Agathe Rousselle is at the center of this year’s Cannes Palme d’Or-winning film Titane, in which she plays a psychopathic serial killer experiencing a bizarre pregnancy—a job one might consider best left to the experienced actor. But, surprisingly, despite more than holding her own in the part, Rousselle is brand new to the game, having been plucked from Instagram to take on the role.
“There was this casting director that DM’ed me one day and asked me if I wanted to audition for a feature movie,” Rousselle said during a panel discussion for the Neon movie at Deadline’s Contenders Film: International awards-season event.
Titane follows Alexia (Rousselle) as she evades capture for her crimes and hides her pregnancy. Pretending to be a man, she is taken in by Vincent (Vincent Lindon), who believes she is his long-lost son.
Reading the script, Rousselle thought it was “like reading a good thriller,” she said. “I couldn’t stop reading. I was just so into it, I thought it was brilliant… It was like reading some kind of mythological tale. A very f*cked up one, but still.”
Alexia starts out in the film as an exotic dancer in a car showroom, an aspect of the role that required some training. “We prepared a lot,” Rousselle said. “I came on set very, very prepared. I trained with a pole dancer for two months, weekly… this way of dancing is a part of my femininity that I’d never explored.”
She also had to wear a prosthetic scar, then a broken nose, and eventually a heavy pregnant belly. “It was really progressive because we shot in the order of the movie, pretty much,” she explained. “At first it was two hours a day because I had the scar. But then there was the nose and the eye sockets, and fake boobs, fake belly, fake everything. By the time I had to wear all of the prosthetics on me, that would take up to five to six hours a day.”
But, she said, the prosthetics helped her get into the role. “Having a fake belly imitates the shape and also the weight of a pregnancy, which was really useful for me because I’ve never been pregnant… It helped me in my posture to walk or sit like a pregnant woman.”
In preparing to play a psychopath, at director Julia Ducournau’s behest, Rousselle watched films like We Need to Talk About Kevin and Monster. But also, she simply immersed herself in video footage. “I emptied YouTube on videos on that subject,” she said, “from Ted Talks to archives to everything I could find.”
Check out the panel video above.
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