The quirky comedy French Exit, about several disconnected, somewhat lonely American souls who come together in unique ways in Paris, is funny, sad, bittersweet, surreal and altogether different. For star Michelle Pfeiffer, who has won some of the best reviews of her career after the New York Film Festival premiere, it was irresistible to play Frances, a widow and New York society gadfly dealing with her unusual relationship with her son (Lucas Hedges).
“I was fascinated by her and this world, and the script and the fantastic writing, and the characters,” says Pfeiffer, joined by co-star Valerie Mahaffey, writer Patrick deWitt and director Azazel Jacobs during Sony Pictures Classics’ panel at Deadline’s Contenders Film awards-season event. “It was unlike anything I had ever read, smart and funny and moving and tragic and all those things. I was just so excited and daunted to play her. It was challenging.”
For Mahaffey it was also special. “One of the most perfect experiences I have ever had in my acting life,” she says. “These characters don’t even find it remarkable that things turn supernatural [there is a séance with a cat named Small Frank who channels Frances’ dead husband]. They just accept it.”
DeWitt, who wrote the novel and adapted it himself, had worked previously with with Jacobs on the film Terri and saw it as a perfect reunion for the pair. “He got the book in a way I needed the director to get the book. It was critical in the creation of the film to give these people their due,” deWitt says.
Jacobs said he fell in love with this world deWitt had conceived. “I could see these were complicated characters. There were things that were sympathetic and things that were critical. It was human.”
Check out the panel video above.
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