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Home INTERVIEWS ON THE COUCH WITH J.B. MACABRE A Few Highly Tense Moments ith Actress C
A Few Highly Tense Moments ith Actress C PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 05 June 2005 12:50
BY Joseph B. Mauceri
First and Last Exclusive photo of Ms. de France (c) Rich Buxo/

The formula for HIGH TENSION: two young women, an isolated farmhouse, a psychotic killer, and one endless night. Working from with a basic premise, French writer/director Alexandre Aja and co-writer Gregory Levasseur have fashioned a dark nightmare that taps into our most primal fears. Despite the simplicity of their premise, Aja and Levasseur were careful to construct a script that hinges on numerous twists and turns. At the center of this horrific maelstrom is the lead for their film, Marie, a brooding tomboy who battles the ruthless killer.

It was far from an easy task to find a young actress to play the part and Aja and Levasseur met with almost every young actress in France. Unlike the disposable characters found in most horror fare, HIGH TENSION's Mare is a complex heroine whose emotional layers are revealed gradually as the tension mounts. Taking on the challenge of this intense story of murder and survival is French actress Câcile de France.

Ms. de France made her international film debut in Disney' s AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS in the lead role of Monique, the French artist who joins Phileas Fogg on his trek. Born in Belgium, Ms. De France moved to France when she was 17.However, she has been involved in theatre since she was 6 years old, and began her formal training with Jean-Paul Denizon, a protege of Peter Brook, while in France. Ms de France has been acclaimed for her wide range and chameleon like quality. She enjoys performing her own stunts. She received the coveted CESAR (equivalent to an Oscar)) for her performance in LíAUBERGE ESPAGNOLE, and she recently wrapped production on the sequel, LES POUPEES ROUSSES, in which Ms. de France reprises her role as Isabelle. She also received the Prix Louis Lumiere for Best New Actress in 2003, as well as the Best Actress award at the International Film Festival in Barcelona for HAUTE TENSION. She currently has several films in development for her in France, including the lead in the film about the turbulent life of the Belgian nun Sister Luc-Gabrielle (aka Sister Sourire) whose hit song "DOMINIQUE" knocked "LOUIE LOUIE" off the American charts in 1963, and who committed suicide in 1985.

FEARS: How did you come to star in HIGH TENSION?

Câcile de France: I met Alexandre Aja and we talked about this film. So he gave me the script and I went home and read it in one sitting. It was a good script, like a very good book that you never want to end because it gives you a real thrill. Also, I like these kinds of films and it was also the first time a directed offered me a role that was so violent. Those were three good reasons to do it.

FEARS: True, this is not what weíve come to expect as a typical French film. Given that it is Alexandre Ajaís homage to 70s American horror films, would you say it is a bit more of an American film than a French film?

Câcile de France: Yes! Alexnadre Aja is very young and was inspired by American films like ìThe Hitcher,î ìDuel,î and ìThe Shinning.î He loves American horror films. You can definitely see that 70s horror film style in the look of this film.

FEARS: There are very few strong female roles in films, and itís equally rare in genre films. Two exceptional roles and performances that come to my mind are Sigourney Weaver in the ìAlienî films and Glenn Close in ìFatal Attraction.î How did you bring such a strong performance to the film and did you work a lot with the director to shape this character for yourself?

CÈ cile de France: We did many rehearsals, but, of course, there is not a lot of dialogue. It was very short. (Laughs) My most important work was the physical part. I did training for two months, every day, with the amateur Tai boxing world champion. I lost a lot of weight and gained a lot of muscle, for two reasons. The director, Alexandre Aja, knew the conditions of working on this film would be hard and tough, especially because this was a low budget film. It was two months shooting at night, in the cold. So he wanted me to build up my stamina. Also, for me, I wanted to lose my too healthy side and make my face a bit more angular. We wanted to see the craziness, the dark part, of Marieís mind. For me, it was very important to play the real fear, the confrontation with evil, because it is a feeling Iíve never experienced. It was really important for me to prepare for this role as much as possible.

FEARS: Youíve worked with Luc Besson in the past and he is the executive producer on HIGH TENSION. When you think of the films he is involved with, from ìLa Femme Nikitaî to ìTaxi,î the feature strong female characters. Is that a quality you think is unique to his films?

CÈ cile de France: It is very hard to find such strong female characters in films in general. In this case, it is more Alexandre Aja than Luc Besson. Alexandre wanted me to do this role. I think that Luc has a good eye when it comes to finding good actresses to play these characters, like Milla Jovovich in ìJoan of Arc.î She is great.

FEARS: Does making and starring in a film like HIGH TENSION change the type and number of film projects you are being offered?

