She is Simone Veil in the biopic Simone, The Journey of the Century, signed Olivier Dahan. He promoted this film with his hero, survivor of Auschwitz, Minister of Health at the beginning of the decriminalization of abortion. For the role of her life, the actress worked for a year on her metamorphosis. Meet an enthusiast.
Is it the slightly old-fashioned charm of her lace dress, the quiet comfort of the chic hotel where we find her, or the spontaneity that makes her hands fly and her cheekbones blush? Elsa Zylberstein, this Friday morning in July, makes us think of a heroine from a 19th century novel: beautiful, determined, daring and charming, a conqueror who owes her victories only to herself .
In the video, “Simone, The journey of the century”, the trailer
In two and a half hours of passionate interview, where he invited 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 important place it takes in French cinema. Without thunder or crash, nothing: slowly, with bursts of appetite, curiosity and talent. But it is a more contemporary hero, recently pantheonized (in 2018), that he wants to tell us.
Next October 12 will be shown in theaters Simone, the trip of the century, a biopic by Olivier Dahan, which traces the entire career of Simone Veil. Elsa Zylberstein was at the beginning, for a long time praising before the “courage, strength, will, strength” of the political woman. How many times they met, they sympathized. Elsa tells him about a “film project”. After the death of his model, in 2017, he launched his own, uniting producers and director-writers around his idea. He interpreted Simone Veil from his 38 years to his 87 years, during his various mandates as Minister of Health (government of Chirac and Barre) and the President of the European Parliament.
I’m a bit Jewish, like Simone Veil
He embodied it in his struggles for the rights of women, of the sick, for Europe – and in his famous crusade, in 1974, for the legalization of abortion. “I really do not believe, sighs the actress, that this film will be released during such a change in abortion in the United States. Banning abortion is criminal. Like what battles are never won. Hence the importance of telling them, that the memory is there. In the film, the actress Rebecca Marder plays the young Simone Veil, arrested at 16 by the Gestapo, deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, months of hardship from which her mother, father and brother never return.
Elsa Zylberstein captures the years Simone Veil worked for Holocaust recognition. “I’m Jewish, a bit like her,” said the actress. Meaning both come from secular, non-practicing families, but this is the story that makes you Jewish. My father was a child who was hidden by the Righteous during the war. His maternal grandparents were shot, the so-called Holocaust by bullets. His paternal grandparents died in the Warsaw ghetto and the Treblinka camp. So, yes, I was raised with this awareness, I celebrate Yom Kippur, it is very important to me. But even when I played Hannah Arendt in the theater, I played Joseph Joffo’s mother A bag of marbles or Léon Blum’s wife, that does not govern my choices. This is something that other people have projected onto me. I can play nun tomorrow. What moves me in a role is not its character, it’s the character, what makes it come alive. The more it is, the more I like films about women in combat.
Elsa Zylberstein was 22 years old when Maurice Pialat noticed her on the set of Van Gogh. Casting her as a silhouette, he decided to give her the role of Cathy, the prostitute friend of the painter. Chosen for the César Award for the Best Female Prospect, she launched a career whose pace never falters – 72 films in thirty years – and whose eclecticism shows the range of her abilities: many romantic frescoes (Farinelli, Lautrec, Modigliani) to French comedies (from Claude Lelouch to Franck Dubosc), through more intimate productions (four films by Raoul Ruiz and a César for the best actress in a supporting role for I have loved you for a long time, by Philippe Claudel). In every shoot, he prepares himself as if his life depended on it, learning to play the violin, milking sheep or tying grapes.
He retains a curiosity that others in this profession tend to lose
The movie simone without a doubt is the one that surpasses all in terms of preparation: a whole year of work on his voice (with the help of a special center), his walk, his body (8 kilos gained) , reading, listening to the speech, to meet the relatives of the woman he is composed of. “Elsa works without stopping, observes her friend, the writer Noëlle Deschamps. Even more than the papers. It always feeds on readings, encounters. She looks for ideas, creates projects. Saved he has the curiosity that others tend to lose in this profession. He is the opposite of jaded. “Holidays only count if they are short, his desires for cinema seem inexhaustible.
“Maybe it’s playing with me,” laughs Elsa Zylberstein when asked about this fiery behavior. I must have missed things by being too loud or too French in my behavior. In France, you don’t have to show that you like it, you have to act like “I don’t care”. Me, I’m the opposite. Sometimes I approach people, and then I say to myself: “Oh crap, I shouldn’t have, I showed desire, so there wasn’t any desire in return…” But it’s really complicated, really bad . I want so much, it’s like I’m still at the beginning.” It’s hard to connect this painting to what he made of him, a child who was “shy, smart, blushing, sitting in class in the first row”. “I didn’t trust myself. I was in total fusion with my parents, I couldn’t separate myself from them.
Her mother, who worked at Dior Parfums, enrolled her in classical dance, where she proved to be extremely talented. When he was 18, his father, a physicist and senior researcher at the CNRS, asked him the magical question, which he still feels indebted to: “If everything was possible, what would you like to do as a job?” He whispered the “actress”, enrolled in the Cours Florent, where he entered “like Harvard, working five scenes a week, being on the set all the time”. “There is no question of hanging,” he 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, he said that he is more reserved than in his professional life, far from the image of the “great lover” that some media conquests suggest. “People have this image because I have stories of famous people, like Antoine de Caunes and Nicolas Bedos. I, on the contrary, the more it goes, the more I see that it is rare to love . A small crush, that’s okay, but a real romantic encounter, it’s really amazing. After all, when I love someone, it’s with a hot iron. For life, practical. I didn’t like it for a long time. »
We noticed that he always had a kind word for these two famous exes, “brilliant men, out of the ordinary”. He cut us off: “Of course! I don’t even understand people who refuse to be in a relationship. I just can’t do it. That’s exactly what will trample me.” Her friend Noëlle Deschamps testified: “Elsa is very faithful, in all respects. For example, he is still very close to his college friends. Currently, the actress is editing a short documentary she shot in Auschwitz with Ginette Kolinka. It wasn’t planned, he just had to go to camp with Simone Veil’s ex-partner in the eviction. When the survivor began to speak, Elsa “badly” took out her cell phone, unable to stop filming.
“Ginette, he spends his time saying, passing, we can only say his word.” 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 with her friend Karine Silla. Not to mention the various projects he developed as a co-producer. In particular, a feature film inspired by the comic character of Mytho, which he created on Instagram during the confinements, pellets that scream with laughter that goes from the fake Cannes Festival to the pseudo-trip to 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 those wounded in war zones. “Another fighting girl,” smiled Elsa Zylberstein.
“Simone, the journey of the century”, by Olivier Dahan, with Elsa Zylberstein, Rebecca Marder, Olivier Gourmet… Released on October 12