“In real life, Kristen Stewart and Chloë Moretz were looking at Juliette, and yes, there’s something Juliette has that is exciting and interesting for them,” Assayas explained. “That is, how does one protect their integrity, their freedom, their own life throughout a major acting career? After being an actress for 30 years, how does she still remain independent, not get swallowed up by the system? Juliette is a free spirit, a very original actress. I think that was exciting for Kristen and Chloë to look at.”
“I suppose that I can empathize with them both, because like most viewers of the film, I am on both sides,” Assayas said of the scene. “I’m closer to Juliette in terms of age, but I’m interested in cinema as entertainment, and I think a lot of Hollywood movies can be very exciting, even the bad ones.”
There's a line in the film where Kristen Stewart's character says, "The text is like an object that's going to change perspective depending on where you're standing. " Do you feel your perspective has shifted in terms of looking at your body of work?
Well, hopefully. I've learned to be less theoretical. Hopefully I have learned to trust more of my instincts, to leave space for the actors to not exactly improvise, but certainly reinvent the scene. You learn that the process of filmmaking is about capturing real life and capturing real-life emotions. Ultimately, you don't have to be too stiff, you don't have to be too controlling, you have to let things happen.
But, in terms of how you can tell a story in a million different ways, that's something I subscribe to. When Kristen's character says that, it's practically the definition of the movie you're watching in the sense that, if you imagine the same film with two different actresses, it's a completely different story. At some early stage of the film, I was about to cast Mia Wasikowska instead of Kristen Stewart. I admire her and I would have been really happy to work with her, but it would have been a completely different film. We would have had completely different dynamics.
It feels as if these roles were written exclusively for Stewart and Binoche.
I let them appropriate the roles. I encouraged them to go in whatever direction was defined by the dynamics between them. I knew when I was writing and preparing the film that it would be completely depend on something happening between those two girls. And whatever happened was in a certain way beyond what I had imagined. I pushed things in the direction I felt they were leading me to.
And what direction was that?
Well, one side of it is obviously hard to handle, the fascination, the form of desire that attracts them to each other. And that's something that's created by tiny touches, like little dots here and there. The way it was expressed, what is actually happening comes straight from them. I never told them, "Do this" or "do that," I just told them just go find that direction. The thing is that they had fun functioning together. There's a certain comedic feeling that could have been there or could not have been there. And I think they are both very smart, so there's a certain irony and sense of humor that was much more present than what the film would have been with other actors.
Especially Stewart, whom most people have undervalued throughout her career. What did you see that compelled you to cast her?
I think she's amazing. I've always liked her. I always thought she had a huge potential, and I always felt she had such a striking screen presence, even when I saw her for possibly the first time in Into the Wild. And I remember thinking when I was watching that film, Who's that girl? She's great! Someone who should be a background character comes to the forefront. But honestly, I'm not sure I trusted her, and I've always felt there was more to her than what normally people thought. I had no idea she would go that far. And even when we were shooting, I was watching her, and thought, Oh my god, she's really great. But it was really in the editing room, that I realized so many of the nuances, the subtlety and the depth of what she was doing. I think she will do great things.