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Roxane Mesquida

Rubber, Mr. Oizo and the maiden

In the Californian desert, incredulous spectators witness the adventures of a telepathic killer tyre, mysteriously attracted to a very pretty young girl.

Rubber - Movie Still

The very pretty young girl our hero, Rubber the killer tyre, falls in love with is Roxane Mesquida, who greets us in the garden on the terrace of her hotel in Locarno, after an exhausting tour of local radios and tv-studios for interviews.
While we’re making our way to a suitable bench, she asks us which language we’ll be using in our interview. She regrets we’ll not be speaking French, she says, because: “I’m two different persons, according to the language I speak”, she explains.

Beatrice Biggio (BB): Fucine Mute has the pleasure to talk to Roxane Mesquida, in Locarno to present the film she stars in as the leading character, Rubber, directed by Quentin Dupieux. First of all, let me ask you, are you enjoying being in Locarno?

Roxane Mezquida | Photo by Giulio DoniniRoxane Mesquida (RM): Yeah, I love Locarno, I’m very happy. I shot a Swiss movie two years ago, so it’s not my first time in the Italian part of Switzerland, but it’s my first time here in Locarno.

BB: Just to let the Italian audience know a little bit more about you, can you tell us how did this all start for you, not just this experience, but your whole life in the film industry?

RM: How did it all start… Well, I was thirteen, and I was walking on the street in the small village where I grew up, and a director, his name is Manuel Pradal, was looking for a location for his movie, and he just saw me walking on the street and he just thought: “I have to go and talk to her”, so he asked me if I wanted to audition for his movie, and I thought, why not? I mean, I didn’t know anything about movies, and I didn’t want to be an actress, so… I think I just wanted to do it as an experience. But then I met Catherine Breillat, I had this amazing chance to meet her… I worked with her three times, and…

BB: And that was it.

RM: Yeah. Everything started.

BB: That was quite a strong experience, as well, with Catherine Breillat, wasn’t it?

RM: Yeah, I guess everything really is a pretty strong experience… I think I’m very lucky because I met her when I was so young, and it’s really because of her that I learned about movies and cinema, and the reason why I wanted to do this job.

BB: Working with her was your first big experience in films. I think she is a real author, she really has something different to say in this field, it’s not like starting from making commercial movies. In a way, Rubber is something like that too, quite out of the ordinary as a film, isn’t it?

Rubber The posterRM: No, it’s not commercial at all, although, you know, what is commercial?

BB: We don’t really know, I guess…

RM: No, maybe when you have a lot of money to make a movie it becomes a commercial movie, or when you don’t have any message, but… We have to be careful, because we speak about commercial movies when we’re talking about Quentin Tarantino or Paul Thomas Anderson, though they are real authors, you know. I don’t have anything against commercial movies. Everybody’s always saying that I say I have something against commercial movies. But I just want to work with people I admire and I’d love to work with them also.

BB: People who have ideas, of course. And, speaking of ideas, let’s talk about the idea behind Rubber. It’s quite startling, I mean, everyone at the screening in Piazza Grande I think was expecting a very funny movie with quite a bit of action and a very strange story. You know, this story about a tyre, which is the main character, apparently. And, instead, we got something really different, something that made us think about the film industry…

RM: Totally. And Hollywood.

BB: Can you tell us a little bit about this? Did you discuss it on the set?

RM: No, you know. I think Quentin just wanted to have fun, and he wanted to use all these things we know about horror movies in the Seventies in Hollywood. He just wanted to play with that, I don’t think he tried too hard to have a message. I think this movie has been very spontaneous, that’s also why he wanted to shoot it with a 5D, because it was very fast. And, also, I think he was always scared to loose this urge (NdT: Roxane here says envie, in French) to do movies, he still wanted to be excited by it.

BB: How did you approach the character you play in the film?

RM: I don’t intellectualize that much. It’s like… I love to be scared, and I don’t want to be bored, I’m very scared of being bored, so I always choose these very particular projects because they’re scary in a way, but so exciting.

BB: What is the story of the film up to now? I mean when and where was it shot, when was it first screened…

RM: We shot Rubber in October and November 2009 in North Los Angeles, in the desert, so I feel like we shot the movie yesterday, really. So right after that we were in Cannes with this movie, so it’s not out anywhere yet. But it will be coming out very soon, everywhere.

BB: In Europe as well?

RM: Yes, it will be out in the States, first, then in France on November the 10th,2010, and also in Switzerland, so… and England… it will be distributed everywhere. I’m very happy, you know. It’s amazing when you do very small movies and… it wasn’t even shot with a camera, you see, it was just a still camera. And the look of the movie is amazing. We shot it very fast in the desert, you’d never have thought that it would be a movie that would be going to Cannes and Locarno, and be shown in front of 4 to 5 thousand people and then travelling all over the world. It’s amazing!

Burning Tires

BB: As far as you know, is it still to be considered a low-budget movie?

RM: It’s a very, very, very low budget movie.

BB: Can you tell us a little bit on how Quentin directs? What is he like on the set to work with?

