“Me, without children I would have been someone else”

The singer and actress has always admired Marilyn Monroe. Sixty years after her disappearance, Vanessa Paradis takes on the role of her idol in an evocation of the cult film the misfits, under the lens of Anton Corbijn. Before we resume the tour of his play momthe Chanel muse shares with us her fascination with the American star.

What do young girls dream of? On the walls of her bedroom, in Villiers-sur-Marne, near Paris, Vanessa Paradis pinned pictures of Romy Schneider and Marilyn Monroe. Not quite the goddesses of her time, but the teenager was not like the others, known by heart Caesar and Rosalie et Men prefer blondes, and became an instant star at age 14 by getting us into Joe’s cab. Musings on the XX .’s Most Famous Platinum Blondee century have never left the mind of the one who became an adored pop star and a powerful actress, as comfortable in drama as in comedy. It seemed obvious to us to offer her to take on the role of her idol (about which she is unbeatable) on the occasion of the sixty years of the disappearance of the one who can be identified by a single first name, Marilyn, death in Los Angeles on Aug. 4, 1962, under unexplained circumstances, drug overdose, suicide, murder (our guest leans towards the latter hypothesis).

Vanessa Paradis chose The MisfitsThe Misfits, by John Huston, 1961), a disenchanted twilight film in which Monroe plays with an overwhelming truth, spits out her mischief in a famous scene, a frail, pale figure lost in the scorched plains of Nevada. It is on the white sands of the forest of Fontainebleau that Anton Corbijn imitated the set of this cursed film in black and white with a platinum Vanessa Paradis, more than life. The star photographer and director crossed paths when she was 20, and again last year when he photographed her at the presentation of Chanel’s spring-summer haute couture, of which Vanessa Paradis is the emblematic ambassador. They really wanted to meet for an exceptional occasion. Engine !

Madame Figaro † – How did this passion for Marilyn Monroe come about?
Vanessa Paradise. – I must have been 5 or 6 years old when I came across a book in my parents’ library, it was a biography, the kind of book with a few pictures in the middle pages. It was as if I was struck by the hallucinatory beauty of this woman I knew nothing about. Pictures led me to movies, and movies to records. Marilyn Monroe has never left my mind. I watched his movies over and over, later I read every biography, I saw every documentary. A adoration cannot be explained. There is beauty, femininity, grace, delicacy and at the same time something tragic that we feel, that we feel. Everything attracts me, everything pleases me, her appearance, her smile, the way she moves. And this incredible modernity for the time. There’s something about her that we hadn’t seen anywhere else: this relationship with the body, this freedom of the body without ever being vulgar, a totally assertive body, but one that childhood didn’t give up either.

Do you remember the first movie you saw with her?
Probably Men prefer blondesI’ve always loved musicals, and the Howard Hawks movie is a little girl’s dream, with its technicolor, costumes and songs. I’ve seen a lot too The river of no return et Some love it when it’s hot naturally. Later I found out The Misfits and lesser known movies, such as bother me tonight in which she is already an extraordinary, honest, powerful and totally disturbing actress in the role of an unbalanced babysitter. And then of course there is the singer, she revered Ella Fitzgerald and you can hear it: she is a divine jazz singer, with a velvety voice and a wonderful vibrato. When I listen to her Lazy, by Irving Berlin, I am enchanted.

Everything attracts me, everything pleases me, her looks, her smile, the way she moves

What does Marilyn Monroe’s dark side evoke in you?
I think of Fragments, a collection of intimate writings published long after his death, a terribly intrusive book, but which enlightens us about his mind and his thinking. We discover its depth, its sensitivity and also its suffering, its fears, its doubts, the fear of madness. He was a tormented soul who never stopped making progress and fulfilling himself.

They say you have a lot of things that belonged to Monroe.
I am not a collector, but I have a few things that have been given to me. A pair of shoes, for example, sublime white pumps. We have the same shoe size, I sometimes put them on, take a few steps and put them away because I’m too afraid to deform them. I also have a coat, a cape, a hat that I sometimes wear, but very rarely because they are invaluable to me. I once went snooping around the villa she owned in Brentwood where she died. J’ai mis longtemps avant de me décider à m’y rendre, et j’étais très émue de découvrir depuis l’extérieur cette hacienda modeste, sa seule maison, où elle n’a pas vécu longtemps, la pauvre chérie, only.

