion until I was an actress. I remember, when Blue is the Warmest Color was nominated in 2013 for the Palme d’Or, I had nothing to wear. I was on the set of another film, sleeping in my hotel, and was basically told: “We have to go to Cannes.” At that time, I was 19 years old and no one knew me, which made it very hard to get something for the evening. I asked Camille Seydoux— who has dressed me ever since— to help me. She did and now, I call her whenever there is something special that I need. Once I had established my career, I was given access to designers in a way I never had before and, in so doing, I began to get a real sense of the art and skill that goes into making clothes. What happens behind the scenes, too, in fashion really fascinates me.

 

Credits

Makeup Laure Dansou (Walter Schupfer)

Hair Nabil Harlow (Open Talent)

Producer Joshua Glasgow

Photo Assistant: Mehdi Sefrioui

Stylist Assistant: Gabriela Cambero

Studio: Studio Sala

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