Esteemed French actor Isabelle Huppert spoke about Hugh Jackman’s performance in “The Son,” Florian Zeller’s Oscar hopeful, during a private event for Academy voters hosted by the movie’s French distribution banner Orange Studios at the Royal Monceau in Paris.
Huppert, who previously collaborated with Zeller on his drama “The Mother,” which he performed in English in New York in 2019, reacted to “The Son” minutes after watching the movie at a screening event.
“(Hugh Jackman) is really amazing. The film gives almost more of an insight into her inner journey than her son,” says Huppert, who stepped away.
“He’s completely helpless at the same time and… in that extraordinary scene with Anthony Hopkins he embodies so well this link in the chain, both strong and weak, between past, present and future,” Huppert continued.
The classic Sony Pictures movie revolves around Peter (Jackman) whose busy life with new partner Emma (Vanessa Kirby) and their baby is thrown into chaos when his ex-wife Kate (Laura Dern) meets their teenage son Nicholas. The young man goes through depression and skips school for months. Peter strives to be a good father, searching to help his son in those intimate and natural moments of family happiness. But the weight of Nicholas’ condition sends the family down a dangerous path. Hopkins has a small but meaningful part in “The Son,” playing another paternal figure.
Written in 2019, “The Son” marks Zeller’s most personal work yet. Dedicated to her own son, the film is part of a trilogy of plays including “The Mother” and “The Father” that have been performed around the world. All three plays explore the resilient bonds that bind families together with an emotional brutality that Zilla is able to capture through his close relationship with the actors.
Zeller said he developed a close connection with Jackman from the beginning of working together. Although he didn’t write the part with Jackman in mind, as he did with Hopkins for “The Father,” Zeller was compelled to offer the role to the Australian actor minutes after talking about what the project meant to him.
“Hugh created that intimacy in a unique way. He wrote me a letter, told me that… well, he’d heard that I was working on an adaptation of the play ‘The Son’ (…) and said that if I did another If I talk to the actor, I should forget his letter, but if I hadn’t, he would have asked for ten minutes to explain why he should have the role.”
“A few minutes later, I offered him the part, because I felt something in him… who understood what it was, who had that passion. So I felt it was an opportunity or an opportunity for us, together, to explore something deep and buried and secret. Some truth,” Zeller explained.
“It was the actor who didn’t explain to me why the part interested him. I felt that it was more of a father or a son, who felt a connection with this story,” added the filmmaker, who recently moved to Los Angeles with his family and launched Blue Mornings Pictures, a production company with former CAA executive Federica. did Sainte-Rose and Mediawan (Plan B’s new parent company).
Along with John Patrick Shanley, Aaron Sorkin and Martin McDonagh, Zeller is one of the rare playwrights who has succeeded in making the transition from stage to screen.
As with “The Father,” which won Hopkins an Oscar, Zeller didn’t want the actors to rehearse important scenes so he could capture their rawness and intensity. Zeller said he tried to get Jackman to a place where he was “prevented from creating a character.”
Huppert, who earned an Oscar nomination with Paul Verhoeven’s thought-provoking “Elle”, said Zeller’s management method and ultimate search for authenticity. “I think that’s the only way… it’s almost the most comfortable way, the surest way, to get the most truth without thinking too much about it, without asking pointless questions, that you can create a character with all kinds of instability, That takes you away from the heart of the work, and the joy of acting.”
“It gives you access to the person, not just the character. And that, obviously, is what every actor wants, to be able to connect with a character in the most intimate way. That’s what I see with Hugh Jackman,” Huppert continued.
Huppert said he had a blast playing “The Mother” in New York and admired Zeller’s work. “It’s really brilliantly written for actors. It explores themes that are very specific, and very painful, difficult to face in real life and in fiction,” he said. Huppert’s performance of “The Mother” won critical acclaim and marked one of her best-reviewed stage performances.
“(Florian Zeller) always hands us these characters and stories that everyone can relate to (…) deeply, in family life, or just in life, always the ghost of suffering, the difficulty of life, the effort. Everyone wants to make the ones we love as happy as possible,” said Huppert, who is close to his daughter Lolita Chama, herself a well-known actor. They’re even starring together in Michel Placido’s latest film, “L’Ombra di Caravaggio,” a 17th-century-set drama that just hit French theaters.
Although he had already seen the play in Paris and knew the plot, Huppert said the film adaptation was “deeply moving” but “terrifying” because it “gives you the possibility to reflect and analyze.”
Huppert said that this is another feature of Florian’s writing, that we are not completely immersed in the drama, at least not until the end, and that it “leaves us the possibility to reflect, analyze and understand, which makes it all the more terrifying.”
While it’s highly unlikely that Zeller will adapt “The Mother” for the big screen, it’s a plausible scenario to see the pair reunite for a film project in the near future.
“As I’ve said quite frankly, I have so much admiration for Isabelle that I really hope we get to work together,” Zeller said.
Hearing these words, Huppert looked at him with a big smile and quietly, with his legendary flair, said, “We will.”