You lived in Hollywood, the cradle of cinema. Is it something that brings you closer to her?
When I lived there, I led a whole family life: the children, the school. There was nothing Hollywood about my lifestyle, I ate out very little and I only went to the Oscars twice. It was great to see so many famous actors, it was my dream of American cinema, but not my American dream at all, because I never aspired to be a part of it. Maybe because it’s asking too much of yourself, it means you’re only available for that and probably making movies you don’t want to make in order to reach those you target. There was no reason for me to start this obstacle course. But younger, after filming white weddingmy first movie, i did some unlikely castings like the one from indecent proposal, for the role of Demi Moore! It made absolutely no sense, and in retrospect I find it very strange. I quickly put the kibosh on this kind of experience, and I don’t regret it: I am fulfilled in France.

Vanessa Paradis, la cover story

Monroe was manipulated and, according to some, manipulative. Is there a way to properly deal with the excesses of fame?
Manipulative, I don’t like that word; what’s certain is that she was a good communicator, but I don’t know if that was part of a strategy. She was smart and knew how to use her image. The image is a weapon. Chez Marilyn is also a call to be watched and loved. And then there’s a context, the 1950s, and a country, America. Actors belonged to studios, they were stuck, the emancipation began the next decade. Marilyn began her career in the late 1940s, and probably her body and her seduction allowed her to destabilize her interlocutors and, in a way, to be heard and to exist. She still managed to impose something very special: a freedom to be yourself, in the broad sense, the affirmation of a sensual body.

When you started out, you yourself were cataloged as a woman-child…
The context is really different, it’s not the same era, not the same culture, not the same difficulties. But Monroe’s problem remains one today: the place of women in society and in the workplace. As far as I’m concerned it’s true, when I started out I was first considered a woman-child and a singer with no real talent. We wondered what I was doing there. The success was so overwhelming that it had nothing to do with what I had to offer. It took me time to prove that there was something valuable inside me. Marilyn Monroe, she didn’t know the recognition she deserved in her lifetime. It happened after. However, she did everything she could to get ahead, she moved to New York, she got closer to Lee Strasberg, she started her production company, things that were absolutely unconventional for the time, but we didn’t stop taking it seriously.

In video, Vanessa Paradis, César for the best young female hope (1990)

Have you suffered from image distortions?
The image, we certainly take it from you, but we also give it, we play with it. It’s an exchange. I’m from the generation of music videos and record covers, everything went through that, it was a way of presenting yourself to the world. In the beginning it may have been painful, you can’t stop people from talking, judging, sometimes being dishonest, yes I was hurt sometimes, but in the end your work remains the heart and essence of your work. To succeed, I had to cling to concrete things: music, concerts, movies. The rest is part of the game: to be loved, not to be loved. Recognition is essential, but not only in the artistic professions. All work deserves attention and, if possible, appreciation.

You like Marilyn Monroe and Romy Schneider, two actresses who were reportedly burned by the cinema…
Better through life, even if the cinema didn’t have to take care of things. They are two women who have lived complicated lives, childhoods and loves. And, in Marilyn’s case, an aggravating circumstance, it was the time when the actors were totally dependent on drugs without measuring the disastrous health effects. What I do know is that I had incredible parents, who gave me love and trust, who loved me, surrounded me, accompanied me. I’m not saying you can’t get by without this condition – you can choose families other than your own – but it’s much easier to start life with the feeling of being supported. Being an actress is terribly destabilizing, you’re being scrutinized on a giant screen, you’re dependent on the wishes of others and when you’re no longer wanted, it’s over…

Maybe she would have met a man who would have loved her the way she was?

Is there anything else that touches you about Marilyn?
In the dramas of her life, she lost all the children she bore. Mother, she probably would have lived a different life. I, without children, would have been someone else. I don’t think women need to have children to be fulfilled, but I’ve always wanted them, and they’ve shaped the woman I am today.

How do you imagine Marilyn Monroe if she had lived?
I can’t imagine her as a grown woman, let alone an old lady. She would be 96 years old. In 1962, at the time of her death, she had projects, a production house. She was a woman ruled by her heart: perhaps she would have met a man who would have loved her the way she was?

Vanessa Paradis is going on tour with the play in September mom, doand Samuel Benchetrit.

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