Saturday, May 11, 2024

Une belle course / Driving Madeleine

Christian Carion: Une belle course / Driving Madeleine (FR/BE 2022). Line Renaud (Madeleine Keller) and Dany Boon (Charles Kaufman).

Madeleinen Pariisi / Madeleine och taxichauffören.
    FR/BE © 2022 Une Hirondelle Productions - Pathé Films - TF1 Films Production - Artémis Productions. Associated Co-PC: Bright Lights Films - Kobayashi Communication. Production : Laure Irrmann et Christian Carion. Coproducteurs : Ardavan Safaee et Patrick Quinet. Associate producers : Marie de Cenival, Laurent Bruneteau et Thomas Bruxelle. Executive producer: Stéphane Riga.
    Fiche technique
Réalisation : Christian Carion
Screenplay and dialogue : Cyril Gély - adaptation : Christian Carion.
Photographie : Pierre Cottereau - couleur
Décors : Chloé Cambournac
Costumes : Agnès Noden
Musique : Philippe Rombi
Son : Pascal Jasmes, François Maurel, Thomas Desjonquères, Thomas Gauder.
Montage : Loïc Lallemand
Casting : Gigi Akoka
Dany Boon : Charles
Line Renaud : Madeleine
Alice Isaaz : Madeleine, jeune
Jérémie Laheurt-Fine : Ray
Julie Delarme : Karine
Gwendoline Hamon : Denise
Elie Kaempfen : Matt
Thomas Alden : Mathieu
Hadriel Roure : Mathieu, jeune
Jacques Courtès : Daniel
Carl Laforêt : l'automobiliste impatient
Christophe Rossignon : le président du tribunal
    Budget : 7,94 millions d'euros
Langue originale : français
Genre : comédie dramatique, road movie
91 min
    Dates de sortie :
France : août 2022 (festival d'Angoulême - film d'ouverture) - Société de distribution : Pathé Distribution (France)
Canada : septembre 2022 (festival de Toronto)
France : 21 septembre 2022
Finlande : 15 mars 2024 - Cinema Mondo - Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Outi Kainulainen / Joanna Erkkilä.
    Viewed at Maxim 2, Helsinki, Saturday 11 May 2024

Synopsis from the press kit: " Madeleine, 92 years old, calls a taxi to take her to the retirement home where she will be living. Charles, a disillusioned driver with a tender heart, agrees to drive by the places that affected Madeleine’s life. Through the streets of Paris, her extraordinary past is revealed. They don’t know it yet, but they will forge a friendship during this drive that will change their lives forever. "

AA: At first sight, Christian Carion's Driving Madeleine is a piece of feelgood entertainment, based on surefire ingredients: - the star pair Line Renaud and Dany Boon, acting together also in Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis (Welcome to the Sticks, FR 2008, D: Dany Boon), the highest grossing French film of all time - a wonderful sightseeing tour of Paris full of beloved landmarks - the improbable friendship between a male driver and an elderly lady like in Driving Miss Daisy - soundtrack spiced with nostalgic international crossover hits by Dinah Washington and Etta James - the grudging taxi driver and the procrastinating lady ending up having the time of their lives - the taxi driver never charging for the round-the-clock ride, instead inviting the lady to dinner before the destination - but with a fairy-tale envelope from Madeleine's lawyer at the cemetery.

From this angle, Driving Madeleine delivers, and it is reportedly a pioneering technical achievement. Most of the movie takes place inside the taxi, but it was entirely shot in the studio. Paris traffic is difficult / impossible anyway, and especially with a 92 year old star. The DP Pierre Cottereau covered the whole journey from every possible angle in advance and employed a new generation LED screen system of transparencies, 4K high definition L-shaped screens in all directions, including the sky, better than greenscreens, in which actors have to imagine the surroundings. The immersion was total, and actors felt like they were in a moving car, including in the collision with the kid on an electric scooter. For the viewer, Une belle course is a gratifying cinematic Paris tour. Having returned two weeks ago from the 11th arrondissement, I was happy to revisit Place de la République and Avenue Parmentier together with Line Renaud (Madeleine Keller) and Dany Boon (Charles Kaufman).

