Summer Film Special - Audrey Tautou - Priceless

Audrey Tautou

Role reversal

After years of being offered ‘sweet’ roles, Audrey Tautou tells Richard Mowe that she relished the opportunity to play a shameless gold digger in Priceless

She scurries into the opulent embrace of the Grand Hotel in Paris, leaving behind the hubbub of the city, and plonks herself down in a capacious settee, legs decorously crossed, for a morning of interviews. The arresting brown eyes still exude a slightly surprised look – as well they might.

Audrey Tautou has come a long way since Amélie catapulted the then virtually unknown 22-year-old gamine to prominence, prompting heady comparisons with screen legend Audrey Hepburn among others. However, it’s no surprise that success has not gone to her head. She has always come across as seriously grounded, even back then. As for Amelie, she can no longer ‘bear to see it.’ She comes over all reflective. ‘I’m not blasé about it but I don’t believe in all that stuff about being an overnight star. This job requires a lot of work and a real desire to succeed.’

This desire initially drove Tautou back into the fold of Amelie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, firstly to play a provincial farm girl seeking her fiancé in the trenches of the First World War (A Very Long Engagement) and also a feisty police cryptologist alongside Tom Hanks in The Da Vinci Code. She has had no shortage of offers but too many from those who wanted to play on her sweetness, with roles such as that of Romain Duris’s girlfriend in Pot Luck aka L’auberge espanol. ‘To be honest, I’ve had enough of all that,’ she smiles determinedly.

Instead, she continues to break this mould thanks to director Pierre Salvadori, who conceived the role of an unabashed gold-digger in his latest film Priceless specifically for her. Her character infiltrates her way into the affections of rich, older men in luxury hotels along the Cote d’Azur before encountering inevitable complications with her scheme when a hotel waiter whom she mistakes for a potential millionaire – played here by Gad Elmaleh, a stand-up comic of some repute – falls for her.

Salvadori says he felt Tautou could ‘save the character’. He explains: ‘She’s so tough, mean and manipulative that if she is not played by someone with humour, fantasy and poetry, the audience would hate her.’

Tautou, 32, was drawn to the notion of ‘transforming myself’ and not for the first time. In another recent role she plays an obsessive stalker in He Loves Me – He Loves Me Not for director Laetitia Colombani, which left a distinct chill on the palate.

She is aware of the pitfalls of fortune. ‘Fame can be very fickle. Look back at any film magazines of just ten or 15 years ago and they are full of faces who have just disappeared. Nobody has heard from them again,’ she says.

In the unlikely event of such a fate befalling her she has plenty of resources upon which to call. ‘Originally I was drawn to anthropology, and I also followed a musical bent with six years of piano lessons. At university I studied literature including Balzac and Oscar Wilde. There was no theatrical tradition in the family. We’re from the Avergne in Central France and my grandparents worked on the land. My father is a dentist and my mother worked for a charity which seeks to combat illiteracy, so my only exposure to theatre and performance was at school plays.’

Our allotted interview time is up. Her parting quote is telling. She fully intends to keep her ‘feet firmly on the ground. Oh yes, that comparison they keep making with Audrey Hepburn is very flattering, but it is a bit excessive, non?’

Priceless is out on Fri 13 Jun.

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