Following up her Golden Lion-winning drama Happening, director Audrey Diwan announced plans last year to make her English-language debut with Emmanuelle. This latest adaptation of Emmanuelle Arsan’s novel, which follows a woman and the series of erotic fantasies that she entertains, had cast Léa Seydoux in its lead role, but now a change-up has occurred.
Deadline reports that Noémie Merlant (Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Tár) has stepped in to take the lead of the project, which was scripted by Diwan and Rebecca Zlotowski (whose latest film Other People’s Children arrives this spring). With production set to kick off this September in Hong Kong followed by a likely 2024 premiere, Diwan shared some new details on her approach.
“Initially, when I write, I always feel the need to seek an intimate connection with the story,” she said. “So my film will take place nowadays, Emmanuelle is a woman who is close to my age. I wanted to explore her quest for pleasure, what she represents when you have already made a way in your life. When we are not in discovery, but in research. With my co-writer Rebecca Zlotowski, we imagined a woman who has power, who has fought her way out, climbed her mountain, and built herself an armor too. She feels alone. But how do we get out of loneliness? Emmanuelle is the story of a woman trying to let go. The whole film is about drawing a path to the other.”
Diwan also shared more details about the location, adding, “The film will take place in Hong Kong, in the luxury hotel where she works. I like the idea of its corridors where my characters brush against each other, meet, seek each other. Beyond the question of bodies, I want to explore that of a world that formats any form of relationship, to seek how this system can go wrong, how we connect to others, how we touch our own vulnerability. What weave between them deeper and deeper bonds. With a stranger in particular, a client of the hotel. But I won’t say more for now. This is the principle, what we show and what we hide.”
Diwan also spoke about the casting adjustment, saying, “I love Léa Seydoux, I want to make a film with her one day. But to me, she was not the character I imagined. From Portrait of a Lady on Fire to Tár, I have never ceased to be seduced by the strength of Noémie’s acting. She embraces the idea of the character, able to play both authority and seduction. Noémie redefines the French woman. Her attitude, her smile, that hint of insolence that often surfaces. I am also sensitive to the idea of finding in my actress an intellectual partner, the one with whom I create the character. The film requires enormous involvement, mutual trust. And I know I found the one.”
Check out Diwan’s Instagram post below.