Inside the sightseeing trip and the fairytale narrative there is a tough core. Madeleine is a young woman when the occupation ends and Paris is liberated. There is a love affair with Matt, a G.I., and a son, Mathieu, abandoned by him. There is a husband, Ray, who turns violent to both Madeleine and Mathieu. Brutalizing and disgracing Mathieu is the last straw. Madeleine poisons Ray and torches him where it hurts most. Madeleine is convicted to a 25 year prison sentence by an all male jury (moderated to 13 due to good behaviour). Meanwhile, by 1968, her son Mathieu has grown to a man who condemns his mother because of whom he has been bullied all his life. He goes to Vietnam as a war photographer and returns in a coffin.

There is no soft-pedalling in this territory. The movie is a time travel in gender discrimination. In France, women got to vote in 1948, but Madeleine tells Charles «the fifties weren’t like today...» Women had to get their husbands’ permission to work or have access to household money. In a scene unplanned by the film-makers, Madeleine and Charles walk past a City of Paris poster with the face of Simone Veil - remembered for Loi Veil, legalizing abortion in France in 1975. In the press notes, Christian Carion estimates that although times have changed, issues of femicide and domestic violence are even more serious today, because there are men who revenge on women for equality.

Regarding the young Madeleine's life during the Occupation there is a visit to a courtyard with a commemorative plaque to three Resistance fighters shot on 7 October 1943, including Lucien Keller, Madeleine's father. If the characters Madeleine Keller and Charles Kaufman, are Jewish, this is the only clue besides their names. [The actor Dany Boon, whose father was an Algerian Muslim, converted to Judaism when he married Yaël Harris, and also his previous wife Judith Godrèche was Jewish. Boon has been active in fighting antisemitism]. The desolate reminder of the plaque challenges the viewer to reassess the escapism of the project.

The deeply felt and nuanced interplay of Line Renaud and Dany Boon is the greatest reward of Driving Madeleine. At age 92, Line Renaud is full of life, wit and energy. Dany Boon, France's most popular comic actor, proves how great a comedian can be in a serious part.


The director’s seventh film is a very special project. What drew you to this story?

I had in my hands this script that was originally written by Cyril Gély. I read it in one go on a train and by the end of the journey I was in tears. All of us face this question one day: what will happen to our parents when they get old? The story of Madeleine, 92, leaving her home to go live in a care facility brought up a lot of stuff for me. Right from the start I knew the movie was written for Line Renaud. I wanted to take her on this journey through space and time so I made a few changes to Cyril’s script and reached out to Dany Boon, whom I’ve known since Merry Christmas. In fact, Driving Madeleine is sort of a northern connection, because all three of us are from the same region in the North of France. From strictly a director’s point of view, I would add that I was very excited about the challenge of filming much of the movie in a car. It’s never easy and we had to reinvent the process for the film.

You mentioned the tandem Line Renaud-Dany Boon. We know how close they are in real lifebut it’s palpable on the screen right from the first scene outside Madeleine’s house

I wanted to reunite them while taking them someplace else. I talked about the  concept of “emotion” for a long time with Dany. When Merry Christmas came out, he was worried that Private Ponchel’s death at the end would upset his fans. “They want me to make them laugh. I don’t want to let them down,” he said. I told him he’s one of those actors who can make us laugh or cry, like Bourvil. Dany replied that as a kid he was disappointed when he saw Bourvil in The Red Circle. When I called him about Driving Madeleine 15 years later, I realized that he’d changed and was ready to broaden his range. “People don’t offer me roles like that,” he told me, “but now I want them.” So he said yes, on the condition that Line would be in it too. What’s marvelous is that Dany lets Line shine in Driving Madeleine. She’s got the leading role. I’ve also known Line for a long time, although we’d never worked together before. In fact, Dany’s the one who introduced us at a preview of Merry Christmas in 2005. I feel like Line and I had an appointment to keep. 

