Interview with Chantal Ladesou: “I reserve my extravagance for the stage, which is the only place I allow myself to do nearly anything”
On the occasion of the premiere of the comedy Who's that Granny we publish an interview with the actress Chantal Ladesou (grandmother Aurore in the movie) and we invite you to the cinemas from November 8th to see the comedy in which she plays the main role!
In Who’s that Granny, the team behind the success We are Family is back for a new comic adventure!
After two years of living together as a happy family in their own apartment, the patchwork bunch of seven half-sisters and half-brothers are forced to split up and move out.
They reluctantly go their separate ways for summer vacation. But when little Gulliver gets sent alone to his eccentric Grandma Aurore, known for her penchant to party and zero parenting skills, the kids take matters into their own hands: they all show up at her house for the summer!
Life with Granny Aurore is anything but ordinary. She doesn’t cook, she goes out clubbing every night and never gets up before 2:00 pm. Looks like they’ve got to teach Aurore how to be a real grandmother. It’s a tough mission to take on, because Granny Aurore is a real tornado of energy and extravagance. But honestly, a grandma who can also be your best friend, doesn’t that sound like a dream?
In We are Family, the children were the ones who called all the shots. Did you expect the sequel to hand over that role to their "granny", meaning you?
Chantal Ladesou: I was totally surprised. Gaby (the director, Gabriel Julien-Laferrière) hinted to me that my role would be bigger this time, but not to the point of becoming the film's main character and having the honor of being in the title! When he had me read his new script, of course I was wildly happy about it! Not because "Granny" had snatched the star role from the kids, but because I got to play her again, and this time with the opportunity of fully exploring her imagination and complexity. And I also have to admit, it was the first time anyone offered me the lead role in a film. After about thirty films playing supporting roles, my little acting ego got a great boost!
Did the responsibility of taking on the title role of a movie frighten you?
If I had parachuted from out of nowhere, into totally foreign territory, I probably would have really flipped out. But in this case, since I already knew the crew and my character, everything was smooth and easy. I took being promoted to this "granny" as a stroke of luck. I don't get to have that much fun with a character in a movie very often.
Why did you say yes to being in the first film of this adventure?
I loved the story of this separated and remixed family. At first sight, everyone blended together in a pretty random way, as emotional impulses surfaced. The screenplay was well-structured, and at the same time funny, looney, empathetic and warm, just like a lot of "Benetton" families I know! What I also liked about it is the way it turned the world upside down: faced with the adolescent immaturity of their parents, the children were the ones who took control and decided to live together in the same apartment. In the middle of that joyful bazaar, my eccentric granny character delighted me. The part wasn't very big, but I liked its craziness and freedom. Acting-wise, it was as great as it promised to be.
Besides your role, what made you so thrilled about the sequel?
First, the script. Even if it doesn't have the same structure as the first film - which is actually a good thing! - I also thought it was well-constructed. At first, with all those little scenes about these blended families going to various places on vacation with their children, it seems scattered, like a patchwork, multicolored and cool. And then it gets tighter, brings together its little group and closes up like an umbrella. That "centrifugal" construction seemed to be smart as well as charming. Besides that, I was happy to get back together with that "family" of actors, adults and children alike. The adults because in addition to being "aces" on set, they are all exquisite and funny human beings. The kids because each one is endearing in their own way.
They say that acting with children can turn into a nightmare.
It's true that it can be a hellish exercise: children get tired fast, their powers of concentration can be short-lived, they don't always respect the "blocking" and acting can bore them quite quickly. It's very hard to get a kid motivated again when he's lagging or doesn't want to do another take.
So it was pretty logical that when I imagined myself faced with seven kids of all different ages, no matter how much I wanted to do it, I was a little uneasy about shooting We are Family. My fears soon disappeared. All seven behaved like real pros. Gaby had done a good job getting them ready. He'd taken them all out to the countryside. Not to rehearse, just so they could get to know each other and become friends. Between the water fights, pillow fights and all the rest of the tomfoolery, night and day, it made for a pretty raucous weekend. But the seven of them had bonded. On set, coached and managed by Karin Catala, a woman who is gentle, yet energetic and motherly, not only were they extremely disciplined, they also really worked together and were very respectful of everyone. Some of them even came and asked us for bits of advice, which they followed so carefully it was touching. After shooting the first film, which had gone smoothly for the whole team, the little troop kept in touch, so getting back together for Who's That Granny?! was a real joy. The only difference was that the kids had grown up and Gulliver (Sadio Diallo) and I had been promoted!
Do you still identify with the granny you left behind two years ago?
Yes, her personality hasn't changed a bit. She is just as extravagant and independent as ever. But now that she's front and center, she progresses in plain view. Beneath her eccentricity and lifestyle, which seems so rebellious, you discover an amazingly powerful woman. Besides succeeding in bringing everyone together, she has her own special way of taking the children under her wing, helping them to break out of their cocoons and overcome their fears, which fuels that really symbolic sequence I love so much, jumping into the water from the top of the cliff. In the second film, it's not the granny who's changed, it's the children who have grown up and become even more reasonable, as well as the parents, who have become more mature as they have aged and now take their educational role more seriously.
What do you, Chantal Ladesou, have in common with this "granny"?
A lot of things: exuberance, joy, sarcasm, a touch of madness, the absolute necessity of feeling free, and also being sensitive and affectionate to the point of not being able to express it sometimes. The only thing we don't have in common is her promiscuity. Not only am I very prude in that respect, but I've been married for 47 years to a very jealous man who wouldn't tolerate me even lifting a finger! And that's mutual, actually! (laughs) But to get back to my granny, I'm probably a little more traditional in my daily life than she is. I dress more conservatively and my behavior is less eccentric. I reserve my extravagance for the stage, which is the only place I allow myself to do nearly anything.
Are you also the kind of actress who sticks to the script?
In the theater, especially in my "solo shows", I like to indulge in little verbal digressions. But in films, even if I let myself go sometimes, I generally stay on track with the script, especially if the dialogue is good. For this film, as well as the previous one, I was lucky: Gaby had tailored my dialogue for me. I had some fabulous lines, like "Don't call me granny, it gives me wrinkles!" When you have lines like that to deliver, you don't change a single comma. The comic impact they have is equivalent to a rocket ship!
For you, what's the difference between acting for theater and film?
In theater, there is immediacy. You can't go back, so too bad if you screw up! But you can pace around freely - for example, leave the stage and join the audience. It's a lot of adrenaline, but it's also a source of stimulation that I have a hard time doing without for very long. Movies give you a different feeling. Lighting, timing, blocking - everything has to be spot-on. You project your voice less, the acting is more internal, you look for precision. I like the discipline, it makes me focus. The only thing that annoys me is when we have to redo takes. I feel like I'm losing simplicity and spontaneity.
Who do you think Who's That Granny?! was made for?
For everyone. It's a bright, energetic family comedy that gives some good advice for life and brings along lots of wonderful values, such as mutual respect and accepting differences. My husband really liked it, and so did my daughter, which proves that it's intergenerational. Of course, they're not in the least bit biased!
Are you, Chantal Ladesou, a granny in real life?
Yes, but my grandchildren aren't as old as my character's grandkids are. My grandson is three and my granddaughter is only one. It's too bad, I'll have to wait a while before showing them the movie!