jeudi 24 décembre 2009


Released in France on November 25th 2009, “Une Affaire d’Etat” is a suspenseful, action-packed thriller in which three characters cross paths: a corrupt politician (André Dussolier), his henchman (Thierry Frémont), and a hard-boiled female cop (Rachida Brakni). Before you read the lead actress’ interview, we’ll start with the director, Eric Valette, maker of three other feature films. His first, “Maléfique”, was a French production awarded by William Friedkin himself at the Gerardmer Fantastic Film Festival. The two others films were made in Hollywood: a remake of Takashi Miike’s “One-Missed Call”, released in the US (unfortunately not the director’s cut version) and “Hybrid” which involves a devilish car and another action queen (Shannon Beckner); there is still no release date scheduled for this film. In this exclusive interview, we focus on “Une Affaire d’Etat”, Eric Valette’s most personal work so far...

Frédéric Ambroisine: How did you discover the book that inspired “Une Affaire d’ Etat”?

Eric Valette: I discovered the novel “Une Affaire d’Etat” in 2003. The original title was “Nos fantastiques années fric(1) [Dominique Manotti; 2001]. I was called by a French producer, Eric Névé, who produces a lot of genre-oriented movies in France. I got involved with two screenwriters I knew from my previous movie, “Maléfique”: Alexandre Charlot and Franck Magnier, and we all liked the book very much. Eric Névé had the rights. We decided to become involved, as screenwriters and director, in trying to do an adaptation of the novel in a French noir crime genre.

Rachida Brakni as Nora in "Une Affaire d'Etat" (2009)

FA: Let’s talk about the characters. What did you like about them in the book and how did you and the scriptwriter transform them into cinema characters?

EV: What we liked about the characters of the novel was the fact that they were shades of gray. Nothing was really black or white and they were all pretty ambiguous and complex. We decided to keep that edge for our material and keep the subtleties of the characters. But what we mainly changed was the character of Nora, the female cop, the “Action Queen” of the movie. We made her a little more physically involved in the action since most of the time in the novel she is more like a witness: she observes a lot, she learns a lot. She’s pretty cerebral; she doesn’t do a lot in the novel, especially in the second half. So we wanted her to be a little more physical, and also to provide a certain level of entertainment. We decided to have her more involved in the movie. Not being heroic in a silly way but in a kind of logical way. So that is what we changed quite radically in the second half of the movie.

Rachida Brakni as Nora in "Une Affaire d'Etat" (2009)

FA: Is the novel plot different than the movie plot?

EV: There’s no difference. The storyline of the novel and the movie are pretty similar. Basically, “Une Affaire d’Etat” is a story of the web of corruption in which three characters are entangled. One character is Victor Bornand. He is a secret adviser to the French president. He is a man of secrecy, a man in the shadows. He deals with all the dirty business of the state: weapons smuggling, blackmailing, all that stuff...

André Dussolier (right) as Bornand in "Une Affaire d'Etat" (2009)

...He has a right hand man who does the physical side of his actions, who is more like the nerve (laughs), the belly. This guy’s name is Michel Fernandez, played by Thierry Frémont. He is a kind of contract killer to some extent, so he will do all the dirty work for Bornand...

Thierry Frémont as Fernandez in "Une Affaire d'Etat" (2009)

...And there is a third character named Nora Chahyd. She is a female cop. She is just a busy cop who is doing some kind of routine investigation on the murder of an escort girl in a parking lot. Through her investigation she gets onto the trail of Fernandez, and ultimately Bornand, in the highest levels of the state. She then becomes a threat to national security. It’s all about corruption, danger, and how to survive in a political environment where everybody wants to take the biggest part of the cake and everybody is trying to survive.

Rachida Brakni and Gérald Laroche as Bonfils

FA: How did you work on the adaptation with your scriptwriters?

EV: Basically we tried to cut some parts, get rid of some characters and some of the novel’s backstory, in order to keep the tone and the general storyline intact. It’s all about making choices; trying not to soften the edges of the novel in order to make it an edgy movie. So that’s how we work with the screen writers. Mainly we tried to have a meeting once a week or once every two weeks, and we used a lot of post-its (laughs). We tried to establish a structure, and tried to see what is inside of every scene’s structure: the characters involved and the information we want to give out. It’s pretty complex, it’s like architectural work. Once this work is done, I don’t get involved much in the next part: to work on the dialogue, the characters... I get involved in the action stuff: choosing locations for some scenes, bits of action... So let’s say it is a collaboration. It is pretty structured but it takes a long time to make right because the political thriller is a complex genre. It is not completely linear. You have a lot of characters to deal with, so the writing process is pretty long. It’s not like doing a zombie movie.

Jean-Marie Winling as Macquart

FA: How was the choice of the lead actress [Rachida Brakni] made?

EV: Rachida Brakni... It is not easy to find a thirty year old French girl with North African origins who has bankability in terms of casting a movie and is pretty good with the physical side of acting. Rachida is the first name that comes to mind. Rachida earned a French Award, the César, in 2002 for a Colline Sérreau movie called “Chaos”. So she is kind of popular. Also, she is married to Eric Cantona, a famous French ex-soccer player. So for some reason she is kind of popular because of that. She is also a very, very good actress; she does a fantastic job. When she was a student she was pretty high ranking in athletics. She did a lot of high level competition for the Olympics: pretty serious stuff. So she was perfect for the genre, especially taking into consideration that you don’t come across many actors in France who have this physical ability...

Nora the cop (Rachida Brakni) never gives up

...Most French cinema is about dialogue and psychology. A lot of the time you get people who are talking heads. They do not really care about their body, they just speak. Most of the time they speak well but still, there is something lacking when a movie deals not only with psychology, obviously, but also with the physical ability of the actors. That is why it is pretty interesting to have people like Rachida or Thierry Frémont, who also won an Emmy Award in New York in 2005. He won Best Foreign Dramatic Actor for his performance as a serial killer, Francis Heaulme, in a French miniseries called “Dans la tête du tueur” [2004] which means “In the Head of the Killer”.