Do you use their connection and friendship as a director?

Yes, because it’s obvious that they love acting together. They know each other like a book. They finish each other’s sentences! Line often says, “Dany’s my son”, and I think there’s a unique bond between them. They’re both from Armentières and have the same working-class roots and rags-to-riches story. I
know this story means something to them. There’s a pretty rare, joyful chemistry between them that has to be tapped. Filming them is all about being a viewer more than anything else! There’s a script to stick to and they perfectly memorized it, but what they make of it goes well beyond mere dialogue. 

Offering this role to line is not an insignificant choice. This 92-year-old woman’s story brings up a lot of deeply personal issues for us and for her

We talked a lot about that before shooting began. Obviously I went to see her at La Jonchère and she told me, “This has my name on it!” I replied that the role suits her very well and she said, “No, it’s much more than that: it’s my testament film.” I had just lost my mom, which was a really hard blow for me. “But you know, leaving can be a happy moment,” she told me. That’s when I realized that Line and Madeleine have that in common. “Smiling makes you look younger,” as it’s said in the film. We kept on talking and Line told me that she no longer expected to see characters like Madeleine on screen. She also told me right away, “I am Madeleine Keller in your film, not Line Renaud.” You’re right: there are things in this movie that dovetail with her life. It’s unsettling for her and for us. I think Line reveals things, impressions, feelings through her character. While shooting I saw that she let herself be caught up in her own memories. Line is incredibly sincere and truthful. We obviously made sure she had the best possible working conditions. She only worked in the afternoons and her dressing room was just steps away from the set at the Montjoie studios near Paris. When she was ready, I’d go see her and play tunes she loves, like “Relaxez-vous”, the duet she recorded with Dean Martin in Los Angeles. We’d talk a little bit about her memories of those days. Then we’d go over to the cab where Dany was waiting for us to start shooting. He’d crack a couple of jokes and then off we’d go. I think the result is awesome. Line gave us a lot in this movie.

You used a rather innovative technical process to shoot all the scenes of the cab driving in the streets of Paris and the suburbs in the studio.

We knew that driving in Paris is very complicated nowadays. Making Line do and redo scenes in traffic jams while filming her in a tracking car on 500-meter stretches at a time was not only risky but unthinkable. How could we get around that? Pierre Cottereau, the cinematographer, suggested an LED screen system that he’d just experimented with on a project for Canal+. He told me this technology is quickly changing and worth trying. We tested it for weeks to see how far we could go, especially with what we call «transparencies». In the old days, we’d put a screen behind the car and project scenes on it while shooting. I really like this system, which Claude Sautet, for one, used a lot for his driving scenes. Today there are green backgrounds, but that keeps the actors from seeing what’s happening around them. Everything is done afterwards in post-production, so interaction is impossible. For Driving Madeleine, it’s the opposite. We set up 4K, insanely high-definition L-shaped screens around the cab in the studio and projected the entire route the cab took during the filming. We shot it from every angle and on every axis with a platform truck carrying multiple cameras. We even shot the sky: we had a
screen facing the vehicle that lit the windshield and brought the interior to life. Surrounded by these three-by-eight-meter screens, Line and Dany were totally immersed. When I said «action,» they really thought the car was moving! Dany was caught a bit off-balance at first but I think the result is amazing and the actors could play it. When a cyclist passed the cab, they could follow him all the way with their eyes. Dany’s character yells at cars that are too close to him. We even had a kid on an electric scooter ride between the car and the screen and hit the rear-view mirror while zooming past! We did it, it was crazy. We’re among the first to use this technology to this extent: it was used for almost half the sequences. I’m convinced that this is the future of filming in urban areas.

