In Le Tourbillon de la vie, Lou de Laâge bursts onto the screen by embodying 4 versions of the same character at different periods of life. How did she manage to achieve such a feat?
In theaters on December 21, Le Tourbillon de la vie is Olivier Treiner’s first feature film. The plot follows the character of Julie (Lou de Laâge). The great turning points of our existence are sometimes due to small coincidences. If Julia hadn’t dropped her book that day, would she have run into Paul? Or would his life have taken a completely different direction?
Our lives are made up of endless possibilities. For Julia, a little nothing is enough so many times; all these paths she could have followed, all these women she could have been… Do we choose our destiny? What does love or happiness depend on?
AlloCiné: What is striking in Le Tourbillon de la vie is the way in which you play several versions of the same character, each one has its own look and specific personality, how did you react to reading the script in the face of this challenge? ?
Lou de Laage: Indeed, it was a real challenge. Already, while reading, I said to myself that it was brilliant, because it is a great challenge for an actress. Having all this material to play, to explore, it stimulated me.
And at the same time, I said to myself, it’s very annoying because if it’s badly done, if the aging is coarse, it can very quickly look cheap, which completely misses its ambitions. And as it was a first film, there was necessarily this risk taking. We had to accept the leap into the void.
How do you prepare to interpret several versions of a character but also at different times, from 17 to 80 years old?
Strangely, it was the 17-year-old version that scared me the most. To rediscover an innocence, a naivety, an immature outlook on the world… I wondered if I was going to manage to rediscover that. Moreover, with Esther Garrel, we laughed at the beginning, we thought that we were going to be ridiculous to play teenagers.
We said to ourselves, let’s try and then we’ll see. Then, for the other versions of the character, the costume helps, the makeup helps, the different partners help. I myself had made lines for each character, I told each other their stories. And then I started from the same person at the base, I don’t really play 4 different characters.
I embody the same Julia who will develop more or less certain aspects of her personality depending on what she is going to experience. That’s also what I found fascinating: how, starting from the same essence, we can finally end our lives being quite different depending on our choices.
You are relatively rare in the cinema and each of your roles is carefully chosen, do you make it a point of honor not to rush and select each role carefully?
Sometimes I refuse a film, not because I don’t find it good, but because it comes at a time in my life when I need to take some distance. I like to hide and eat something else. Therefore, I was never too scared to walk away.
Louis Jouvet said: “So much is the man, so much is the actor.” If, as a man, we don’t take the trouble to meet, to look for each other, life becomes a bit meaningless for me. Even this profession becomes meaningless.
The film is about chance and the little things that can change a life. Was it a theme that fascinated you before playing Julia?
I didn’t have a fascination for it but it’s part of life and its mysteries. Mystery is part of life and chance is part of mystery. The film has this universal side that can speak to everyone thanks to this theme of chance that is part of everyone’s life.
Afterwards, people think it’s destiny, that everything is written, others think that we are masters of what can happen to us. Everyone tells the story they want. Everyone makes sense of themselves and reassures themselves as best they can.
Your character is passionate about music, did you have to do any specific preparation for the role? Piano etc.
At first, I really wanted to learn the piano. I said to director Olivier Treiner: “You absolutely have to give me the pieces so that I can train”. I went completely into a delirium where I thought I was going to succeed in playing Rachmaninoff or Brahms. Olivier told me not to worry, that he wasn’t looking for a performance from an actress who becomes a great pianist.
For him, it’s part of the narration, but he wasn’t interested that it was me who played the songs in particular. I didn’t agree with him at the start, we were both hard-headed. In the end I had to let go because the pieces arrived very late and I was filming Le Bal des Folles by Mélanie Laurent just before.
I had a week between the two shoots. When I arrived on the set of the Tourbillon de la vie, I said to myself: “Remember that your job is to make people believe that you know how to do something, that it’s also cheating”. So I mostly do body expression above a piano.
The plot takes place between Paris, Berlin and the Netherlands but everything was shot in France, how was the shooting?
We shot during the lockdown. It was quite special, especially because of the curfew. There was only space to work. All the perks of life, getting some fresh air, etc., that couldn’t exist. And at the same time, there was a pleasant side because we had very long days. So going home at night and not having to do things, see people, that suited me terribly (laughs).
I just wanted to sleep. It was a real marathon shoot. I put myself in a rigor. And then it was a first film so it’s always very special. We see a director meet himself, you have to find out how he works, he must also find out how a feature film shooting takes place with dozens of people who come to ask you questions.
Sometimes I had the feeling of being Olivier’s teammate, I took charge of what I could, that is to say the actors, everything related to acting. I also tried to put the most pleasant atmosphere possible.
How did you collaborate with director Olivier Treiner to build this character of Julia on the set?
Olivier approached me via Stéphane Celerier, the producer of the film, whom I have known for a long time. He had told me about this scenario a while ago but without going any further. A few years later he called me back to offer me the main role. Then I met Olivier, and we realized that we had gone to the same theater school.
And on the way to build the character, it mainly starts from what was written in the script. There is not much mystery at this level. All the Julias were described very precisely. And Olivier trusted me on the rest, it was quite dizzying, he told me that if he had chosen me it was because he had confidence in me.
More generally, what kind of spectator are you? What have you liked lately in cinema / series?
I really liked Louis Garrel’s film, L’Innocent. I am not at all up to date on all the films. I come out of a shoot there, I’m a very bad student suddenly (laughs).
I also saw the Palme d’Or, Without Filter, which I really liked. On the other hand, I did not start anything in series, my subscriptions to the platforms are useless. But it helps my family.
Can you tell us about your future projects? You will play in the new Woody Allen who will shoot in France, Wasp22, can you tell us about it? How did you land on the project?
I can’t talk too much about it in detail other than to say it’s a thriller because he said so himself. Otherwise how did I land on it? It was quite unlikely. I had a call from my agent who told me that I was going to receive a script from Woody Allen. Since I’m not very good at English, I wondered why people came to me for that.
And in fact the script was in French. I had a lucky star because so (laughs). In fact, Woody Allen watches the movies of the actors he wants. Afterwards, he proposes to them because he has looked at their work. It’s something that is very rare, it almost never happens that a director looks in detail at the work of his actors on other films. He therefore does not cast.
He considers that what he has seen is good so he does not need to do anything about it. Even me it seemed crazy, I said to myself, but no, give me a tryout, Woody (laughs). On the other hand, I did not ask him what films he had seen.
It’s one of the most gentle, simple and benevolent shoots I’ve done. It was a magic little bubble. I’m not the only one to think so, I can also say so for my partners and the whole team. It’s one of the shoots that leave traces, I’ll remember it.
Going behind the camera, a temptation?
Not at the moment, maybe it will come one day, I’m not closing the door.
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The Tourbillon of life: how to embody the same character from 17 to 80 years old? Lou de Laâge responds