Léa Seydoux tells me “it may be nicer to have eye contact.” Though I was informed our interview would be audio-only––no complaints; time with the most exciting actor of her generation is the last time to grouse––it’s about six seconds into our Zoom call before she decides something more is necessary. Such directness will perfectly presage our conversation.

You’ll find this interview does not make great strides to cover The Beast (here’s one that does), despite Seydoux’s fascinating admission that Bertrand Bonello’s film wasn’t an easy viewing experience––her reason for which facilitated one of the more candid, no-frills conversations I’ve ever had with an actor. Fitting for someone who can embrace both knotty material and an international superstar’s career to extents that greatly exceed her Anglophone counterparts.

The Film Stage: I revisisted an interview I did with Arnaud Desplechin a couple years ago about Deception. While praising you he said, “She’s obsessed with the right note, to find the right note––the musical note.”

Léa Seydoux: Mmm-hmm.

“So she’s saying ‘I didn’t find it; I have to do another take. I didn’t find it; I have to do another take.’


How much does that encapsulate you as an actor––someone who might look for a “musical note” in performances––and is there something about Bonello’s films in particular that has spoken to those instincts?

I don’t know if it’s a “musical note.” I’m looking for truth. You know? I want something to be truthful. There is no right or wrong. You see what I mean? I don’t know what it means, really, to “act well,” to be a good actor––what it is to be a good actor. I don’t know. But what I know is that sometimes you feel you’ve touched something truthful, and I’m looking for that truth, in a way. I like when it becomes incarnated. [Pause] No, Bonello it was something else. It’s also a… for Bonello it was more experimental. It was different. Really I became the subject of the film, in a way: it’s more like an experiment on me as, like, a doll. It’s different, but every time it’s different. You don’t work the same way; I always try to adapt to the director, depending on the director and his style.

In an interview about The Beast, Bonello said, “My subject is Gabrielle, because she’s so alone on the green screen, and also say, my second subject is Léa Seydoux, because the film becomes a documentary on her.” And I was going to ask if you agreed with that––clearly you did. But what’s your reaction to this film that is so fixated on your face and presence? 

It wasn’t an easy thing. It wasn’t so easy to… I don’t think I really like to watch myself, in a way. But I also choose films where I feel––not only as an actor, but as a person––I can live inside the film. It’s also selfish. I’m thinking about my own pleasure: will I be able to abandon myself, in a way? Also “live inside the film”? Will it be an interesting experience? But a film: you do it in the moment and then it’s something that doesn’t belong to you anymore. I also think of the people, the spectators, and I like to… well, I think I do it to give people emotions. I feel that the actor is the vector, the link between the director and spectator.

The choices you’ve made in recent years are rather strong for directors and films: Desplechin, Bonello, Mia Hansen-Løve, David Cronenberg in just a few years. How much are these choices representing the power to pick projects, and how much is it still figuring out who, what you even like?

How do I see the landscape of my filmography?


I think I make films that I would want to watch as a spectator. As simple as that. But it’s not calculated, you know? I try things and it’s just a good thing to… once Desplechin said something that stays with me. He said that cinema was “a way to question the world.” It’s very instinctive, I would say, the way I choose films. You can go, “What? I don’t know.” You never know if the film will be good, even if you have a good script or a good director.

You’re in this very elevated, “prestige” realm as an actor. But you’re quite prolific in the modeling and fashion realm, too. A couple years ago, here in New York, I’d get out of the subway and see an ad for The French Dispatch


…right next to an ad for No Time to Die that was just you…


…and then I would go outside and see the billboard for a campaign you’d done that season.


Maybe this seems like an obvious question, but I ask it with sincere interest: how much do you see a relationship between modeling and acting as far as performance is concerned? Putting on a look, a pose, a performance for the camera?

It’s interesting. Because it’s very paradoxical, contradictory, but there is something where I have this… self, in a way, that is the public self. When I’m, yeah, on promotion or on the red carpet, at the same time it’s a character that I’m playing; but at the same time this character remains… me. [Laughs] You know? [Pause] No, it’s interesting; I’m thinking at the same time. When you are an actor, you are your own… it’s like a study on yourself. You are your own instrument. But this instrument that you put on display. You decide to––which is very contradictory––open yourself metaphorically and also physically. Your body of work is actually your own body. You are your own canvas. I’ve always felt that acting, in a way, was like painting––you paint your feelings on the screen, sentiments. You decide, in a way, to give your body to… not to science. [Laughs] But to art, to cinema.

It’s funny: me, I don’t feel like I’m an actor. I’m not an actor. It’s just: I open up, I lend my body to a director, but at the same time I’ve never felt I was an actor. It’s just me, it’s always me, and I’ve always felt that all the characters that I’ve played actually are me. I’m not in a thing where I’m like this actor, “I had to become this character.” I don’t really have this thing. For me what’s the most interesting––in my opinion; of course it’s very subjective––is when I can see that the actor is giving something very personal. I can feel that; on the screen you can feel when an actor is very opened, and this is what also, as a viewer, I want to see. I want to see someone just there and very “real,” in a way. Like, too-performative––when there is too much performance––it’s not the thing that will touch me the most.

It’s funny: my friend Will, who knows you through modeling and fashion, once got into a fit of excitement and proclaimed, “Léa Seydoux is my icon.” So the other work has resonated.

It’s funny. But for me, when you do pictures, it’s always a lie. For me it’s a pure lie––because it’s retouched, you have the light, you have the make-up. So I don’t really give credit to that. But then acting: you can’t really lie when you act because the camera sees everything. You have to be very, very sincere.

The Beast is now in limited release.

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