Alice Isaaz plays the young Madeleine. It’s not an easy part

I had the luck of working with Alice in 2015 on Come What May, where she played a schoolteacher fleeing Paris after the German invasion in 1940. I told her it wouldn’t be easy working opposite actors like Olivier Gourmet and Mathilde Seigner. She did a great job. I kept her performance in mind and thought of her to play the young Madeleine. And you’re right, it’s not easy bringing a young Line Renaud to life! I organized a dinner for them to meet each other. Line really wanted that. They hit it off right away, as though they’d been friends for years. I find that Alice has grown tremendously since 2015, gaining in maturity while keeping all her freshness. Now that she has experience and professionalism, she can completely lose herself in her characters while bringing a lot to the acting. I’m convinced she’s an actress to look out for in the coming years.

Young Madeleine suffers domestic violence at a time when it was never mentioned or even thought about.

In one of the scenes on a bridge, Line tells Dany «the fifties weren’t like today...» At that time, which is not that long ago, women had to get their husbands’ permission just to work or have access to the household’s money. I remembered that while reading the script. There’s a beautiful, totally unintentional moment in the film: on their back to the cab, Madeleine and Charles walk past a City of
Paris poster with Simone Veil’s face on it. Not to go back over the past, but we have to remember where we’ve come from. Equality, reproductive rights and rising awareness of domestic violence are  yardsticks of how far we’ve come, but also of how far we have to go. Take feminicide: of course it’s always existed, but before it wasn’t counted as such. Now it is. I’m convinced that domestic violence
is even worse than before. It’s as if some men become enraged when they see things slipping away from them, when they’re no longer in control. 

The actor who embodies that in the film is Jérémie Laheurte as Ray, the young Madeleine’s violent husband. He’s both goodlooking and terribly disturbing

It’s hard to imagine a character like him. Hitchcock was right when he said “The villains must be looked after in particular !” If Ray doesn’t scare you, I’ve failed. I saw lots of actors but in the end Alice gave me Jérémie’s name. She was present throughout the casting process to exchange lines with all the actors up for the part of her husband. Alice and Line repeatedly told me that Madeleine couldn’t fall in love with just anybody. Madeleine can’t stop thinking of the GI she met one night, who fathered her son. If she falls in love with another man, it’s because she thinks he’s worth it at the time. To be honest, I didn’t know Jérémie, so I looked at what he’d done and met with him while we were still building the sets and developing the LED screens. I realized he was out of sorts. When I asked him if he wanted us to meet another time, he told me that he’d just had an argument with the person who was supposed to pick up his grandmother and take her to the hospital for some tests. I understood that Jérémie was completely devoted to his grandmother, and when I probed a little more deeply, he told me he’s well aware of domestic violence cases: one of his ex-girlfriends is a victim. He’s the one she calls when things really go haywire. At that point I came to a terrible but logical conclusion: he must not make this movie! It’s too heavy. He told me that on the contrary, he was a good fit for Ray. I decided to trust him. We didn’t even rehearse much. I don’t know how Jérémie prepared for the part, other than that it belongs to him, but I do know that he became Ray before arriving on the set He loathes the son Madeleine had with another man, the kid who’s omnipresent in a cramped apartment with no real privacy. That drives him crazy and he takes it out on Madeleine. Add alcohol into the mix and you
have a dangerous, unpredictable man. I can tell you, Jérémie really scared the hell out of us in the scenes where Ray really goes ballistic! But he also has the face of an angel and you can see why Madeleine fell in love with him. I listened to many podcasts about domestic violence, and most of the battered women say, «We were head-over-heels in love before the sparks started to fly.» That’s what happens with Madeleine and Ray. When she sees him walking into the theater, there’s instant chemistry between them. Their story becomes inevitable, for better or worse.

This scene is very beautiful from a narrative and aesthetic point of view. This is an opportunity to commend the work of your cinematographer and set designer, who did a remarkable job. Looking back at MERRY CHRISTMAS, COME WHAT MAY and, recently, MY SON, the American version of MON GARÇON, you haven’t filmed much in studios.

