Live for Cinema: Laetitia Casta on Arbitrage and the Venice Film Festival

Creating an honest mistress and the trouble with only giving The Master one award.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


16 to 19-year-old Fred was looking at pretty pictures of Laetitia Casta in magazines. Now 34-year-old Fred got to geek out with her about movies. Kids, your dreams can come true. Casta has become a successful actor and still represents fashion, makeup and cosmetics among many other pursuits. We got her on the phone from Paris, where she’d just returned from serving as a juror at the Venice International Film Festival, with a one day stop in Los Angeles for the premiere of Arbitrage, in which she plays an artist having an affair with a financial exec (Richard Gere).


CraveOnline: I’m impressed you’ve been traveling so much. Venice, to LA for the premiere, and back to Paris. How do you stay healthy when you’re traveling so much?

Laetitia Casta: [Laughs] I’m not actually. You know, I guess I’m really passionate about what I do so I don’t think about it.


I just know traveling is hard on me.

Yeah, sometimes it is. Sometimes I’m completely lost but it’s always nice to talk about cinema and live for cinema so it’s fine.


How much could you relate to your character in Arbitrage? Could her story have been yours if you hadn’t been so successful at a young age?

I feel like I tried in this movie to make a young woman who’s really in love and really honest. Actually, she has talent and she didn’t need him. She wants to be independent so it’s not like the girl who goes to the rich man, you know what I mean? When I did that character, I did it because that character was quite honest and interesting and she was talking about real love. If that could happen to me, if I didn’t do what I did, what can I say? It has nothing to do with what you do. It has to do with how you feel, your emotional part. That’s why I’m an actress today. I can talk about emotion, I can talk about love, it could be tragedy.


Is she actually the first character in the movie to see Robert Miller (Gere’s character) for who he is?

In a way, she could be the character with whom the man could finally be able to be himself. But he doesn’t do it because if he does it, everything will fall and he’s so scared that he’s not comfortable losing things. He chooses to lie and to continue what he has, like an empire. This young woman disturbs him in a way but when I read in New York I was quite scared because I was like, “Oh my God, I don’t want to do a caricature of this kind of pretty girl, she’s a mistress.” That’s too boring for me. So when I arrived in New York and I met the director and I started to talk with Richard Gere, we started to talk about no, she’s in love. She’s honest. I said, “Are you too?” And I was hoping he was. He said, “Yes, for me, he is in love.” I was so happy because we could do something more special, not just a pathetic thing. We could go over and do something more profound.


I agree. She realizes he won’t let himself really love because then his house of cards will fall down.

Yeah, but she was in love and you know the scene when they fight and she says, “But I don’t need your help. The only thing I want is you to be real.” Finally when he said to her, “Okay, we’re going to go to the countryside” finally she believed in it. She thinks okay, that can happen, because when the guy doesn’t come to the gallery, she’s so disappointed. She realizes she will never change him. At this minute, he realized he might love her and he doesn’t want to lose her. So finally he goes to her and he says, “Okay, fine, I’m going to go away with you. We’re going to go to the countryside, be together and no money.” He doesn’t have to come back to his wife and she will find out they are together.


I was excited you were part of the Venice Film Festival jury too. Are you a great film lover yourself?

Yeah, yeah, I love to see films and for me it was an occasion to be able to talk about it and think about it and share things. It’s a big responsibility but in a way it was so exciting.


The winner was a Korean film, Pieta. Have you been a fan of Korean cinema?

Oh, not Korean, I worked with a Taiwan director, Tsai Ming-liang so I’m a bit used to this kind of Korean/Taiwanese cinema. They’re really crazy. They go really far. It was really interesting because have Pieta showing in the jury so we can talk about it. I think with film you have to go over the nationality. It’s how the film is going to move you. It’s beyond nationality, it’s beyond religion, it’s how the movie’s going to touch you, affect you, move you. The Kim Ki-Duk movie was a wonderful film.


What was it like to deliberate the choices with the other jury members Michael Mann, Marina Abramovic, Peter Chan and all the others?

Well, I have to be honest, in the beginning I was impressed. It was amazing, any voice of the jury was important, even mine. I was surprised how involved I was in it and sharing my feelings and my emotional thoughts but not only that, my point of view. Actually, I think it was a nice jury. We really got along all together, but Michael Mann is a great man I have to say. A wonderful man.


What were your thoughts on The Master when you could only give it one award or the other?

It’s complicated because sometimes you want to give everything to one movie but you can’t because you have rules that you have to accept. I understand that so give a chance to another movie to exist and have praise. The Master is a wonderful film honestly, and the actors, Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman are incredible. It could be the Golden Lion but also I think that movie in America is going to win a lot of prizes. Sometimes when they don’t win in Venice they will win in America, the American films.


Yeah, The Master will have lots of other chances.

Yeah, but you know when you give the Golden Lion to a film, you cannot give it another prize. It’s complicated. How the actors play in that movie is just amazing.


I got to see Spring Breakers in Toronto. What did you think of that movie?

Well, we had a lot of fun seeing it, we have to say. It’s complicated because we have only five prizes. We saw the Kim Ki-Duk [film] and we saw The Master and those films were really above and beyond. And so different so it’s really complicated. It’s quite sad. Emotionally we were sad sometimes but there are only five prizes and we saw 30 movies. Yeah, this film was just crazy but I cannot say anything about how we choose a movie because it’s too personal how the jury did it. We don’t like to justify it but I had a lot of fun seeing it I have to say.


Right, I wasn’t asking why you didn’t choose it. I’m just excited to talk to you about films we’ve both seen.

No, but I want to say to you why, but I realize I can’t because it’s not right to the others. Just to tell you when we saw it, we said, “Okay, we’re going to go on a nice trip now” because this movie was fun. Lots of fun to see.


You got to see 30 movies for Venice, what are the next movies you’re looking forward to seeing?

I’m going back to France so I want to see French movies. Oh, I want to see Killer Joe. I want to see that movie. It’s mostly French movies I want to see now.


How was your experience at Sundance with Arbitrage?

Oh, I love the Sundance Festival and it was so cool and easygoing. It’s a nice way to approach cinema. It’s accessible. To give a chance to a young director, to a new talent to exist and make their film able to show to the public, so I think it’s a great festival and it was so exciting for Arbitrage to find distribution.


Did you get to watch any films at Sundance?

No, I didn’t have time because I did interviews and things like that, but I really enjoyed being there. It’s really cool, you know.


War of the Buttons is just coming out in the States in October. What do you play in that?

I play a young French woman who became a resistance [fighter.] It was interesting to do that character because she keeps a secret with a young girl that she takes in her house. She cannot tell anyone and she says that young girl is her cousin or whatever, but it was interesting to do that because I was wondering to myself in a war, what would I do? Would I help someone? Would I take the risk? It was nice to go through that and try to understand the fear, try to understand the paranoia, try to understand all those things. It was nice.


Was acting always part of your plan?

Oh, definitely. It’s like breathing for me.