Fernandez (Thierry Frémont): always in trouble

FA: I want to see that! Do you have a copy?

EV: I don’t have a copy but it’s very good.

FA: An International Emmy Award for a French actor: that is rare.

EV: He is the only one.

FA: What is your opinion of the female action image in French cinema? I have the impression that they are rare. And when you see them, it is usually not very good...

EV: That is true. If you look back in time, action girls, action female characters are pretty scarce in French cinema. I think the name that first comes to mind, especially for foreign audiences, is “Nikita” [Luc Besson, 1991]. After “Nikita” then you can consider Cécile De France in “High Tension” [Alexandre Aja’s “Haute Tension”, 2003]. Aside from that, there are not a lot of names that come to mind...

German posters of "Nikita" + US poster of "Haute Tension"

...This is why it was interesting to try to humbly add a new building block to this genre. But it is very tough; there are not a lot of action films, thrillers or adventure movies in France. And most of them do not have a female lead. Most of the females are just spice, just the love interest or the whore. Basically what you see in most of the EuropaCorp movies [Luc Besson production company] is that most of them do not really deal with female characters in a serious way. They do it in a pretty standard way: either the love interest or the whore, or she is there just to add a sexy female spice into the mix. But they are not really considered to be characters.

FA: They are action whores.

EV: Action whores, yeah. Frederic, have you seen a female action lead in a EuropaCorp movie?

"Transporter 2", a EuropaCorp production

FA: No. But there are many, many female cop characters in French TV.

EV: That is true, but they are not action leads. That is the French tradition of the female TV cop. It is true that we have had a lot of series since the mid 80’s with female cops but most of them are more like social workers dealing with problems of drug addicts or people in distress. They are not really involved in serious action most of the time. It is more like a social worker kind of character, or a seated cop kind of character: with a big butt on a chair in an office. Luckily for foreign audiences, most of these series did not make it to other countries, so I guess that’s something you are safe from. I don’t see a “Julie Lescault” box set being released internationally with [English] subtitles, but there might be a niche and you might find a DVD company interested in trying to put that out. But I’m not sure.

FA: Have you seen any of those TV series?

EV: To be honest, I don’t think I have ever seen an entire episode of “Julie Lescault” [1992-present]…

The famous Julie Lescaut (played by Véronique Genest)
and the new TV cop series "Les Bleus"

FA: “Les Bleus”? [2006-present]

EV: Yeah, or “Clara Sheller” [2005-2008].... I don’t think I have seen any of these shows in its entirety. Just one episode, maybe fifteen or twenty minutes.

FA: Why? Because they lack realism?

EV: I think they are lacking a lot of elements. They lack scripts, they lack characters, they lack directing; they lack a lot. Most of the time I would say they lack scripts. I think the strongest point of American and English TV shows, over the French, is, even before directing, cinematography or acting, the strength of the script.

FA: What did you bring to the characters during the shooting? Did you exchange ideas with the actors?

EV: Yes, definitely. For me, a movie script is a guideline with a spine. You have to follow the spine, especially for a thriller because it has a structure. You don’t fuck with the structure. But in between this guideline and spine, you have a lot of flexibility for characters. This is why I like to build characters with the actors. Not necessarily on the shoot, because on the shoot you lack time and you have to rush through everything, especially when you’re short on money and shooting time. So what you can do is to prepare everything during pre-production. You can discuss the characters, you can tweak and change the dialogue, you can change certain action details if the actor has an idea because of some prop, or some wardrobe element. If the actor has an idea, you then discuss with him or her, and you change something in the scene. I would say there is a lot of room for flexibility, but right before the shoot. There is a little bit of room during the shoot, but I think you have to adapt everything to the actors right before the shoot in order not to stumble on some kind of weird surprise on the specific day of the shoot. All of a sudden you have an actor say, “Well, I just can’t say that line, it doesn’t work.” If you have already been through all the dialogue, if you did everything in a very methodical kind of way before the shoot, then it is pretty easy to go through the shoot. You don’t have to tweak the dialogue anymore. It has a lot to do with preparation.

"Une Affaire d'Etat" (2009)

F: Let’s compare your movie with a western. Let’s take a famous one like “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”...

EV: Oh! This is nice. It’s better than “Blueberry” (laughs). [2004 western starring Vincent Cassel, Juliette Lewis & Michael Madsen, released in the US as “Renegade”]

FA: Nora Chahyd’s character would obviously be The Good. Bornand is The Bad. Fernandez is The Ugly. I feel that you have sympathy for The Ugly.

EV: Yes. Somehow, yes.

FA: I feel that the female character is the less complex character. She’s a rookie cop. There is not really any surprise with this character.

EV: That’s true. Hmm. It is like the cop character, Nora, is more of a guide. This is a very classic way to establish a plot. The guide of the movie viewer is going to be Nora. But it is not as simple as that because Nora is not a classic “good” character. She is pretty violent, a little bit stubborn, a little bit racist somehow; it’s not like she is a perfect angel and a very nice, sympathetic girl. You have to get used to her and understand her anger, and the way she will shift her anger into something more like reflection and wit. I would say she is not as simple as she seems. Regarding the two other characters: The Bad is obviously The Bad because he has a plan; he works for the dark side, in the dark corners of government power. Yes, you can see him as The Bad in “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”. He can be Lee Van Cleef, no problem...

