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Juliette Binoche: ‘It’s difficult to spend your entire life with the same person’ | Culture

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Juliette Binoche’s neighborhood, in the southwest of Paris, is wealthy and residential… with a reputation for being a little boring.

Dressed casually, she arrives alone at a sidewalk café for her interview. Nothing indicates that she is a movie star, except, perhaps, for a natural authority that sometimes appears whenever she answers questions.

Binoche has come to talk about Fire, her third collaboration with director Claire Denis. In the film, she plays a woman who hesitates between a satisfactory but somewhat routine relationship and a young, passionate love. For the role, she recalled the story of a married friend who once confessed that he had feelings for Binoche.

“He told me he couldn’t put his heart in the fridge. The same thing happens to my character.”

Fire will appear in theaters on September 30. Before that, it can be seen at the San Sebastián International Film Festival, where the 58-year-old actress will receive the Donostia Award in recognition of a career in which she has nothing left to prove. Binoche is the only actress who has an Oscar, a César, a Bafta and the acting awards given out by three major film festivals: Cannes, Venice and Berlin.

Question. Do you understand your character in Fire?

Answer. To play a role, it’s not enough to understand it. You must integrate it into yourself, into your body.

Q. I ask because it was hard for me to understand.

A. What did you not understand?

Q. I don’t know if she acts in bad faith, if she’s a liar, a manipulator…

A. I don’t see it that way. She is a character who wants to be free, as I have always wanted to be. She wants to experience love, desire… she wants to understand who she is. Because of our upbringing, we don’t always allow ourselves to give in to temptation, because it hurts others or because it scares us. But the situation described in the film exists in any couple, if we’re honest. In the original script, there were scenes that better explained my character’s reasoning, but they were cut to focus more on the male character…

Q. Did this make you upset?

A. Yes, because I think the viewer understands my character less… Claire Denis did not want to delve into her situation. I don’t know why, ask her…

“You don't have to aspire to perfect love, because we aren't perfect either,” says Juliette Binoche, wearing a leather trench coat by Alaïa and earrings from Grassy.
“You don’t have to aspire to perfect love, because we aren’t perfect either,” says Juliette Binoche, wearing a leather trench coat by Alaïa and earrings from Grassy.Edu García

Q. Your first film with Claire Denis, Let the Sunshine In, was a romantic comedy. Fire, on the other hand, is almost a horror story, in which love destroys lives.

A. It may not be an encouraging vision, but I find it very sincere when it comes to showing the complexity and contradictions of a relationship. It does not seek to reflect perfection, but reality. You don’t have to aspire to perfect love, because we aren’t perfect either.

Q. Fire speaks about the possibility of starting over from scratch at any age. Do you agree?

A. Yes. We move forward in life through separations. As children, we put aside our first toys and then we separate ourselves from our friends, from our families, from our partners. Life is a continual separation. Without separation, there is no evolution.

Q. Don’t couples who stay together for life evolve?

A. It seems admirable to me, as long as it’s not out of mere indifference or economic reasons. But when you’re honest with yourself, it’s very difficult to stay with the same person all your life. Great tolerance and intelligence are required not to separate. For example, to accept that a woman’s success should not be interpreted as an attack against a man…

Q. Has that happened to you?

A. Yes, I’ve seen that jealousy in my partners, who have reproached me for working too hard and doing well. It’s a classic criticism… but nobody criticized Renoir – who painted every day until his death – for working too hard.

Q. Traditional gender roles are hard to shed.

A. Yes, but I believe that the traditional, in art, does not exist. “Normal” should not exist. We artists must go towards the new, do things that have not been done.

Q. The film contrasts reasonable love with brazen love – that famous amour fou that the French know so much about. Which one do you believe in?

