NEW YORK — Looking at Juliette Binoche’s recent roles, one could suspect the actress has made it her mission to become a cinematic spokeswoman on immigration issues. In 2005’s “Caché,” she played a wife whose husband was hiding a dark secret about his relationship with a Muslim family, and in Anthony Minghella’s latest film, “Breaking and Entering,” opening this Friday, she plays a Bosnian refugee living in London. And her next part will be as a Parisian social worker. Yet Binoche chalks it all up to a mixture of coincidence and fate.
“It’s just happening like that,” she says of her socially minded lineup. “It interests me, of course, because it’s part of our life and consciousness but…it’s more internal and mysterious. How do you connect with a role and a film? And my tendency is to think that we’re meant for a role. We’re meant to say something to the world.”
In “Breaking and Entering,” that message would be the consequences when opposing worlds collide. Binoche plays Amira, who works as a seamstress out of an apartment she shares with her teenage son, Miro. They cross paths with Will (Jude Law), an architect whose new, flashy office poses an enticing burglary target to Miro and his friends. Will, whose family life with his partner, Liv (Robin Wright Penn), and her autistic daughter is proving a challenge, tracks Miro home and falls for Amira, who remains fiercely protective of her son.
“She really made the decision very early on that she was going to do anything to save her child, because I think if she didn’t have a son, she probably would have stayed in Sarajevo,” explains Binoche, who went to Sarajevo to speak with women there as research for playing Amira.
The daughter of two actor-artists, she knows something of the immigrant struggle. Her grandmother left Poland in 1939 to escape the war, and growing up, Binoche always felt a certain distance from her French contemporaries.
“I became an actress when I was in a courtyard at school. I didn’t feel I belonged and so my only escape was the courtyard, where I could imagine any characters and I could look for another life somehow,” she recalls. “I mean, I can feel very close to anybody, but at the same time, there’s a certain independent way of being or looking at things that, yes, I’m with you, but yet I’m on my own.”
This story first appeared in the January 25, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The actress, now a luminous 42, is balancing raising her two children (a son, 13, and a daughter, seven) with a stream of upcoming films, including “The Red Balloon” from Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien and “Dan in Real Life” with Steve Carell and Dane Cook. And if her nighttime reveries are to be believed, could there be another child on the horizon?
“I dreamt I was pregnant last night,” laughs Binoche, “and I dreamt I kept it. That was the scariest part.”