Cross interview.- Popular, demanding, the two actresses admire each other, but the beautiful story, that of their friendship, is written outside the sets. Maternity, sorority, celebrity… They tell us what unites them so much.
Two actresses love each other. Naturally and publicly, since both radiate on social networks. Leïla Bekhti and Adèle Exarchopoulos, ten years apart, are inseparable. In life, not on screen where (except the series The flame and its sequel The torch, where they meet) they have done everything precisely to avoid playing together, perhaps in order not to take the risk of undermining this bond which unites them. Friendship is priceless and fragile. They know it. Is friendship rare enough – between people, between actresses moreover – to make a subject out of it? Perhaps, but undoubtedly the center of our desire to bring them together on our cover is not only there.
But rather understand what sustains so deeply two girls who have our admiration, not to say… our friendship. This bond, magnificent, we wanted them to let it speak, to be surprised to say it, since modesty wants friendship to be precisely the only thing that two friends do not evoke. In the cinema, they continue to travel apart. Each in their own way, they are stars on common ground: mainstream films and auteur films. Remember that Adèle is the only actress in the world (along with Léa Seydoux) to have won a Palme d’or (The Life of Adele, 2013) validated by Steven Spielberg. What do they have in common, seen from the outside? The beauty, the banter, the sense of derision. These are girls that audiences love to see on the big screen.
Something else ? In an era of one-upmanship, they found the right distance on their gilded Instagram accounts: intimate, endearing, but never touted. In short, two girls of their time, two successful (Caesarized) actresses, two mothers. In the coming weeks you will find Adèle Exarchopoulos in The Five Devils, by Léa Mysius, who made a strong impression at Cannes, in Smoking makes you cough of the delirious Quentin Dupieux, and in Passages, of the sensitive American Ira Sachs. Leïla, she will be in 2023 on the poster of The New Woman, the first film by Léa Tododov. But this afternoon, those we would like to hear are two women who share a little more than a poster: a vision of life and human relationships.
Miss Figaro. – Do you remember your first meeting?
Leïla Bekhti. – I saw Adèle for the first time on a screen in 2013, in The Life of Adele, of Kechiche. She bursts the screen there, we know it. As a spectator but also as an actress, I learn a lesson. So just looking at her, I can guess how this girl likes people in real life. And immediately, I tell myself that, if by chance we met, I was going to like it. Leaving the room, I wrote to him, spontaneously.
Adèle Exarchopoulos.- Leïla, I had seen her in Everything that shines, she was one of the actresses in France whose work I followed. With my girlfriends, we were simply fans of her. Which is not so insignificant: Leïla is someone very loved by people. It’s not that common with actors. We admire them but we don’t necessarily love them. Leïla, we realize it quite quickly when we hang out with her, triggers something familiar. It’s rare. And that comes from his integrity. So here it is that at the exit of The Life of Adele, I receive a long message, with the particularity that it speaks to me of empathy. It touched me. Enough to ask her if she wouldn’t like to have coffee with me. She’s up for it, of course, but life takes us back and it doesn’t happen. A year goes by, I find myself working with Tahar (Rahim, Leïla’s companion, editor’s note), on The Anarchists, by Elie Wajeman, and immediately he said to me: “You should meet Leïla, you would get along too well with her…” One evening, he called out to me: “You don’t want to come by the house? Leïla is there…” She then prepares a big Christmas… for people who do not celebrate it. She invites me, while saying to me: “In this case, come early tomorrow afternoon, we will go shopping.” Well…, in general, the next day, we zap. These things promised at midnight, nobody keeps them… But the next day at 2 p.m., here I am in a taxi, caught up in the mission of shopping with Leïla. And this mission, I sometimes have the impression that we are still pursuing it…
On video, The Flambeau, the adventurers of Chupacabra, the teaser
Do you hang out with the same people?
L. B. –Adèle has her group of friends, I have mine. We operate more like a family. Our children are in the same class…
AE – We lived in the same building, not to hang out together like two retarded teenagers, but because it made a lot of things easier, especially everything related to questions of motherhood. To the point that today, we can no longer get angry: we would like to, we would be stuck! Our children are too close!
L. B. – We are coming to a pivotal period in our lives, at ages where existence puts you in the face of hardships. It is in these moments that we measure the ability of our friends to question themselves. Adele’s doubts, I know how to appreciate them. She maintains the momentum of our friendship precisely by constantly nurturing it with her questions. This is probably how our friendship never stalls.
Is she always challenged?
L. B. – No, because our friendship is acquired, even if we must always be vigilant.
AE– Friendship can be compared to the couple: a couple, it talks, it can break from one day to another, fragile attention. You have to be very careful about it.