A. I have lived crazy loves. Reasonable love? I don’t know what that is. For me, no love is reasonable. It’s something that is beyond us. The problem is that day-to-day habits kill it over a slow fire…

Q. Is family life not for you?

A. On the contrary, I am very much into family rituals, meals at home. We almost always meet up at my house.

Q. Do you like them because you didn’t have them as a child?

A. I had a childhood shaken by the separation of my parents, by economic problems, by historical events. I am the daughter of [the 1968 generation]. My parents were very involved politically and that marked my youth.

“If I don't see a transformation in the script, I'm usually not interested,” says Juliette Binoche, wearing a Hermès jersey and a Grassy ring.
“If I don’t see a transformation in the script, I’m usually not interested,” says Juliette Binoche, wearing a Hermès jersey and a Grassy ring.Edu García

Q. In what sense?

A. They put me in a boarding school because they were not interested in having that family life, until my mother came to get me when I was seven years old. That abandonment has been a bottomless pit to rebuild my life from. Instead of spending the day crying or feeling like a victim, it has helped me understand human nature and, from there, give to others. I became an actress because of those events. In a more serene family context, I might have dedicated myself to something else.

Q. Is being an artist doing something constructive with those wounds?

A. They are part of me, but I don’t think about them every day. Above all, I am guided by the joy of living – and it is not a superficial joy, because it is linked to something very deep.

Q. Does that explain your tendency to shoot dramas?

A. I like comedies when they are linked to an inner drama. The ones that aren’t seem boring, silly, or fake to me. Like almost everyone, I have felt the need to connect with the essential, with the existential. I want to go where we don’t usually want to go. Because, if we don’t go deep, if we don’t touch bone, we can’t transform ourselves.

Q. You usually portray women who undergo transformations.

A. If I don’t see a transformation in the script, I’m usually not interested. I insist: as human beings, our mission in life is to transform ourselves. Understand new things, put aside the useless. From these transformations, we come out lighter and more authentic. There is nothing better than change, although that requires a certain courage.

Q. Does spirituality matter to you?

A. At three or four years old, I already had a spiritual life. In the boarding school, there was a nativity scene that seemed magical and mysterious to me. Ultimately, being an actress is about believing. If one does not believe, one cannot transform.

Juliette Binoche wears a Max Mara jersey, pants and a hat by Alberta Ferretti and Armani boots.
Juliette Binoche wears a Max Mara jersey, pants and a hat by Alberta Ferretti and Armani boots.Edu García

Q. During the 2020 lockdown, an editorial came out in Le Monde advocating a change to the socio-economic model entitled “No to a return to normal.” It was signed by 200 cultural figures, including Penélope Cruz, Madonna and yourself. Were you naive to believe that change was possible?

A. I don’t think the editorial changed everything, but it raised awareness. In my neighborhood, there used to be an organic supermarket – in recent years, they have opened four or five more. But it’s a very slow process, because there is no law that taxes large fortunes or polluting industries.

Q. When French President Emmanuel Macron says this is “the end of abundance,” what does he mean?

A. The revolution will take place within each person, on an individual scale, in everyday life. Politicians will do nothing, because what they want is to retain power and stop change. At the moment, I don’t see environmental leaders capable of leading this movement, but I do detect a change among the people. And that makes me feel a little more optimistic.

Q. Given your advocacy for the environment, but also your support for the Yellow Vest Movement, should we place you on the extreme left?

A. I am not on the extreme left, but you have to understand where the anger of those who protest – of those who are unprotected – comes from. If we ignore that anger and continue to crush them, I don’t see how we find solutions.

Q. Would you be interested in going into politics?

A. I’m only interested in art. When I raised my voice about ecology, I realized that my words sounded very annoying. My place is in film, where I can express myself.

The 58-year-old French actress has an Oscar, a Bafta and a César. In this image, she is wearing a Max Mara jersey, an Alberto Ferretti hat and Cartier rings.
The 58-year-old French actress has an Oscar, a Bafta and a César. In this image, she is wearing a Max Mara jersey, an Alberto Ferretti hat and Cartier rings.Edu García

Q. When you opposed the mandatory vaccinations decreed by Macron, you were accused of being a conspiracy theorist.

A. I don’t know why people say that. Having seen what we have seen, we don’t have the right to ask questions, or to question the decisions of the government? This seems nonsensical to me, especially in a country that supposedly stands for freedom, equality and fraternity.