RM: I don’t know, he wasn’t directing much, you know. I think he’s actually the opposite, when he gave me the script he said: “I don’t know if you’re going to accept this role, because it’s not very interesting”. You know, he said the most horrible thing that you can say to an actress, the things that you should never say, like “It’s not going to be the role of your life”, and “I don’t want you to expect anything of it”, or “It’s going to be a pretty crazy adventure, and if you don’t want to be a part of it I’d be happy”. Then I read the script and I thought, that’s fucking cool!

BB: So it was the script that made it…

RM: Yes, you know, it’s like, I’ve never been attracted by a role. Most of the time it’s just that I want to work with these people, and I knew Quentin by the name of Mr. Oizo, and I always thought that he was a very interesting artist, and I was very excited to work with him.

BB: So if there’s someone who knows how to tell a story, and there’s a good story, you’re in for it.

Roxane Mezquida | foto di Giulio Donini

RM: Yeah, it’s more than that, it’s a very artistic point of view. It’s very modern, and I think it’s very important to live in your time.

BB: I also would like to ask you a little bit more about your experience with Catherine Breillat…

RM: What do you want to know?

BB: Well, I know her as a writer, mostly…

RM: Oh, really?

BB: Yes, and I really admire her work, because I think she’s got courage, and she writes about really strong but extremely true stuff…

RM: I agree, totally.

BB: So I was curious about what is she like a director, and what sort of feelings you had as an actress working with her.

RM: I just feel like I’ve discovered something about myself when I did the first movie. I feel like she’s always pushing the limits, and that I might realize that’s crazy, and that I can only go so far, in the emotion. And it’s amazing because I’ve worked with her three times, and every time it feels like we’re going farther and farther, but it’s not discovering or interest why we keep on working together. I’s really abstract, I can’t really tell with words, it’s very physical. She’s like very manipulative, you know, she uses her hands, putting you in the right position, and she makes you scream, it’s very physical.

RoXane Mezquida in Rubber

BB: So very intense…

RM: Very intense…

BB: And not boring…

RM: Not boring at all. But she’s not intellectualizing anything. She never says: “Ok, Roxane, le’s speak about this…”. Never. As I always say, it’s like jumping in cold water, you don’t think about it, you just do it. And I just love this way of thinking, that’s why we get along perfectly.

BB: What about your immediate plans, have you got anything in store, have you recently just finished any other project?

RM: Rubber is just coming out, and at the same time another movie I made with the American director Gregg Araki is coming out, it’s called Kaboom, it was also screened in Cannes, it will come out on October the 6th 2010 in Switzerland and France. There’s also a Swiss movie I made coming out soon, I don’t exactly know when, but I know it was screened at the Zurich Film Festival, Michael Steiner directed, and it’s called Sennentuntschi. And I also shot my first movie in New York, probably coming out next year (2011), and a documentary fiction, something very small and particular but very interesting, with a French director, Laetitia Masson.

BB: And have you just moved to the States?

RM: No, actually, I moved to Los Angeles for Kaboom, the Gregg Araki film, and then I did Rubber right after, then this film in New York, so it’s like… it’s an easy life, you know, I love living in Los Angeles and I work a lot there, so… And I meet all these amazing people, and I’m very happy there. But I go back home all the time, like I probably go to Paris once a month, or to Europe, anyway. I feel like I’m living on a plane, actually, not somewhere.

BB: So after Locarno, where are you off to next?

RM: The next festival is Deauville, because I’m in the jury. So that will be next.

BB: So, yet another experience. Or have you done it before?

RM: Yes, I have. Three times, and I really liked it. It’s amazing, like, you have to watch all these movies and I love movies, Sometimes I watch four movies a day. It’s like food for me.

BB: So you’re not regretting that at thirteen you were thrown into all this…

RM: Not one little bit. I’m very excited and very happy. The Deauville jury is I’ll be part of is for the Revelations section, and the President will be Manuel Pradal, who discovered me.

Roxane Mezquida | Photo by Giulio Donini

BB: A circle closing…

RM: I hope not, I wanna keep on working, you know! Meeting amazing people. But I’m very excited, can’t wait to do it.

BB: I’m just curious: at thirteen, before you were discovered, what was your idea about the future, what did you think you would be doing in life?

RM: This is so boring. I fell in love with the English language very young, so I wanted to be a translator and translate books from English. But I’m very happy that I’m able to act in English now.

BB: Thanks, Roxane. Hope this wasn’t too boring!

RM: Oh no! Don’t worry! (Laughs)

We will never find out which one of the two Roxanes we’ve been talking to. But, judging from the sparkle in her eyes when we talked about her work with Catherine Breillat, it seemed the French Roxane took over from the English speaking one, for a fleeting moment. We feel very lucky we happened to be there to witness it.


Born in Marseille, Mesquida grew up in Le Pradet though, a little town near Toulon. She was discovered at the age of 13, while walking on a road in her region, by the director Manuel Pradal who was in the middle of the casting process for his movie Marie Baie des Anges at the time. She took part in the shooting during the next summer after their encounter. In 1998, she played in L’École de la chair by Benoît Jacquot and crossed paths with the controversial director who would make her well-known and, according to Mesquida, who made her learn her craft: Catherine Breillat. First they collaborated in À ma sœur!, then in Sex is Comedy, and they worked together again during the spring of 2006 on Une vieille Maîtresse. She wanted to go to Art School but finally abandoned the idea to pursue her career in acting.


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