Ludivine Sagnier

Swimming Pool

Interviewed by David Michael

Since appearing in "Cyrano de Bergerac" aged 11, Ludivine Sagnier has established herself as one of France's most promising actresses. This year has been her busiest yet, with two of her movies selected for Official Competition at the Cannes Film Festival - "La Petite Lili" and "Swimming Pool". The latter is her third outing with director François Ozon, following "Water Drops On Burning Rocks" and "8 Women". She'll also soon be seen in Pascal Bonitzer's "Petites Coupures".

Your exhibitionist character, Julie, is an exposing role to play. Did you have any fears?

Of course I was afraid when I read the script, but in order to make a choice I always need to be afraid of the character I'm going to play. Otherwise I wouldn't do it. Being afraid of the character is part of the desire to perform. It was the third movie I've done with François, so it was part of the evolution of our work - I don't think I would have exposed that much if it was for a director I didn't trust so much.

After doing three films together, what's the essence of your working relationship?

François made me understand that I was an actress who could compose characters. I wasn't an actor who imposes herself through the character. I could hide myself behind the characters, and that's what he likes about me. I think he understood it before I really realised it.

You were the youngest actress on the set of "8 Women", working with the cream of French actresses - did François protect you?

No, on the contrary, he didn't pay any attention to me for the whole period of the shoot. I really felt abandoned. Every morning he'd come to every room and say, "Hello Catherine Deneuve, you're the best!" "Hello, Isabelle [Huppert], you're the best!" "Hello, Fanny [Ardant], you're the best!" Then when at last he would come to me, he'd say, "You're the worst!" So I was suffering, but it gave me the strength to prove to him that I deserved my place.

In "Swimming Pool" there are only two women. Did his direction of you change?

Yes, he had four times more time for me! So that was much better. But I think he was more demanding, and he was also hard on me in this film as well. I accepted it because I knew it was his way of directing me - the state of mind I was in, feeling abandoned and humiliated by all these dirty things she [Julie] does. It gave me the emotions and failures of Julie's character, because I'm just a balanced girl and I can't really find all of those failures in my own experience.

"Swimming Pool" is released in the UK on Friday 22nd August 2003.