Three Great Things: Charlotte Le Bon

The acclaimed actress, whose directorial debut, Falcon Lake, is in theaters now, on creative rest, Steve Carell and the art of listening.

Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark the release in theaters and on demand of Charlotte Le Bon’s debut film as writer-director, the ghostly thriller Falcon Lake, the Canadian actress shared some of the things she loves most in life. — N.D.

A Life of Creative Contrasts
I live a life with periods of intense activity, packed with information, action, people and creativity, where I’m producing and creating all the time. These periods last maybe two months and I will often sleep only a few hours per night, but I’m fine because I’m fueled by … something. But then afterward, I need to just do nothing. To be a useless human body. In our society, we’re always talking about productivity and being successful and there’s an urge to be in constant motion all the time. But this second phase is really important, because as artists, we need moments where we can just be a person and do nothing. It’s something I started to do right after Falcon Lake had been released in Canada, France and then Belgium. I came back to Canada, where I live in a very small house on the lake, and I just did nothing. I was staring at landscapes, staring at my lake. I realized this was a very important time when I needed to create space in my mind for new information. And inspiration, hopefully.

I’m not a huge fan of hiking, because I get bored, even though I know it’s healthy. In the summer, what I really like to do is swim and paddleboard. But after Falcon Lake, I was just inside my home, staring at the snow falling. It felt amazing. I realized that when we’re creating, it’s really difficult not to define ourselves through our work, and it’s very important to learn to just be a person and find the thing inside us to help us simply be in this stillness.

A sketch by Charlotte Le Bon of her lake, from a Polaroid that she transferred onto paper.

It’s really difficult to do, though. I’m trying to do it right now and it’s not working. I think there are phases when it works, and when it does, it’s very soothing and you sleep and rest a lot. But it can also be an inner conflict when I can’t achieve that state and my mind is still telling me, “You should be working, you should be writing.” And I’m in that phase right now.

I work a lot with my memories and my own experiences, so I need to go deep inside myself to find the answers and the ideas that I want. When I do that, I become one with the project. It’s with me all the time. I think it can be difficult for the people I’m sharing my life with, because when I start really working on a project, it fills my mind and I’m completely occupied by it. And I can sometimes be absent. But, thankfully, that’s only a phase and I’m not always like that. If I were, it would be a nightmare.

Being a Good Listener (To Friends and Strangers)
Sometimes when I’m completely out of ideas and I have writer’s block, I just accept it and go outside and meet with people or take a taxi and try to absorb what the people around me are saying. And I make an effort to really listen to my friends. Because sometimes when your friends are telling stories about what they’re going through, you’re just waiting to talk about yourself instead of listening closely. I think a lot of the answers we’re looking for rely on others, because we all work in similar ways. So I just try to listen without judging, which is sometimes difficult.

One time, maybe eight or 10 years ago, I was ordering coffee in a cafe in Paris and I noticed a woman talking to the waiter. She was in her 60s and she looked like a Japanese manga character. She was very small with big features and very round eyes, and she was dressed in bold colors and wore big glasses. I listened to her talking to the waiter and she was so funny and witty, and I could tell the waiter really liked her. We ended up talking to each other and really liked being in each other’s presence. She had an amazing life story and started to become my friend. I remember taking walks with her and getting ice cream as she would talk to me about her life and her kids. It was really refreshing to meet someone in that way. Her name is Maria and we now live in the same neighborhood in Paris, which is amazing.

Most of the time when I’m hanging with Maria, I think, “I should give her a part in a movie one day because she’s so special.” At some point, I would love to see her act. I’m sure she would be amazing, but she’s like a little hidden treasure. She spends her life in an apartment and thinks she’s ugly and that nobody looks at her, but she’s like the sun! And I can tell she’s so loved by everybody in her neighborhood. She’s lived an extremely secret life and I think it’s very inspiring.

Steve Carell
Recently, I played the lead role in a biopic on the French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle, who was famous in the ’60s and ’70s. Her life was filled with a lot of darkness and demons, and through art she was able to find light and power and to triumph over her difficulties, but to depict her in a movie was really, really difficult, because I needed to go to weird places in my mind. And the only thing that would completely soothe me and put my mind at rest during the shoot was watching the American version of The Office. I have so much love for Steve Carell now. It’s burning my heart.

Last week, I was in Cannes and I attended the premiere of Wes Anderson’s new movie, Asteroid City, and Steve Carell was sitting just behind me. He was so close, I could touch him. I wanted to tell him I loved him so much and that he saved me during that shoot, but it’s always weird to do that, so I didn’t say anything. I just looked at him, sent him love through my mind and was happy. It was so cute, because there was a long standing ovation at the end of the film and he teared up. I was thinking, “Oh, I love this man so much. I just want to hug him.”

Steve Carell as Michael Scott in The Office.

You have to be a complete master to be able to portray such a pathetic idiot like Michael Scott, but still be so endearing. I mean, even though he’s so pathetic, you want to hang with him, and it’s really weird and bizarre to feel empathy for a character who is so stupid. But Steve Carell just managed to do it. There’s something really human about the character, because in the end, he just wants to be loved. He wants to be admired and have friends, which is something we all share as human beings. But because he’s so stupid, he can’t really hide his need for other people’s love. His character is very pure, in a way, because he has no filter. And it was really soothing to watch.

I would love to work with Steve Carell, but not acting opposite him, because I would probably die laughing all the time. (I’m very bad at stopping myself from corpsing.) But directing him would be an absolute dream. I’ve seen him in some of his dramatic work and he’s an excellent actor.

Featured image, showing Charlotte Le Bon with actor Joseph Engel during the making of Falcon Lake, is by Fred Gervais Dupuis and courtesy Charlotte Le Bon.

Charlotte Le Bon grew up in Quebec before moving to Paris. She worked as an actress with French directors such as Michel Gondry and Jalil Lespert. In the U.S., she shot films with Lasse Hallström, Robert Zemeckis and Sean Ellis. Charlotte is an artist exploring her taste for strangeness through paintings, drawings and lithographs. Her passion for genre films led her to write and direct Judith Hotel, a short film presented at Cannes in 2018. Her first feature film as writer-director, Falcon Lake, premiered at Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight and is out now in theaters through Yellow Veil Pictures.