Bornand (André Dussolier) is not really good

... The Ugly is a little bit different because in “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” The Ugly is kind of funny. There is a lot of irony to him. He speaks a lot, he tries to manipulate and cheat people. That is not really the case with Fernandez. He is playing a strange game but he’s pretty much the opposite arc of the Eli Wallach character. The Eli Wallach character In “The Good, the Bad and The Ugly” is kind of sympathetic at first sight because he is funny. Then you realize he is a son of a bitch. Fernandez is pretty much the opposite kind of part: he is a cold blooded killer in the first half of the movie, but then you gain sympathy because you realize he is trying to get out of the shit he’s in. He is thinking about moving to the next step and maybe changing his life. I think there is some kind of grandeur to him, which is not the case in terms of The Ugly character played by Eli Wallach...

Fernandez (Thierry Frémont) is not really bad

...The main relationship I can see between “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” and my movie is that the three characters in both movies are sociopaths. They are all sociopaths. They are miming sociability because they have to. Otherwise they would die, or kill somebody. They are all sociopaths, and I am really interested in sociopaths. These are people I really like (laughs).

FA: Did the actors surprise you during the shooting?

EV: If you expect a lot, you’re not really surprised. I had really high expectations, which were reached. They are all great actors. That is what I love: they are professional, very serious, and they don’t have all the stupid ego problems or insecurities that you can see with other actors. It is also a choral movie, which means there is no star. There are three people; most of their screen time is equal and their name is the same on the poster. Because they have all been stage actors they know how to share a scene. All in all, you can see that these people are not defending their territory; they are defending the movie and their part in the movie. They are defending the plot, so there is no struggling for territory: “I’m going to have my close up.” “You’re not going to get your close up,” and so on. It’s really fair play, very relaxed, and everybody is trying to do their best to make the best movie we can. These are all professional actors who are not dealing with narcissistic stuff. That is why these people really reached my expectations, because I expect this level of professionalism and dignity.

"No way!"

FA: Most political thrillers contain a lot of dialogue and suspense, and a twist. Your movie also has action. Why did you decide to include action scenes in the story?

EV: The action was something we decided on right from the very start. It was part of the rough draft. We already had the action. I remember in the very first meeting I said, “You know what, at one point she should try to catch the guy. And maybe we should start in the part of Paris south of the Boulevard de Clichy near Pigalle so we can have a chase through Pigalle up to Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur and The Place Du Tertre". That was in my mind; I could visualize it before we had the first draft of the script. It was really part of the plan, to have short action scenes, bursts of violence, of physical action in order to thrill the audience. To make the movie exciting, obviously, but also it was a way to conceptually state that what is decided in the corridors of power is something that has a physical impact on reality. People die, people suffer very collateral damage. In the action scenes I wanted people to be hit by a bullet without their name on it, that kind of accident, in order to realize that all these decisions being made in high spheres of the state have a practical impact; practical consequences in our environment. It makes a movie exciting because you shift from dialogue to something totally kinetic, gutsy, sound and picture..

Chasing scene in Pigalle streets

FA: Usually good action scenes cost money. Do they scare producers? Do you have to cut the action in order to save money?

EV: The temptation was there. At one point we had to save money because we did not originally have all the money to make the movie. There was a thought of cutting some action but we kept everything as it was when we rewrote the script. My main request was, “Cut everything you want but don’t cut action. We keep it as it is.” Because we can cut shooting days by shooting with several cameras to make our schedule a little tighter. But in terms of what we are telling, I just wanted to be able to save the structure as it was, so I didn’t negotiate on action. I can negotiate on pretty much everything, but I didn’t negotiate on action. Because action is part of the fun of making a movie, and it’s pure movie making. It’s pure kinetic style. It is very exciting to make action. When we speak about action, it is not necessarily people chasing each other or people shooting at each other. It can be something as simple as a guy listening to another guy with a wire somewhere in an apartment. With that you have action, you have tension. There is no dialogue. You get a sense of suspense and tension. I call this “action” in a larger sense of the word. For me, action is not necessarily pyrotechnic.

"I see you."

FA: Your movie is presented as a political thriller… But do you think you made a political movie, or a politically driven movie?

EV: No! It is a movie that has some kind of political background and content but it is not a political movie in the strict sense. We are not trying to educate people. I think most people know about weapon smuggling between France and Africa, and so on. It is more about showing the web of corruption and deceit in which our characters are entangled and are making life and death decisions. We are trying to understand these characters, and trying to make them sympathetic for the audience. Not necessarily sympathetic but at least to understand what they do and feel. My goal is that you can have some kind of empathy for them. The political aspect is a little more bitter and cynical than it could have been in the 70’s. There was a lot more idealism involved. You voted for Democrats or the Left Wing. I think now we have been through a lot of governments in France, and the same goes for the US and so on. I don’t think there is the same kind of innocence and naivety anymore: you’re going to vote, and you’re going to change your life, and everything is going to be great. I think now my approach is more existentialist than political.

Politicians doing (legal?) business

FA: We know the name of the president in the book. In your movie, we do not.

EV: Yeah. The context of the book is the 80’s in France and François Mitterand was the president. We want our movie to be contemporary but kind of timeless. We decided to make it timeless because if you make a period movie you always run the risk of being considered as something “past”. People might say “Oh yeah, that was twenty years ago and that was happening, but now everything is perfect. Things have changed.” No way. I mean, it is always the same old shit going on. As long as you can buy a government in Africa, as long as you have oil and resources in Africa and other countries, then all the occidental countries are trying to get their share and acting like some kind of vampires. It is just part of the game, and it would be totally stupid and it would not make sense to think that this approach changes because you are under a left or right wing government. Everybody needs oil; everybody needs energy. You’re going to take it from where it is.

Bornand (André Dussolier) and Massembat (Jean-Michel Martial): partners in crime

FA: Let’s talk again about the female character. You said she was a bit racist. Where does this appear in the movie?