Q. What worries you about vaccinations?

A. I am not against vaccines, some are very useful. But I didn’t understand why they forced nurses to inject them if they wanted to continue practicing, for example.

Q. After your Oscar for The English Patient, you rejected everything in Hollywood and returned to France.

A. I wanted to go back to shoot with André Téchiné, the first person who gave me an opportunity when I was 21. And it’s not as if they offered me so many things in Hollywood…

Q. You said no to Steven Spielberg three times…

A. He suggested Jurassic Park, but I had already committed to shooting Blue with Krzysztof Kieslowski. My word is my bond. On the other hand, the roles Spielberg proposed didn’t seem exciting to me. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, I would have been a minor character… and in Schindler’s List, he wanted me to be a girl who was beaten and killed. I was pregnant and I didn’t feel like it.

Q. Is American cinema too masculine?

A. That goes without saying…

Q. Has the #MeToo movement changed anything?

A. Yes, there have been important changes. In the series that I am shooting for Apple – where I play Coco Chanel – and in my next film, they have offered me the same salary as my male colleagues without me having to demand it. The salary question is a war that I have not waged, because money has never been what has moved me.

Q. That doesn’t mean that Hollywood has gone feminist, does it?

A. Clearly not. It would be enough to reject films that convey certain messages, although I understand women who don’t, because we all have to work.

Q. In France, the situation is different. For five decades, the biggest movie stars have been women: you, Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Sophie Marceau, Marion Cotillard…

A. Yes, it is a particular case and luck. That’s why, when they ask me if, as a woman, I feel any frustration in the film world, I answer that it is quite the opposite. On a shoot, I am always deciding which way to go.

Q. To what extent has your relationship with Leos Carax – with whom you made two films when you were getting started – been important in your career?

A. In the first one – Bad Blood – we didn’t know each other. I wanted him to like me and I did everything for him. In the second, The Lovers on the Bridge, it was very different: we lived together and he wrote the script while I painted alongside him. I wanted to be less idealized, closer to reality. And there were confrontations, because of the problems in our relationship and because it was a very long and difficult shoot.

Q. But in that film, you became a star.

A. What really happened is that I nearly died during that shoot. I almost drowned while filming a scene. That’s when I realized that my life was more important than any movie, no matter how good it was. I learned to say no. Being a young actress, I couldn’t, or didn’t know how.

Juliette Binoche in a sequin trench coat by Dries van Noten and a white bodysuit by Alaïa.
Juliette Binoche in a sequin trench coat by Dries van Noten and a white bodysuit by Alaïa.Edu García

Q. You’ve just shot two series, one for HBO and the other for Apple. What is that process like?

A. The series are machineries where the directors change from one episode to the next. Unlike with movies, I don’t know who makes the decisions. Sometimes I have to fight for a little more privacy and ask the assistant director to shout less or the cinematographer to stop chewing his gum noisily… there are rules that must be respected everywhere.

Q. The power of streaming platforms endangers the survival of movie theaters. Are you concerned?

A. Of course.

Q. So isn’t it contradictory to work for them?

A. The world is changing. Streaming is what works now… that’s what the producers and the rich want to invest in. We can’t be in the resistance endlessly until we’re left alone on a desert island. We have to accept these changes and participate in them by making quality projects. I approach each role with this mindset: that the work should move the people who see it.

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Alejandro G. Iñárritu: ‘To migrate is to die a little’ | Culture

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Bardo, the seventh film by the Oscar-winning Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu, is full of “Easter eggs” – obscure references to past works, hidden throughout the film like secret little treats. Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths (the work’s full title) has echoes of Amores Perros, Birdman, The Revenant, and even Detrás del dinero (Behind the Money), a TV series Iñárritu co-directed with Pelayo Gutiérrez in 1995. Iñárritu’s new movie, a three-hour-long work of autofiction, is an intimately personal project – a kind of distillate of its creator’s own selfhood.

