Cannes Roundtable: Lea Seydoux on Blue is the Warmest Colour

The star of the 2013 Palme d'Or winner explains the simulated sex scenes and the unexpected perils of blue hair.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

My biggest surprise of Cannes was the three-hour romantic drama La Vie D’Adele -Chapitre 1 & 2, aka Blue is the Warmest Color, the winner of the 2013 Palme d’Or. After seeing it, I pursued the film’s talent hard, joining their press conference (you can see me on the Cannes video feed) and participating in roundtables with the stars.

Lea Seydoux may be best known in America for getting kicked out the window by Paula Patton in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol or the romance Midnight in Paris. She plays Emma, the blue haired lesbian who captures Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos)’s heart in her first relationship. I was struck by the intimate power of the film’s love scenes and had to ask perhaps an indelicate question, and now that Seydoux told me the answer I feel a little silly for not figuring out the movie magic. I know CGI and squibs and all sorts of tricks for killing and monsters, but I couldn’t figure out how they simulated lovemaking.

Crave Online: You’re a more experienced actor than Adele. Were you any kind of mentor to her as an actor?

Lea Seydoux: Yes, I was kind of a teacher but not in the sense, I didn’t give her advice how to play scenes. Never, I would never do that because I’m not the director. You can’t tell another actor, “You should do this.” But I gave her advice when sometimes it was hard for her and it was very intense, so sometimes I was like, “Don’t worry. It’s going to be great. The film’s going to be successful for you. Now it’s difficult but you’re going to be fine.” Where I could help her was more being here and listening to her, more than give her advice but I was very impressed by her acting. Sometimes I didn’t know how to be.

She’s very strong. She has a very strong nature, and me, my nature is more like I’m working. Maybe I have to think about it more. It’s not intellectual but my approach is more brainy.

Lea Seydoux takes back the time she said in an interview she felt exploited by the film’s love scenes.

Oh yeah, I remember I said that. No, not really. They were difficult but the sex scenes were not the most difficult.

Lea Seydoux on the most difficult scenes of La Vie D’Adele.

The sex scene was difficult because sometimes it was just like what am I doing here? I think what was very difficult was to show your feelings, for example. Every scene where we have to eat, because you don’t really feel that in the film but for us we shot for almost six months. Sometimes we shot seven days a week. We had no time. We were totally in our characters. For example, the first scene where we cross [paths], the first time we meet, I’m not joking, we spent 10 hours. We did almost 100 takes. The scene is amazing but it lasts like 10 seconds. We spent a day.

Lea Seydoux doesn’t believe Adele and Emma’s cultural differences separate them.

I don’t think so. I don’t believe in that. I don’t believe in the social world. I think it’s something more the fact that what makes you suffer in love I think is the misunderstanding. Just the idea that Adele is a teacher and Emma is an artist, I think there is something that’s just a misunderstanding. It’s more about misunderstanding. Of course, the social differences can make you think another way, but I think it’s something simpler than social.  I believe that some people, you can, when you are with someone and it works, it’s because you become necessary. When the other becomes necessary to your life, it’s like his part, he’s your own home. I believe in that.

Lea Seydoux on La Vie D’Adele’s role in the gay rights revolution.

It’s funny because Adele said something also that I love. When you do revolution, it has to be first sexual. Every revolution starts from the sexual. It’s a revolution in Adele’s life.

CraveOnline: The love scenes are so beautiful. Of course I know as actors there are ways to fake things but it looks so real and intimate. Were there by any chance scenes where you went ahead and got close and made contact?

Oh, have sex?

CraveOnline: No, but touch each other for real.

Oh no. No, we had fake p***ys. It was like SFX. It was well done. It was not very nice because it was fake.

CraveOnline: Thank you for saying that because I didn’t know how to full on ask that, but that’s the part that looked so real.

