It was no doubt daunting for Doria Tillier to act alongside three of France’s biggest stars, Daniel Auteuil, Fanny Ardant and Guillaume Canet in Nicolas Bedos’s La Belle Epoque. Yet the rising star of French cinema steals many of her scenes and is certainly a force to be reckoned with. She in fact plays several characters, which is part of the intrigue.
Her previous credit had been starring with Bedos, her then boyfriend, in 2017’s Monsieur & Madame Adelman, which they co-wrote. A seasoned actor, Bedos had made his directing debut with the film and recently directed OSS 117: Alerte Rouge en Afrique Noire, which is bound to be a French blockbuster like the previous spy comedies starring Jean Dujardin.
Tillier’s time is rapidly coming too. One imagines that even Hollywood might be ready to embrace the gorgeous 34-year-old’s talents.
I sat down to discuss La Belle Epoque in Cannes last year with the fluent English speaker.
Is this your biggest role to date?
I had big role in Nicolas’s first movie but I don’t compare them. For sure, this is a big role in a big film, and it’s thrilling to promote a film that I really love.
Why do you love it?
There are some movies where I love this or that, but here I love everything about. I love the story, the editing, and the ensemble of actors.
In a re-enactment of events, your character plays Daniel Auteuil’s wife at the point where they fell in love. What was it like to portray the woman of his dreams? You had to be an idealised dream character in a way, but you were really strong, and went against that. In some ways you’re playing his onscreen wife, Fanny Ardant, who is one of the most wonderfully strong women.
I tried not to have that vision. When I read the script, I thought this, but when you go and act you don’t think that you are that woman or that you are Fanny Ardant. You just play what you have to play. It’s honestly all down to the way that Nicolas wrote and directed it. It’s just really well filmed.
What was it like to be with Daniel Auteuil, playing a romance with someone who is quite old?
Oh, he was great. In real life he would be too old for me of course, but in the movie, he has a face that’s so full of emotions. There is that scene where we kiss on the bed – it’s a small kiss, it’s not sexual and I loved doing this. I was not attracted to him, but I was moved by him. I wanted to kiss him in that scene. There was no problem of an age difference. My character knows that as a younger woman she gives him the great gift of youth by being with him. So, it makes you feel very sexy and attractive knowing that you’re like a ray of sunshine in this man’s life.
How did you learn to speak English so well?
I learned English by watching Friends.
You do have an American accent!
Yes, I do. I can have an English accent [suddenly switches to British tones] because I also watch English shows. I like it.
It’s hard to find French actresses who are sassy like you. Where do you get this personality from?
From my parents. They are straight-forward, uncomplicated people who just speak their minds. My mother doesn’t wear makeup. I do, but I wasn’t raised as a girly girl. I was always very respected by my parents. They always considered me as a human being, even when I was a child. So, I don’t have problems with myself.
Did you study acting?
I studied acting, but I began on television doing sketches. We had this daily show in France that was very popular, Le Grand Journal, which covered politics, artists and was very international. Every day, I was the weather girl, but I wasn’t only doing the weather. I was making jokes, sometimes in character, sometimes not. I had so much fun doing it. I wrote my sketches every morning for the evening, so it was very intense for three years.
When was your belle époque?
I don’t think I’d like to go back in the past, not that it wasn’t great, but because it’s better now.
Tell me about Yves, your other film in Cannes.
I’m a girl who falls in love with a fridge, which is actually voiced by a friend. The subject of artificial intelligence is fascinating. Can you fall in love with just an intelligence or does it have to be a person? I don’t have the answer to that, but the question fascinates me and that’s what the movie is about.
La Belle Epoque is in cinemas from August 13, 2020