Suzanne Clément – Sitting on the Edge of Marlene
Often seen side by side with friend and frequent collaborator Xavier Dolan, for whom she’s made three films, 46 year old actress Suzanne Clément has seen her career skyrocket in the past five years, thanks in part to her work with Dolan, but also to the sheer force of her talent. Clément has won eleven major awards and is experiencing a huge career uptick. Her latest film Sitting on the Edge of Marlene from director Ana Valine is further testament to her talent as she plays the addicted mother of a girl who forces her into the caretaker role. The performance is breathtaking. We spoke with Clément from Montreal.
First of all, congratulations on your Best Supporting Actress wins and the world wide love for Mommy.
It’s amazing! It’s everywhere. In France it was crazy. I’ve been working in France since December and a lot of people have seen it and people stop me in the street. Amazing.
Does it feel odd making films with directors other than Xavier? I wonder if other directors are intimidated.
No. I’ve worked with others but it is a privilege to work with somebody a few times because you get to know the person more. Xavier is brilliant young guy and a friend and we have this fulfilling relationship that is interesting and complex. It makes the work even more interesting. But I love to discover other people like Michael Rowe whom I worked on Rest Home in November, an Australian director in Mexico who is such an interesting person. He has a very different way of approaching work, he’s so involved emotionally with his characters and precise and he wants it to feel real. I’ve worked with four directors since the fall of 2014, Philippe Falardeau’s Guibord for s’en va-t-en guerre, and Audrey Estrougo’s Taularde in France. That was totally different, she’s very bold, very involved and had to fight so much to make her films, a warrior. Then I worked on Belgian director Jean-Jacques Zilbermann’s To Life and only came back a week ago. He makes Westerns in France, everyone with few words like Clint Eastwood’s films of the 70’s.
Marlene was so different. I think it’s the character I most enjoyed doing in the past few years. Half of what I did was what I wanted to do and the other half I should have done!
Your character’s relationship to her young daughter is tumultuous. Is it hard playing a role at such a pitch for so long?
It actually took a while to get in but once I was in, it was hard to get out because it was as much fun to lose ground. She is totally out of balance and there is enjoyment in going there. Also it was my first movie outside Quebec, so it wasn’t my habit. It helped because I was in Vancouver living in a hotel with no distractions and could only care about Marlene.
When you play a woman like this who is complicated, addicted and a potential danger to her child, do you have to like or love her?
Yes. It has to be for me. I wish I could do it differently but it’s not my path I’ve used. It’s a process and reading the script is when it happens. The first time I read a script I think is important and it takes me a long time, instead of an hour, it takes 3 or 4 hours, really trying to get into it and discovering stuff. Your first impression is very important.
You artistic energy is so high, you’re like a ray of power.
I am an energetic person, a Taurus, a bull and to get myself off balance I need isolation, like a hotel. It was like an experiment for the past few years for me the way I live.
What have those changes been?
I took a sabbatical year before I started all these films. I totally needed to live on a personal level quite different from what I was, so I took off with friends to live with a friend and experienced things I wanted for characters… and that year became almost 3 years during those I did Laurence Anyways, which I wouldn’t have done it the way I did without that year. I traveled alone a lot and I’ve sat in cafés for hours watching people and talking to people I don’t know. I went to Morocco for 2 months alone. I told a friend I was going for the weekend and came back two months later. I was also in Tel Aviv alone and I didn’t know what hotel I was going to but a week later you know places. It was a great year.
Any thoughts of going to Hollywood?
I would love to go to America!