You are currently viewing Emmanuelle Devos: “Shyness is very nice, but there comes a time when you have to go”

Emmanuelle Devos is transparent: every emotion can be read on her like in an open book. These books from which she drew a rich and varied culture. Enough to give this girl, who left school at 16, a reputation as an intellectual. Emmanuelle Devos is prone to misunderstandings. Emotional, but also strong and frank. Discreet and nonchalant, she does not hesitate to speak out against sexual violence following the Weinstein affair, or to put Marie Trintignant on the “cover” of her Instagram when Bertrand Cantat does that of Inrocks. Emmanuelle Devos has this gift of being heard without trying to show herself. A clever mix of discretion and affirmation, we imagine her as fieryly carried away by passion as she can be chillingly restrained. Mother of two young adults, she rebuilt her love life thirteen years ago with the actor Jean-Pierre Lorit, as she already told us about in our last interview (Psychologies No. 291, December 20091). Almost ten years later, we cannot say whether it has gained in lightness or density. She confides without restraint, admits to being amazed to have discovered, at over 50, the pleasure of writing: she is writing her first screenplay, which should lead to her first film as a director. “I discover in writing an immense freedom! This freedom was for her the fruit of a progression and a conquest above all emotional, as she tells us when we tell her the title of our file. “Of course it speaks to me! I was a child very embarrassed by her emotions. Everything took on a disproportionate importance in me. It was painful to live. »

Psychologies: Did you manifest these emotions easily?

Emmanuelle Devos: I’d be tempted to say yes, that I cried and cried easily, but thinking about it I think they were mostly bubbling inside me. I blushed a lot, I was sickly shy. Fortunately, I grew up in a family of actors, where speech was very free and well received. It was a very good environment for me, you could understand my “emotional quirks” there…

What “emotional quirks”?

Emmanuelle Devos: I passed easily from long phases of silence to happier periods. I was a little… special child, you have to believe. Recently, my mother told me that if Asperger’s syndrome had been as well known then as it is today, I would have been suspected of having it. I needed to be alone most of the time, I read a lot, even too much. That didn’t stop me from having girlfriends and playing, but never for long. The others were too much emotional stress.

1. Interview available on, “Culture” section.

Did you suffer from it at school?

Emmanuelle Devos: Not really. Since my parents totally accepted me as I was, I said to myself: “No matter what other people think of me, they too will end up accepting me as I am. “I had confidence…

And in adolescence?

Emmanuelle Devos: Friends tell me that at the time I gave the impression that nothing reached me, nothing touched me, I was thought to be freezing. In fact, I tried hard to hide how much each encounter intimidated me. Many people who start out very cold are highly emotional people who are afraid of their emotions. They protect themselves by closing.

What do you have left of this great emotivity?

Emmanuelle Devos: I think it’s still there, but I’ve learned to live with it better. To no longer be afraid of them, you have to learn to know and identify your emotions: I have the perfect job for that! Going on stage in front of people, using other people’s words to say what you feel, living it with friends immersed in the same situation: from the first theater class, I felt a powerful liberation. But we never recover from the apprehension of our emotions. It’s always a pain for me to be at the center of attention. When I play a role in the theater, it’s fine, but elsewhere, it makes me very uncomfortable. For many actors it fills a void, not for me. It’s not the attention of others that I crave as an actress.

What is it then ?

Emmanuelle Devos: I want to showcase my work. I am happy when I have been able to play my role…

…And controlling your emotions?

Emmanuelle Devos: Probably also, it’s true… To be an actor is to choose to be the mirror of the emotions of others. Why, in the age of screens and the virtual, do we continue to go to a place to see people playing in front of us? The survival of the theater proves our need to receive emotions transmitted by others who have the courage to express them.

You talk about “courage”, but the emotions you express as an actress are not raw: they are “worked on”, controlled, aren’t they?

Emmanuelle Devos: Not that much. For example, when you play a piece for a long time, you see your emotions fluctuate from one performance to another. These variations prove that what is played is alive. Admittedly, the emotion is not natural, in the sense that work has been done beforehand to be permeable to it, but it is “true”, “raw”.

What acting “technique” helped you make them allies?

Emmanuelle Devos: I would not speak of technique, but of experience. This includes those of life, the observation of others, of one’s own mechanisms as well as the instructions given by directors. As a young actress, I could be in the grip of some emotional outbursts. When I was told: “If you say this text while crying, we don’t understand anything! I realized that I had to control myself a little. The theater taught me to see my emotions more clearly, but so did life. Being highly emotional is like riding a spirited horse every day. There comes a time when we are tired of being shaken! So we try to pay attention to what is happening, to make more room for the mind. I used visualization and repetition a lot. I prepare myself before each critical situation: “If someone tells me that, I do that, otherwise I answer that, then this…” Planning allows you not to be taken aback, and therefore not to panic. Today, by dint of preparation, I need it less and less.