EV: When I say racist, well…at one point a North African dealer is making a phone call on his cell, and you might assume he is selling drugs or something. She says, “You know what, the only thing these guys deserve is a bullet through the head.” So I wouldn’t say she is racist, but she is very violent. She uses “Dirty Harry” or Charles Bronson kind of dialogue. It is not very common to hear that kind of dialogue in the mouth of a North African girl in a French movie. Especially from cops. Most of the time they are very human. Once again, a kind of social worker helping people and being very caring for and understanding of others. Which is not actually the case. She doesn’t give a fuck. It was pretty important to have this dialogue because it keeps the viewer on the edge. It is not the typical characterization for this kind of character.

"Do you feel lucky?"

FA: What do you think about the image of cops in French cinema? For example, rap musicians do not like cops. Young people in general do not like cops either...

EV: That’s true. They hate cops most of the time. I would say it’s easy to hate a cop (laughs). It’s pretty easy to hate a cop; it is not easy to like a cop. What I do, humbly, with “Une Affaire d’Etat” is to portray the cops, the politicians, the contract hit killer, as people with their own motivations, their reasons, and a job to do. That’s it. They are not necessarily evil, incredibly violent or sadistic or whatever. I just tried to establish a sense of understanding of them. Cops are a part of these people, so once again I don’t want to fall into a category like EuropaCorp movies: everything is set up in order to make the audience from the suburbs feel good because they see a racist cop or a stupid uniform cop doing something silly because he’s stupid. Or you have a kind of cool guy from the suburbs playing tricks on the cops and so on. I think that is pure demagogy so it is not something I like to use with the audience. I think audiences are way smarter than producers think they are, and I don’t want to lick their asses or kiss their feet just in order to make them feel good. I don’t think that they are going to feel good. I think that if you take them and put them in the position that they have to think a little bit, but at the same time they are entertained by the story, I think they are going to have a good experience and feel better after the movie. Generally I feel better after a movie if I didn’t necessarily hear what I wanted to hear.

FA: One more thing about the character Nora. In one scene she tells her mother on the phone that she’s not doing Ramadan. Was this from the book?

EV: No, it is not part of the book. We put it in because we wanted to establish a girl that doesn’t give a shit about tradition. Because I think most of the separations and most of the tensions between communities that we can feel in our society are based on religion. And I’m not necessarily against religion but I would say either Catholicism or Islam is… most of the time I don’t see them as elements of peace but as elements of aggression (laughs). That is my own judgment. I wanted to make a little bit of a statement where you realize that some people who are supposed to be Muslims because they come from a Muslim background: well they don’t give a fuck and they’re not Muslim and that’s it. You know, my mother is a Catholic and I’m not Catholic. That is part of life. So I wanted to establish this sort of feature for Nora. I thought that was pretty modern, especially for a girl.

Nora Chahyd (Rachida Brakni): hard-boiled cop & modern woman

FA: Is Nora more modern in the movie than in the novel?

EV: There is mention of a family in the novel but I don’t think there is mention of the religion. So you can assume she is Muslim but you don’t know. You can only assume.

FA: is your movie pessimistic?

EV: I wouldn’t say it’s totally pessimistic. I would say it is pretty dark, pretty downbeat. But there is a glimpse of hope in the movie that we wanted to hint at so that you can feel that maybe at one point you can change things a little bit. Playing your part in society so you can change things a little bit and make them slightly better. Not necessarily for a long time, but I would say you can make yourself better. So I think Nora is probably a better person at the end of the movie than she was in the beginning, or maybe she became smarter and she might be more vulnerable to corruption. I don’t know (laughs). That’s a question mark, definitely. It is not totally pessimist, but fairly so. I would say it would be totally mad and insane and not fair to try to be optimistic while showing a web of corruption. I mean, there is no way you can be optimistic and show that (laughs).

Fernandez (Thierry Frémont): still in trouble

FA: What do you think will happen to Nora in ten years?

EV: "I don’t know. Maybe she could become a high-ranking cop, but I would say she will probably stay in the ground work. I don’t see her having an office-like function. She likes to be in the street and to get down and dirty, so I don’t see her doing office work somehow. She has a big Vic MacKay (2) kind of side to her, I guess. I don’t know what is going to happen to her but it is pretty interesting. Maybe she’ll be there for a sequel. We’ll see.

Mado (Christine boisson) & her bodyguards vs Nora (Rachida Brakni)

FA: Can you talk about the other important female character in the movie, the “madam”?

EV: The madam is called Mado. Mado is a weird, weird, weird female character. She seems to pull strings a lot; she seems like a puppet master. She is pretty sneaky. It is difficult to sense whatever she feels but you can see she has a plan B, a plan C and maybe a plan D in the back of her mind. She is trying to pull the strings in order to grab one that is going to deliver something good for her. But you can sense that she comes from the gutter and she established herself as a madam in this kind of prostitution ring. But she still has this gutter background attitude, where you have to fight for everything and you have to protect yourself and life is a jungle. But even if she feels mixed feelings and opposite feelings about people that she might love and hate at the same time, ultimately… she will be ready to betray them for survival and her well being. So she is a pretty tricky, complex character; probably the most complex character in the movie. She is played by Christine Boisson who was a sexual icon in the 70’s in France. She is famous for movies like “Emmanuelle” and in the early 80’s “Identificazione Di Una Donna” by Antonioni. She has this kind of glamorous sexual feel to her and she is pretty magnetic and strong and weird. She did a lot of work for stage and TV in the last decade or 15 years, and it was pretty cool for us to have her back on the big screen to do this part. So I am happy to bring Christine Boisson back to the screen.

Mado (Christine Boisson): a very smart businesswoman

FA: How did you cast the actors and actresses? Did they accept the roles right away?

EV: We had been through several options before André Dussolier for the character Bornand. Once we had him we had a pretty strong idea that the movie could be financed. Otherwise it would have been a problem because André Dussolier is kind of a popular actor in France. So we went for him, but not after considering other options which would have been maybe a little more like contretype acting: like using a comedian to play this kind of role, playing against type. But André Dussolier was playing politicians, lawyers, people that are really established in society. It was probably one of the first times that he had to go that far into his darkest corners. I would say even that it was kind of a novelty for him, and for us too. He was pretty happy to explore this side of himself, especially after doing a lot of comedy like the latest Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie and lighter drama like the last Alain Resnais movie. So it was pretty interesting to have him, and pretty naturally he got us the financing. So we were able to have people that we really, really liked to be with him, like Rashida Brakni and Thierry Frémont. Once again the two of them are bankable stars in the classic sense of the term. It is not that easy to finance based only on one name, but I would say the ensemble cast make it like a viable investment. So that is how we decided to keep this thing together. Also there was another aspect: all these people don’t have any problem, they really share screen time; they don’t care. So once again, they like to act with each other; they don’t play against each other.

Bornand (André Dussolier) stays cool: for how long?

FA: What’s your next step?

EV: I am going to stay in France, probably for a while. I don’t know, we’ll see what comes up with the US and Canada and so on. Maybe Thailand, who knows. But I think I’m going to stay in France. I am doing a movie in France called “The Prey” / “La Proie” which is the story of a bank robber chasing a serial killer in rural France. The bank robber is a convict escaped from jail and is being chased by the cops. Basically it is a three-way chase movie. It is interesting: my producer likes to pitch it as a kind of French version of “The Fugitive” because it has that kind of sense and vibe. But it’s going to be darker.

Interview conducted in English by Frederic Ambroisine on November 10th, 2009. Editeb by Sylvia Rorem for

(1) The novel by Dominique Manotti, "Affairs of State", which inspired the movie will be available in English in June 2010.
(2) Vic MacKay, a bad-ass corrupt cop, is the main character of the US Police television series “The Shield”.

mardi 15 décembre 2009


If hasn’t seemed very active the last few weeks, it’s because we’ve been spending time doing cool stuff on the Action Queen FaceBook page!

We are uploading some cool Action Queens related movie posters (from the 1910’s to the 2010’s!), movie stills, trailers, and even video games trailers. If you want more interaction with Action Queens, please become a fan of our FaceBook page.

There you can upload your own fan images, talk about your favourite actresses and movies, and give us your opinion or suggestions about our site. Please also check our Action Queens Youtube page, where we will be uploading more video interviews very soon.

Fred Ambroisine & achillesgirl
vendredi 11 décembre 2009

ACTION QUEEN LISA CHENG: NEW PHOTOS!! loves Lisa Cheng! Many thanks to Lisa for giving us the opportunity to share some of her fantastic new photos. First, a couple of black and white photos by French photographer Laurent Piram, a.k.a. Tilo, while he was in Hong Kong this November.

This outdoor photoshoot was done in Tsim Tsa Tsui near the Hong Kong Cultural Center. Check out other photos by Laurent on his Flickr page.

Action Queens is also delighted to share more Lisa photos with you that were shot the same week in China. Lisa herself supervised the art direction, which shows not only that she is sophisticated but that she has many stylish moves as a gorgeous Action Queen. Enjoy!

We think this is not the last time Action Queens will be talking about Lisa Cheng...

Fred Ambroisine

NB: More photos on Lisa Cheng Alive Not Dead blog.
vendredi 30 octobre 2009


In “2012”, director Roland Emmerich literally blows the world away in a spectacular way never before seen on screen and shows us the worst that can happen to our beloved planet: Earthquakes, tsunamis a-go-go, eruptions in your face, mega-explosions, highways and buildings destroyed... very impressive technical success, no doubt. But the interest in “2012 would be a bit limited if it was only about world destruction because what usually makes the audience care about a movie is its people. In “2012”, gorgeous French American actress Béatrice Rosen plays Russian beauty Tamara, one of the main characters trying desperately to escape the impending Apocalypse.It’s her first major role in a Hollywood blockbuster after appearing a year ago in Christopher Nolan’s second Batman movie, “The Dark Knight. In this exclusive interview for, Béatrice tells us about those two major experiences and her blossoming international acting career.

Frédéric Ambroisine: What are your origins?

Béatrice Rosen: My mother is French and my father has Hungarian origins but was raised in the US. I was raised entirely in Paris. [Béatrice was born in New York]

FA: Did you study acting or other studies related to cinema?

BR: I went to a regular high school. I started theater courses when I was ten years old. I did a lot of theater. On Wednesdays and Saturdays we acted in small theatres to train ourselves, to rehearse. Then we acted in the Théatre de Boulogne. I went to a regular high school, and I earned a diploma in science, the French “Bac” [Baccalauréat]. After that I studied acting full time at the Cours Florent.

FA: Did you already know what you wanted to do after high school?

BR: I didn’t know exactly, but I had registered in college in Paris. I had to make a choice, and since I graduated a year early I decided to try acting because I had always wanted to do it. I told myself I would try the full time acting course, Cours Florent, for one year to see if I liked it. I ended up loving it, and then I started to work immediately in the film industry shooting movies. So in the end I never went back to science.

FA: Did Cours Florent help you find your first film job, or did you get it by yourself?

BR: It’s not really the Cours Florent that helped me find a job. But it gave me a good foundation. They offer master classes; actors like Vincent Lindon taught some classes. Actress Isabelle Nanty did as well. There were great teachers there. Cours Florent gives you the foundation to do your job. But you mostly really learn on set when you’re shooting. Also, theatre and cinema are two completely different techniques.

