“When I love someone, it’s with a hot iron”

"When I love someone, it's with a hot iron"

She is Simone Veil in the biopic Simone, The Journey of the Century, signed Olivier Dahan. It was she who initiated this film on her heroine, survivor of Auschwitz, Minister of Health at the origin of the decriminalization of abortion. For the role of her life, the actress worked for a year on her metamorphosis. Meeting with an enthusiast.

Is it the slightly outdated charm of her lace dress, the hushed comfort of the chic hotel where we find her, or the spontaneity that makes her hands fly and her cheekbones blush? Elsa Zylbersteinthis Friday morning in July, makes us think of a heroine from a 19th century novel: beautiful, determined, daring and endearing, a conqueror who owes her victories only to herself.

In video, “Simone, The journey of the century”, the trailer

In two and a half hours of lively interview, where she invites pell-mell the poet Paul Éluard, the psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung, the actor Hugh Grant (with a line from the romantic comedy Love at first sight in Notting Hill), it reinforces, if necessary, the essential place it has taken in French cinema. Without thunderclap or crash, no: little by little, with bursts of appetite, curiosity and talent. But it’s a much more contemporary heroine, recently pantheonized (in 2018), that she wants to talk to us about.

Next October 12 will be released in theaters Simone, the trip of the centurya biopic by Olivier Dahan, which traces the entire journey of Simone Veil. Elsa Zylberstein is at the origin, for a long time admiring in front of “the courage, the force, the will, the resilience” of the political woman. They met several times, they sympathized. Elsa had told him about a “film project”. After the death of her model, in 2017, she launched herself, bringing together producers and writer-director around her idea. It is she who interprets Simone Veil from her 38 years to her 87 years, during her various mandates as Minister of Health (Chirac government and Barre governments) and that of President of the European Parliament.

I’m a bit Jewish, like Simone Veil

Elsa Zylberstein

She embodies it in her fights for womens rightsof the sick, for Europe – and in his famous crusade, in 1974, for the legalization of abortion. “I would never have believed, sighs the actress, that this film would be released at the time of such a regression on abortion in United States. Prohibiting abortion is criminal. Like what struggles are never won. Hence the importance of telling them, that the memory is there. In the film, actress Rebecca Marder plays young Simone Veil, arrested at 16 by the Gestapo, deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, months of ordeal from which her mother, father and brother will not return.

Fighting women

Elsa Zylberstein takes over, the years when Simone Veil works for the recognition of the Holocaust. “I’m Jewish, a bit like her,” said the actress. Meaning both from secular, non-practicing families, but it’s the story that makes you Jewish. My father was a child hidden by the Righteous during the war. His maternal grandparents were shot, what is called the Holocaust by bullets. His paternal grandparents died in the Warsaw ghetto and in the Treblinka camp. So, yes, I was raised in this awareness, I celebrate Yom Kippur, it is very important to me. But even though I played Hannah Arendt in the theater, played Joseph Joffo’s mother in A bag of marbles or the wife of Léon Blum, that does not govern my choices. It’s more something that other people project onto me. I could play a nun tomorrow. What touches me in a role is not belonging, it’s the character, what animates it. The more it goes, the more I want films about women in combat.

Chanel coat, Ole Lynggaard Copenhagen rings, Christian Louboutin pumps. Esther Haase

Elsa Zylberstein was 22 when Maurice Pialat noticed her on the set of Van Gogh. She was cast as a silhouette, he decides to entrust her with the role of Cathy, the painter’s prostitute friend. Nominated for the César Award for Best Female Hope, she is launched into a career whose pace will never falter – 72 films in thirty years – and whose eclecticism shows the extent of her abilities: great romantic frescoes (Farinelli, Lautrec, Modigliani ) to French comedies (from Claude Lelouch to Franck Dubosc), via more intimate productions (four films by Raoul Ruiz and a César for best actress in a supporting role for I’ve loved you for a long time, by Philippe Claudel). For each shoot, she prepares herself as if her life depended on it, learning to play the violin, to milk sheep or to tie vines.

