Juliette Binoche: My step into the unknown

The actress Juliette Binoche reveals why she's turned to dance, what it's like to work with Akram Khan, and how much she misses Anthony Minghella

So why should I start dancing? I never really asked myself that question. I always felt, anyway, that I was dancing. To act is to dance. Isadora Duncan is an important artist for me. I read everything I could about her when I was playing Nina in Chekhov's The Seagull a very long time ago, when I was 21 in France. Isadora had Sarah Bernhardt as an icon, and this feeling infected me, too, so I was very Isadora when I played in Konstantin's over-heated play-within-a-play.

My work on this new theatre piece with Akram Khan, in-i at the National Theatre, which then goes on a big international tour, is nothing to do with trying to force a new stage in my career. With Akram, I felt that we could confront and share new desires, hopes and visions through our respective arts by inventing a common language. I don't know the result yet, but I know the path that we're taking is changing me radically. I never know what I'm capable of before I do it.

I may not have danced all that much before, but I'm aware of my body through doing Pilates. I'm 44 now, and I have two growing children, so I try to keep my energy levels as high as possible. With this new theatre piece, I know where we're going when we enter the theatre, and it's nothing to do with being a work in progress – everything is a work in progress. I'm changing all the time.

How can I say what my new performance will be about? It's impossible, and there can be no diagnosis until the audience takes what they get, the medicine on the spoon. I don't think that "show" is the right word. It is, I hope, an experience. I really don't see art as being an expression of something outside of myself. Whether it's writing, or painting, or dancing – which I have never done before on a stage – the medium changes because of what it is you are trying to express.

I secretly hope that faith will take over. I don't want to be an actress, as a point of principle, why should I? It just happens that I'm acting because I'm in the process of meeting someone, myself, on the way back. But if you told me tomorrow that I wouldn't be acting any more, then I'd be fine with that. Art is not about hanging on to things – it's all about inventing.

It is the same thing whether I'm painting or acting. The common denominator is in the movement. I don't dance but I paint in the air. Or I don't paint, but I dance on the paper. My portraits of directors that are on show in the BFI alongside my film retrospective are impressions of people I've worked with at moments of reflection, or crisis, or creativity. And the portraits of myself are critical, and I think – I hope – revealing.

It's very strange to be here in London without Anthony Minghella, whom I loved very much, and very painful. I was so frightened in the first week of shooting The English Patient, I was trembling, but he was trying to find a way to win my trust, and he just said to me, "Well, fly..." and I did and it changed my life. The poems that I've written in both French and English – they just came as they came, in French or English – complement my portraits, and the one for Anthony is very special to me:



searching in the battle of being

we attempted to glimpse the other side

dance took us in its arms

bliss of green nature in the land of oil and vine

your ideas became real to me

jumping to the hopscotch in the night

ascending to the paintings of your imagination

I grew by leaps and bounds

oil perfume mingled with hair

we traced our lives

your call came with silence

I was your angel as you opened my wings

I would jump forever

in the most sacred place

yearning for the sensation of trust

of love beyond ourselves

you taught me to be more human

lifted like a gift to myself

feet arms heads and hearts

we walked together as if life was happening

somewhere else

with joy with joy



I hope that conveys something of his talent as a human being, let alone as a film director. The two things are the same in my book. And that's what the show is about, perhaps – it's not about the answers, but the questions. Do we dare to love? Is emotion really love? I don't register any difference in my relationship with Akram as a person or as an artist. We discover things about each other as we do it. I didn't know him well to start with... we were diving off a high board without knowing where the water was.

But now we know each other really well. We have been through a lot of improvisation, starting with emotion and what emotion can do to the body, and that creates the movement. It's a question of unlocking that emotion within ourselves and seeing how it moves, how it is animated. It was the same process, really, when I played in Pirandello's Naked directed by Jonathan Kent at the Almeida 10 years ago and later in Pinter's Betrayal, directed by David Leveaux, in New York.

It's not a question of my being desperate to get back on to the stage. Even on a film set there are lots of people watching you. It's the same kind of involvement; it's just moving from an intimate to a more exposed space in the theatre. But the terror is the same.



Juliette Binoche was talking to Michael Coveney. 'in-i' will be at the National Theatre, London SE1 (020-7452 3000), from 6 September to 20 October; 'Jubilations', the retrospective of Juliette Binoche's 25-year film career and an exhibition of her paintings, takes place at BFI Southbank, London SE1 (020-7928 2525) to 15 October; Binoche's poems are published by Culturesfrance

Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette

film
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz