Virginie Efira is a Belgian-French actress and former television presenter. She is currently starring in Other People’s Children, opposite Roschdy Zem and Chiara Matroianni, and will be seen in June in Revoir Paris, for which she won the Best Actress award at this year’s Cesars. She had her breakthrough role in the 2013 romantic comedy It Boy, won acclaim and her first Best Actress Cesar nomination for the 2016 drama In Bed with Victoria, and earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the 2018 Cesars for Gilles Lelouche’s comedy Sink or Swim. She has appeared in Paul Verhoeven’s two most recent films, Elle and Benedetta, starring in the title role in the latter.
Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark the current theatrical release of Other People’s Children, Rebecca Zlotowski’s family drama starring Virginie Efira, Roschdy Zem and Chiara Mastroianni, the Cesar-winning actress shared some of the things she loves most in life. — N.D.
I love American movies so much, but recently I’ve struggled to find something special when I go to the theater. There is a lot of creativity in television, though, and, like everybody in the world, I saw The White Lotus. I love Mike White’s writing because it’s funny, it’s intelligent and every character has their own path. The White Lotus made me see what a genius Mike White is, so I wondered, “What did he do before this?” and then I found out he made a TV series in 2011, Enlightened with Laura Dern. In it, she plays the kind of character who wants to help everybody, but there’s also a lot of vanity in her generosity. Mike White scratches the surface and gets to the truth. Enlightened is a little bit like James L. Brooks’ movies, which I also love: very humble, very simple.
When I watched Laura Dern in Enlightened and also thought about her work in David Lynch’s movies, I said, “Oh, her range is so broad!” After that, I fell in love with Laura Dern a little bit. I have a special affection for actresses who can make a dramatic role so intense, but also play comic parts.
A few months ago, Laura Dern came to the French Cinematheque in Paris to do a masterclass. When she arrived, I started to cry – I felt like I was 12 years old! It was very nice to hear her talk about the way she chose roles and how she collaborated with David Lynch. I arrived at the Cinematheque a little early for her masterclass, so I got to watch the last 15 minutes of Wild at Heart again. It was so incredible, and it made me cry too. Laura Dern is able to cover so many bases. In Blue Velvet, she has a remarkable innocence, but in Wild at Heart, she just lives and breathes sex. It’s both elements that make her so amazing, the cerebral and the animal, all at once.
In our society now, people seem to think the greatest thing in the world is to go places and do things. But everything is only perception. Instead of travel, I think maybe the biggest luxury in life is time. As an actress, I don’t have a lot of time, so I have an unusual relationship with it. I can either stretch it or make it go very fast. There’s a power in taking those other paths and it can make everything feel different.
It’s a difficult thing in life when you want to have time and don’t want to be interrupted. Whenever I’m shooting, there’s always a lot of people who are talking to me and I’m always in a reactive mode. What I like is when I have time to myself and my energy is very slow. I like it when there’s not a lot going on, but for some reason, my life is the opposite of that. I don’t understand why.
I like to read. And when I read just three or four sentences, I can ponder what I have in life. I don’t have to go anywhere else in the world or eat at some great restaurant, I can just have time and a book. I love that, because I know that, if everything goes well for me, in my old age I will have time to try to understand and learn much more about life and the world.
On French public radio, there are so many excellent shows about all kinds of different nourishing subjects. It exposes me to concepts and gives me the spark of new ideas and new desires. It’s not necessarily that cerebral, it’s just something that informs my inner life. But it’s a good way to learn when you are a little bit lazy, like me! I like philosophy, but I never read Spinoza or Jankélévitch or Bergson. On the radio, though, I can learn about them in a way I really like, by passing the time with voices.
Hanging Out with Friends
I like to chat and drink wine with my friends, and for the night never to finish. When you’re doing that, I think the most important thing is not to have any expectations about what’s going to happen. It’s best to just have a drink and go with the flow. That’s the kind of time when my partner might say something new and revelatory to me. We have a lot of things to say to each other, so it’s a wonderful surprise when all of a sudden a different topic comes up and I discover something new about the person I’ve been with for 20 years. When that happens, I don’t want the conversation to end, ever.
For an ideal night in with friends, we’ll drink white wine, ideally Condrieu, and we’ll be in my living room, where there’s a fireplace. I’m not someone who has a big group of friends, but I love to hang out and drink wine with my film friends, who are mostly directors: Justine Triet; Rebecca Zlotowski, who directed me in my new film, Other People’s Children; Catherine Corsini and her wife; Marie-Ange Luciani, a very good producer who made 120 BPM, and her girlfriend, Claire Burger, who’s a talented director. All these women are very funny and they never go to sleep before 5 a.m. I don’t know how they do it, but somehow they do. We drink and talk and someone will play my piano and it’s just a lot of fun.
When I think about these times, I have a lot of images in my head of us smiling, of moments when we are with each other and watch each other and feel great and think, “Maybe I’m happy now.”