Christa Théret: “I like my performances to be spontaneous because I’m a very intuitive actress”

French actress and two-time César-nominee Christa Théret (b. 1991) made her screen debut in Costa-Gavras’ “Le couperet” (2005, a.k.a. “The Ax”) when she was in her early teens. She then rose to fame when she played the teenage daughter to Sophie Marceau in “LOL” (2008, four years later remade in the U.S. with Miley Cyrus playing her character), and since then she appeared opposite actors including Gérard Depardieu and Jean Dujardin. A few weeks from now she will play a major role in “E-Book,” Olivier Assayas’ latest screen effort, with Juliette Binoche and Guillaume Canet.

Only recently, Ms. Théret was a member of the jury at the 32nd edition of the Festival International du Film Francophone de Namur, Belgium, where we sat down and talked about her career, her work as an artist, and her ambition to be part of an engaged world of cinema.

Christa Théret with Sophie Marceau in “LOL” (2008)

Ms. Théret, we frequently see new child actors on the screen, but quite often they hardly get any roles once they’re adults. You however were able to make this transitionvery smoothly. How did you manage to do that?

I never really thought about that when I was young. I think I was just lucky, I was able to keep on working the whole time. But most importantly, I didn’t focus on an acting career per se, because I was also a sculptor and a painter. So I was able to keep a certain distance from acting if and when I wasn’t making a movie, it was sort of my ‘way out’ in case my acting career would be put on hold – for whatever reason. But each new role I got was a tremendous joy for me, I was always very relieved, but it wasn’t as if acting was the only thing I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life.

Working with great directors like Costa-Gavras, and being nominated for your Césars, did that motivate you or push you into a certain direction as an actress?

It motivated me a lot to take acting very seriously, but at the same time it reminded me of how fragile your ambitions can be. At all times, you have to keep your feet on the ground, no matter what. I want to make sure there is a life for me after the movies, a life away from the camera, that’s very important to me, and it’s also pretty rewarding as an actress: you’re alert, sharp and focused whenever you accept a new role.

It’s been such a long time by now, but do you remember how Costa-Gavras worked with you on the set of your first feature “Le couperet” [2005, a.k.a. “The Ax] when you still were a child?

You’re right, that’s a long time ago. I’m twenty-six now, and I was twelve when that film was made. What I remember most about him is that he was very kind, very patient, he smiled a lot, and he explained everything as simply as he could. He made sure it all seemed very natural to me, playing my character then was almost like playing a game, as children do. So I was not stressed at all – now I am much more stressed, because now I’m much more aware of everything that’s happening around me when we’re shooting – the camera, everything that goes on on the set.

What are your goals for the future?

I would like to become a better painter and sculptor, and as an actress I hope to keep on playing both light and dramatic roles. Up until now I’ve been very fortunate to work with great directors who allowed me to explore my characters, to really get to know them, so I could put my heart and soul in it. It’s wonderful when you can do that.

How is the French cinema doing right now, in your opinion as a young actress?

It’s very productive, a lot of films are being made. It’s not always easy to get them financed, but that’s the same everywhere, and especially the auteur cinema which has always had a huge following in France, it still never appealed to a wider audience. But that kind of engaging cinema really interests me, so there are a lot of films that I would like to do.

Are there any films and filmmakers that have inspired you?

There are several people I admire a lot, people like Abdellatif Kechiche or the Dardenne brothers. A film that I admired tremendously, was “Toni Erdman” [2016]. I also go to the movies at least twice a month. I’m rather picky, so I don’t see all of them. But most of the time, I watch them from a professional point of view – how do the actors play their characters, what’s the cinematography like, things like that. I try to learn from it. It helps me, because I don’t like to prepare too much before I arrive on the set. I know my lines of course and I’ve prepared them with my coach, but I like my performances to be spontaneous, because I’m a very intuitive actress. That seems natural to me, and I also like to move around a lot on the set. If I’m in a scene and I have to sit down, I like to find a way to work around it and stand up, walk around the table, things like that. It inspires me in a way. And talking about the Dardenne brothers, the role Marion Cotillard played in “Deux jours, une nuit” [2014, a.k.a. “Two Days, One Night”], that is something every actress dreams about. The way she played it, it was so amazing, you know. If I would get a script like that offered to me, or if the Dardenne brothers would consider me for a role, I wouldn’t hesitate for one second.

Would you also like to become a filmmaker one day?

I’m writing a short right now about growing up, about losing a parent – my father passed away when I was fifteen, so I know what it feels like. I don’t know where this project will take me, or if I will be able to shoot it, but I do hope I can make it one day. Other than that, it’s very ambitious to say you’d like to become a filmmaker one day. I don’t plan that far ahead right now.

You don’t work too much for television, but recently you appeared in the mini-series “Maximilian.” Did you enjoy that?

