Fanny Ardant: between the dark & the light

François Truffaut’s famous Dark Lady may be a little more auburn these days, but Ardant’s passion for life and cinema is undimmed: ‘You must follow your instincts, your pleasures, your love. And you will be a winner’

Fanny Ardant: 'I grew up around a lot of stupid rich people. It was a good education'

Fanny Ardant: 'I grew up around a lot of stupid rich people. It was a good education'

Fri, Jun 20, 2014, 00:00

The thick trademark eyeliner is still in place, but these days, François Truffaut’s Dark Lady is a little more auburn than she used to be. Indeed, long time admirers of Fanny Ardant should take note: in her latest film, a clever, sunny May-to-December rom-com called Bright Days Ahead, she’s a dazzling blonde.

“I thought it would make more of a difference than it did,” she tells me. “It was interesting to see my reflection in the mirror suddenly. But it was more like seeing myself in a costume.”

Darkness suits Fanny Ardant. She prefers the orient to the occident, she says: “My soul belongs to the East. During the Cold War, the Americans did not like to hear that.”

It’s not that she isn’t capable of levity: she has, in fact, a most musical laugh and a playful way with words. But there is something mysterious about this grandest of dames: she’s known to keep to herself on set, she has never married and she describes herself as a loner.

“I have no friends in film,” she says. “I love working with people like Gérard Depardieu and Jeremy Irons. But when the filming is done, it is done. I am happy to talk to people when I meet them. But I have been like this since I was very young. My generation was very politicised. But I never belonged to any political or student group. There is a danger in groups, of losing yourself.”

Truffaut, who cast her in iconic The Woman Next Door (1981) and who lived with her for the last three years of his life, used to say of Ardant: “She comes from a country that doesn’t exist”. Sure enough, her origins can be traced to an old extinct class of bourgeoisie. Her father was a cavalry officer in the French army. She mostly grew up in Monaco, where he was part of Prince Rainier’s personal guard.

“I grew up around a lot of stupid rich people,” laughs Ardant. “It was a good education for me. Because I had to be my own character. I read a lot. I was not looking around to see what others were doing. Outwardly, my father was upper-class. But inside he was cultured. He was a dreamer. Anyone can be a dreamer. Even a policeman can be open-minded. My father loved the idea of being free. It is something I love too.”

Mademoiselle Ardant – and it is, most definitely, mademoiselle – talks repeatedly of freedom. It’s a notion that has guided her career since she first took a bow on a Parisian stage in 1974.

“You must follow your instincts, your pleasures, your love. And you will be a winner. I never had a strategy. If you try to control everything, if you try to plan, it can only interfere with your imagination.”