And I loved it! I was like a little boy in a toy store. I had the apartment sets a few steps away from the cab in a 1,000m2 studio. Line worked in the afternoon, so I had time in the morning to shoot the flashback scenes with the rest of the cast. In short, the studio’s limitations worked out perfectly well for the kind of movie I wanted to make. The film’s starting point is Madeleine’s life-long nostalgia for the
passionate night she spent with a GI. That’s a good thing because visually, I love the great  Hollywood masters John Ford, Douglas Sirk and Hitchcock, who influenced me particularly for DRIVING MADELEINE. For example, the apartment scenes were shot from a low angle as a humble tribute to everyone who has influenced me as a filmmaker. I’d like to point out the great work of Pierre Cottereau, my director of photography, who had already joined me on COME WHAT MAY, and Chloé
Cambournac, my head set designer, with whom I worked for the first time. I absolutely wanted a woman for the sets. I know they both had a blast with this project and it shows! Same goes for the score, I asked Philippe Rombi (my composer) to listen to Bernard Herrmann, Sir Alfred’s trusty composer. Truth be told, I even set the first cut to the scores of VERTIGO and PSYCHO. Philippe listened to it one time and integrated what I was looking for into the score.

How do you look back on this unique experience today?

The touchiest part for me was showing the film to the team, especially the actors. I remember the projection in the big screening room at Pathé. Line, Dany and Jérôme Seydoux were there! I felt like I as taking an oral exam! I sat behind them the whole time trying to figure out what they were thinking. When we came out, everybody made comments, and quite insightful ones at that, which I heeded to tighten up the editing, but I knew we had our movie. Now I’m waiting for people to see it. That’s what cinema is all about, isn’t it?


Both of you spend most of the time in a cab, so for the most part the movie rests on your shoulders. Tell us about your years-long friendship both on and off the screen.

LR: I remember the first time I ever heard of Dany. I was in Las Vegas and people told me about a young comedian from the North whose career was off to a brilliant start. I sent him a telegram from Nevada (that was still done at the time!) to tell him how proud I was to see a fellow northerner go to Paris and triumph at the Olympia. That was our first contact. Then I went to see him in his play LA VIE DE CHANTIER. After the show I went backstage to his dressing room. That’s when we really got to know each other. We’ve been very close friends ever since. I think of him as a son. Did you know that sometimes his mother, Danièle, calls me to find out what he’s up to? Both of us worry about our little boy!

DB: Remember when I asked you to be in LA MAISON DU BONHEUR, the movie based on the play? It was the first film I ever directed. You played Aunt Suzanne.

LR: Yes, it was a small part but had beautiful, very funny scenes.

DB: Going back even further, I remember seeing Line in Armentières as a kid! She came to give free concerts at the Fête de Nieulles several times. There was a free concert in the Grande Place one Sunday in September and she was the star of the day! I must have been seven or eight. Line has a passion for life, a passion for others and a passion for her craft and her profession. She’s really an amazing woman!
Having the chance to co-star with her in this movie is a beautiful gift. 

Your feelings for each other are obvious in DRIVING MADELEINE. Christian Carion’s film
sometimes makes you smile, but above all it’s very moving.

DB: Yes, it’s a lovely drama, a really touching story: an old woman looking back at her life  before moving into a nursing home meets a cab driver who’s not that nice at first. The fact that Line and I know each other so well allowed us to give each other plenty of space and listen to each other. The script about the final chapter of this woman’s life is deeply moving: I cried when I read it. It made a lot
of sense for me to do this movie with Line at that time because it crystallizes things that go unsaid but are expressed in glances, silences and exchanges. It’s also the fruit of our reallife relationship during all this time. We could’ve gotten married, couldn’t we? To be honest, the problem isn’t age, it’s the fact that you’re an actress! I don’t trust them.

LR : I don’t blame you! But seriously, it’s a great story: two strangers get to know each other during the ride from Madeleine’s home in Brysur-Marne to the nursing home in Courbevoie. We also learn about her often rough and difficult youth through flashbacks.

DB: Madeleine’s character gives me an almost philosophical lesson in life. Charles, the cab driver I play, is at first overwhelmed by his money and relationship problems. He agrees to pick up Madeleine mainly because the distance is long and, as the French title suggests, it will be a beautiful ride. But on the way, while driving around and confiding in each other, Madeleine opens his eyes and heart. She has
a good perspective on life in general and suffering in particular. 