Yes, it was shot in Austria with Austrian, German and French actors. It was a wonderful international project, directed by Andreas Prochaska, and the series didn’t have too many restrictions: it was almost made like a feature film. So far I haven’t worked too much for television, because I did features most of the time.

Can you already tell something about your upcoming film “E-Book”?

Ah, Olivier Assayas [the director]. It’s a wonderful script. It’s a about the new technologies that are coming our way, and he tells his story in a very subtle way. I like it a lot. We start shooting next month.

Festival International du Film Francophone de Namur, Namur (Belgium)
October 2, 2017

FILMS

LE COUPERET, US title THE AX (2005) DIR Costa-Gavras PROD Michèle Ray-Gavras SCR Costa-Gavras, Jean-Claude Grumberg (novel by Donald E. Westlake) CAM Patrick Blossier ED Yannick Kergoat MUS Armand Amar CAST José Garcia, Karin Viard, Geordy Monfils, Christa Théret (Betty Davert), Ulrich Tukur, Olivier Gourmet, Yvon Back, Thierry Hancisse, Yolande Moreau, John Landis, Julie Gavras, Nabil Ben Yadir, Romain Gavras

ET TOI T’ES SUR QUI?, a.k.a. JUST ABOUT LOVE? (2007) DIR – SCR Lola Doillon PROD Saga Blanchard CAM Romain Lacourbas ED Enrica Gattolini MUS Fixi Bossard CAST Lucie Desclozeaux, Christa Théret (Julie dite Batman), Gaël Tavares, Nicolas Schweri, Shomron Haddad, Eloïse Etrillard, Vincent Romoeuf

LOL (LAUGHING OUT LOUD) (2008) DIR Lisa Azuelos PROD Romain Le Grand SCR Lisa Azuelos, Nans Delgado CAM Nathaniel Aron ED Stan Collet MUS Jean-Philippe Verdin CAST Sophie Marceau, Christa Théret (Lola), Jérémy Kapone, Marion Chabassol, Lou Lesage, Émile Bertherat, Félix Moati, Louis Sommer, Adèle Choubard, Jade-Rose Parker, Lisa Azuelos

LE BRUIT DES GLAÇONS, US title THE CLINK OF ICE (2010) DIR – SCR Bertrand Blier PROD Catherine Bozorgan, Christine Gozlan CAM François Catonné ED Marion Monestier CAST Jean Dujardin, Albert Dupontel, Anne Alvaro, Myriam Boyer, Christa Théret (Evguenia), Audrey Dana, Emile Berling, Eric Prat

LE VILLAGE DES OMBRES, a.k.a. THE VILLAGE OF SSHADOWS (2010) DIR Fouad Benhammou PROD Thomas Bruxelle, Laurent Bruneteau SCR Fouad Benhammou, Pascal Jaubert, Lionel Olenga CAM Romain Lacourbas MUS Stéphane Le Gouvello CAST Christa Théret (Emma Valeyre), Barbara Goenaga, Cyrille Thouvenin, Ornella Boulé, Axel Kiener, Jonathan Cohen, Théo Fernandez

MIKE (2011) DIR Lars Blumers PROD Raphael Carassic SCR Lars Blumers (adaptation by Grégoire Vigneron, Laurent Tirard) CAM Laurent Tangy ED Laurence Bawedin CAST Marc-André Grondin, Christa Théret (Sandy), Eric Elmosnino, Olivier Barthelemy, Mounir Ait Hamou, Dominique Thomas, Christophe Kourotchkine

LA BRINDILLE, a.k.a. TWIGGY (2011) DIR – SCR Emmanuelle Millet PROD Catherine Bozorgan, Christine Gozlan CAM Antoine Héberlé ED Anny Danché, Emmanuelle Castro MUS Christophe Julien CAST Christa Théret (Sarah Dol), Johan Libéreau, Maud Wyler, Anne Le Ny, Laure Duthilleul, Jean-François Malet, Nina Meurisse, Cyril Gueï, Nicolas Marié

VOIE RAPIDE, a.k.a. FREEWAY (2011) DIR Christophe Sahr PROD Serge Hayat SCR Christophe Sahr, Olivier Gorce, Elodie Monlibert CAM Julien Poupard ED Isabelle Poudevigne CAST Johan Libéreau, Christa Théret (Rachel), Isabelle Candelier, Guillaume Saurrel, Elise Berthelier, Kataryna Fernandes, Catherine Javelot

RENOIR (2012) DIR Gilles Bourdos PROD Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier SCR Gilles Bourdos, Jérôme Tonnerre (based on ‘Le tableau amoureux’ by Jacques Renoir) CAM Ping Bin Lee ED Yannick Kergoat MUS Alexandre Desplat CAST Michel Bouquet, Christa Théret (Andrée Heuschling), Vincent Rottiers, Thomas Doret, Romane Bohringer, Michèle Gleizer, Laurent Poitrenaux

