In addition to winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year, the epic relationship saga “Blue is the Warmest Color” netted a special award for its two lead actresses: Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos, who play passionate-then-domesticated lovers. Seydoux is already a star in France, but Exarchopoulos is poised to become the next “It” girl — and she’s still a teenager.
You shot for five months. Did you have any idea what the film would look like?
No. We did so much improvisation because [director Abdellatif Kechiche] wants to capture your soul and really doesn’t want to see you act. He didn’t even realize we did so many takes and shots. Three weeks before the end of the shoot he didn’t even know the end — if I was going to kill myself or die or get depressed and take [pills]. We shot a scene where I take [pills], but then Abdel said he didn’t want to see her die.
What were some major scenes you shot that weren’t in the theatrical cut?
There was a scene where my family discovers we’re sleeping together. My mother discovers Emma naked in the kitchen, drinking milk. She comes into my room, takes the cover off me and sees me naked. She starts yelling, acting hysterical. She wakes up my father. It was this big scene where we naked and vulnerable and yelling. To be angry while naked — that was weird.
Are there more scenes of Adele and Emma fighting? The relationship as seen is relatively calm, with only one big drag-out fight.
Yeah. It was really, really intense. There’s this fight, and then another fight. It was a little more complicated between the two of us in the beginning, because the girl Emma is with was supposed to be a big problem. We shot a lot. With the footage he shot he could make three movies. However he cut it we’d have been surprised. But I love the way it turned out. I think it’s really intelligent.
The relationship spans seven years. You’re still 19 in real life. What was it like playing older?
It was hard to pay the teacher, because it’s hard to find your place in front of 25 children who are so natural and spontaneous. You have to be authoritative.
How did you and Seydoux find your chemistry?
I didn’t know her. I think that helped. It was two people meeting. And it was kind of a crush — a friendship-crush. We became really close and we had this complicity. She was like my sister on the shoot, and she always will be, I think.
Were there any issues with a male director making a film about young lesbians?
No, because it isn’t a homosexual movie. Never on the shoot did we use the word “lesbian” — not because it was taboo, but because it was a simple love story. We want people to forget it’s about two women, because it could happen to anyone. It’s about how people change your life. We all want this to happen to us once.
There’s been a lot of talk in the press about Kechiche being hard to work with. How much of that is overstated?
It was hard, but it’s also hard to make people understand an adventure like this. It’s so human and so personal.
Do you regret saying in interviews that Kechiche was difficult?
No, because we said what we said. But they just pick up the negative things. Yeah, it was really hard to shoot this movie. But it was the best school I’ve ever had. And you remember more when it’s hard. Abdel would ask a lot of you but he would give a lot, too. Sometimes he’s hard to follow. He’d do many takes because he loves to work when you’re really tired. He wants to capture your deepest feelings. For me, he’s the best director in France.
You can read an interview we ran with Exarchopoulos’ co-star Lea Seydoux back when it premiered at Cannes this May here. Seydoux has since had a falling out with Kechiche, who wrote a furious op-ed attacking her and his film’s detractors.