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Maternal Instinct

Graphic novelist and first-time Iranian director Marjane Satrapi has a hit on her hands with the animated feature "Persepolis," the film of her book detailing her coming-of-age in post-revolution Iran.

Catherine Deneuve with daughter Chiara Mastroianni.

Catherine Deneuve with daughter Chiara Mastroianni.

Daniel Vanturelli/Wire Iamge

Graphic novelist and first-time Iranian director Marjane Satrapi has a hit on her hands with the animated feature “Persepolis,” the film of her book detailing her coming-of-age in post-revolution Iran. Of course, if there was any doubt her acclaimed books would make good screen material, the casting of Danielle Darrieux, Catherine Deneuve and Chiara Mastroianni as her grandmother, mother and herself, respectively, sealed the deal.

“It was wonderful to voice this character,” says Deneuve, 63, dressed in her signature Yves Saint Laurent, chain-smoking skinny cigarettes and sipping white wine. “You sort of have to overdo it a little knowing your voice has to be stronger than normal. And of course, it’s a relief to not have a camera rolling because you are working completely out of your head.”

But playing an animated woman was only a momentary respite from the pressures of looking good. “I’m dealing with [aging on camera] because I know I will have to deal with it more and more. Not that I like it, but it’s a fact, you know? And also I’m lucky because in France I still have interesting parts to play,” said Deneuve, who last week just wrapped her 100th film. “I still have a great desire to do different films. I’d love to work with American directors like [Francis Ford] Coppola, [Martin] Scorsese and Jonathan Demme. But looking back at my career, I have nothing to be ashamed of. You are made of a lot of things, the stresses, the disasters.”

As for Deneuve’s daughter — who was cast to voice Satrapi’s character after her famous mum was already signed on — Mastroianni found she easily related to Satrapi’s story. “Anyone who has had the experience of loss or not being able to express themselves can relate to this film,” she says. “It goes way beyond Iran. There is something universal about it. Marjane described a terrible and sad situation with such a distance and a sense of humor. People these days cry on themselves, but she never allows self-pity and that was very compelling.”

The proud Deneuve boasted, “Chiara is very specific and does only what she wants to do. Nobody’s going to conform her. She has a strong personality.”

This story first appeared in the May 29, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

For her part, Mastroianni says she was lucky to grow up with normal parents — her father is actor Marcello Mastroianni — who neither encouraged her to nor discouraged her from becoming an actress. “At one point, it just informed me,” she says simply. Now, she seems as much a part of the French cinema as her mother. “It’s a very special kind of circus, and of course there are extremes and vanity, but Cannes is magic,” she says.