“Without children, I would have been someone else”

The singer and actress has always admired Marilyn Monroe. Sixty years after her disappearance, Vanessa Paradis slips into the skin of her idol in an evocation of the cult film the misfits, under the lens of Anton Corbijn. Before resuming the tour of his show Momthe Chanel muse shares her fascination with the American star with us.

What do girls dream about? On the walls of her bedroom, in Villiers-sur-Marne, near Paris, Vanessa Paradis has pinned photos of Romy Schneider and Marilyn Monroe. Not quite her goddesses of her time, but the teenager was not like the others, she knew it by heart Cesare and Rosalia And Men prefer blondes, and immediately became a star at 14 by letting us get into Joe’s cab. Reverie around the most famous platinum blond of the twentieth centuryAnd century have never left the mind of one who became a beloved pop star and a vigorous actress, at ease in drama as well as in comedy. It seemed obvious to us to offer her to slip into the skin of her idol (of which she is unbeatable) on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the death of what one name alone is enough to identify, Marilyn, who died in Los Angeles on August 4, 1962, under circumstances never clarified, drug overdose, suicide, murder (our host tends to the last hypothesis).

Vanessa Paradis has chosen The misfits (The misfits, by John Huston, 1961), a disenchanted, twilight film in which Monroe plays with an overwhelming truth, spitting her malaise in a famous scene, a frail and pale figure lost in the scorched expanses of Nevada. It is on the white sands of the Fontainebleau forest that Anton Corbijn recreated the set of this cursed film in black and white with a more real-than-life platinum Vanessa Paradis. The famous photographer and director had met her when she was 20, then last year when she had photographed her at the presentation of Chanel’s spring-summer haute couture, of which Vanessa Paradis is the emblematic ambassador. They really wanted to meet up for an exceptional occasion. Motor !

Madame Figaro . – How was this passion for Marilyn Monroe born?
Vanessa Paradi. – I must have been 5 or 6 when I came across a book in my parents’ library, it was a biography, the kind of book with few pictures in the middle pages. I was struck by the hallucinating beauty of this woman I knew nothing about. Photos led me to movies, then movies to records. Marilyn Monroe never got out of my head again. I watched her films over and over again, then read every bio, saw every documentary. An adoration cannot be explained. There is beauty, femininity, grace, delicacy and, at the same time, something tragic that we feel, that we feel. Everything attracts me, I like everything, her looks, her smiles, the way she moves. And this incredible modernity for the time. There is something about her that we had never seen elsewhere: this relationship with the body, this freedom of the body without ever being vulgar, a totally assertive body, but which has not given up even in childhood.

Do you remember the first movie you saw with her?
More likely Men prefer blondes, I’ve always loved musicals, and the Howard Hawks movie is a little girl’s dream, with its Technicolor, costumes and songs. I also saw a lot The river of no return And Some like it hot obviously. Later I found out The misfits and lesser-known films, such as disturb me tonight in which she is already an amazing, loyal, powerful and totally creepy actress playing the role of a deranged babysitter. And then there is the singer of course, she worshiped Ella Fitzgerald and you can feel it: she is a divine jazz singer, with a velvety voice and a wonderful vibrato. When I listen to it Lazy, by Irving Berlin, I’m bewitched.

Everything attracts me, I like everything, his looks, his smiles, the way he moves

What does the dark side of Marilyn Monroe evoke for you?
I think about Fragments, a collection of intimate writings published well after his death, a terribly intrusive book, but one that enlightens us on his spirit and his thought. We discover its depth, its sensitivity and also its anguish, its fears, its doubts, the fear of madness. He was a tormented soul who never stopped progressing and fulfilling.

They say you have a lot of things that belonged to Monroe.
I am not a collector, but I have some things that have been given to me. A pair of shoes, for example, sublime white pumps. We have the same shoe size, sometimes I wear them, take a few steps and put them away, because I’m too afraid to deform them. I also have a jacket, a cape, a hat that I wear sometimes, but very rarely because to me they are invaluable. I once went wandering around the mansion she owned in Brentwood and where she died. J’ai mis longtemps avant de me décider à m’y rendre, et j’étais très émue de découvrir depuis l’xtérieur cette hacienda modeste, sa seule maison of her, où elle n’a pas vécu longtemps, la pauvre chérie, quelques mois only.