Iñárritu discussed the intricacies of his latest, and most personal, film during a recent long-distance interview with EL PAÍS. The film is a work of great maturity, and a reflection on the identity and experience of someone who, like Iñárritu, has left his country for the United States. It is also a portrait of a person who cannot help but see success through the lens of uncertainty. Iñárritu attended the San Sebastián International Film Festival in northern Spain in September to celebrate the premiere of a new cut of the film. “These films need time,” says Iñárritu. Bardo will play in select theaters in October, and will be available for streaming on Netflix on December 16.

Question. The Chilean writer Benjamín Labatut has said that Bardo is not an autobiography, but rather a succession of mental states.

Answer. That’s a good interpretation. I’ve always said that Mexico is not a country; it’s a state of mind. When you leave a country, your involuntary memory becomes your richest source of imagination. That uncertainty of sensations, feelings, memories, fears and illusions is the foundation of Bardo. I tried to put all these impulses in order. Or at least to give them a sense of meaning the only way I know how, which is through images and cinema. I wouldn’t call it a film with a coherent or traditional structure. My sense is that they’re traces of memory.

Q. After Biutiful, you said that you were feeling somewhat tired of conventional narratives. It seems like critics are judging Bardo based on ideas of a certain traditional model of storytelling.

A. You make some films for the public, and with others you have the luxury of making them for yourself out of a vital or existential need. Bardo is one of those films. Sometimes you make films not to reaffirm conventions, but to break them. There’s an implicit risk in what we’re doing; there’s no recipe to follow. These films need time, in contrast to what we now call “content” – consumer products, structures, genres and tones that are already well understood within an industry. This film obeys another set of rules.

Q. You’ve said that to make a film without fear is an exercise in banality. That fear is an ally. What were your fears in making Bardo?

A. To open the cellar of one’s own history is always terrifying. It’s also useless. To make a film is useless. So is to dream. All of this is useless except for those who do it. Then, doing it becomes an essential, life-affirming act. What I realized over the years is that the narratives that bind together entire countries, the stories we’re instilled with from childhood, are always interpreted through our nervous system. They’re built into us. They give us identity, a sense of belonging and collective power. When you leave, you start to see these narratives in perspective, and with time and distance they dissolve. Your own experiences and relationships, your feelings of affection toward your parents, your friends, your country. The stories our mind weaves start to unravel, to be questioned, and everything becomes uncertain. This is why the main character says that memory has no truth, only emotional conviction. This is the most complicated and delicate part. I don’t remember my childhood; I have no images of those years. I envy anyone who can build a narrative of their life, and find their reason for existing, from there – from the beginning of everything. For me, it’s the other way around. It’s perhaps the past 25 years of my life where I might find some clues about what my early years were like. And that’s what I’m doing. These are the questions I ask myself, that have no answers.

The actor Daniel Giménez Cacho in an exclusive image from the film 'Bardo' by Mexican director Alejandro G. Iñárritu.
The actor Daniel Giménez Cacho in an exclusive image from the film ‘Bardo’ by Mexican director Alejandro G. Iñárritu.ETTORE FERRARI (EFE)

Q. During filming, you were considering Limbo as a title. At what point did you decide to change it to Bardo?

A. They’re similar concepts. One from Catholicism, where limbo is a place for the souls of infants and small children who die before being baptized and are thus denied entry into heaven. That’s a bit reductive. But bardo is a similar concept in the Buddhist tradition – a state in which all things are in constant transition. We die and are reborn all the time. For me, to migrate is to die a little. It implies a certain acceptance of the end of something, of being reborn again and of reinventing yourself. That integration into a new culture implies the disintegration of what came before. That’s the bardo I’m talking about. And in the end, the final migration, which is inevitable and touches us all: death. At my age, you start to think about it. It makes you laugh, makes you reassess, forces you to try to put things in order.

