Emilia Clarke talks cinema and fashion with Vogue in Deauville
In Deauville, where Emilia Clarke received the Nouvel Hollywood prize, the sunny Game of Thrones actress looks back on her cinematic crushes, her relationship with fashion, and her love for France.
Emilia Clarke, the unforgettable Daenerys Targaryen in the HBO phenomenon Game of Thrones, was at the Deauville American Film Festival to receive the Nouvel Hollywood prize, which awards a star of American cinema. The same day, September 3, The Pod Generation premiered at the festival, a Sophie Barthes directed film, in which the actress stars, telling the story of a couple who call on artificial intelligence in the hopes of having a baby. It was the perfect occasion for the sunny actress, decked out in Chanel throughout the festival, to discuss this award, as well as look back on her love for French cinema and her vision of the New Hollywood.
A tête-à-tête in Deauville with Emilia Clarke:
You received the Nouvel Hollywood prize here in Deauville. What does this award mean to you? And for your career?
It means the world to me! It has long been my dream to be able to work alongside filmmakers that I admire and minds I want to learn from, so for such a prestigious festival as Deauville to recognise me for my work makes my imposter syndrome take a momentary back seat!
What is your personal vision of the New Hollywood? Of this new generation of actors and filmmakers?
My vision of the New Hollywood is one of action, change, representation, equality in both pay and leadership roles and of true fierce unapologetic creativity. I want to be in lock step with my peers making work that challenges, and changes the status quo, that asks questions of our society and of the ways in which we can encourage people to see the humanity within us, and the environment around us as things of importance. The new generation of Hollywood continues to inspire and push me, both creatively and professionally, the future’s bright!
Of your generation, which actress do you admire?
Too many to count! But I currently have one helluva girl crush on Jessie Buckley. She portrays such a range of emotions with such a deft grace that makes her transform in a way that pushes me to want to be better myself!
Which young director would you like to work with?
Again, I could write a book here, but someone whose work I’m in awe of would be Charlotte Wells.
What differences do you see between American and European cinema?
I do see a difference, and I think that speaks to the fact that in European cinema there is more encouragement to take risks, and how it puts less onus on a financial recompense and more on the creative act itself that is rooted in a freedom of expression. That kind of fluidity allows for films that don’t bow to a rule book and can result in pieces of work that show a real identity. All this being said, films need to make money for the industry to survive but I would love to work more within a European sphere to fully explore the breadth of my ability. I’ve spent a long time in the heat of the studio system in America and am ready to be on projects that are smaller and more intimate (not to say that I don’t still love being a superhero…)
Which French filmmakers do you admire?
I am blown away by Celine Sciamma. Portrait of a Lady on Fire’s visuals have not left my imagination since I saw it. I’m also incredibly excited to see Bertrand Bonelli’s The Beast.
Which French actress do you admire?
Marion Cotillard has been an idol of mine for many years, the delicacy in her work and yet her unflinching honesty and strength caused me to have my biggest heart-stopping moment as a young actress when I met her queuing for the loo at the Golden Globes one year!
You’re presenting The Pod Generation at Deauville. What attracted you to this project?
In short, everything, I was calling my agent to say how much I wanted to be in the movie 10 pages before I had finished the script. Sophie Barthes is a true creative genius, the way her mind works continues to fascinate me, her endless curiosity about how we interact with each other and with technology and our own futures was a huge part of saying yes to this.
Do you feel close to your character?
As a woman i felt close to her ambivalence, by which I mean it was arresting to read a female protagonist who remains unsure as to how she feels for a good portion of the film. Her uncertainty yet willingness to find out, listen and change is the bedrock of being human. To read a female character that felt one foot in one foot out of a major decision in her life, whilst being heavily affected by how her partner reacted felt very true and relatable. By the end we know she’s happy, but also that she doesn’t have the answer to everything because—try as we might—we will never know what life has in store and how we will react to that. If standing strong in this ambivalence isn’t feminism then I don’t know what is.
Does artificial intelligence frighten you?
AI itself doesn’t frighten me, I think that it can be used as an important tool in medicine and in saving our planet, but our relationship to AI scares the hell out of me. If we continue to dream our way through the ways in which it makes our life “easier” we are slowly but surely turning down our own desires, dreams, aspirations and most importantly our creativity and individuality.
If we continue to dream our way through the ways in which it makes our life “easier” we are slowly but surely turning down our own desires, dreams, aspirations and most importantly our creativity and individuality.EMILIA CLARKE
What have you learned about yourself through acting?
Ha! I’ve certainly learnt a lot about my fear. But it’s always allowed me an ability to use the empathy I have an abundance of to connect with a character and bring a very felt reaction to what they are living through in the moment of their lives that the film or play is set in. It’s taught me about fame, and people’s reactions to it, it’s taught me about success and how I define that for myself, it’s shown me a light out of the darkest of spaces and its made me feel like I have a reason to be here.
What’s the best piece of film advice you’ve ever been given?
I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside many actors and directors of great skill and experience and so always pick up a new nugget of wisdom on every job I do, but from an acting for film perspective, Ian Glen told me quite early on about the frame in which we would be stepping into and how to adjust your performance for that frame, so if you’re standing in front of an army of soldiers and explosions or a delicately lit window the amount of “work” you have to do to convey the story is dependent on that. It certainly calmed me down! As I grow in experience I start to find my own tricks that help, ultimately and in all things, follow your heart and find the art in everything you do.
What is your greatest film dream, Emilia?
Oh goodness, that’s a big question that changes daily, but now? My greatest film dream is to work with Denis Villeneuve, Arrival is my favourite film of all time.
You were dressed by Chanel throughout the festival. Who is the “Chanel woman” for you?
Chic. Chanel has and always will be the benchmark of chic for me, I have been completely obsessed by the brand since I was a small girl–I used to “swear on Chanel” when making any promise of meaning. So therefore: Meaningfully Chic.
How does Chanel make you feel?
French, effortless, elegant… expensive! (laughs)
What is your relationship with fashion?
Obsessed with fashion would be an accurate description. Clothes have always had a huge importance to me and the one trapping of fame that I’ve always been overjoyed about is getting dressed up, styling and photo shoots, getting to be a million different versions of yourself. I’ve never left a shoot without discovering a new designer that I become obsessed with. If I’m down I know how to dress myself to feel happier, I have a deep appreciation of the art of tailoring and for designers who work with materials that feel unique and a delight to wear. It’s safe to say that is where the bulk of my pay checks go.
Is this your first time in Deauville? What’s your relationship with France?
It’s my first time in Deauville, yes! It’s beautiful! I’ve been coming to France since I was a little girl, I distinctly remember my first trip to Paris with my family and was amazed at how dreamlike it all felt, even if it took me a while to truly appreciate oysters.
And finally, what’s your favorite French word?
The Pod Generation, dir. Sophie Barthes, in cinemas in France on October 25, 2023.
Translated by Jack Pownall.
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