Lou Doillon is familiar to fashion folks from Paris to Los Angeles. The daughter of Jane Birkin and director Jacques Doillon, she got her acting start at age five in Dad’s film “Kung Fu Master,” and has since captured the attention of style watchers with her tomboyish ensembles and appearances in campaigns for Miu Miu and Givenchy (she also recently designed a denim collection, Lou Doillon by Lee Cooper). But Doillon, 26, is no slouch in the substance department, either. As she puts it: “You can like fashion and be reading two books a day.” Last year, Doillon created a lecture series, “Lettres Intimes,” comprising words by some of her favorite authors, such as Apollinaire, Maupassant, Céline and Colette. French director Arthur Nauzyciel caught one of her performances and the two are now collaborating on a stage adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s film “Autumn Sonata.” And beginning tonight, Nauzyciel is directing Doillon in a three-day run of Samuel Beckett’s nine-page-long sentence “The Image,” part of the French Institute Alliance Française’s festival “Crossing the Line.” Doillon took a break from rehearsals to chat with WWD about Beckett’s brain-taxing words, escaping her family’s shadow and theater’s appeal.
WWD: This is your stage debut — how did you become involved with this project?
Lou Doillon: I wanted to do a play, but I didn’t really know how to start, because it’s a whole problem of being legitimate in France because I’m famous because of my parents. I didn’t want to start theater with a big show, like “Romeo and Juliet” or something dramatic. I thought I might as well start through the little door.
WWD: Were you very familiar with Beckett before this?
L.D.: I love Beckett and I love the absurd writers very, very much. I don’t like bourgeois writing very much in the sense when it’s an overflow of feelings. What I like with Beckett is that he’s very reserved. He’s not there to make you cry, he’s just extremely sharp and precise on the sadness of common people, which I find very moving. I like the literature of losers — it’s little sad moments of humanity that I can relate to much more than grand heroic feelings.
WWD: It’s an awfully complicated text — how did you prepare for this?
L.D.: Beckett is hell because he will say the same thing of, you know, “they hold hands turn right turn left.” He’ll say it again the page after and again the page after, so if for one second you’re not attentive, suddenly you’ll skip four pages because it’s exactly the same start of the sentence but it’s not the same end. So that was actually a month and a half of heavy, heavy work on the dialogue.
WWD: That’s a lot of effort and then you only perform it for three days….
L.D.: In a way, that’s what I love about theater, that it’s hardly worth it, moneywise and timewise, compared to movies and to fashion. I’ve been working really hard for the last month and it’s getting very intense now, and then it’s going to be three nights and over. And I’m starting a movie in six days in Switzerland that I haven’t even started work on! It’s a French movie called “Bazar” — a lovely story of an elderly woman, who falls in love with a young man, and her daughter. It’s about all of our visions of taboo and what’s right and what’s not. And how often youngsters are much more boring and old-fashioned than their parents.
WWD: Do you feel that way?
L.D.: Yes, sometimes. When I see my mother’s life, sometimes I’m like, “Whoa, I wouldn’t be doing that!”