Yeah, it was, so we could do anything. Like it was real, but fake. It was a mold. If the scenes were for real, I wouldn’t have done this for sure. I can do many things on screen but I can’t make love. It’s impossible. It was a mold, we did it in an SFX studio. For example, at the end, we don’t really see, it’s very, very subtle but we have in the scene in the cafe, we can see that we are aging a little. We look a little older. We had as well some things here [under our eyes] to look older. We did a real mold and every morning when we had to do the sex scenes, the guy was coming in putting it on. We had to wait like two hours to put it on.

Lea Seydoux on her Prada Candy campaign.

I love when there’s a sense that things have meaning. So for me Prada is simply she has an intellectual point of view, and that’s what I like. I love clothes but I don’t like fashion.

Lea Seydoux corrects a rumor about her modeling career

I’m not a model. I’ve never been a model. I know it’s written on Wikipedia. I’ve never been a model. It’s really not my job. I did just some photos but that’s it.

CraveOnline: How did you like having blue hair?

It was a bet for me. It was something that I wanted to do as a commitment, and it was funny and when I was a teenager, I tried all the colors, haircuts and different ways to disguise. But it’s a costume. Blue hair. But I didn’t mind really. At the moment it was difficult for me to dress with blue hair. It was difficult to find good clothes.

CraveOnline: That’s interesting, those factors we don’t think of.

And you always have [issues with] skin tones. You always look sick.

Lea Seydoux on moving to Hollywood.

No, not move because I don’t think you have to move to play. I would love to do films in America. I really love doing films in America and working with American directors.

Lea Seydoux on male and female directors.

I would say that a woman is another relation. Maybe in a way there’s more seduction with a man. They don’t know. A woman is the other so just you have a man and he’s looking at you and he doesn’t have a clue to reading you. There’s something that he doesn’t really understand. I really think that there’s difference between men and women.

[La Vie D’Adele director Abdellatif Kechiche] loves women. He understands them very well but there is always something. You watch the woman as something that is not you. A woman when she sees a woman, she knows how. There’s something more felt because she knows, because she’s a woman, how a woman for example wants to look, how she wants to behave. Like Rebecca [Zlotowski], when I did the film with Rebecca, we have the same taste in a way. Even in love, we understand each other’s feeling and when I had to play things, I knew what Rebecca wanted. It’s a feminine quality because she’s a woman. Abdellatif, it’s a masculine quality but I know when a woman is in love, I know what she feels like. When a man is in love I have no clue.

CraveOnline: Based on my reaction to the movie, it’s the same because I felt it.

Of course, maybe it’s the same. You’re right. Maybe it’s the same.

Lea Seydoux on her father watching La Vie D’Adele.

My father was there. He came as a surprise. So I just said, I saw him in the audience. I just said, [made gesture covering her eyes with her hands]. It’s terrible, can you see your daughter on screen naked? The thing is naked, and not the fact that I’m doing this and I’m doing what I do. It’s the point of view is what I think is embarrassing for him is to see somebody else’s point of view on his daughter. Suddenly the daughter becomes the sexual object.

Mr. Seydoux’s reaction to La Vie D’Adele.

He said, “Very good, very very good in the film.” And he said, “I didn’t watch the scene.” And I said, “Of course. I hope you didn’t watch the scene.” He was like, “No, I didn’t watch.” Me neither. I didn’t watch the scenes.

When Lea Seydoux knows she got La Vie D’Adele right.

When I see your reaction. I knew it was going to be something because I shot the film and I know what we did. We went very deeply in the film, even you can’t imagine, everything. I don’t think you can give more than what we gave you. We are completely in the film but the thing is when I see the reactions, I’m like, okay. It was sometimes really hard and I was like maybe do I regret it? I don’t know. Now that the film is here, oh my God, and people like it? I’m very happy that I didn’t suffer for nothing.

Lea Seydoux’s hopes for the film and her career.

I don’t know, I don’t know. I hope it’s going to have a great success. I think it’s going to have big success and I don’t know if I’m going to be more famous but I like to print the time. I like to do things that reveal our period, our time. I think this film is a film from 2013. 

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Fred Topel is a staff writer at CraveOnline and the man behind Shelf Space Weekly. Follow him on Twitter at @FredTopel.