Emmanuelle Riva Gives Perfect Interviews

The best interviews either confirm something that viewers have always hoped to be true or surprises them utterly; Emmanuelle Riva does both. Of course she is too tired to attend the BAFTAs; of course she is happiest when she is working. She is everything we want an 85-year-old Frenchwoman in the middle of an unexpected career resurgence and more.

She is thrilled at her good fortune:

"This film is such a wonderful, marvellous, extraordinary gift. I cannot tell you how happy I am. Completely happy," Riva says. "The whole thing is like a fairytale. Everybody knows there are very few roles for older actresses. Almost none, in fact. And that is what makes all this so exceptional."

But she is also not coming to your party:

"I cannot possibly come to London. How can I? I have to go to the Césars and the Oscars and already I am so, so tired and so, so harassed," she says with all the good grace she can muster. "For five months people have not left me alone. I have done 15 interviews a day, sometimes. After the Oscars I intend to rest and I can tell you that I cannot wait until it is after the Oscars."

She can see right through your leading questions:

"What do you mean do I prefer being called Madame or Mademoiselle? Are you trying to find out if I am married? If so I can tell you that I have never wanted to be married and you can call me Mademoiselle or Madame as you wish. Perhaps at my age Madame has more charm, it's more dignified. But I could call myself Mademoiselle."

She knows what is like to be forgotten, to go without work:

"Because I turned down offers, they stopped calling. They forgot me. You make an empty space and the empty space comes to you."

And when she works, she works:

I'm very rigorous and demanding toward myself. There's a sense of confidence and loyalty that arises from a sense of precision and those circumstances. There's an intensity on set, for me it's so important, this passion, because I'm only happy when I'm passionate about the work that I'm involved in.

She will not repeat herself and she will not be sentimental:

"I've never wanted to be a star, never." She added: "I tried to do things that pleased me, and I needed to do various things. It is dreadful to see actors reproducing the same image constantly...My instructions were ‘no sentimentalism,' " she said. "From that moment on, I understood everything."

She has lived, damn you:

"I wanted to live another life and many lives at once," she said. "Acting makes you live plenty of lives."

[Photo via Getty Images]