Interview with Caroline Laurence on filming "La Vénus á Lulu" - 1991 Dir: D. Losset
Interview with Michel Legrand - "Le Filme" magazine... August 1992.
ML: How did you get the role as Venus in this film?
CL: My agent phoned me & said there was a role in a TV film calling for a slim Nordic-looking girl.... BUT...........I'd have to be naked through most of it & have to act with little boys, no sexual bits, very tasteful & directed by Daniel Losset as a 'Jacques Tati-style' comedy, just be naked for most of the scenes, although discretely filmed & covered by scenery for most.... what did I think about it?
ML: And you said?
CL: Well, my first reaction was "What??... you have to be joking", but he said he'd send me the filmscript Daniel had proposed, & I could make my mind up. I read the script & screenplay, I had no other jobs coming up, so I said " Why not?"
ML: How did you prepare for the film, in terms of rehearsals, acting with Maxime Boidron, the Lulu character?
CL: Oh Maxime is just a lovely little boy, a talented actor & he'd been in acouple of films before, so he knew the score in terms of rehearsals, retakes, & so on in films, although just 11 at the time, his parents had consented to his role & he'd read the script & they trusted in Daniel Losset. I met him for the first time on set in Provence, & Daniel suggested we go to the make-up trailer to run through our script & scenes together, just Maxime & me, to see how it would go, before progressing with the shoot.
So we had the script in front of us, I asked him if it'd be alright if I was naked, to see how we could act OK together like that. I mean, he's an 11 year old boy, so of course he agreed: I know what boys his age are like! Which is really what the film is all about, as Lulu deliberately keeps me naked as long as possible, to show his friends, boast about having a nude woman hidden, etc.
ML: So, how did it go?
CL: Well, after a bit of chatting, psyching myself up for what I had to do, I just got undressed in front of him & he just watched me, like boys would of course. His eyes were nearly popping out of his head. Little dear! We ran through the first script together, with me naked for about 25 minutes, & after that he was happy, after he'd got over the staring at my pussy stage & we knew there'd be no more awkwardness about my nudity.
ML: How did you feel having to be naked in front of a little boy, embarrassed?
CL: It was one of the most awkward things I've ever had to do. But, as I said, I needed the role. Daniel had asked that I shave my pubic hair a little during my audition for the part, so I had, leaving just a triangle Brazilian with my lower bits shaved, & it was funny when Maxime asked why I was blonde but my 'front bit', as he put it, had brown hair on it. We both laughed when I explained this, haha.
ML: How long did the filming take?
CL: I've watched the film of course & I guess I'm actually shown in flashes naked in it for about 10 minutes in total. But I was on set for more than 2 weeks. My nude scenes were actually filmed over 6 or 7 days, in various locations.
The first scenes were filmed in a field, & Daniel did them with bits of trees hiding my nudity, but soon later decided that was a bit coy, so I was filmed totally front-naked with Maxime later, after I'd agreed to this.
There were several scenes we did with Maxime, Louis & another boy whichwere cut from the final edit, at my request, where they were examining my naked body & commenting. I thought a bit too much er, let's say, 'detail' of me was shown, & the boys were enjoying it a bit too much, obviously.
But when filming you have to have makeup on skin, obviously. So, as I was completely naked, & had faint tan-lines & was cast as a naturist, I had to wear total body makeup, which rubs off easily, so between scenes I couldn't put on a robe, but had to stay naked & stand around, even having nude coffee breaks with the boys. For instance, the scene where I go into the first room Maxime takes me to to 'hide' me, lasts about 30 seconds, but we had to do rehearsals, 5 or 6 retakes & so on, so for that scene I was naked with him for about 3 hours, as I couldn't sit down or spoil the makeup & the makeup girl had to keep touching up various bits of me while the camera was moved, lighting changed, levels checked etc. This was very embarrassing for me also, as the other little boys featured in the film, who were just locals, insisted on being present, behind the camera, to watch me in some scenes, & Daniel had to let them, to stop them getting annoyed at Maxime & the other two boys being the only ones to see me naked, & they knew the film scenario & insisted on being there at the nude takes. Difficult, working with c***d actors, especially young boys.
The scene where Maxime brings his little friend (Louis I think) in to see me asl**p on the bed took ages, & several takes, as that little boy kept staring at my breasts & vagina & wriggling about & just going to pieces on cam & being difficult generally, spoiling the scene, & Daniel eventually had me put my hand over my pubic area to calm him down a bit. But that's one of the difficulties working with c***d actors I guess. That was a very hard take for me, funnily enough, shot from various angles but only one appeared in the final edit, & I was uncomfortable with that, as my legs were slightly apart, or I had to turn my bottom towards them on the bed on some of the takes, but that's not in the final edit. More difficult than the scenes with Maxime & the other boy, Charles-Henri. We had two or three nude scenes with him, & despite staring at my 'front bits', & making comments about my bottom & nipples when between takes, & getting a bit too close sometimes he was a good amateur actor.
ML: All in all, would you do another film like that?
CL: No. Particularly the outdoor nude running scenes, where my bouncing breasts are a bit much! It's one thing doing discrete semi-nude scenes with men or women, as I'd done in "Emmanuelle", but another doing them completely naked with little boys & a big film crew & a few local villagers watching, & I do regret doing the film now a little, as I was very embarrassed at having little boys see my front bits & breasts, etc., uncovered & in some takes I had to get a little too close to Maxime when naked for my comfort, but at least the boys got a good female anatomy lesson maybe.
Despite my tension at being naked for such long periods of time, there were some moments of laughter. I remember doing one scene with little Maxime where I had to run up right next to him while he was trying to get a key for a door, but he wasn't tall enough to reach it. I ran up on the first take & stretched up for the key & accidentally my nipple poked him in the eye! We all fell around laughing & had to re-shoot that scene several times, as we all got the giggles every time I ran up next to him.
Hahaha. I laughed when Maxime & the boys saw me in a dress in the end scenes of the film & said they preferred me with nothing on. All in all, however, it was a very funny film, but in hindsight, for me personally, a frontier I don't want to cross again. It wouldn't have been possible to shoot the film if it involved a naked man & little girls, for example, as that scenario has different connotations, but a nude woman is seen as non-threatening when acting with little boys... it was fun & at least it was warm when we did the shoot.
ML: Thanks for the interview, Caroline. It's a very funny film, as you say, & in the best tradition of Jaques Tati. Congratulations.