You lived in Hollywood, the home of cinema. Is it something that brings you closer to her?
When I lived there, I led a very family life: children, school. There was nothing Hollywood in my lifestyle, I went to dinner very little and I only attended the Oscars twice. It was wonderful to see so many famous actors, it was my dream of American cinema but not my American dream at all, because I never aspired to be a part of it. Perhaps because it requires too much of itself, it means being available only for that and, probably, making films that you don’t want to make in order to reach those you are targeting. There was no reason for me to take this obstacle course. Younger, however, after the filming of wedding in whitemy first film, I did unlikely castings like that of Indecent Proposal, for the role of Demi Moore! She made absolutely no sense, and in retrospect I find it very strange. I quickly put kibosh on this type of experience and have no regrets – I’m satisfied in France.

Vanessa Paradis, the cover story

Monroe was manipulated and, according to some, manipulator. Is there a way to properly manage the excesses of fame?
Manipulative, I don’t like that word; what is certain is that she was a good communicator, but I don’t know if she was part of a strategy. She was smart and knew how to use her image of her. The image is a weapon. Chez Marilyn is also a call to watch and love. And then there is a context, the 1950s, and a country, America. The actors belonged to the studios, they were stuck, emancipation began the next decade. Marilyn, began her career in the late 1940s, and probably her body and her seduction allowed her to destabilize her interlocutors and, in a certain way, to make herself heard and exist. However, she managed to impose something very exceptional at the time: a freedom to be herself, in a broad sense, the affirmation of a sensual body.

When you started, you yourself were categorized as a woman-child …
The context is really different, it is not the same era, not the same culture, not the same difficulties. But the Monroe problem remains a problem today: the place of women in society and in the world of work. As for me, it is true, at the beginning I was considered a woman-child and a singer without any talent. We were wondering what you were doing there. The success was so overwhelming that she had nothing to do with what I could offer. It took me some time to prove that there was something useful in me. Marilyn Monroe, during her life did not know the recognition she deserved. It happened later. However, she went out of her way to progress, she went to live in New York, she got close to Lee Strasberg, she started her production company of hers, absolutely unconventional things for the time, but we continued not to take her. seriously.

In video, Vanessa Paradis, César for the best young female hope (1990)

Did you have to suffer from image distortions?
Of course we take the image from you, but we also give it, we play with it. It is an exchange. I come from the generation of music videos and record covers, everything has passed, it was a way to introduce you to the world. It may have been painful at first, you can’t stop people from speaking, judging, being unfair sometimes, yes sometimes I have been hurt, but in the end what is left is your work, the heart and the essence of your work . To do this, I had to cling to concrete things: music, concerts, films. The rest is part of the game: being loved, not being loved. As for recognition, it is fundamental, but not only in the artistic professions. All work deserves attention and, if possible, appreciation.

Do you like Marilyn Monroe and Romy Schneider, two actresses who are said to have been burned by the cinema …
From life, indeed, even if the cinema was not supposed to fix things. They are two women who have lived complicated lives, childhoods and loves. And, in Marilyn’s case, an aggravating circumstance, it was the moment when the actors were totally addicted to drugs without measuring the disastrous effects on health. What I do know is that I have had incredible parents, who have given me love and trust, who have loved me, have surrounded me, have accompanied me. I’m not saying you can’t get by without this prerequisite – you can choose different families than yours – but it’s a lot easier to start life feeling supported. Being an actress is terribly destabilizing, you are scrutinized on a giant screen, you depend on the wishes of others and when you are no longer wanted, it’s over …

Maybe she would meet a man who would love her for who she was?

Is there anything else touching you about Marilyn?
In the dramas of her life, she lost all the children she generated. Mom, she probably would have lived another life. I, without children, would have been someone else. I don’t think women have to have children to be satisfied, but I’ve always wanted to have them and they have shaped the woman I am today.

How do you imagine Marilyn Monroe if she lived?
I can’t imagine her as a mature woman, let alone an old lady. She would be 96. In 1962, at the time of her death, she had projects, a production company. She was a woman ruled by the heart: maybe she would meet a man who would love her for who she was?

Vanessa Paradis is on tour in September with the show mom, dand Samuel Benchetrit.

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