Kelly Reilly is one of the most exciting British actresses around, and she returned to Wendy in Chinese Puzzle, the third film in director Cédric Klapisch's trilogy.
We caught up with the actress to chat about the film, returning to a familiar character, and the possibility of a third Sherlock Holmes movie.
- Chinese Puzzle has just been released on DVD, so can you tell me a bit about the film?
Chinese Puzzle is the third part of a trilogy of French films - well they are European films really, as each one is set in a different country - and follows the same four central characters.
The first film was shot in 2003, the second in 2008, and now in 2013.
We first met these characters and students, then you meet them in their late twenties when they are making big decisions about their lives, and now they are in their mid-thirties and life is happening to them, there is disappointment and change and how we adapt. So we are continuing to follow these characters.
- This is the third film in this comedy drama series, so what drew you to the character of Wendy in the first place?
It feels like forever ago when I met with this wonderful French director - I had seen a couple of his films. We got on terribly well as we had the same kind of humour.
He talked about how he wanted a 'typical' English girl and I was like 'well there is no thing as a typical English girl, what are you talking about?' And he then started to talk about stereotypes and I was like 'well they are stereotypes; they are not founded in reality.'
He disagreed and believed that the stereotypes are there for a reason. I was like 'if I want to stereotype a French man, this is what I think a French man is.'
We had a great banter and discussed about how we could find someone who inhabited some of those clichés of what... the main character Romain Duris plays this typical Parisian male who is trying to find himself; he is a writer and he is trying to figure out life, love, and all the rest of it.
I said 'let’s set them up and then - as all of us are made of unique qualities - let’s turn it on its head.' Within the three films, you get to meet these characters.
Cecile De France, Audrey Tautou, Romain and myself play these characters that we think are one thing, but we start to get under the skin and they reveal themselves to be - regardless of what country they are from - that we are all the same and trying to figure it all out.
- Can you talk a little bit more about your character and what is in store for her this time around?
The second film Russian Dolls was a hugely successful film in France and Europe and it was a beautiful film that was set in St Petersburg, London, and Paris.
It is a love story between my character and Xavier and how they have the courage to move forward with that. In Chinese Puzzle, we meet them seven years later and Wendy has moved to Paris, they have had two children, but their relationship is at the end.
We leave them falling love in Russian Dolls, and them we meet them seven years later about to go through the heartbreak of separation.
It explores how one changes their life, how we muster up the courage to live life again in a joyful and hopeful way, as well as the complexities of having children and moving through adult life.
- This is the third time that you had the chance to play and explore this character. How much have you liked returning to a role and adding more layers to her? It is not a chance that you do get very much as an actor.
It is very nice and you become very possessive over them. You sort of forget about these characters for five years, and then they come back again.
Especially this time, I was thinking about her... she is very different in all three films. If I think about myself over the last fifteen years, I am different; I am essentially the same but things have happened to me and different parts of my personality have revealed themselves. We are all different from when we were twenty-two.
Having to play that character over the years has been really interesting, to see how we have developed them, seen where they have gone to, and how they have reverted back to who they originally were.
I absolutely loved Wendy in Russian Dolls, she was my hero. However, in this one, she is making some hard decisions and they are not necessarily likeable decisions.
I was a bit nervous about playing that because I cared about her and liked her and I was worried that I was turning her into something I didn't like. Actually, it is really good for the story and I trust director Cédric Klapisch with her.
If I think about the disappointments in my life when you move on from a relationship, it is almost like a small death and you have re-find yourself after.
- Not only have you developed as a person over the years that you have played this character but also as an actress. How has that informed the way that you have played her?
I am much more difficult on set (laughs). What is really nice is you are working with a group of people who are old friends, and you feel like you are coming back to a family.
In some ways, it is more difficult because you have a lot more knowledge of the character, and some ways it is easier because you have that knowledge of the character and you just trust your instincts.
When you are younger you just thrown yourself in - at least I did - and I would just feel instead of think. As I have got older, I have become a lot more mindful about the decisions that I make (laughs).
