Noémie Merlant: “Jacques Audiard and me”

The one who plays a polyamorous woman in the vibrant Les Olympiades recounts her first experience under the direction of the filmmaker

What did Jacques Audiard represent to you before shooting with him?

Noémie Merlant: He is obviously one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers. I had discovered it by a prophet that had upset me. And every time since, I’ve been completely taken in by his characters. Because of what he makes his actors do. And by its ability to reinvent itself. When I go to see an Audiard, I am like a child who knows that she will be entitled to a surprise while finding things that I love. As if he was going to look for the accident at each take, at each scene. I also like his ability to tell our world. Dheepan had deeply marked me for that reason.

Is it that The Olympics marks a break in its course according to you?

No, I do not think so. It’s a new way of reinventing himself, as he does in almost every film. Obviously, I was surprised reading the script of the Olympics. To see him treat today’s thirties with that tone. But it is ultimately the perfect opposite to the Sisters Brothers. And for a very simple reason: what interests Jacques is what he does not know. He has this curiosity about what surrounds him

This is the first time that you are turning under his direction. What is his specificity in your eyes as a director?

Jacques makes sure that his actors are included in the creation process. He needs the living matter of the actor. That we let go in our proposals, that we surprise him. It’s a very enjoyable ping-pong game for us. We are really invited to play together. And in turn, we give more. Obviously, at the beginning, we are a little stressed to be in front of a filmmaker whom we admire so much but little by little this fear goes away. Notably because he had this great idea of ​​organizing a spinning, in a theater, of the entire film with all of its actors. A really essential moment because as an actor, in the cinema, you never have this global vision of things. This spinning allowed me to feel the film. Then, on the set, Jacques is like a child. He is having fun in the true sense of the word. With constant energy. Its plateau is a playground. And at the same time, he is never afraid to show sometimes that he doubts. And that’s reassuring. It puts us at ease. It also gives us the right to doubt. He also always seeks reassurance to put us in the best possible conditions. He lets propose. I, for example, often ask for more takes. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. And Jacques never said no on principle. Because he likes to play, to be surprised. And letting the actor go further obviously does not slow down.


It is the first time that he is confronted with sex scenes in one of his films. How did he create them with you?

Jacques was very embarrassed, very respectful. Me, I am not modest at the level of my body. From the start, he explained to us that he let us, his actors, take care of them. And, through this, it allowed us to be even more free and therefore to go even further. We always go further without constraint.

Did he advise you to watch films before shooting?

Yes : Annie hall for the awkwardness of the character, his living side so that I always keep in a corner of my head the fact that my character is often lost. Comedy was essential for him in The Olympics. He reminded us all the time that we had to have fun, let go

What do you think of the way he looks at thirty-something?

I don’t feel Jacques disconnected from my generation. I even find him younger than me in many ways! (laughs) Anyway, since I started working in cinema, I had never had the opportunity to play a character who spoke to me so much and with whom I was so immediately connected. Jacques’ energy is ageless and radiates throughout the set, every day of filming.

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