Q. You mentioned your childhood. In one scene, the protagonist, who has become a child, encounters his father in the bathroom at a dancehall. His father tells him that success is something you should only take a little taste of, and then spit it out, because otherwise it poisons you.

A. That’s literally something my father said. He always maintained a very guarded attitude toward success, something he never experienced himself. I used it because it’s something that stuck with me. With my father, there was never really any praise. Not because he had bad intentions; he just thought that reinforcing someone’s successes or virtues might make that person believe it so much that they’d stop doing what they did naturally. The character, in one part of the film, is grappling with his own mind. The first 25 minutes are about him, his award, his interview. Then it gets diluted and becomes a film about the heart. For me, Bardo is full of humor, moving between the sublime and the stupid, the ridiculous and the painful, just like life. It’s not a dive into obscurities, but a glide over the surface.

Daniel Giménez Cacho in a still from 'Bardo,' which was filmed in the streets of Mexico City's historic center.
Daniel Giménez Cacho in a still from ‘Bardo,’ which was filmed in the streets of Mexico City’s historic center.SeoJu Park (Netflix)

Q. You opt for catharsis in all of your projects. Was that the case here?

A. For me it was a compulsory exercise because of my age and my need to free myself, and thus to be able to share, without filters or disguises, a very fragile mental and emotional state that’s difficult to articulate in words. If I had been a painter, I would have painted a self-portrait, which is always a well-received endeavor. Or a maximalist mural in the vein of [José Clemente] Orozco. But I don’t know how to paint. And words? Only writers like Octavio Paz or Jorge Luis Borges, or Rulfo, [Julio] Cortázar, César Vallejo – only they were able to make sense of the nonsense. With those talents far out of my reach, I stuck to what I could do with the 32 cinematographic sequences that make up this film.

I think those of us who have this experienced share something that’s difficult to speak about. Those of us who have left, even if we return to our country, we can never return. There’s no going back. This is a feature of the hybrid culture that very much defines our times. For those who have not left – in this case, people from the United States, who are culturally self-contained and speak a language that’s spoken all over the world – this can be difficult to understand.

A scene from 'Bardo,' premiering in theaters on November 18 and available for streaming on Netflix starting December 16.
A scene from ‘Bardo,’ premiering in theaters on November 18 and available for streaming on Netflix starting December 16.SeoJu Park (Netflix)

Q. You met Guillermo del Toro when he came to help you edit Amores Perros and suggested that you cut the film down. That it was 20 minutes too long. In Venice, Bardo received a lot of criticism for being three hours long. Do you think this criticism is unfair?

A. I think some one-hour movies are totally unbearable and way too long. And then there are films that are three and a half hours long and they’re some of my favorites. This kind of thinking seems superficial to me. There’s an obsession with runtime or the box office, as if these things were important. Editing a film is an endless process. It’s like editing a book. Rulfo spent nearly 17 years editing Pedro Páramo, an audacious process of extraction. It’s always hard to know where the final waters of a film will flow. My processes are long. In fact, with a lot of my films I’ve made edits up to the very last minute. I was making little tweaks to 21 Grams until the day it premiered. You let a film go because of a deadline, like a festival or a premiere. In this case, with Bardo, I finished the film two days before I left for Venice. I’m very happy to say that I’m just now incorporating some extra scenes that weren’t finished in time for the premiere. I also tightened up the internal rhythm of a few other scenes. The essence of the film is intact, but I had the opportunity to put a final touch on it, to do a little acupuncture. I’m very rigorous. I’m a butcher. I share that with Guillermo del Toro; we’re very hard on ourselves.

Q. There’s a plot throughout the film, playing out in the background, in which a large corporation is about to buy up a part of Mexico. It’s a commentary on colonialism that I think has been missed or overlooked by the Anglo world.