I question myself a lot more as an actor now than I did when I was young; when I am on set, I have more in the tank in terms of experience but not necessarily wisdom (laughs).
- You have mentioned Cédric Klapisch already, how have you found him as a filmmaker? And how has your working relationship developed with him over the three movies?
He is writer and a director - there is the whole notion of an auteur. He is a visionary and an artist and it is not as if he has inherited someone else's script: it is their material, their story, and they are the storyteller.
It is lovely to work with someone that you know so well and like; he is such a wonderful person. It is quite an intimate relationship between an actor and a director when you go on a journey with a character, as there is a certain language between you.
You want to help them tell their story and they want you to bring their story to life; there is an investment in one another. To experience that with someone three times, I am just really grateful that it is someone that I like and have gone on to become friends with (laughs).
I think that we have figured out that that story has come to an end. To be honest, I was surprised that we were coming back for the third one.
He said that he would never do a fourth because he has other stories that he wants to tell, but I really wouldn't be surprised if we get a script in eight years’ time.
- Did you always know that it was going to be a trilogy?
I didn't, no. I didn't even know after the first film that we were going to do another. By the time we got to the third one, he called me up and said 'let’s go and have a cup of coffee as I want to talk to you about something,' of course, I knew exactly what that was going to be.
There is a lot of scope because these films are very popular in France and people love these characters. L'auberge espagnole was the first film and it became a cult film about students in Europe.
It was very light-hearted, fun, and quirky and it had a big reaction. Then he realised that he could evolve these characters and go deeper and deeper with them and, I suppose, it is a long life and you could go on and on (laughs). I just don't know if anyone would want to see that.
- We are also going be seeing you return to the big screen this autumn with Set Fire To The Stars, so can you tell me a bit about that? And what sparked your interest when you read the script for the first time?
Well, I didn't need to read the script. Celyn Jones, who plays Dylan Thomas, is a dear old friend of mine and he has been talking about his obsession with Dylan Thomas and my equal obsession with Caitlin Thomas - who was also a poet, writer and ferocious in her own right. She doesn't get as much of the publicity as Dylan does.
I have always wanted to play her and he said to me 'there is one segment of the film where she will be in flashback.' I was in New York filming at the time, and I was like 'I can literally come and film for a day, so let’s do it'
To play Caitlin in this lovely, very independent spirited made film, with a lot of passion and insanely talented people was a pleasure. It is a really great film, and I am really excited for them. To me, it was a day’s work but it really did mean a lot to me.
- Throughout your career, we have seen you move between TV and film roles with projects such as Black Box and Above Suspicion under your belt. So how do you find that TV and film work compare? There is some great stuff being made for TV at the moment.
I think acting is acting at the end of the day; I also come from the theatre as I spent the first fifteen years of my career just doing plays. I miss it.
I suppose TV is quicker; you are literally shooting five or six scenes a day. With film, you have a little bit longer. There is some great writing in TV.
I remember when I started out as an actress, there were TV actors, there were theatre actors, and there were films actors and you didn't really cross in-between: certain people were able to if they were big stars.
Now, you get the big film stars going TV work - and it is great work that they wouldn't be able to do on film. I feel that those boundaries have dissolved and you have access to more variety, which is really exciting.
I love TV, and I think people should be able to watch something on TV that is of equal value as paying for a cinema ticket. We shouldn't just put the rubbish on TV; there should be great drams and great writing on television so it can be available to everyone.
I love that TV can get into everyone's homes and who you can get to as an audience is a lot more exciting.
- Finally, what's next for you going into next year? We are hearing a lot of chatter about Sherlock Holmes 3.
I hear chatter about that, and then it goes away. Getting all of the boys' schedules together is quite a difficult thing with everyone being so busy.
It is a little vignette for me to come in and do that. That would be lovely, they are such lovely people, and it would be nice to get together. However, I am not holding my breath that it is going to happen; but it might well.
I have just filmed Bastille Day in France with Idris Elba. I am about to go and do True Detective second season in California. I am busy.
I have just taken the summer off, which is nice; it is important to remember that you do have a life outside of work. But I am getting busy again.
Chinese Puzzle is out on DVD.