On a rather clammy Friday, in a tall, corporate tower in the heart of Soho director Stephane Foenkinos and writer / director David Foenkinos relax in air-conditioned bliss awaiting questions from several press members who have gathered for the junket on their upcoming film: Delicacy. The two brothers are buoyant and have every reason to be: their first feature film is not only fronted by (as far as Britain is concerned) the first lady of French film – Audrey Tautou – but was also nominated for two Cesar awards earlier this year for Best First Film and Best Adapted Screenplay.
As interviewees, their addiction to sharp wit is intoxicating, as each answer is undercut by rampant cheek of the highest order. When asked about where he got the idea for his original novel David responded: “Thank you, I’m very brilliant. And I have many ideas, you know. It’s me, what can I say? No, I mean it’s my eighth book and it’s very difficult, it’s not my story I wrote a story about my characters in fiction, it’s not about my life so it’s difficult to know from where the idea came. But even if it’s not autobiographical there is a lot of me in this book. I wanted to make a story about a strange love story and about the idea about what is most important in our love story – the time when we met the other person. The good timing of the story. What is good about Marcus in this story is that he meets Nathalie at just the right time, when she is ready to live again.”
Although their relationship clearly operates on terms of constant banter, Stephane did not take the task of adapting his brother’s work lightly: “I think that we wanted to keep the spirit and that was most essential, that’s what I liked when I read the book I said: oh, I like to laugh and cry in the same sentence if we can only make this in the film. This is what we like as an audience, this is what we like in life this is why I say it’s a dramedy.” David, clearly thinking his brother is getting a little too serious laughs and undercuts Stephane’s statement: “We don’t like it in life, this is life. This is what life is about.”
Stephane describes the idea of securing Audrey Tautou for the lead as “like a dream, it was crazy. She only makes one film a year she hasn’t done film in two years because she was on stage…I had known her years before because I was a casting director and I cast her in a film on her previous Amelie days. And we had this link, but she liked the story and then after that it was a long process. We went to see her on stage and she was doing Doll House and she was amazing, you see this little petite thing and she seemed like a giant on stage and we knew she could play anything.”
Finding someone to play opposite Tautou actually turned out to be the more difficult element of the casting process. “Her [Tautou’s] first question was: who is going to play opposite me? Because it was very important and I said we don’t have any Swedish actors, we have to go to Sweden and we tried and of course there was no one to be found, a French speaking Swede? Very rare. And so finally we stopped in Belgium. François Damiens [previously seen in Heartbreaker] was physically perfect for the character. He’s extremely famous in France because he’s a comedian who does candid cameras and he plays these horrible, outrageous characters and you would never think that he has such sensitivity.”
When asked what future projects might hold Stephane responds: “Today we don’t know but we’re toying with different ideas.” David explains further: “Yes and we try not to repeat that’s what I’ve done with my novel…after this book was a success I didn’t try to make a sequel or write a novel that is very close to this one I think we want to explore new things and I don’t think that there will be a love story at the heart of the next movie. I mean…er except if we have a good idea.” Stephane quickly cuts in with a ‘eureka’ moment: “We want to make a movie in black and white, mute and I think that’s a good idea. I think that would work. I’m sure people would want to see this.”
When asked about the encouragement they had from their family Stephane explains: “They left us pretty free but I still think they don’t know how, why we’re here. We took our mother to the French awards, the Cesars we were nominated for best first feature and she didn’t know what she was doing there, I think it’s still a surprise and even to us the fact that we are complementary it’s something we don’t explain, it is happening and it’s great.”
One issue that the brothers are very passionate about is creativity within the film industry. When asked whether or not he thinks films based on books are enriched by the original text Stephane said: “I think it’s important to have a good story. I think that also producers are lazy, they will easily buy a story that will already exist. To have an original story is very difficult and I mean original in terms of trying to do something that was not done and we know that especially big studios, today movies are about prequels, sequels, threequels and remakes that tells a lot about the state of creativity when you remake films that have been made two or three times.”
David jumps in with a humorous aside: “We are going to do this. Delicacy 2.” Stephane pauses for a moment before realising Stephane is once again ridiculing his answer: “No. Yes. Now that the film is a successs we are going to do Delicacy 2 [assumes movie trailer voice] Delicacy 2. I understand that they do remake stuff, I don’t know, like Portrait of Dorian Gray, but when they do another Spiderman reboot when the other one was made eight years ago, this is insane, this is like just to make money, there’s nothing creative about it.”
“You make my brother upset now.” David scorned me for bringing up the issue of remakes and, through giggles, I apologised for my lack of foresight.
“Let’s talk about love, yes, let’s talk about love.” Stephane pipes up.
“Yes, you know about love, life about drama…” David retorts.
Delicacy is in cinemas nationwide from the 13 th of April.