FA: You got your start in TV series and French movies.

BR: Exactly. I did a bit of everything: short movies, a lot of commercials, photoshoots and medium-length films. I was selected in the contest “Jeunes Talents” [Young Talent] organized by l’Adami [Civil Society to administer the rights of artists and performing musicians] at the Cannes International Film Festival, the same year as Audrey Tautou I think. I did a lot of things: TV series, TV movies...

In the short "Blindfolded" (2006) & with Sean Bean in the TV movie "Sharpe's Peril" (2008)

FA: Did you start with small roles?

BR: Absolutely. It was very progressive. I learned my craft by working. There are two types of careers. The Sophie Marceau type: at her first audition, she immediately got a lead role in a big movie, and her career started that way. And there is another type of career, which is built step by step. That was my case. Some parts here and there. There is one thing that I’m really grateful for: I was never typecast; I was never labeled. I did comedies, thrillers, and action movies. The kind of roles I have had so far are completely different from each other.

Béatrice Rosen: Man-hunting in the French short "Clown" (1999) &
kidnapped in the dark comedy "Bienvenue chez les Rozes" (2003)

FA: Is there one role that got you noticed and put you in the limelight?

BR: It was a bit of a mix. It was not just one role. Of course, when I was in the 2004 American movie “Chasing Liberty”, it opened a lot of doors for me in the US. After that, many agencies contacted me. That movie played a major part in my career, for sure.

Béatrice Rosen and Mandy Moore in "Chasing Liberty" (2004)
Photo: Jaap Buitendijk - © 2003 Daughter Productions LLC

FA: How did you succeed in making the transition from French movies to US movies? From auditioning for French movies to starring in Hollywood productions?

BR: I spoke English and I had an agent in London. From time to time I would go there for one day, via Eurostar, to audition for projects that my agent found for me. I got my part in “Chasing Liberty” in London. They needed a European girl. Originally the character was for a German girl but since they liked me they changed the German character into a French character. They changed the name and profile of the character. The shooting was done in Prague. I was delighted to work on an American movie, but I didn’t really get the American film experience because it was shot in Europe. When the film was released, the production company with whom I had a contract for a second movie flew me to Los Angeles for the premiere. That’s where I signed with an American agency, and we had general meetings with film studios.

FA: Have all of your jobs been obtained through agents?

BR: Yes. I had the lucky opportunity to get an agent very quickly. I was still in high school when I got one. I had the luxury to go to the Cours Florent already having an agent. I could apply what I was learning in class at auditions.

FA: You alternate between TV series and movies. How do you organize your schedule to act in both TV and movies?

BR: It depends. It’s really an atypical job. For example, I shot two TV series simutaneously. I did three episodes of “Charmed” while shooting “Cuts” at the same time. Luckily, both series were shot at Paramount Studios. It was funny because I had an assistant who was always waiting for me. In the morning I was in “Charmed” at studio 15, and the assistant would be waiting for me in a little golf cart to bring me to studio 23 were I was shooting “Cuts” in the afternoon. I had to switch costumes and learn my lines for “Cuts”. I did that for some time. It was fun. When I’m not shooting I go to meetings and auditions, and sometimes I have two jobs at the same time. I had to refuse another series named “Veronica Mars” because of a scheduling problem. I couldn’t take the job because everything fell on the same days.

Béatrice Rosen as Maya in "Charmed" (Season 8, Episode 3 - 2005)

FA: Have you been able to make a living by acting since the very beginning?

BR: That’s why I didn’t go back to school. Since the very beginning I started to make a living. I spent two years at the Cours Florent but I was working so much that I often couldn’t attend class. So it was useless to continue paying for a third year. When you are in a movie it is difficult to have other commitments.

Béatrice Rosen plays a real kick-ass model in "Charmed" (2005)

FA: Are “Charmed” and “Cut” your first American TV series appearances?

BR: The first TV series that I shot in the US was cursed because everybody had health problems during the production. It was delayed so much that they finally cancelled it. In this first series, “Commando Nanny”, I had one of the lead roles. But ultimately fate didn’t allow this show to make it. They lost so much money that they ended up giving up. Everyone had accidents. The lead actor broke his foot two days before production started. Then the actor who played my father discovered that he had a serious health problem. It was just a disaster.

"Commando Nanny" (2004 - Mark Burnett Productions)

FA: Can you describe the characters you play in “Charmed” and “Cut”?

BR: Here’s something funny about “Charmed”: I shot the pilot produced by Aaron Spelling [1923-2006], a mythical producer who created series like “Beverly Hills 90210”, “Melrose Place” and so on. I shot the pilot for his company but it never got picked up. They gave me three episodes on “Charmed” because the pilot shoot went very well and we had a very good relationship. In “Charmed” I played a model that speaks several languages and is accused of murder. A trio of witches [Alyssa Milano, Rose McGowan, Holly Marie Combs] help me out of trouble because they figure out that I’m innocent. In “Cuts” I played an American girl. It was a sitcom. We shot it in front of a live audience.

Béatrice Rosen: armed and tripled in "Charmed" (2005)

FA: Since then you have had several roles in the US, including “The Dark Knight”. What is the difference between working for big studios and for indie productions?

BR: I had already worked on all kind of movies. “Chasing Liberty” was not an indie film, it was a studio film, but it has nothing to do with “The Dark Knight”. Before “The Dark Knight” I had never worked at such a high level. Anyway, I think it’s very rare to work in a movie of that caliber. All the people on this movie were Oscar nominees or Golden Globe nominees. It was quite amazing and obviously very impressive. I admired Christopher Nolan before working with him. He’s really an amazing person. And there’s an obvious difference in budget between “The Dark Knight” and an indie film...

FA: What was the working relationship between you and a big production director? Since he has a lot of things to handle, do you think that you were able to spend enough time with him, or did you have to prepare by yourself?

