At just 19 years old, new French acting sensation Adele Exarchopoulos became the youngest winner ever of the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or when the jury — led by Steven Spielberg — made an unprecedented move this past spring. It awarded not only Blue Is The Warmest Color‘s director Abdellatif Kechiche the festival’s top prize as is the norm, but in a surprise move also its two extraordinary stars (Lea Seydoux rounded out the trio onstage at the Palais). But then Blue Is The Warmest Color is no ordinary movie, and distributor Sundance Selects is hoping Oscar voters get the message too: Though not eligible to compete this year for Best Foreign Language Film due to its late release in France, it is eligible in other categories, and the distrib just crafted a new trailer focusing on Exarchopoulos that is aimed squarely at the Academy. Check it out:
A three-hour study of the intense romance between a teenage girl and an older lesbian , the NC-17 film has caused waves wherever it’s played. But as Spielberg explained, the Cannes jury saw it only as simply a great love story. For Exarchopoulos, who recently turned 20, it was, and continues to be, a pretty heady experience as she explained when I recently interviewed her for the Screen Actors Guild Foundation. “It was my first Cannes Film Festival”, she told me. “We thought our reaction would be more divided, like some people hate and some people love it — but almost everyone liked it. After the ceremony it was like a dream. I mean you never realize what it’s like to win such a prize at 19. Yeah , it was cool.”
Exarchopoulos also has a refreshing, unfiltered attitude toward acting — and in this case, those talked-about nude scenes. In fact she said although she knew her co-star by reputation (Seydoux is a huge star in France) she didn’t meet her until she was on the set for the first nude scene. “The first thing we did together is the sex scene, the dream scene, so when you meet someone naked it’s so different,” Exarchopoulos said. “We said hello and two minutes after we’re naked and we’re like, ‘OK, let’s do this’. There is no hypocrisy and she doesn’t try to force things and try to be friends because of the shoot. Everything came naturally. She’s more experienced than me so I was feeling from her because she’s really good, and I was lucky to play with her. It really helps to introduce you naked. I mean you’re vulnerable, there is no chickening out. You’re just yourself and you have to make body language.”
Actually she says the food scenes were much more difficult than the sex scenes. For one of them — where she has to eat kabobs , heavy with sauce — Kechiche required numerous takes so Exarchopoulos says she would have to vomit and try again. “This is my trauma. He makes you do so many takes. Like up to 100 for a scene and he can spend up to a week, seven days on a single scene,” she says of the director’s hard-driving style that has been the stuff of controversy in interviews his stars have given in recent months. Despite that, Exarchopoulos says the role was to good to pass up. “I mean I got the chance of a lifetime — he’s a genius,” she said. “He makes cinema like no one else makes cinema. He’s taking risks like no one, but he’s passionate and he sacrifices everything for cinema. He takes many, many takes and he wants you to abandon yourself and sometimes it’s so hard to follow him. And yeah with every genius comes their own complexities. I think Hitchcock was not a nice guy. And Coppola. I don’t know about Coppola but I heard about making Apocalypse Now. I think all the geniuses have this kind of complexity, and they can be like an angel or a devil sometimes.”
After winning the Palme d’Or , Exarchopoulos has been chalking up a number of Breakthrough Actress Of The Year awards from various critics groups. She also was named Best Actress by the Los Angeles Film Critics (in a tie with Cate Blanchett) and has sparked Oscar buzz, thus Sundance Selects’ new trailer.