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In The House

Interview with Kristin Scott Thomas & François Ozon

By Adrienne Benassy

François Ozon's celebrated film, In The House, starring Fabrice Luchini and Kristin Scott Thomas will be released in the UK on 29 March. France In London loved the movie and went out to meet the award-winning director and the very talented Franco-British actress to talk about their collaboration. François Ozon also talks about his scandalous debuts at school and his manipulative guilty pleasures while Kristin tells us more about her liking for French roles and her love-hate relationship with cinema. 


François Ozon : "I had been thinking about Kristin for a long time"


How did you go about doing your casting?

François Ozon: When I put together the cast, the first idea was to find Germain. It was quite obvious from the start that Fabrice Luchini was right for that role because for French people, he is seen as the literature specialist, and he was the only actor I could think of at that point.  Afterwards I had to find his wife, and I needed a very good chemistry between the two actors. My immediate choice was Kristin. They both have the same theatrical background and I thought it could work well between them, and it did. 

Fabrice Luchini & Kristin Scott Thomas - In The House
Fabrice Luchini & Kristin Scott Thomas - In The House


How did the project come about and how did you get involved?

Kristin Scott Thomas: I got involved because François asked me. The simplest way possible. But unfortunately I couldn't do it because I was doing a play in London. So that wasn't going to work and then the film schedule changed and then I was able to do it. It was a miracle and everyone was very happy.

The press notes say that you'd been dancing around each other for some time. Had you been trying to work together?

François Ozon: I had been thinking of Kristin for a long time. But I don't know if she had been thinking about me. 

Was there anything about the character in particular that drew you in?

Kristin Scott Thomas: It was actually not so much the character but the whole project, the whole screenplay, which I found really very funny. And I was also very intrigued and excited about the idea of working with François on this kind of project, because I love his comedies. I think they're great. And I really wanted to work with Luchini, I thought that would be amazing.


Kristin Scott Thomas: "Do I like Modern Art? Some of it. What I don't like is the bullshit"

Kristin Scott Thomas - In The House


Kristin Scott Thomas - In The House

Do you like Modern Art yourself, as your character does?

Kristin Scott Thomas: I do. I don't like saying that I like Modern Art. Do I like Modern Art? Some of it. What I don't like is the bullshit. So what I liked about playing that character is the way she has to wade through this insincere stuff when she's trying to flog these pieces of work, pieces of somebody else's hard work and she's trying to drum up some kind of enthusiasm and I could just feel it even when reading it, that she'd sort of given up because it wasn't really working. And then she gets really excited about another piece. So it was a mixture of 'I think this could really, really work!' and then realising, Actually, no, it's not going to work, is it?' That aspect of it appealed to me.


François Ozon: "She's good because she is tender and... she is a MILF"


Emmanuelle Seigner - In The House
Emmanuelle Seigner - In The House

Why did you choose Emmanuelle Seigner?

François Ozon: I'd wanted to work with her for a long time. We had a project together a long time ago but it never materialised. And I wanted to give her the opportunity to have a different role from what she has been given in the past. She's usually seen playing very aggressive sexual women, and in my film, she is a tender, maternal and simple mother. She was surprised at first, but I think she's good in that role because she is very tender and... she is a MILF. Do you say that? It is a word that has just arrived in France, so everybody uses it! (Laughs) She is the perfect MILF for a young boy.

Ernst Umhauer is a new face in French cinema, why did you choose him?

François Ozon: It was the biggest challenge of this cast because his character, Claude, is a very important one, he carries on his shoulders a large part of the film. I first started seeing a number of 17-year-old boys and then I realised they were not mature enough to play such a part and couldn't handle playing opposite Fabrice Luchini. So I opened up the cast to older boys and then I met Ernst. The good thing about him is that he is 21 years old but looks like he is 16 or 17. Also, he also has the maturity and the intelligence of the character. And he is very handsome. His eyes are incredible, and in a film about voyeurism it is important to have strong eyes. 

Ernst Umhauer - In The House
Ernst Umhauer - In The House

François Ozon: "I didn't want to do something realistic"

You seem to have a very stereotyped way of portraying middle class families. The mother doesn't work, the father only cares about money or basketball and their young son is not especially good at school compared to Claude who is brilliant and from a very poor background. Is that your vision of society?

François Ozon: No, but it's not my point of view on the family. It's Claude's viewpoint. What interested me was the evolution of his point of view. At the beginning it's true he is very ironic about Rapha's family, but afterwards he starts liking them and falls in love with the mother. To make him change his viewpoint, I thought it was important to begin with a cynical and ironic vision of a middle-class family. But actually they don't look like a French middle-class family, it looks more like an American middle-class family.

Maybe, but it still gives an impression of contempt for middle-class families. Is that what you expected?