Do either of you miss the places where you grew up or lived in the past, like Madeleine, who wants to see them again one last time?

LR: Of course. Whenever I go back to where I came from in the North, I walk past my grandmother’s cafe between rue de Gand and the Nieppe Bridge. That’s where I grew up. Today it’s a beauty parlor. I always stop in front of it and talk to people there. Then I go to see the coron, the little one-story working-class brick house in the middle of the street where I used to live. I remember that during the filming of WELCOME TO THE STICKS we went to the big beach at Bray-Dunes, not far from Dunkirk, where I also have cherished memories.

DB: That’s incredible! My grandparents owned the Shell service station-garage at the Nieppe Bridge! I also go back to see my coron at 20  rue Blaise Pascal, a small red brick house with a tiny garden behind it: I found the place minuscule! To be honest, I think it’s nice to go back and have a look but I don’t really miss it.

LR: Neither do I. I’m not one to dwell on the past, but going back to my childhood home, where my roots are, well that touches me and I think it’s important. You should never forget where you came from. That keeps your head on straight! 

Let’s get back to your characters, starting with you, Line. Why do you find Madeleine interesting or touching?

LR: I think she’s the most beautiful character I’ve ever played. She’s also the one that resembles me the most. You know, this year I’ll be 94, the same age as Madeleine, but that’s  not all we have in common. Like her, I’ve gone through some hard things in my life. I grew up around women like her in my family. Madeleine is my mother, my grandmother and even my great-grandmother. I see them in my character’s tormented story. 

She’s a bit tough and I can relate to that as well. All this is superimposed on what I actually experienced, so when I read the script, I was really moved, even upset. I would’ve done the
movie anyway, but knowing that Dany would be my co-star made it a must. When I watch the film, I see the Dany of MERRY CHRISTMAS, the one we know less well on screen: fragile, sentimental, sensitive and moving, as he is in life.

My great-grandmother and my grandmother were also battered women but they, too, stayed strong. Their life stories are what gave me the strength to live my life and fight my battles, especially against AIDS. Today, when I see all these feminist movements bearing witness, daring to speak out and making
demands, I say to myself thank goodness times have changed, even if there’s still a long way to go. When I was young, people had to get married before having sex. That’s said in the film.

DB: Madeleine’s story starts just after the war, but the movie follows her into the 1960s, when we see all the things that kept women down. They didn’t get the right to vote until 1948, but for a long time afterwards they had no financial freedom without their husbands’ approval, not to mention the right to abortion, which wasn’t legal until the mid-1970s.

LR: I know about that personally because I got pregnant when I was 17, before abortion became legal. I couldn’t keep the baby and had to have a backstreet abortion. But there are also joyful aspects in Madeleine’s life. American soldiers, for example. I, too, remember dancing with the GIs who had just
liberated France. Madeleine has character. She likes to have fun.

Dany, how do you perceive Charles, a rather gruff cab driver at the beginning of the story?

DB: I’d say he’s a kind of mirror that reflects Madeleine’s whole life going by. This old woman who gets into my cab is living in a suspended moment, she’s almost already outside of life. When she leaves her pretty house to go live in a nursing home, she accepts her finiteness. Her look back at her past is calm and full of humanity yet very spontaneous. In contrast, Charles struggles with life, its problems, its troubles. At first, he’s shut off from everything around him, seeing the glass half empty. Madeleine helps him find who he really is, his tenderness, a sense of priorities, of life and of beautiful things. Charles accompanies Madeleine to the end of her story. You know, I like movies that suddenly give you a lesson in humanity. 

DRIVING MADELEINE came at a critical time in my life as an actor. I think it’s meaningful that Line and I made it together. It’s like an incredible gift.

