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DELPY, JULIE: American Werewolf in Paris

ITíS ONLY MOVIES
French actress Julie Delpy pulls no punches as to her feelings about her latest movie, An American Werewolf in Paris, not to mention Hollywood. PAUL FISCHER sat down with Delpy on the set of her latest movie, Los Angeles Without a Map, for this candid interview.

On the wintry set of the indie film, Los Angeles Without a Map, directed by Finland's Mika Kaurismaki, Julie Delpy sits rugged up in her tan fur coat, anxious, it seems, to be anywhere but facing media questions.

In her only interview granted during the shooting of this quirky film, Delpy laughs when reminded at how the critics savaged her starring role in the cheesy horror flick, An American Werewolf in Paris.

"In France. . . they'll tear me to shreds and that'll be hilarious"

"I've been praised by critics throughout my career, now suddenly I'm being vilified for being in this silly movie. I can't wait for the film to be released in France; they'll tear me to shreds and that'll be hilarious", the strikingly beautiful but frank Franc says laughingly. In An American Werewolf, loosely [slightly] based on the John Landis hit, An American Werewolf in London, Tom Everett Scott stars as an American tourist who saves a Parisian beauty (Delpy) from attempted suicide, only to discover that she belongs to a secret population of werewolves, and that he'll suffer the full-moon curse until he eats the heart of the beast that bit him.

Delpy has no illusions about the film and her reasons for doing it. "It's very good for me, because it's already made a lot of money. Thank God we, as actors, have the freedom to do different types of movies, from low-budget independent movies, through to bigger movies." Distinct from some of Delpy's earlier work, such as Killing Zoe and the critically acclaimed Before Sunrise, Delpy argues that as an audience member, her tastes reflect the movies she makes as an actress.

"I got paid a lot of money; let's face it, a girl's got to eat."

"I love movies as diverse as John Waters and French mainstream comedies. Horror is one genre I've always liked, not that it's something I want to do all the time, but it is something I wanted to experience." And she does get to do a lot of physical stuff here, "which was a great challenge and something I've never done before." On the other hand, she reluctantly concedes that American Werewolf "is not my kind of movie", and pressed further as to why she did the film at this point in her blossoming career, she's remarkably candid. "I got paid a lot of money, and let's face it, a girl's got to eat. Besides, this has made more money than all my other movies, so occasionally, it's important to do a film which is distinctly commercial and doesn't have pretensions of grandeur, such as a certain film last year which won tons of Oscars." Ouch!

As well as the physical stuff in American Werewolf, there's a bit of extraneous nudity in the film, but the actress is ambivalent on the subject of screen nudity. "I've done nudity in practically every movie I've done, so it's no big deal." Continuing to defend her decision to do the film, Delpy quickly adds "that I did this campy, popcorn movie, and I knew what I was doing when I made it. The result is what it is, and kids who are seeing it are having a good time." As for the critics who have slammed the movie, Delpy fights back. "They're even more stupid because they're not even able to have a sense of humour; after all, it's just a campy, stupid little movie and it's not trying to be anything else. The critics shouldn't even SEE this movie- it's not even for them."

An American Werewolf in Paris is a far cry from what has gone before in this striking French actor's life and career. Born in December, 1969, the daughter of actors, Delpy made her stage debut at five. Although she had occasional work over the following years, it was not until Jean-Luc Godard cast her in Detective (1985) that her film career began to take off. Delpy also appeared in Godard's English-language King Lear (1987) and gained her first real attention with a supporting role in Leos Carax's Mauvais Sang/Bad Blood (1986) and her first starring role, in Bertrand Tavernier's Beatrice (1986), playing a 14th-century incest/rape victim.

Delpy became the object of international attention in the 1990s. In Agnieszka Holland's true-life chronicle Europa, Europa (1990), she played a beautiful yet ideologically repulsive young German who, in her flirtations with the Jewish protagonist, displays both the blind obstinance of Nazi youth and the allure of a young girl coming into womanhood. In Volker Schlondorff's Voyager (1991), she co-starred opposite Sam Shepard as a precocious young woman having an affair with a world-weary middle-aged engineer. Her introduction to Kryztsztof Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy came in a small part in the 1993's Bleu/Blue followed by a compelling star turn in Blanc/White (1994). She plays the hairdresser Dominique, who divorces her feckless and impotent Polish hairdresser husband only to reunite with him after his own funeral. She later appeared in the third segment of the series, Rouge/Red (1994) in a bit role. Delpy was appropriated for the first time by Hollywood studios for 1993's The Three Musketeers, followed by roles in the critically acclaimed Before Sunrise and Killing Zoe.

"So I don't use anything but my work and my talent to actually succeed"

These days, Delpy divides her time between her native Paris and Hollywood, where she has lived for the past 5 years. "Hollywood is the main exploitation of America and that's how they make money", she comments. "So Hollywood is just a big, money-making machine, that's it." Even with the success that Delpy has attained, she admits that the competition for decent roles remains tough. "I'm a very straight person, so I don't use anything but my work and my talent to actually succeed, while most actors don't, so I have to fight much harder to get things." Not hard to the point where she's prepared to take it all too seriously, however. "I've realised that people make such a big deal of the movie business, but the truth is, that it's all bullshit anyway. We don't save people's lives; all we do is spend a lot of money on movies that people go see for entertainment. With some movie budget they could have saved every person starving in the world and fed them for 24 years." So that all begs the question: why do it? "I know, it's a terrible contradiction. I ask myself that all the time. I guess I enjoy the process of acting itself and I love to watch movies. It's the bullshit I can't stand."

"I'd love to be a professional killer"

On her latest film, Los Angeles Without a Map, Delpy is back on more independent ground. It's an off-beat comedy about a Scotsman who follows a young American actress to Hollywood while trying to cope with the rather odd LA culture. "I love doing comedy, something I want to continue developing. I used to be a lot darker; but now, comedy comes more naturally to me." In this new film, Delpy plays "a happy girl that goes around the world without asking any questions. She's happy all the time. She's a waitress which I think she's OK with. She's happy where she's at in the moment she's in, and not many people are like that." This is not a Hollywood film. After all, she has a Scottish co-star, a Finnish director and British producers. "It's a great mix, isn't it?"

The day after this interview, and her last day on the film, Delpy was off to London to audition for another film, "which I'm not looking forward to", she adds wearily. Asked what she'd do if she gave up the acting, there's a lengthy pause. "I'd love to be a professional killer, maybe working for a government agency, or just killing people for the fun of it."

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