In accepting the Best Foreign Language Picture Golden Globe for Elle tonight, director Paul Verhoeven said he was “a bit surprised” and thanked the Hollywood Foreign Press Association “for being so open-minded.” That could be interpreted as a nod to the fact that the controversial drama, which was France’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, shockingly did not make the cut of the AMPAS shortlist when it was unveiled last month.Elle stars Isabelle Huppert as a successful businesswoman who is raped in her home by a masked assailant and then tracks him down, both drawn into a curious and thrilling game. The film has been one of the most talked- and raved-about movies since it debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Huppert notably has won myriad prizes for her performance and is nominated for a Golden Globe later tonight. The veteran, and often very serious, French actress was positively giddy when Verhoeven ascended the stage tonight.
Speaking of his star, Verhoeven said, “In the center of it all is Isabelle Huppert.” She stood up, beaming, and blew kisses to him from the audience. Verhoeven called it a “wonderful experience” to work with Huppert and added, “Thank you for everything. Thank you for your talent. That you for your audacity and thank you for the authenticity of your performance. You are wonderful, and I love you, and I love you and I love you.”
Adapted by David Birke from the National Literary Award-winning novel Oh by Philippe Dijan, Elle was originally conceived as an American adaptation. But, when it became clear there “was no interest financially or artistically in the project in the United States,” Verhoeven told me last month, the action moved back to France.
The psychological thriller produced by Said Ben Said, was for Verhoeven, “unusual and controversial and people might have problems. But as a story it’s innovative, daring, audacious. And, has a very strong woman as a protagonist which is anyhow very interesting for me.”
Sony Classics took interest in Elle at script stage and acquired it during post-production ahead of Cannes. The distributor released it Stateside in November.
Elle tonight beat out Oscar contenders Toni Erdmann (Germany) and The Salesman (Iran), which are both on the shortlist. Also nominated tonight at the Globes, and also surprisingly left off the Oscar shortlist, was Pablo Larrain’s Neruda while Cannes Camera d’Or winner Divines was also a candidate tonight.