Suzanne Jouannet, the revelation of human things

She takes impressive first steps as a young woman accusing the son of her father’s new partner of having raped her.

What made you want to become an actress?

Suzanne Jouannet: Even if no member of my family evolves in this environment, I never wanted anything else. I think I had a huge need for recognition. And that he went through the theater for me. I wanted to be on the front of the stage and especially not in front of a camera. I didn’t want to be recognized – which may seem totally paradoxical, I agree – but despite everything to be able to say things and act. The idea of ​​making it my job, however, did not come until later, when some of my teachers looked at me and encouraged them to try this route. In theater schools, even if there is always food and drink, I was shown that acting was an art, I was made to perceive all the beauty. And that playing could give meaning to my life. At Cours Florent, a teacher really changed everything for me: Jerzy Klesyk. Thanks to him, I stopped doing it as a dilettante to start working like crazy

Human things by Yvan Attal not only marked your first steps in the cinema but also your first casting. How did it go?

I had to make a video during the lockdown and I was convinced it was trying to get into a new agent that I wanted to be represented by. It was between my character Mila and that of Alexander in a police station. And then, after confinement, this agent calls me back and explains to me that this essay was in fact intended for Yvan Attal who liked this video and wishes to meet me for his new film. The only information I had at that time was that it was a choral film. And in my head, who knows why, chorale rhymed with… musical! (laughs) So I expected to have to sing and dance. It was not until the last round of the audition that I was able to read the script and understand what awaited me!

How did you start working on this character?

I started by reading Karine Tuil’s novel, the film of which is adapted, but Mila’s character is much less present than in Yvan’s screenplay which devotes a large part to her.

What specifically appeals to you about this scenario?

The idea of ​​having to play something so deep and complex. Honestly, I find it hard to believe I got this chance for my first casting and my first role in a feature film.

What leads does Yvan Attal give you then?

The work with Yvan begins at the time of the tests. Because I think Yvan wanted the actress he was going to choose to stick as much as possible to the role and then reorientate things to take her where he wanted. So he’s really leading me. These are as many working sessions as they are testing. He explains to me that I had to be spontaneously more shy and that I erase some tics related to my practice of the theater. I learned to speak less loudly, for example. And then Mila is 17 years old. And even though I look young, you had to figure out how to cheat to make it physically believable. All this formed the basis of the work, supplemented by a handful of rehearsals for the trial scenes to see again if I was in the tone of what he was looking for.

Does he recommend films to watch?

Yes. Kramer vs. Kramer ! And this film nourished me enormously. The final scene with so amazing Meryl Streep helped me understand what Yvan wanted for this role of Mila. But once his first indications were given, he left me free to work on my side without intervening. With behind my head, the desire that I find things on the set on D-day.

What did this work consist of?

I am a hard worker and I love it! I have documented a lot on the subject and I even tried to go to court but unfortunately that was not possible. In any case, I created a whole imagination around Mila by relying on all the tools that had been given to me during my theater lessons. And since this is the first time that I found myself autonomous in the creation of a character, I took the ones I wanted. I was guided by a very selfish desire to please myself. As I had had this role and that I had understood that Yvan was on the right track, I could rely on these certainties. And my pleasure was thinking about it all the time. Day, night. That’s the magic of this job

You worked before the shooting with Ben Attal who plays the alleged rapist of your character?

No and it was Yvan’s wish that the first real interactions take place on set. The shooting started with the court scenes and I think it was a good idea to have immersed ourselves in them, letting everyone work on their own to live better in the present moment. And at that point, I tracked down the precise cast director of the essays to take Ben and I to exactly where he wanted us to go. His language is clear. We instantly understand his directions

The film plays on the ambiguity of the versions between that of Mila and that of Alexander. Do you yourself play out this ambiguity in your head or do you rely on the certainty of Alexander’s guilt?

When I read the test scene – and it annoyed me because I hate to think of a woman who is going to file a rape complaint – I found Mila very ambiguous. It was suddenly complex to know how to play it with so little information around. But upon reading the script, it became clear that she was not lying and that Alexander had assaulted her. Playing Mila therefore consisted of telling my truth!

What was the most complex for you on the set?

The most banal scenes, those less spontaneously emotional, paralyzed me. But I learned by doing them. I was thus told that it was necessary to think of something else for everything to appear natural. And this advice was very valuable to me. But more broadly, on the set, it’s the anxiety of making a whole team wait when you start to stumble on a scene that could paralyze me. Especially at night ! In absolute terms, we should especially not think about it. But when you’re starting out, it’s the first thing that comes to your mind. And that only makes things worse! You have to succeed in winning, to dare to say that you need to take 10 minutes for yourself in order to play correctly. This is also where I learned a lot here again thanks to the support of Yvan who fully understood these dead ends and pushed me to take this time for myself.

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