Maïwenn on Louis Garrel: "I chose Louis because I wanted him to bring his poetic side, his offbeat side." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
In Maïwenn's My King (Mon Roi), co-written with Etienne Comar (Haute Cuisine), Vincent Cassel, ever more charming, sinister, and unpredictable, as Georgio, morphs before your eyes on screen. And that says a lot when you remember him as Jean-François Richet's shape-shifting Jacques Mesrine or the wild Otto Gross in David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method. Standing Tall director Emmanuelle Bercot is Tony, an independent, educated, attractive woman, who falls utterly and completely in love with him.
Louis Garrel: "If I put myself into the skin of Vincent Cassel, as in the skin of John Malkovich …" Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
The two have the lighthearted bond of Myrna Loy and William Powell until suspicions cloud the skies as they did for Joan Fontaine when she realizes some unwanted things about Cary Grant's Johnny. It is the amount of fun that makes us fear its end, together with Tony's brother Solal (Two Friends director Louis Garrel) and his girlfriend Babeth (Isild Le Besco), who know that what they see is too good to be true.
My King works in waves. We are pulled under and spat out to reflect for ourselves about the human heartbreak we witness. If you ever threw safety to the wind and sailed deeply into the love that could be your undoing, you will we able to identify with what Maïwenn and her brilliant actors are exploring.
Anne-Katrin Titze: "I'm not a jerk, I'm the king of jerks," is a wonderful line you start with. We think it's a joke and it turns out to be developed into something more. When did that line come into the picture?
Maïwenn: It comes from Vincent [Cassel]. I haven't written it.
Georgio (Vincent Cassel) Tony (Emmanuelle Bercot)
AKT: He improvised it?
M: You know, when he said this line, we didn't know that the title would be My King. So it's a funny thing.
Louis Garrel: Vincent, when we started to shoot, he told me "Okay, Louis, we have to be aware that it's a movie made by a woman. Also we have to make a movie not against men."
M: It doesn't mean I'm against men!
LG: But he knows exactly what she wants to … If I put myself into the skin of Vincent Cassel, as in the skin of John Malkovich - what Cassel is thinking, if I'm correct, I have to do a scene where I'm not only a bastard. She thinks I'm a bastard but I'm going to show her that actually, I'm the king of the bastards. As you would say in mathematics, minus times minus equals plus.
M: The principle is, the more I can make fun of myself, the funnier I am, the more seductive I am.
AKT: Which works - in this case?
Louis Garrel as Solal: "Maïwenn told me about wanting to make a destructive love story."
M: On a certain woman, not on me.
AKT: That's why you make the film?
M: I'm not sensitive to people who can make fun of themselves, who are self-deprecating.
AKT: I didn't even read him that much as self-deprecating.
M: Maybe because all Americans - maybe you all are self-deprecating.
AKT: I thought he was quite sincere at that moment.
M: You can be both.
AKT: True. Let's talk about the structure - forward for one storyline and backward for the other. Did you know that you wanted the movement in this way and that one would be physical and the other one not? Was that a starting point?
Babeth (Isild Le Besco) with Tony
M: When I started thinking about the movie ten years ago, it was only the love story. And then, like three years ago, I decided to make the movie with all the body problems and I figured that it allowed me to have a stakes for the character of Tony from the beginning. Since she had to take care of herself, she had a goal. That allowed me to lift the whole film above the initial starting point.
AKT: Because it speaks of different kinds of pain? As an audience member I thought - she is going through this horrible physical pain and at the same time, where is the pleasure in pain in remembering? It is also a very light film with moments that are very funny. You can sense how much fun they were having at certain moments - which is rare. Emmanuelle Bercot has this wonderful laugh. Were you thinking about lightness?
M: You know, when I'm doing things, I don't think too much. I just do things without thinking why should I do this or why should I not do this. The movie - it looks like me, as my character. I don't analyse deeply why I like to laugh, why it's a love story. I just do things.
Tony with Georgio: "When I started thinking about the movie ten years ago, it was only the love story."
AKT: When did you, Louis, enter the picture?
LG: Maïwenn told me about wanting to make a destructive love story. Because I knew her a little bit, I knew that she would do it very well. Then she told me about the character of the brother. Then I read the script and then we didn't do it. She wrote lines that she doesn't want … She shot for 25 minutes my improvisations and finally any lines from the script are not in the movie. And I felt that this young brother could be an emotional character because in that war she [Tony] has to lead, this combat that she has to carry out in her life, I felt in the film that a very pacifying character would be very welcome.
The story is about a man and a woman. It's all about strategy and trying to understand what is true, what is not true. From the man, is it a perversion game or is it a true game? Does he know himself that he is doing something very painful for the female character? You can also see the movie as a film about strategy - to discover what is real and what isn't real. When you have this kind of situation in your own life, you need someone close to you who is very clear.
My King US poster
AKT: Who can't really help, though?
LG: Exactly. You can't really help but you have to be there.
M: First of all, I chose Louis because I wanted him to bring his poetic side, his offbeat side. I knew that it would make a really strong contrast with Vincent Cassel's character of Giorgio. Without saying a word, we would see that. If you just put them face to face, just by their looks yup would realize they have completely opposite temperaments.
What Louis couldn't say in explaining why I took him for the film was that he couldn't quite master all that I perceived of him. That's why I was scared when I first offered him the film that he would refuse. Because he couldn't see that the script was just a written base for the work that we would do together and that I would take from his personality to nourish the character.
AKT: So this is the structure - you have a base …
M: No, it's not a base. I have a script.
AKT: And then from the script starts improvisation?
M: It depends on the actors, it depends on the scene, it depends how they act - it really depends.
LG: Most of the time it's improvisation.
AKT: That's why I asked.
M: Most of the time with him.
My King opens in the US today, August 12.