Have you seen Don McKellar?

The Pleasure of Being an Actress: 5 Questions with Suzanne Clément

Suzanne Clément has been a respected actress in Quebec since the late ‘90s, but it wasn’t until her breakout role as Fred in Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways that Clément received worldwide acclaim. Last year she reunited with Dolan for his most lauded film, Mommy, in which she played the mysterious Kyla. The role won her a Canadian Screen Award, contributing to Mommy’s eleven wins. Clément’s latest film Sitting on the Edge of Marlene opens this week, and is her first English-speaking role. In the film, Clément plays the ferocious title character, a con-artist who relies on her fourteen-year-old daughter for support. We got a chance to speak with the magnificent Clément about Mommy, Marlene, and Xavier Dolan.

What attracted you to Marlene?

A lot of things. I think it’s one of the characters that I’ve played over the past few years that I love the most. Although, half of it I love. I’m happy with what I did but the other half.. The more I got into her the more I understood her. You have to be in a state of Marlene to do Marlene. It took a while. What was most interesting was the unbalance of Marlene. The fact of working with Ana who is a woman of my age also was attractive. Some of our preoccupations or desires in life were similar. We related to each other. The force and strength that she has. It’s what is in Marlene, this strength and vulnerability. It comes with being [Marlene’s] age, which is a transitional age, that I found super interesting.

Is there a big difference between working with a director like Ane, who is a woman of your age, and someone like Xavier Dolan who is male and in his twenties?

Of course there are. As there are differences with working with Xavier and working with Philippe Falardeau whom I’ve worked with for the second time this fall, and working with the Australian director Michal Rowe. I guess what I’m saying is that everyone is different. Although, Xavier knows a lot about women. He knows a lot about women aging and how difficult it can be. So the director who I would compare most to Ana would not be Xavier I think.

Something that is similar about Kyla, your character in Mommy, and Marlene is that they are very mysterious. Neither film focuses on the characters’ backgrounds, so we learn little about what makes them the way they are. Is there a difficulty in developing a character when the information is not in the script, or is that something you like?

I think it’s something that I like. Then I can create something. I love to create, I love to give something to the character that maybe is not there already. I think it’s part of my thrill. Some actors are much better than me at portraying something that is already there, but I guess one of the things that I like is adding stuff. With the mysterious characters you can create a lot a sub-stories that only you know but makes the scene become different than how it’s written. I’m not sure what I’m saying (laughs). Of course Kyla is much more mysterious than Marlene. I guess Marlene is more understandable I think. Losing her youth and her beauty is a big part of what’s happening to her. Seeing her daughter become the woman that she loved to be is hard, because she wants to love her but she sees her as a competitor. She also loses love and doesn’t know if she had been loved or still is loved. Her way of loving seems to be very troubled. So I think Marlene is more written than Kyla is.

How would you compare the relationship between Steve and Diane in Mommy to that of Sammi and Marlene?

There’s a very strong love of the mother for her child, which is there in both films. I guess Marlene becomes more of a child who has to be taken care of. Maybe once do you see Steve taking care of his mother. I think Marlene is more hopeless than Diane is. Marlene is the one who has a real personality problem where as between Steve and Diane it’s more Steve who has a real issue in terms of personality.

Is Sitting on the Edge of Marlene your first experience working in English?

Yes! I’ve worked on [my English] a lot. Even from when we filmed Marlene to now I think there’s a difference. I’ve also been in LA a couple of times and had coaches. I plan on continuing to work on it. I love to work in English. I love languages. I can speak Spanish, but not that well. When I work in France I have to use a French accent, which makes a complete difference. It’s all part of the pleasure of being an actress.

Sitting on the Edge of Marlene is now playing in Toronto. Mommy is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

Matt Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman is a Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films and actresses over the age of 50; including but not limited to: Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, and Jacki Weaver.