A. The reductions or personal accusations based on what other people assume my intentions were in making this film have made them unable to see everything that’s there. This film speaks to all of that, and much more. It summons the smells of Mexico City and speaks of the last, lost gasps of my dying father, who left before I could be by his side. It speaks of childhood adolescence, which arrives without warning. Of the fading memory of our son Luciano whom we lost – a central focus of the film. It speaks of our friends with white hair that we didn’t notice were aging. Of the weddings and funerals we missed, of the city that no longer is. And it speaks, also, of life, cumbia, and the heat of Mexico coexisting with death, with disappearance and impunity. It’s a very Mexico City film, I think.

Q. You make the film’s protagonist, Silverio Gama, into a reporter working in the deadliest country in the world for journalists. But I didn’t notice any commentary on the violence experienced by the press in Mexico.

A. In a way, the relationship between two characters, Silverio and Luis, his nemesis, speaks, I think, to the situation of journalists who stay in Mexico, who are very brave, and speaks to the impunity that exists, but also to the way truth is subjected to an increasing series of distortions. We all have this feeling, that truth is slipping out of our grasp.

Q. After working with cinematographers like Rodrigo Prieto and Emmanuel “El Chivo” Lubeski, how did Darius Khondji end up being the cinematographer for Bardo?

A. Darius is a brother I didn’t meet until I was 59. He’s French-Iranian and has a universal soul. He’s also experienced a version of this cultural dislocation, from living in another country, which is France, but having Iranian roots. We share that genesis and we share an excitement for visual exploration. Never in my life have I worked so hard for a film to have such fluidity of time and space, to appear this dreamlike and surreal. There was a lot of storyboarding, a lot of design and motion work, to be able to enter the stream of consciousness. It’s a fluid film that took many, many months to make. I’d say about two years of pre-production, and then it was interrupted twice because of the pandemic.

Q. The film draws very clear connections to Birdman. You teamed up again with screenwriter Nicolás Giacobone. Why return to an exploration of the ego after making a film with such a perfect tone and form?

A. Unlike Riggan Thompson, the superhero actor played by Michael Keaton who’s furiously trying to be seen and recognized again, this film is not about ego; it’s about uncertainty. The protagonist questions the appreciation he seeks from those who despise him. It’s about uneasiness and success, which is this smoke that escapes him and never satisfies him. It’s a reflection I make, out of the things that one exchanges. It’s not about ego, but about questioning the ego. That’s just part of it; the rest is diluted into much deeper things.

Translated by Max Granger

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Foreign residents in Geneva could get voting rights

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This legislation, adopted on Friday by the Geneva parliament, introduces several reforms, including the sorting obligation for households, businesses, and public entities.

It aims at at reducing the amount of waste generated in the canton, improving recycling, and disposing of trash in an environmentally friendly manner.  The initial objective is to lower incinerable waste by 25 percent within the next three years.

Geneva is the only canton in Switzerland that has not required the use of taxed trash bags, as every other city and canton has. These are either specially designated bags, priced according to their size (35, 60, or 100 litres) and place of residence, or a sticker to be affixed to a bag.  Taxes collected from the sale of these bags are used for municipal waste management.

However, Geneva has relied “on the voluntary collaboration of people” and has not required the bag tax, “which represents a high cost for households and whose effects in other cantons have not been convincing over time”, cantonal authorities said in a press release.   

In Geneva, the only rule is that “household waste must be placed in sturdy, watertight and closed bags meeting the OKS standard and then deposited in a container”.

OKS garbage bags are tested and certified for quality and resistance in accordance with the guidelines of the Swiss Association of Municipal Infrastructure.

However, as everywhere in the country, only non-recyclables can be bagged and tossed in the container; everything else should be sorted and properly recycled.

READ MORE: Trash talk: What are the rules for garbage disposal in Switzerland?

What are the new rules?