BR: I was about to mention that! “The Dark Knight” was an atypical film because in general, big comic action movies like that are not necessarily very artistic, but “The Dark Knight” was fantastic. Christopher Nolan really took the time to come and talk with me about the character. He’s such a perfectionist. Roland Emmerich is the same, and that’s why those guys work at the highest level. The studios trust them and give them a big budget to handle because those directors are not really affected by pressure. Roland Emmerich carries a 200-250 million dollar budget on his shoulders, and every morning he arrives full of energy, smiling, and is nice to everyone. He’s in good mood, he’s relaxed. I had the impression that it was the same for Christopher Nolan. He really creates a peaceful atmosphere even if there is a lot of pressure and large stakes. They both are really exceptional people and incredible perfectionists.

Christian Bale and Béatrice Rosen in "The Dark Knight" (2008)

FA: You play a Russian in “The Dark Knight”. How did you land this role?

BR: I studied Russian as a second language in high school, and I’ve always been attracted to the Russian language. People often ask me if I’m Eastern European. I don’t know, people think that I look Russian, and I think maybe that’s because of my Hungarian background. So my agency sent me to the audition and I said to myself, “I’ll go because hey, it’s Batman, it’s Christopher Nolan, and it’s going to be an exceptional movie.” I could feel that already. But honestly, I didn’t think I would get the part. I just said to myself, “I’ll do my best.” So I started working on my Russian accent, and then that was it! They had a worldwide audition, so I could hardly believe it when I heard the good news!

Béatrice Rosen as Russian ballerina Natasha in "The Dark Knight" (2008)

FA: How long did you spend working on your accent before going to the audition?

BR: I had very little time. I think I had only two days before the audition. I had to recall my Russian classes from school. I called an actor friend who speaks Russian, and we trained together. He gives Russian lessons on the side to make money. So for 20 dollars I worked with him and rehearsed for an hour.

FA: That 20 dollars was a good investment!

BR: Oh yeah, for sure! (laughs) Those were the most productive 20 dollars I ever spent.

Christopher Nolan directing the restaurant scene with Béatrice Rosen and Aaron Eckhart

FA: How many days did you spend shooting the Batman movie?

BR: I spent one week in London for the restaurant scene with Christian Bale. It went very well. I did my week in London and went back to Los Angeles. I was delighted. It was an awesome, fantastic experience. And then a few months later, in September, against all odds, they called me and flew me to Chicago for another week to add me into the boat scene, which was unexpected.

Aaron Eckhart, Béatrice Rosen, Christian Bale & Maggie Gyllenhaal

FA: Did you receive more scripts in your mail box after “The Dark Knight”?

BR: Yeah, but again, everything moved gradually. Obviously it clearly helps to appear in “The Dark Knight”; a movie like that opens doors and people want to meet you. I remember when I was auditioning for “2012”, famous actors and actresses were coming to audition for other parts. There are so many actors that producers and directors have the luxury to make famous actors audition. So “The Dark Knight” opened doors and allowed me to meet a lot of people, but it’s not like I was on the front page of every magazine overnight.

FA: Did your agent get you the part in “2012”?

BR: Yes, and I played a Russian as well, so this time I was confident. My agent got me an appointment to meet with the producer and director. I went back several times; it was like a rollercoaster. Then one day, I was in Wales on the set of another movie, “The Big I Am” and my agent called and said, “ ‘2012’ is not gonna work. It won’t be you”. I said, “Too bad, that’s a pity.” But in fact, two weeks later, my agent called me back to tell me that they were making me an offer.

FA: What scene did you do for your “2012” audition?

BR: They made me do three different scenes

FA: Are all your scenes in front of a blue screen?

BR: Hmm…a lot of them. The audition was like a regular audition, you know. There’s nothing in the room so you have to pretend. There was dialogue but also a lot of action, so you have to use your imagination a lot.

FA: Where and for how long did you work on “2012”?

BR: “2012” shot in Vancouver for four and a half months.

FA: What is “2012” about?

BR: It’s about the Apocalypse, based on a Mayan prediction. December 2012 will be the end of the world... that’s it. I really can’t tell you any more because I signed a confidentiality contract. We’ll wait to see the movie. But in fact, I saw it last Saturday [July 25th, 2009], and the movie is really awesome.

Béatrice Rosen as Tamara in "2012"
©2009 Sony Pictures Digital Inc. All Rights Reserved.

FA: What can you reveal?

BR: Nothing. (laughs)

FA: Can you reveal anything about your character?

BR: My character is called Tamara. She’s Russian, and that’s all I can say (laughs).
Concerning confidentiality, when we were shooting “The Dark Knight” in the UK, it was very secretive as well. When we were passing through customs, or when we were making a phone call, we didn’t have the right to mention even the title of the movie. We had to use an alias for the title.

FA: Tell me about your collaboration with Roland Emmerich. Usually the technical aspect has a very important place in his movies. Does he have the time to take care of his cast?

BR: His personality is different from Christopher Nolan, but... For example, Christopher Nolan arrived on the set everyday in a suit. He’s very polite, very kind. Nolan always hires the same crew members so everybody knows each other. He works in silence and peace. It’s quiet, pleasant, nobody shouts, and it’s very efficient. He can move forward very very quickly... Roland Emmerich is the same. His sister was also a producer on the movie. Roland arrives on set each day with a smile. He works 18-20 hours a day. Because it’s very technical, he redoes each shot until it is perfect. So we did a lot of takes. He’s a real perfectionist. He comes on set, explains everything to the actors and is very present.

Roland Emmerich on the set of "2012"
©2009 Sony Pictures Digital Inc. All Rights Reserved.

FA: Who are the actors you were involved with on the “2012” set?

