SINGAPORE — In recent years, the celebrated French actress Isabelle Huppert has started working with a few Asian film directors. She appeared as a troubled mother in The Sea Wall (2008) directed by Cambodian film director Rithy Panh, as an aid worker snatched by Islamic extremist group Abu Sayyaf in Filipino director Brillante Mendoza's Captive (2012), and most recently, she played a triple role in Korean film director Hong Sang-soo's movie In Another Country (2012).
At a recent small press lunch in Singapore, where she attended the Societe Generale Private Banking 2nd Rendezvous with French Cinema film festival, it was clear the celebrated and award winning actress would love to work with more Asian directors.
She asked reporters to write down the names of their favorite Singaporean film directors and mentioned that just the night before she had met with Eric Khoo, Singapore’s most internationally known director, and said she would love to work with him at some stage, while names of famous Chinese and Korean film directors rolled off her tongue during the one-and-a-half hour conversation.
“I’m always ready to meet new directors. That’s my cue,” she laughed.
Often described as one of France’s most hardworking actresses, and one of its most gifted, Huppert is showing no signs of slowing down as she ages gracefully. In 2013, the actress will turn 60 and she remains as busy as ever, a rare feat in the film industry.
Over the years, she has filmed with the crème de la crème of French film directors and she admits that to this day, she still chooses projects primarily for their director rather than the role. Ask her to name a few favorites and she politely declined, but asked to name some she would like to work with and the list is long: Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Edward Young, Zhang Ke Jia, Lou Ye.
Two weeks ago she finished Catherine Breillat’s movie Abuse of Weakness - 'Abus De Faiblesse'- based on the director’s autobiographical book which centered on her experiences with a con man, Christophe Rocancourt.
But before that comes to the screen, Huppert will have several more movies released all of which were shot this year: Marco Bellocchio’s drama Dormant Beauty about euthanasia, Guillaume Nicloux’s La Religieuse, based on the controversial novel by Denis Diderot, and Serge Bozon’s police comedy Tip Top.
The first half of 2013 will be equally busy for Huppert. In February, she says she will reunite with her Copacabana (2010) director Marc Fitoussi for the comedy “Follie Bergere,” where she plays a farmer, and then in June, she plans to return to the stage to perform in Sydney with Cate Blanchett in The Maids by Jean Genet.
The play is loosely based on the true-life tale of the Papin sisters, housemaids convicted of brutally killing their boss in 1933, and whose tale inspired Claude Chabrol’s 1995 La Ceremonie, in which Huppert starred opposite Sandrine Bonnaire.
The movie star admits she finds the idea of acting on stage in an English-speaking role a bit daunting, pointing out she has only done it once before, in 1996, when she played Mary Queen of Scots in Adrian Schiller's play Mary Stuart at the National Theatre.
“I’m waiting for the script. We’ll start rehearsing in April. I’m sure it will be alright. We’re going to have fun together,” she mused, adding she believes the play will eventually tour, though not immediately. She’s already committed to perform another role on stage at the Odeon Theatre in Paris toward the end of 2013.