The new legislation not only makes sorting and disposing of waste mandatory for everyone, but it will also ban single-use plastic, including disposable tableware and non-recyclable containers for take-away food — the only canton so far to take such measures.

Also, all plastic bags available in stores, including those intended for fruit and vegetables, will no longer be free of charge.

Additionally, all shops must provide special space for the customers to sort the packaging and leave waste on the premises. “This obligation should encourage retailers to drastically reduce the packaging of goods”, according to the canton.

What changes will you have to make?

While up to now you might have skipped on the sorting and recycling front, at least some of the time, the new law makes it compulsory everywhere in the canton, so it is no longer a matter of doing it sometimes but not always, and hoping nobody will notice.

These official links tell you what the canton expects you to do to reduce and properly dispose of your household waste.

And if you think any rule-breaking will go unnoticed, it probably will not.

“The noise, weight, smell and shape of the bags are all relevant indicators for assessing the quality of household sorting”, the canton said.

Inspectors will carry out spot checks and offenders will be fined for non-compliance.

While this system already exists in some communities, it is more random. In Geneva, on the other hand, it will become more thorough, as “powers of the municipalities in this area are extended”.

You have, however, some time to get used to the new rule.

Geneva’s Council of State will decide when the new law will enter into law and what the penalties will be.

The ban on the use of single-use plastic , however, will be enacted no later than January 1st, 2025.



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Jennifer Coolidge returns to ‘The White Lotus,’ the series that brought her late-in-life success | Culture

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When Jennifer Coolidge was announced as the winner of the Emmy for best supporting actress in a miniseries for The White Lotus, on September 12, the 1990s house song “Finally” played in the background. The chorus (”Finally it has happened to me”) was appropriate for the actress’s long-awaited moment of recognition. Thanks to the dark comedy by HBO Max and a character that her friend Mike White, creator of the show, conceived expressly for her, the actress has finally been embraced by an industry that had ignored her for decades.

Her bizarre award acceptance speech, in which she confessed to bathing in lavender which caused her to “swell up” inside her dress, ran out of time and ended up dancing on stage, won over the audience. The viral moment blurred the line between fact and fiction, evoking the character of Tanya McQuoid, the delusional millionaire that Coolidge plays in the series whose second season begins on October 31.

“Two years ago I was about to buy a flower shop because I really thought I wasn’t going to be able to pursue acting. And look where we are now,” said the actress in April in Taormina (Sicily), during the filming of the new episodes of The White Lotus. Little did she know that her Emmy would arrive five months later.

Her career was marked by her role in American Pie (2000), where she seduced one of her college son’s friends. But she feels like she was typecast almost from the start, in the early 1990s, when she debuted with an episodic role on the hit show of the day, Seinfeld. “So, there was a certain type of woman with, let’s say, non-standard beauty who always played the crazy best friend of the protagonists, the weird sidekick. I told my agent that I was no longer interested in doing that, that I wanted to do stand-up comedy. And I spent four years trying to make a living from it. Until I returned to those characters,” she recounted from Italy, as she resumed the role with which she managed to vindicate her career.

After a series of jobs to make the rent, and public appearances not unlike that at the Emmys, Coolidge became a charming disaster, an aesthetic reference known for tacky haute couture, always sweet and often clumsy and out of place.

Left to right: Aubrey Plaza, Will Sharpe, Theo James and Meghann Fahey in the second season of ‘The White Lotus.’

A small role a few years ago in the celebrated Promising Young Woman changed things somewhat. But, the actress says, everything took a great qualitative leap when her friend Mike White brought out The White Lotus. “No one had asked me to be the protagonist of their story until he arrived. It’s like he gave the rest of the industry permission to give me those kinds of roles.” Coolidge is now preparing projects with leading roles alongside David Harbor (Stranger Things), Anthony Mackie (the new Captain America) and Reese Witherspoon. Ryan Murphy has cast her in his Netflix feature The Watcher, and she will join Jennifer Lopez in Shotgun Wedding.