She kept a curiosity that others tend to lose in this profession

Noelle Deschamps

The film simone is undoubtedly the one who surpasses all the others in terms of preparation: an entire year working on his voice (with the help of a specialized centre), his gait, his body (8 kilos gained), reading, listening to speech, to meet the relatives of the woman she embodies. “Elsa works non-stop, observes her friend, the writer Noëlle Deschamps. It even goes beyond roles. It constantly feeds on readings, encounters. She looks for ideas, sets up projects. She kept a curiosity that others tend to lose in this profession. She is the opposite of jaded. “Holidays are only considered if they are brief, his desires for cinema seem inexhaustible.

“Too spontaneous”

Silk blend coat, Dries Van Noten, Christian Louboutin sandals. Esther Haase

“It’s probably playing tricks on me,” laughs Elsa Zylberstein when asked about this fiery temperament. I surely missed things by being too spontaneous or not very French in my behavior. In France, you don’t have to show that you want to, you have to act like “I don’t care”. Me, I am the opposite. Sometimes I approach people, and then I say to myself: “Oh crap, I shouldn’t have, I showed desire, so there may not be any desire in return…” But it’s too complicated in fact, too bad. I have so many desires, I feel like I’m still at the start.” Difficult to link this painting to the one she makes of her, a child “shy, wise, blushing, sitting in class in the first row”. “I didn’t trust myself. I was in total fusion with my parents, unable to separate myself from them.

His mother, who works at Dior Perfumes, enrolled her in classical dance, where she proved to be extremely gifted. When she was 18, her father, a physicist and senior researcher at the CNRS, asked her the magical question, which she still felt indebted to: “If everything were possible, what would you like to do as a job?” She whispers “actress”, enrolls in Cours Florent, where she enters “like at Harvard, working five scenes a week, being on the set all the time”. There was “no question of hanging out,” she said. I received an old-fashioned, very square education, my father was brilliant but authoritarian.

When I love someone, it’s with a hot iron

In love, on the other hand, she says she is more reserved than in her professional life, far from the image of “great lover” that certain media conquests would suggest. “People have this image because I’ve had stories with famous people, like Anthony of Caunes and Nicolas Bedos. Me, on the contrary, the more it goes, the more I find that it is very rare to love. The little crush, that, okay, but the real romantic encounter, it is extremely rare. Afterwards, when I love someone, it’s with a hot iron. For life, practically. I take a very long time to dislike. »

Silk satin dress, Versace. Ole Lynggaard Copenhagen earring. Esther Haase

We notice that she always has a benevolent word for these two famous exes, “brilliant men, out of the ordinary”. She cuts us off: “Of course! I don’t even understand people who disown a relationship. I could never. That would be trampling on me myself.” Her friend Noëlle Deschamps confirms: “Elsa is extremely faithful, in all areas. For example, she is still very close to her college friends. At the moment, the actress is editing a short documentary that she shot in Auschwitz with Ginette Kolinka. It was not planned, she just had to go to the camp with Simone Veil’s former deportation companion. When the survivor started talking, Elsa “discreetly” took out her cell phone, couldn’t stop filming.

“Ginette, she spends her time saying, transmitting, we can only want to relay her words.” At the same time, the actress will work with the Austrian director Jessica Hausner, with the Belgian Olivier Van Hoofstadt and in the next film by her friend Karine Silla. Not to mention the various projects she is developing as a co-producer. In particular, a feature film inspired by the comic character of the Mytho, which she created on Instagram during the confinements, pastilles to scream with laughter which go from false Cannes film festival to the pseudo-trip in space, a vase on the head. Or, in another register, a film inspired by the life of Élise Boghossian, an acupuncturist who treats the pain of the wounded in war zones. “Another woman who fights,” smiles Elsa Zylberstein.

“Simone, the journey of the century”, by Olivier Dahan, with Elsa Zylberstein, Rebecca Marder, Olivier Gourmet… Released on October 12

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