L. B. – Our children have been a driving force in our history, but if we saw each other only for them or around them, it would end up being burdensome, even dangerous: as if we were slipping towards a purely motherly relationship. Our bond is something different. Something of a clan… to two. Which does not exclude anyone, but puts itself on mute as soon as there are people. On the set of Flambeau (Jonathan Cohen’s wacky series that brought them together, editor’s note), there were a lot of people, a lot of friends in common, and we barely said hello to each other… As if our friendship, to say to each other, to do so, needed more privacy.
Our children have been a driving force in our history
By modesty ?
AE – Is it just modesty? It’s the first time we’ve done a cover together, just the two of us. Our friendship, we never made it a subject, a celebration. From the reserve surely… But I know that these photos together will make us happy. The very first photo did not work: we overplayed the complicity. From the second, it was us.
L. B. – We had to drop our masks and our habits on this shoot.
Working together on a film where you would share the poster, is it possible?
AE “I don’t know if I could. Cheating with Leïla, fabricating situations, feelings, I may not succeed. It would be like having to play with my mother, my brother, not sure that’s a great idea…
L. B. – An actor lies with sincerity. But not with her. I will not arrive there.
Let’s imagine that someone toxic makes a strong impression on one of you, how would the other react…?
AE – We’re wolves! Protectors. People know not to try… (Laughs.) It happens that we don’t agree, on people, on certain projects… I sometimes dread showing him films. I’m sometimes afraid that she sees something in it that I would have missed.
Leïla Bekhti and Adèle Exarchopoulos, the Cover Story
Does this friendship go through words, declarations?
L. B. – It’s more animal. We are quite different, deep down, but there is something obvious between us. Paradoxically, we are not afraid of words either.
Are there duties in friendship?
AE – Yes, but it’s not about feeling indebted.
L. B. – No never. The duty is to succeed in letting the feeling grow.
Leïla, what intimate portrait would you do of Adèle?
L. B. – Once again, I can only mention his empathy for others first. She can be clumsy, but when she realizes she may have hurt, it makes her sick. I feel loved by her: this affection carries me. Life is sweeter when I know she’s there. We walk on affect. With a common horizon, principles.
Adèle, if you had to describe Leïla…
AE – I will draw a girl with integrity, fair and demanding with herself and others. She doesn’t like the posture. When you have a problem, it becomes your problem. Our dilemma becomes his dilemma. She is solid but she assumes her emotions. She has broad shoulders, Leïla. It’s a compass. And then it is surprising.
Our profession can generate excesses that I refuse. And friendship protects me from these traps
You are friends, also do the same job, where, as we know, benevolence and love are principles shared by all…
L. B.– Oui… (Laughs.) That said, our generation has nevertheless evolved in relation to rivalry, to ego. Our friendship is a slider that fixes what is essential and less so.
AE– Lonely people, cut off from reality: this is a distorted portrait of what this profession can create. It can generate excesses that I refuse. And friendship protects me from these traps. Often, in this environment, you are not told the truth. We have seen people get lost in dangerous meanders.
L. B.– This profession is only based on desire. When the phone doesn’t ring, it’s violent. We have all experienced phases of emptiness. Friendship with Adèle means being able to share with someone who listens to you and understands you, because he lives what I live. We put the issues on the table, we reflect, we take a step back, we question ourselves about the clichés to avoid and towards which, sometimes, this profession leads us. And clichés, we have endured a few. So yes, our friendship allowed me to say to myself at such a time: there, I want something else. Or quite simply: there, I want to live more and play less.
Friendship is not renouncing narcissism?
AE– Maybe some actors or actresses let themselves be locked into rivalries, where friendship cannot be achieved. This explains a lot of tension on set. However, as Leïla reminded us, I want to believe that our generation plays this score differently. On the sorority side. We are not going to undo this game of ego, of desire, which the cinema summons. But we can give each other other points of support, like trusting each other.
L. B.– A film is a collective adventure. On a shoot, I don’t hide in my dressing room: I prefer to hang out with the team, experience the shoot as a whole.
AE– This job is ephemeral, vertiginous, but “holds” us as none could. However, fame is not a free pass on the human. On a set, the true nature of people is revealed very quickly. It is sometimes cruel. There is therefore no reason to continue to accept that an actress or an actor forgets to say thank you to the technicians. The question of friendship between actresses must be considered more broadly. It is: how to live this profession? What to do with fame? What does it mean?
L. B.– When can we afford to ask technicians everything, if we do not respect them? On a shoot, everyone is united.