Mélanie Laurent Interview: On Inglourious Basterds And Loving France

Mélanie Laurent is the epitome of French. I don’t mean that in the condescending “Freedom Fries” sort of way. I love the French. The smoothest girl (or person for that matter) to walk into our press room all day, Laurent came cool and clean with a black striped shirt, a hip hat, and a hankering for a cigarette. Prior to the official roundtable, she invited everyone out to the balcony for a smoke and a chat.

Like many of her colleagues (Christoph Waltz being the main exception, more on that later), Laurent went into Inglourious with an adoration for Quentin Tarantino. “[The Franch] don’t see him like an independent director; we just see him as the best director, ever, [from the United States].”

When asked about the process of auditioning, Mélanie said that she knew right from the start that not only was this a movie she had to be in but that she was Shoshanna. “I am strong and I just had that dream to kill Hitler. I am Jewish so it was like an obsession for me.” But like a boy who knows he’s damn good-looking, Quentin played hard to get. “I had to wait 4 days. Then he called, and he said. ‘Hey Honey, how are you?’ And I was like, ‘I am not fine. Give me a yes or give me a no. Just tell me something.’ And he said, “Would you be my Shoshanna?’ And I was like, “What? Oh yeah, yeah.”

But Laurent may have ambitions of directing of her own, as an integral part of the film was changed based on her preference. While I won’t go into it too much because of spoilers, it involves Laurent’s character speaking English for the first time throughout the film. This was her idea. “It was really hard because when you speak French its like very flat… she has to speak in English if she wants to be understood from the Germans. She needs to be clear.” Quentin agreed. And to further drive her point home, she admitted to purposely doing a bad take in French. “It was funny because I just did it in French and he said, ‘ok it’s crap’ and I was like ‘yeah I told you.’”

Laurent explained that she doesn’t have ambitions to be a crossover actress. She loves her street, her café, not having to use a car. She loves France. In fact, rather than go on to work on a big budget American movie, her next role will be in a small theatre piece in France. While that couldn’t be more fitting, and after people get a chance to see her in Basterds, it’s hard not to imagine a string of sold-out nights for Laurent.