BR: Most of my scenes were with Amanda Peet, John Cusack and Thomas McCarthy, who is also a director. He recently did a movie called “The Visitor” which won a lot of film festival awards. I had also several scenes with Lisa Lu [lead actress of the Hong Kong blockbuster “The 14 Amazons”], a wonderful lady, very professional. It was such a great cast; everyone enjoyed working on Roland's set. Lisa was a trooper because some of the scenes were pretty physical. The atmosphere on the set was light and fun, even though we were shooting a film about the end of the world.

Chang Tseng, Lisa Lu, Morgan Lily and Béatrice Rosen are having some problems
©2009 Sony Pictures Digital Inc. All Rights Reserved.

FA: During the 4 ½ months of shooting “2012”, how long did you actually shoot?

BR: I don’t know exactly. It was a lot more than “The Dark Knight”.

FA: Do you ease up the pressure when you were not shooting?

BR: Yes, I would go back to LA for a few days, then return to Vancouver.

FA: Before shooting “2012”, had you already seen any Roland Emmerich movies?

BR: Most of them, I think.

FA: When you find out you will be working under a specific director do you try to see his work?

BR: Yes. The great thing about working in the US is that they give you quite a lot of information about the project when you go to an audition. So you can do research if you want. Obviously, it’s better to arrive prepared. It helps to know the director’s previous films. Through his work you can understand his taste, his creativity, what kind of actors he hires. So yes, I do some homework...

Béatrice Rosen in "2012": the calm before the storm
©2009 Sony Pictures Digital Inc. All Rights Reserved.

FA: Have you done any work since “2012”?

BR: In March I shot an independent movie in England because I want to alternate working with big productions. I had to play the role of an American. I wanted to diversify my roles and not just play Russian or French roles. But this movie had some financing problems. It happens to a lot independent movies. The release date has been delayed. I had two projects like that which have been delayed, and I’m waiting for the new schedule. I’ll shoot, but I have to wait. After big movies like “2012” I really have to be careful with my choice of projects. I have to be judicious, you know.

FA: Can you refuse certain projects from your agency? Do you have to do all the auditions they ask you to do?

BR: I must choose strategic projects. I won’t play another Russian character just to be in a film. It has to be coherent, and my projects have to be diversified. I have to have a logic, a strategy, a career plan. But, well, I love to work. It has to make sense, you know.

FA: You will soon be on the screen in “The Big I Am” and “Woodland Cross”.

BR: “Woodland Cross” is one of the two movies in pre-production right now. It’s an English movie. Last year I did two English movies. I started to work in France, then in the US, and then England. I’m negotiating another one right now. We’ll see…

FA: Any plan to shoot some more French movies?

BR: I would love to… In fact, ideally, in a perfect world, I’d like to work six months in France and six months in the US. That would be awesome. It would be ideal to work a bit everywhere: in the UK, the US, in France.

“2012” POST-SCREENING QUESTIONS (3 months later)

Frédéric Ambroisine: Where did you shoot the scenes that take place under heavy snow in China?

Béatrice Rosen: We shot in big studios with a blue screen. Part of the set was built in the studio, so we had snow and a feel of the glacier.

FA: Your best friend in "2012" is a little dog. How easy or difficult is it to work with an animal in a movie?

BR: We had a trainer on set, and she got him ready for his scenes. When you work with animals you need a lot of patience because they don't always want to comply.

FA: How was the "dog stunt scene" shot? Even though it looks very dangerous onscreen, was it safe?

BR: I can't reveal all the secrets; it would take away the magic. :-)

FA: Not a lot is explained about your character Tamara’s background. She has a relationship with some of the characters but the audience has to imagine her past. Did the director tell you more about the background of Tamara, or did you ask him?

BR: Of course when you sign on to play a character you always want to know her backstory. We talked about it with Roland, and I also made my own choices. Tamara evolves a lot during the movie as she is confronted with many very emotional situations. She's the girlfriend of a Russian billionaire [Zlatko Buric]. She's very spoiled, but as the movie progresses we get a better sense of who she really is, and all her superficial traits are replaced by very human qualities.

FA: Some of the most physical scenes you did in the movie were underwater. How did you prepare to shoot these scenes? Were they dangerous or oppressive?

BR: Those scenes were pretty scary to shoot, but Sony didn't take any unnecessary risks. We had medics on set ready to react to any threatening event. We spent many, many hours in the water but the crew made it as comfortable as possible for the actors.

Béatrice Rosen and Morgan Lily getting wet in "2012" (2009)
©2009 Sony Pictures Digital Inc. All Rights Reserved.

FA: What was your favorite scene as a viewer (even if you weren’t in it)?

BR: I love the first scene where the special effects really start; the car scene with J. Cusack and his family in LA. It sets the tone.

FA : After appearing in a blockbuster as action-packed as “2012”, does your experience give you any desire to play other more physical roles in the future, like action roles?

BR: I would love to be in another action movie and spend months training beforehand...maybe in martial arts. I have a lot of energy and I think it would be a lot of fun for me.

Check out the official Béatrice Rosen website at

Pre-screening interview conducted in French by Frédéric Ambroisine on July 27th, 2009. Translated by Frédéric Ambroisine.
Post-screening interview conducted in English by Frédéric Ambroisine on October 29th, 2009.
Edited by Sylvia Rorem for in October 2009.
Mega thanks to Béatrice Rosen for her kindness and time!
Thanks also to Stéphane Ribola (Miam), Tim Fahlbusch, Axel Foy & Anne Lara (Sony Pictures).

2012” will be released worldwide in more than 70 countries between November 11th and 13th, 2009. Check out Sony Pictures website for dates.
Also, take a look at “2012trailers & video clips on Yahoo Movies & Sony Pictures YouTube channel.

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