She and Mike White met while playing a wedding couple in the independent comedy Gentlemen Broncos (2009) by Napoleon Dynamite director Jared Hess. They have been close friends ever since. They travel together and live together for months on end. “He has me hooked. I think he finds it hilarious that I can continue to live as I am,” says the actress. For 15 years, he had promised the actress that he would write a series or a movie exclusively for her so that she could shine. He completed a script in 2018 and pitched it to as many networks as possible, but no one was interested in the pitch. When The White Lotus arrived, White cast her to compensate for not having kept his promise, not knowing that the consolation prize would give her the triumph that she had only glimpsed.

In the first season of the comedy, the actress plays a woman from a wealthy background named Tanya McQuoid. She encourages Natasha, one of the workers at the luxury resort where she is on vacation, to set up her own business with her financial help. But Tanya meets a man and gets distracted from her initial project of helping her new friend. In the new episodes, the millionaire gets what she wants. She has high expectations regarding her love life, but she discovers that it may not bring her happiness. “When you have a lot of money, it is much more disappointing to not do the right thing. It is in your hand to change other lives for the better. But there are also times when people tend to think that if you are in a privileged position, you can do anything. I’ve been asked many times for help getting into a film or television project and, when I don’t succeed, people have stopped talking to me,” she confesses.

Jennifer Coolidge in 'The White Lotus'.
Jennifer Coolidge in ‘The White Lotus’.

The actress is aware that she is a muse of someone special in Hollywood, who, in his own way, is loyal to her. White was an unsuccessful actor who decided to spend his unemployment time writing his own stories. He created Enlightened, a comedy that played with the bipolarity of its protagonist. He had a modest win with the story on HBO between 2011 and 2013. Then his career hit a slump again, until The White Lotus came on the same platform. As his face was not well known among the general public, a couple of years ago the writer and director decided to participate in the reality show Survivor, which in the United States is reserved for anonymous contestants. A few weeks ago, White lost all anonymity after receiving the highest recognition in the television industry.

“Mike always knew she was a star who hadn’t found the right material yet,” says David Bernad, executive producer of the comedy and one of the first people to whom they both dedicated their Emmys. Coolidge was faced with the responsibility of playing a character that White had written expressly for her. The actress has underscored the humility that the felt, although when she tells it, she can’t help but make even serious things sound funny: “Sometimes it’s painful. You see how a person who is really smart can see you. And it is not always in an attractive way. It is a difficult mirror to look at. When I read what he writes sometimes I think: ‘Oh, God, Mike has seen me in situations where I’ve been ridiculous. And on top of that, the guy records it through a character. But one of these days I’m going to write about him and what he’s like,” she jokes.

Coolidge understands her friend’s sense of humor: ”Uncomfortable situations are funny to him,” she explains. Sometimes, she adds embarrassing aspects to Tanya that she knows he will like. At other times, she allows herself to become a puppet in White’s hands. In a somewhat tragic scene in the first season, during a funeral aboard a ship, Coolidge improvised, out of necessity, part of her speech, while her co-stars tried not to laugh so as not to spoil the shot. “I don’t remember very well what I did because I was terribly ill. Mike knows I hate boats. He has seen it with his own eyes. That’s why he decided to do that dramatic sequence in one of them. I was filling an entire bucket of vomit inches from my castmates. It was disgusting and I had no privacy at all, because the boat was much smaller than what I was promised. But he thought it was all very funny,” she says, feigning indignation. “I knew she didn’t like going on a boat… Well, it’s true that sometimes I torture her a bit for the sake of comedy,” he admits with a laugh.

“Mike has a memory like an elephant for all the embarrassing situations I go through, but he also pays close attention to what I want. That’s also in my character. With him, I don’t feel like I’m acting. He has a broad and compassionate perspective and sees the good and the bad in people. He forgives his characters, however they may be. I guess that’s why I forgive him,” admits the new queen of comedy.

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