CÈ cile de France: No, in France this film only appealed to the genre fans and was not a big success. I like this type of film, but I also enjoy doing films that are very different from the ones Iíve done before, and very different characters. Iíd like to do a little girl, or a sexy older woman. Iím a very lucky actress because directors often offer my roles that are very different. I donít know what will happen here in the States, but, again, in France fans of this type of film only saw HIGH TENSION.

FEARS: In America the studios also talk about film franchises and sequels. If HIGH TENSION does well Iím sure they talk about doing a sequel. Would you be interested in revisiting Marie?

CÈ cile de France: It was special for this film. Alexandre Aja was very young at the time. I was not famous. It was a very low budget film, even though Luc Besson helped produce the movie. We shot in Romania, and it was a really fast film shoot. There was such a synchronicity of elements that came together, and, like ìThe Hitcherî or ìDuel,î you can not do the same film with a lot of money, big sets, and a large crew. Itís not possible. The spirit of this type of film is because it is made in urgency, with no money, and not really ay famous actors. A sequel would be more comfortable and would not be the right ingredients to make this type of movie.

FEARS: Before HIGH TENSION opens here in the States, it has already been announced that Alexandre Aja will be directing the remake of Wes Cravenís ìThe Hills Have Eyes.î Would you be interested in working with him again on that film if he offers you a part? Would you do another genre film so soon in your career?

CÈ cile de France: It depends on the script and the character. It depends on a lot of things. Itís not simply because it is an American film and I will do every American film that is offered to me. I look at every film that is offered to me equally.

FEARS: In your career youíve had the opportunity to work on both big budget and low budget film. In this case, because the film was shot in Romania and on such a quick schedule, did that help add a bit of extra ìhigh tensionî to your performance?

CÈ cile de France: Iím not this kind of actress who needs to be hurt to play hurting. I use to work with distance association with my character. I believe that to act well you need to be comfortable. (Laughs) I think with HIGH TENSION it was a mixture of a lot of elements that helped to create the feel of this film. The most important thing, again, is the directing, no matter what the budget or location.

FEARS: As this was Alexandre Ajaís directorial debut, is there something special about working with a first time director?

CÈ cile de France: Itís different. But Iíve noticed that when the director is famous, he is often more generous, kind, is cool on the set, and can really manage the team. Sometimes young directors can be more nervous and that makes it a completely different kind of experience. Some times you want to say to the director, ìBe cool! Everything is okay.î When it is a directorís first film, I think there is something stronger in their gut. It makes it interesting because it is a more tense experience. What made it harder to work on HIGH TENSION was that it was a Romanian team and some times communicating was difficult.

FEARS: The American release of HIGH TENSION is part dubbed in English, and partially subtitled. I think subtitled films often put off American audiences. How do you feel about subtitling or dubbing films, especially for this type of film?

CÈ cile de France: My friends and I would go to see the original version of a film with French subtitles. We love to hear the real voice of the actors because thatís fifty-percent of the acting. You need to hear their voice. I know that people feel that English is the universal language of film and theyíre use to seeing it in their language, and if itís not they donít often care. Itís about culture. In France, itís more the young people, or people who see films as just entertainment, that need to see the films dubbed in French. People who are cinemaphiles, who love films, want to see the original version.

FEARS: In this rare instance, you actually had the opportunity to dub your own lines. Being it was so long after you made this film, was it a strange experience for you to go back and revisit this character?

CÈ cile de France: Yes, we shot this film three-years ago and Alexnadre Aja was not here to direct me when I was redoing my lines. I had to remind myself, but I know this film in my heart. It was not a problem. I love to play English. It is so exciting and more dynamic. I was very surprised when they asked me to do my lines in English. I also learned a lot of English when I worked on ìAround the World in 80 Days.î That was four-months for me speaking English.

FEARS: Itís going to be a bit of a culture shock for those people who last saw you in a Disney film and now youíre in HIGH TENSION. Was it shocking to relive that experience to dub the film and did you have any problems getting back into the character of Marie?

CÈ cile de France: I actually saw the film again last because I enjoy it so much. We shot it three-years ago but itís not been very far away from me. Each role I do I do with all of my heart so it is easy to remind myself what I was feeling.

FEARS: Sometimes when the studio is promoting the film they enlist the help of the actors. Being theyíve brought you here to the States to help promote the film I was wondering if they asked you to do anything a bit strange or crazy, because this is a horror film?

CÈ cile de France: No really, because I just want to maintain my image as an actress. In France, Iím lucky to do different characters and different films, and I want to keep the same luck here. Iím just an actress, not a crazy actress.

FEARS: And whatís next for Cecile de France?

CÈ cile de France: The sequel to LíAuberge Espagnole, a film by CÈ dric Klapisch, called ìThe Russian Dollsî and the opens June 15th in France. I just finished a film directed by DaniËle Thompson, called ìLa B?che.î She wrote ìQueen Margot.î


For more clips & photos visit our calendar page: HIGH TENSION

Our Film Review: HIGH TENSION

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