Interview: Julie Delpy Talks ‘Lolo’, Sociopaths, and Women in Comedy

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Julie Delpy has been acting since the 1980s and has become a well-known name in the independent film world, most probably notable to American audiences for her role in Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise” series. Born and raised in Paris, France, Delpy is nonsensical and has a vision for comedy.

During a phone interview, Delpy took the time to discuss her latest film, “Lolo,” which she wrote and directed. The film follows Delpy’s character, a divorced 40-something, as she navigates a new relationship (with Dany Boone). But what she doesn’t anticipate is her son, Lolo (Vincent Lacoste), a sociopath with attachment issues, who is intent on destroying the relationship and keeping his mom to himself.

Delpy talked about comedy, women openly discussing sex onscreen, and how sociopaths both intrigue and scare her.

You can read the interview below! “Lolo” is now in theaters.

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The film is a comedy about this young man with attachment issues. How did you go about setting a balance between his issues and keeping it comedic?

The film is inspired by a movie I saw as a kid called “Bad Seed.” And it’s not just about that, it’s about falling in love in your forties and starting over. And also, how are the parents. If you do everything right… I mean, there isn’t something tremendously wrong with Lolo, but he is who he is. So she [Delpy’s character] must have fed the tendency that he has to have a lack of empathy, or kind of a narcissism. I’m pretty fascinated by narcissists. You know, they’re doing quite well in life and socially. But they’re very destructive. And how do you become like that? I’m kind of a naive person, have never manipulated anything or anyone, and so when I meet sociopaths, I’ve always been fascinated. It’s like, “What happened to you?” Something must have happened. And sometimes it’s a bunch of things and sometimes nothing at all. It’s kind of scary. So, as a parent, what do you do, right or wrong, to raise a functioning child?

As a mom yourself, how much did you draw from your own experiences?

The truth is, nothing at all. My son is a bundle of empathy. He’s like the opposite. But the question of why a child is full of empathy and why one is completely not, it’s a complex issue. The only thing that I drew from my life is that it’s not a simple task. That, I’m aware of.

Image from the movie "Lolo"

© 2015 France 2 Cinéma − All rights reserved.

Some of my favorite scenes in the film are between you and Ariane [Karen Viard]. It’s refreshing to have females openly talk about sex onscreen and be able to be crude. 

I think there’s something scary about it for men. That women can make fun of sexuality. That women don’t take or think that male sexuality is something sacred, that it should be revered like a god. That women can have fun talking about sex is something you don’t see too often in film. Often films are written by men and they kind of don’t want women to make fun of sex. I think it makes them uncomfortable. I think men who are comfortable with themselves don’t have that issue.

And it has been more socially acceptable in the past for men to discuss sex and not women, so that’s hopefully changing. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Much more comfortable. I don’t know why it’s been more accepted. Probably because we’re at the beginning of sexual revolution. Forty years ago, women couldn’t have bank accounts in France. It’s not long ago that women weren’t considered equal to men. In theory, we’re equal to men [laughs]. Not in paycheck or in opportunity.

Image from the movie "Lolo"

© 2015 France 2 Cinéma − All rights reserved.

The character of Jean-René is played for a lot of laughs. He’s the outsider coming to Paris and you can definitely see the difference. Is that difference something you distinctly thought about when writing the screenplay?

Well, you know France has a very different dynamic. Because either you’re from Paris or from the province. In America, you have LA and New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. So many cities that if you’re from there, no one will make fun of you. Paris is just Paris. The entire fashion world is in Paris, the movie business is in Paris, all the business is in Paris. People have a tendency to be a little snobbish in Paris. Either you’re Parisian or you’re just provincial. And it was fun to show the kind of nasty, Parisian tendency. And also show foreigners that it’s not just foreigners having a hard time in Paris, it’s everybody [laughs]! And it would be the same with someone coming from a small town arriving in New York. If you got lost on the subway, no one will be kind to you.

Would you like to explore sociopaths in a drama one day? 

In a drama, it’s so hard for me to take it seriously. I find those people [sociopaths]so annoying that it’s almost like you want to laugh at them more than anything. On top of it, they’re not as exciting as psychopaths who kill people, which is what movies are usually about. In a way, comedy is the best way to deal with them. My favorite comedy, it’s called “Kings of Comedy,” and it’s about a bunch of sociopaths. One sociopath kidnapping another one. It’s like the ultimate sociopath comedy.

What are the primary projects you’re working on right now? 

I’m working on a drama that I’m probably going to shoot this summer. And if I don’t shoot that one, then I’m probably going to shoot another comedy. A period piece that’s a comedy and takes place in America. I’m going to do one or the other. But I really have to shoot a film this fall because I can’t spend five years between movies. I’ve had the screenplay for three years, I’m getting there!

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About Author

Mae is a Washington, DC-based film critic, entertainment journalist and Weekend Editor at Heroic Hollywood. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), she's a geek who loves discussing movies and TV. She is also a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. If she's not at the movies, she's catching up on her superhero TV-watching, usually with a glass of wine in hand.

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