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Jeanne Moreau

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Jeanne Moreau in Eva, directed by Joseph Losey, 1962
Jeanne Moreau in Eva, directed by Joseph Losey, 1962 © BFI

Summarising a career which has spanned more than sixty years, further, one filled with the light, shade and variety that characterises the eclectic work of French film siren Jeanne Moreau, is a near impossible task...

Summarising a career which has spanned more than sixty years; further, one filled with the light, shade and variety that characterises the eclectic work of French film siren Jeanne Moreau, is a near impossible task, yet one that AnOther Magazine's Contributing Editor Hans Ulrich Obrist was determined to make happen. Their meeting was planned and rescheduled for more than three years, until this summer, when they finally sat down together for lunch in Paris. Happily coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Francois Truffaut's Jules et Jim, when Moreau, in her portrayal of the wayward Catherine, took on one of the most celebrated roles of her career, Moreau and Obrist engaged in an extraordinary conversation, moving through, at a breakneck pace, films and filmmakers, her politics, love affairs, the parts she turned down, and her current work with the Festival D'Angers as a mentor for aspiring filmmakers. And, in celebration of a truly unique individual, here we provide an exclusive excerpt from the exchange:

JM: My father knew nothing of my life. He learned of it from friends at the brasserie. I was the most popular person. I was very successful, the newspapers wrote about me, that’s when I met Tony [Richardson], that’s when I met Orson Welles who wanted me to play in one of his films. I was immediately offered roles that I accepted. One was with the male star of the time, Guy Marchand, who was a home- wrecker. And then I played with Fernandel, with Gaba and then I was offered a part in a Tennessee Williams piece... Louis Malle, who’d never made a film, came to see me in it, and that’s when he asked me to work with him. So I learned everything from cinema, not theatre. But at that time filmmakers went to the theatre.

HUO: The first time you were swept up in it, was it the excitement that it would change what was happening in France?

JM: "I learned everything from cinema, not theatre. But at that time filmmakers went to the theatre."

JM: Of course. I was making a great deal of money, I didn’t need to think twice, I said ‘Mister, I like the script.’ I respected him a great deal at the time.

HUO: You’ve often said in your interviews that there was a sort of chemistry with Malle.

JM: Yes, we fell in love with one another, we had an intimate relationship for several years. We were separated, he married twice, we kept ties up until the end, before he disappeared.

HUO: And out of all of your films, which one was your favourite?

JM: You can’t choose. There are some that were tougher to make than others, Ascenseur Pour L’Echafaud and Les Amants. It shocked everyone because we were making love. It was banned in Canada. I felt it was the end. A very painful film to make, very painful. And Viva Maria! I told Brigitte Bardot I was in quarantine.

HUO: With all your work there’s a strong notion of liberty...

JM: Yes, but with the feelings we had, I felt there would be a rupture. And then with Louis I met Truffaut. He hadn’t yet made Les Quatre Cents Coups. We crossed paths in a corridor, Louis introduced me and then went on ahead and François said, ‘Where can I meet you? I need to see you again.’ That’s when I first started seeing François. He took my number and we would meet once a week, at a restaurant that no longer exists on the Rue Marmont.

HUO: You said to me once, that the roles you don’t play are as important as the roles you accept.

JM: The roles I didn’t take I do not regret. The American film where he sleeps with the mother and daughter, with Dustin Hoffman...

HUO: You turned down Mrs. Robinson?

JM: "The roles I didn’t take I do not regret. The American film where he sleeps with the mother and daughter, with Dustin Hoffman..." 
HUO: "You turned down Mrs. Robinson?"

JM: I was shocked by the idea... it’s stupid isn’t it? And I was offered the role of the mean nurse in a nuthouse, with Jack Nicholson.

HUO: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Are there other films you turned down?

JM: I turned down Spartacus.

HUO: Why?

JM: The guy was sleeping with everyone, what’s his name? His son became a star too.

HUO: Kirk Douglas. So you said no to Kubrick?

JM: It wasn’t Kubrick who asked me. If it had been him, it would’ve interested me. But I said, ‘Who on earth is this guy?’

Read the full interview with Jeanne Moreau in the latest issue of AnOther Magazine, out now.

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