LR: I know you told Christian that you couldn’t pass up a project like this when at the very beginning I think he was only asking you to co-produce it. Once I heard that, I couldn’t see anyone but you in the role of Charles.
DB: By the way, I want to commend Christian for his fine work on the script. I’d read a version before he came onboard and, while I thought it was pretty good, I wasn’t entirely convinced. It was like a promise not quite kept. And then Christian called to say he’d taken over and gave me the new version of the script to read. It touched my heart and I said yes, especially knowing that I’d be working with Line. 

There are also flashbacks with Alice Isaaz as Madeleine when she was young. Was it moving to see them, Line?
LR: It certainly was. I absolutely wanted to meet Alice before shooting started. As I didn’t know much about her acting career, I asked to see some of her films. I was interested in seeing if she looked anything like me when I was young. I found her terrific in every respect, except for the blue eyes! Mine are a lighter shade. I told Christian and he said not to worry about it: he could correct it with technology.

Let’s talk about the highly innovative technology used to shoot the cab scenes. In fact, the car isn’t driving in the streets. It’s in the studio and the screens around it create the illusion by showing images of the street.

DB: Right, it’s achieved with an amazing system of very bright LED screens. Christian’s crew filmed all the streets the cab drives on beforehand, like Google Maps does. The streets were shot from the front, from the sides and from above so that the reflections on the windows or the windshield would make it look like we were really moving, even with the light of the sky overhead or when driving under
bridges. We didn’t have to shoot on a green background and we could interact with everything around us. The result is total immersion. When I turn the steering wheel I don’t do it haphazardly because there’s a scooter next to me or somebody crossing the road in front of me. It requires a good inner ear because the feeling is a bit weird!

LR: I don’t know anything about technology, but I do know that Christian has really innovated with this process. I think this is the first time it was used so widely in a movie in France. I’m not surprised. He’s from the North, too!

DB: You know, we Northerners are like a mafia. We were everywhere on the set, including one guy called Erwan! Getting back to the technical process, it’s the same, but in a much more advanced way, as in classic films where we see Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in a car with the road behind them filmed in 35 millimeters and projected on a big screen.

A word about your collaboration with Christian Carion, the director. Dany, you’ve known him since MERRY CHRISTMAS. Line, Driving Madeleine is the first time you worked with him.

LR: To be honest, with him directing it didn’t feel like I was making a movie but living a real life moment. Christian is good at doing things simply and naturally. He gives you advice about intent, tone of voice and the meaning of the scene, but with such kindness. His remarks are spot-on. They have a meaning that goes with the meaning of the film, and he makes them gently, during a conversation. Being able to create this climate on a set is essential. You know, I’ve known plenty of directors and that’s not always the way it is, far from it! Some of them even shout, stomp their feet, throw tantrums. With Christian it’s just the opposite and you want to give it all you’ve got.

DB: Christian counts a lot in my acting career. He offered me the magnificent role of Private Ponchel at a time when I was still doing oneman shows. Beyond the film, the project had many symbols for me: my character was in Regiment 26, the same number as the regiment of my great-grandfather André Bailleul, a Zouave during the First World War. I owe a lot to Christian. MERRY CHRISTMAS became
my calling card and thanks to him, I’ve been honored by the profession. Before, I was a stand-up comedian. Now I’m considered an actor


Let’s start with Line Renaud: she absolutely wanted to meet the actress who would play her character in her youth. What was that like for you?

I was already tremendously fond of Line before I even met her. Many people say that, but she reminds me so much of my grandmother it’s uncanny. The first time I saw her was when I was doing the scene where Madeleine dances with the American soldier who marked her life. Line absolutely wanted to come on the set because the scene reminded her of her own life at the time of the Liberation. We were both very moved, everything was mixed up: the fact that we were playing the same character at different times, that it was my first day on the film, my reunion with Christian Carion and that Line was reliving a part of her past in this scene. I then discovered her as I’d imagined her: you want to hug and kiss her!

She’s a kind, sweet woman. When you meet her, everything makes sense: her career, her path, her commitments. You understand why she had such an extraordinary destiny.

You don’t have a scene together because your characters live in different times. Was it frustrating not to share the set with Line or Dany?

