Paris-based actor Bérénice Bejo doesn’t consider herself to be much of a dancer. That sounds unbelievable coming from someone who, as the spirited Peppy Miller, tap danced her way into the heart of movie-lovers across the world when the Oscar-winning silent movie The Artist (2012) released. Soon, she will be seen doing thumkas to Madaari, composed by Amit Trivedi, for the upcoming The Extraordinary Journey of The Fakir.
“Before we shot the song, I rehearsed the number for three weeks. I’m not used to this kind of dancing. I loved being challenged and it was a great experience,” says the 42-year-old actor, who is doing a cameo in Ken Scott’s The Extraordinary Journey of The Fakir that releases on Friday. This training though was not as intense as The Artist demanded. “For The Artist, I trained for six months. The trick to make the audience connect to your dance is to have fun,” says the actor, who hopes to visit India one day.
Though the actor is based in Paris, after her international breakthrough performance in The Artist, she has appeared in several European films such as German-Italian Three Peaks (2017) and Italian Sweet Dreams (2016). She also played the lead in Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s The Past (2013), which fetched her the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress. Always open to acting in different language movies, she says, “As long as the script appeals to me and I agree with the director’s approach, I’m open to working in movies from different countries and cultures,” she says, in a telephonic conversation.
The reason behind such openness possibly lies in the fact that she was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and that at the age of three, her parents, filmmaker Miguel Bejo and mother Silvia, a lawyer, came to France with their family to escape the Dirty War. “I don’t consider myself to be just a French actor. I am an actor of the world. I love to welcome different cultures and people. At times, this can be daunting too. When I was shooting in Vietnam for Eternity (2016), people did not understand English or Spanish. Taking up such assignments demands a lot of energy. Yet, you end up learning so much,” says the actor, who is currently working on an Italian movie.
While accepting a role, Bejo lets the script talk to her. “When I read a script and it could be any story, I try to find the connection. I often decline roles if they appear similar to what I have done already,” she says. The actor, who earlier in her career found popularity in spy comedies such as OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006), says that she loves Italian movies of the ’50s-’60s. “The characters in these movies are very real. They are often mean yet lovable and helpful. The Extraordinary Journey of The Fakir is similar to that. I also love the way the movie deals with the issue of immigrants,” she says.
The movie follows the journey of a street magician of Mumbai as he goes to Paris to find his estranged father. The movie is based on the book The Extraordinary Journey of The Fakir who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe written by French author Romain Puertolas.
As one of the top French actors today, Bajo lives life on her own terms. Married to director Michel Hazanavicius, who directed The Artist, she is mother to Lucien and Gloria. She does not want to take up too many acting assignment as she doesn’t “want to leave them with nannies”. When in Paris, she often cycles to her destination. “It is easier to cycle around in Paris. I prefer this to taking a taxi or driving a car,” she says.
Does she regret that despite playing the lead in The Artist along with actor Jean Dujardin, she was nominated in Actress in a Supporting Role category for the Academy award? “I don’t think about it. My daughter was born by then and I had so much love in my life. I am still part of the five Oscars that the movie won, including Best Actor, Best Picture and Best Director,” says the actor. Bejo will once again team up with her husband for The Lost Prince, which is about a single father and his seven-year-old daughter.