L’HOMME QUI RIT, a.k.a. THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (2012) DIR Jean-Pierre Améris PROD Thomas Anargyros, Edouard de Vésinne SCR Jean-Pierre Améris, Guillaume Laurent (adaptation by Jean-Pierre Améris, Guillaume Laurent; novel by Victor Hugo) CAM Gérard Simon ED Philippe Bourgueil MUS Stéphane Moucha CAST Gérard Depardieu, Marc-André Grondon, Emmanuelle Seigner, Christa Théret (Déa), Arben Bajraktaraj, Serge Merlin, Christèle Tual

L’AFFAIRE SK1, US title SERIAL KILLER 1 (2014) DIR Frédéric Tellier PROD Julien Leclercq, Julien Madon SCR Frédéric Tellier, David Oelhoffen (original idea by Frédéric Tellier; book by Patricia Tourancheau) CAM Matias Boucard ED Mickael Dumontier MUS Frédéric Tellier, Christophe Lapinta CAST Raphaël Personnaz, Nathalie Baye, Olivier Gourmet, Michel Vuillermoz, Adama Niane, Christa Théret (Elisabeth Ortega), Thierry Neuvic, William Nadylam

TOUT EN HAUT DU MONDE, a.k.a. LONG WAY NORTH (animated, 2015) DIR Rémi Chayé PROD Ron Dyens, Claus Toksvig Kjaer, Henri Magalon SCR Claire Paoletti, Patricia Valeix, Fabrice de Costil ED Benjamin Massoubre MUS Jonathan Morali CAST (voices only) Christa Théret (Sasha), Féodor Atkine, Peter Hudson, Antony Hickling, Tom Morton, Juliette Degenne, Leslie Clack, Vivienne Vernes

MARGUERITE (2015) DIR Xavier Giannoli PROD Marc Missonnier, Olivier Delbosc SCR Xavier Giannoli, Marcia Romano CAM Glynn Speeckbaert ED Cyril Nakache MUS Ronan Maillard CAST Catherine Frot, André Marcon, Michel Fau, Christa Théret (Hazel), Denis Mpunga, Sylvain Dieuaide, Aubert Fenoy, Sophia Leboutte, Théo Cholbi

LA FILLE DU PATRON, a.k.a. THE BOSS’S DAUGHTER (2015) DIR Olivier Loustau PROD Lisa Azuelos, Julie Gayet, Julien Madon, Antoun Sehnaoi, Nadia Turincev SCR Olivier Loustau, Agnès Caffin, Bérénice André CAM Crystel Fournier ED Camille Toubkis MUS Fixi Bossard CAST Olivier Loustau, Christa Théret (Alix Baretti), Florence Thomassin, Patrick Descamps, Stéphane Rideau, Lola Dueñas, Pierre Berriau, Vincent Martinez

BROERS, a.k.a. BROTHERS (2017) DIR Bram Schouw PROD Frank Hoeve, Katja Draaijer SCR Marcel Roijaards CAM Jasper Wolf ED Annelein van Wijnbergen MUS Rutger Reinders CAST Jonas Smulders, Niels Gomperts, Christa Théret (Josephine), Dragan Bakema, Patrick Descamps, Grégory Gatignol

GASPARD VA AU MARIAGE, a.k.a. GASPARD AT THE WEDDING (2018) DIR Anthony Corbier PROD Nicolas Blanc SCR Anthony Corbier, Julie Peyr, Nathalie Najem CAM Nicolas Gaurin ED Christel Dewynter MUS Thylacine CAST Félix Moati, Laetitia Dosch, Christa Théret (Coline), Marina Foïs, Johan Heldenbergh, Guillaume Gouix, Élodie Bouchez, Noémie Alazard-Vachet

THE FOX (2018) DIR Matthias Luthardt PROD Philippe Avril, Oliver Damian, Kasia Skibinska SCR Sebastian Bleyl CAST Christa Théret (Elsa), Frederick Lau, Matthias Habich, Luise Aschenbrenner

E-BOOK (2018) DIR – SCR Olivier Assayas CAST Juliette Binoche, Guillaume Canet, Christa Théret, Pascal Greggory, Vincent Macaigne

TV MOVIE

DEUX (2015) DIR Anne Villacèque PROD Sandra d’Aboville SCR Alain Le Henry (novel by Irène Némirovsky) CAM Pierre Milon ED Annette Dutertre CAST Lola Créton, Bastien Bouillon, Christa Théret (Solange), Stéphane Varupenne, Olivier Chantreau, Hervé Pierre, Isabelle Renauld

TV MINI-SERIES

MAXIMILIAN (2016) DIR Andreas Prochaska PROD Olivier Auspitz SCR Martin Ambrosch CAM Thomas W. Kiennast ED Alarich Lenz, Daniel Prochaska MUS Matthias Weber CAST Lili Epply, Aaron Friesz, Miriam Fussenegger, Caroline Goddard, Jannis Niewöhner, André Penvern, Stefan Pohl, Christa Théret (Maria von Burgund), Björn Freiberg