Director Julie Delpy seeks sociological twists


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LOS ANGELES -- Julie Delpy asks if she had seemed kind of grumpy while being interviewed.

"I had a fight with someone before the interview so I was in a bit of a weird mood," she explains, then jokes, "I'm actually always in that mood."

There's no doubt that the actress-writer-director has an offbeat sense of humor. That comes through in her comedy "2 Days in New York," the sequel to her successful 2007 indie picture "2 Days in Paris."

In her new film, Ms. Delpy returns as photographer Marion, who has left Paris and her old boyfriend and is living in the Big Apple with radio talk-show host Mingus (Chris Rock) and his daughter.

Her serene life and small apartment are then upset when her crazy French family comes to visit for Marion's upcoming gallery exhibition. They include her cheese-and-sausage smuggling father (real-life dad Albert Delpy), her sexually competitive sister (Alexia Landeau) and an unexpected pot-smoking ex-boyfriend (Alex Nahon).

Known more among art-house crowds for her indie and foreign films -- she has made few Hollywood movies -- Ms. Delpy surprisingly neither lives in Paris nor New York City, but in Los Angeles, and has since the 1990s. She became a U.S. citizen in 2001 and has a 3-year-old son with German film score composer Marc Streitenfeld ("Prometheus").

"I moved out here because of the weather," says the 42-year-old actress. "I was raised in Paris in a very small apartment on the ground floor where I could barely see light. I just want to be in the sun and I like palm trees. Bougainvillea is very pretty and I like squirrels."

Her parents were actors, though not big names.

Ms. Delpy's mother, Marie Pillet, who played her mom in "2 Days in Paris," died in 2009 shortly after Ms. Delpy's son was born. The filmmaker had already started the script for "2 Days in New York" but gave it up before going ahead as an homage to her parents.

At 14, Ms. Delpy's ambition was to be a personal assistant to the great French director Jean-Luc Godard. But after meeting her, Mr. Godard cast her in his film "Detective." After that, she starred in a number of films for some of Europe's most acclaimed directors, among them Bertrand Tavernier, Agnieszka Holland and Krzysztof Kieslowski.

Her breakthrough in the States came in director Richard Linklater's 1995 indie film "Before Sunrise," in which she co-starred with Ethan Hawke and improvised a lot of her dialogue. The 2004 sequel, "Before Sunset," earned Ms. Delpy, who co-wrote the script, an Academy Award nomination for adapted screenplay. (She, Mr. Hawke and Mr. Linklater are working on another sequel.)

All along, though, the actress had an eye on directing. "I went to film school to make films just because you're in control of the story," she says.

"2 Days in New York" is the fourth film in five years for Ms. Delpy, who says that "Even though there are elements that are true to my life in the script, I didn't want it to be me.

"I'm very different from the character," she says. "She's a very emotional person. She does the wrong things, says the wrong things to the wrong people and snaps at the critics and likes arguments."

Making a film with autobiographical elements is "dangerous because when you get personally attacked, it could hurt more. I don't get hurt that easily," Ms. Delpy says, shrugging. "So if people don't like my films, that's fine."

While Ms. Delpy says getting financing for her films is always difficult, at least she was able to get Mr. Rock on board early with "2 Days in New York," which has already opened in Europe and done well at the box office there.

The filmmaker actually looked the comic-actor up on movie industry website IMDbPro and contacted him to find out whether he would be interested, and when he said yes, she wrote the script with him in mind. (Mr. Rock recently told The New York Times that it was cool to play a "man-man" in the film because most comedy parts are written for "boy-men.")

One thing Ms. Delpy thinks is funny about her own character is that she isn't a very good artist.

"I wasn't born an artist," the filmmaker says. "I was really good in science as a kid. I probably shouldn't have been an artist because I'm much more interested in science. But I was raised by artists. I can't really escape it."

Ms. Delpy says she almost feels embarrassed talking about her movies.

"I make these little films. I'm just a working person," she says. "I just study people a little bit more. It's more sociological, and it's funny anyway -- not that serious. It's not like false humility. I just take it for what it is."

"2 Days in New York" opens today at the Manor Theater in Squirrel Hill.

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