It was a bit odd since we rarely crossed paths, but that happens regularly when you’re an actor and you play supporting roles, for example. So yes, it’s pretty frustrating but in this case I thought it was crazy to work on a project that I only knew a small part of. I really discovered the film when Christian showed it to me as a «normal» viewer and the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. I like that kind of
mystery, when you don’t have a view of the whole picture.

You play the young Madeleine, an astonishing woman with quite an incredible destiny. She’s strong and a victim at the same time.

That ambivalence is what I liked about the character, besides the fact that I love period films. The idea of portraying her from the time she’s 16 until she’s almost 50 was very exciting and ambitious.

Madeleine loves two men in her life: the G. I. she spends one night with, who is the father of her child, and Ray, who reminds her of her first love but turns out to be a terrible, violent husband. Things like this happen very often and I’ve always had a lot of compassion for women who unfortunately fall in love with the wrong person and realize too late that he’s not the man they imagined.

I don’t judge these women. On the contrary, I try to understand the mechanism that led them to put themselves in such a perilous situation. Christian’s film makes it possible to explore this without falling into somewhat reactionary comments like, «She’s really dumb not to have understood sooner”.

DRIVING MADELEINE is also a kind of civic history lesson. Although women’s rights still have a long way to go, we know how hard it was for victims of domestic violence to speak out in the 50’s and 60’s.

It was awful and still is in 2022. I find it outrageous that there are no women on the jury at Madeleine’s trial. I think mentalities have changed but we’re walking on eggshells. Some men know very well that they can’t say certain things anymore but that that doesn’t mean they don’t think them anyway. Sometimes I’m quite surprised by what some women have to say about these issues.

The scenes of Ray beating you up are particularly believable. How did you work on this aspect of the film with your partner Jérémie Laheurte?

It came quite naturally thanks to Christian’s kindness on the set, the technical crew and Jérémie, who’s a great acting partner, always anxious to get things right. He looked after my well-being and, surprising as it may seem, these kinds of scenes, which actors usually dread doing, often turn out to be the most fun. We have to search for truth and believability, and that’s what I love about my craft. Jérémie was the ideal partner for that because he made me feel comfortable and confident. 

Mathieu, Madeleine’s son, plays an important role in the story. Tell us about your young partner, Hadriel Roure.

I was amazed by this little boy’s professionalism. He was very comfortable on the set, very curious about everything going on around him. I’ve worked with children before and often they lack a little maturity, which is normal, so directing them can be complicated. With Hadriel, it was the opposite. Not only did he know his lines backwards and forwards, he also understood the meaning of every scene,
which, what’s more, weren’t easy. Really, he was exemplary.

You mentioned that you were reunited with Christian Carion seven years after COME WHAT MAY.

Christian is the kindest, most sensitive, most emotional man I know. As a director, he’s also the most caring person I’ve ever worked with. Every day, he thanks his team and gathers people around him. Everyone wants to give him a lot in return. Believe me, it feels good to play an emotional scene and see the director shedding a tear behind the camera. You never suffer on Christian’s set. Some actors find that suffering is good for their character, but not me. There’s nothing better than kindness and trust. On Driving Madeleine, I also discovered Christian’s pedagogical side. He told us what his intentions
were and was always open to suggestions about the acting. He precut all the script’s sequences, knew exactly where to put the camera and explained why. It’s very liberating, for him as well as for us, especially since my scenes are flashbacks and it’s always tricky to put them back into the course of the story. The end result is fantastic.


Screenplay and dialogue CYRIL GELY
Original Soundtrack PHILIPPE ROMBI
Associate Producers MARIE DE CENIVAL
Executive Producer STÉPHANE RIGA
Director of Photography PIERRE COTTEREAU
First Assistant Director THIERRY VERRIER
In associated coproduction with KOBAYASHI PROD
With the participation of CANAL+
In association with LES SOFICA
And development support from AUVERGNE-RHÔNE-ALPES CINÉMA
International Sales and Distribution PATHÉ

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