François Ozon: I didn't want to do something realistic. Actually it's not realistic at all for the French. It is a vision of American culture transposed in France. So I thought it was funny to have this house, which looks typically American or the father's obsession with basketball, pizza and all these kind of things.


In The House
In The House


François Ozon and manipulation: "We are all perverse"

The entire movie is about the creative process and the manipulation it requires. Are you manipulative yourself?

François Ozon: Of course. We learnt that from Hitchcock. He was the first one to say that a director is manipulative and voyeuristic. But I think the audience too. The fascination we have for cinema, the fact we are all in the dark watching naked people on screen, it’s very perverse too. So we are all perverse.

Do you like manipulating people?

François Ozon: Yes, it's a game. I mean in movies I think people like to be manipulated. It's a pleasure. It's just a game, just a film in the end, not a question of life and death. I like doing it in the film, but not in life.

But in the movie although it's just a novel it does impact reality, manipulating your actors could have en effect on reality. Have you ever felt that?

François Ozon: I have felt it whilst filming a short film a long time ago. One of the actresses played a serial killer and she was so involved in the part that for a moment I thought she was going to kill everybody. I was totally afraid and at that moment I managed to deal with her, I spoke with her a lot. But at other times she was on the verge of doing something very dangerous. That's maybe why my films are so much on the edge.

What is it you think the film says about voyeurism?

François Ozon: (...) It's just a pleasure, that's all. And as an artist you need to be a little bit of a voyeur to find inspiration. We are like vampires we need blood. So when you live with a writer or a director you know that suddenly your life can be used for a  movie or something else. Be aware...


François Ozon's debuts:  "The teacher hated me and thought I wrote scandalous things"


François Ozon
François Ozon

Where you naturally talented for literature at school?

François Ozon: No. I was not. I was very imaginative. As a young boy I used to have to write essays. And the teacher hated me and thought I wrote scandalous things. I always got the worst marks. My parents were shocked and afraid. This teacher became sick and we were given a new teacher. She was a young woman. I did the same kind of essays then and I got the best marks. She asks me to read it in front of the others. And then the older teacher came back and I had the worst marks again. So I then understood that some people would either love or hate what I did. It was a learning curve.

Do you take a criticism well?

François Ozon: Yes, especially with the script, because the script is not the finished work. It’s just a step in the process, so I have no problem with someone saying “this scene is terrible” I can agree.

Do you think we all need stories?

François Ozon: I am addicted to stories. I write stories to survive. We all love stories, art, literature. It’s helpful to cope with life.

Do you prefer writing?

François Ozon: No, I prefer to shoot and above all,  I prefer editing.

But the film is all about writing?

François Ozon: I know but it could be about direction, it’s about creation. It’s easier to talk about the creative process showing a writer than a director. If you show a director you have to explain how it works: the set, the shooting, the crew.

Kristin Scott Thomas: "I'm the queen of dramatic statements"


Kristin Scott Thomas - In The House
Kristin Scott Thomas - In The House

I don't know if you've been misquoted but I read in the press that you hated films and that you never want to make another film...

Kristin Scott Thomas: That was last week. (Laughs).

It seems highly dramatic, but were you misquoted?

Kristin Scott Thomas: I'm the queen of highly dramatic statements. I don't know. I am going to make another film. It's in the books.

Are there many roles you you turn down?

Kristin Scott Thomas: Well, I wouldn't take a role if I didn't want to take it on. Because I've learned my lesson. But do I get a lot of offers? Yes. So there's no need for me to worry!

So what makes you choose a project rather than another?

Kristin Scott Thomas: It's the whole thing. It's the project, it's the whole investment. You are going to invest quite a lot of your time and energy doing this so you want to be sure of the man you're working for - the woman you're working for, even though that's pretty rare – the people you're working with, the other actors, where it is, what it's about. I've done some pretty different things. Last year I went to Thailand and shot a film with Nicholas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling – that was an easy choice. And then I came back to England and did a period drama about Charles Dickens with Ralph Fiennes and Felicity Jones, so you know, it gets quite varied and now I'm on stage. So I like to keep things different for me.

What do you like about the French roles?

Kristin Scott Thomas: They are very varied. I started working a lot in French cinema because I was really fed up with playing snooty, cold, distant people and I found that in France the roles were much gutsier, and they were more alive and more real. I fell in love with them much more easily. I was fed up with feeling sorry for my characters.



07/05/2013 - s.pollock-hill said :

I found the film deeply disturbing, and that the boy Claude needed psychiatric help.KST described it as a comedy- perhaps she meant "comedie dramatique"? But then again some recent French cinema seems to have taken a dark and sinister path recently,eg "Beloved" (2011) Christophe Honore'. Does this reflect the
national pessimism ? Perhaps the country needs
an inspiring leader and less bureaucracy?


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