Among the experiences that have helped you to better understand and experience your emotions, would you include your psychoanalysis?

Emmanuelle Devos: Sure. When, for three years, you go regularly on a couch, you learn to know your mechanisms. I learned to see myself coming – to see what annoyed me, made me sad… I cried a lot in analysis! This allows you to cry less in life.

It was shortly before your sister died of cancer at 33, you were 30… Was she as sensitive and introverted as you?

Emmanuelle Devos: We were radically different, besides we argued all the time! She was a very resourceful, lively girl, turned towards others. She was very stimulating for me: she was my driving force and my safeguard. She alone knew how to get me out of my books.

What impact did his death have on your great sensitivity?

Emmanuelle Devos: She first made me mute: no words, no cries… For a long time, we couldn’t find out anything about what was going on inside me. I was flabbergasted. Then I started living for two. I felt, including physically, that I had to carry it within me. I absorbed his courage, I became straighter, more frank. Shyness is very nice, but there comes a time when you have to go. In Babylon (Folio), Yasmina Reza writes: “To be sulky at 20 is sexy, at 60, it’s boring. » I love this sentence. I sulked a lot as a child, but can you imagine me sulking when I was over 50? This is no longer tolerable! [Rires]

In your opinion, knowing how to manage your emotions is therefore also a matter of will?

Emmanuelle Devos: Awareness, at least. When on a shoot, for example, an actor is late and someone explains to me: “He’s very nice, but he has trouble with the schedules and with the pressure…” I don’t want to hear it! I’m in a good position to know what it’s like to have trouble with others, but there comes a time when our emotions must be able to make room for reflection and for others. It is less a matter of will than of listening.

In the couple, could your emotions have been embarrassing?

Emmanuelle Devos: No. When I am in an environment of trust, I let my emotions flow without worry. I’ve never had difficulty saying “I love you”, for example. This comes to me from that childhood I was telling you about.

What moves you the most today?

Emmanuelle Devos: It’s funny that you ask me this question, because I find that as I get older tears easily come to my eye. It’s crazy, right? Or is it because with age we no longer have anything to prove? To answer you: it is when we are reunited as a family, the one I come from and the one I created. It is simply beautiful. My step mother [la femme de son père, ndlr] has a knack for bringing everyone together and making it go well.

And the news filled with tragic information, from refugees to wars, including global warming, animal suffering…?

Emmanuelle Devos: It doesn’t upset me at all, I’ve battened down the hatches on the news. Faced with the flow of information, I have become very pragmatic: first I think about what each piece of information teaches me, then I ask myself what I can do. If the answer is “nothing”, then what good is my emotion? But if I can, I act, looking for an association to support. I think that knowing how to really help those close to you is already a lot. For more distant causes, you have to accept your limits and make choices. For example, because the cause of the seas is important to me, I donate money to the Bloom association, which does awareness work. The waste saddens me, you know, like hotel soaps thrown away barely started… A woman had the idea of ​​recovering them to make bread and send them to countries in the world where they are in short supply. It’s called Unisoap France, and I recently became its sponsor. I can’t stand to hear someone complaining about the state of the world. “If you are in so much pain, do something. Go help these people. Or send money. Emotion becomes a trap when it exempts us from acting.

What path would you still have to take on this emotional terrain, in your opinion?

Emmanuelle Devos: As an ex-great emotional, I am not far from having become an expert in the matter! [Rires] I believe I am stronger today than people who have not had to ask themselves questions about managing their emotions. Now I want to work on empathy. After learning not to let myself be carried away by the emotions of others, I would like to find more flexibility on this side of the heart, of generosity. Otherwise, I will become a terrible old lady! [Elle éclate de rire] Mom always told us: “Things don’t get done without us. I find great accuracy in the refusal of victimization. We neither seek nor deserve everything that happens to us, but what we do with it depends on our responsibility. Knowing how to question yourself is a key to avoiding regret and remorse. And that also goes for emotions: they can be managed. We are not corks floating on water.

His news

“Amin”, the loving lover

A construction site in the Paris region. Among the workers, Amin (Moustapha Mbengue), who left his wife and children in Senegal and to whom he sends his salary. A solitary, laborious, invisible life, like so many others. Until the day he meets Gabrielle (Emmanuelle Devos) who listens to him, watches him. And reciprocally. A film that draws its great sensitivity from its implacable realism and the accuracy of its actors.

amin by Philippe Faucon, in theaters October 3.


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