French Exit is a great character piece about a wealthy widow who’s about to run out of money, Frances Price. Played by Michelle Pfeiffer in a role that garnered her a good amount of nominations, the character of Frances is extremely interesting as is the world she has built around her. As well as the other people she lets into that world. Azazel Jacobs is not personally familiar with the uber-wealthy socialite lifestyle that Frances lives, but he uses French Exit as a way to explore the more personal side of the untouchable upper class. I was super thrilled to talk to Jacobs about this film, the environment in which it was released, and more.
How did you first become acquainted with Patrick DeWitt’s novel that the film is based on?
Jacobs: Patrick and I have been friends for at least the past fifteen years. So, we’ve been sharing material with each other since then in close-to-finished stages. With French Exit, he sent me the manuscript that had about two or three chapters missing and it was yet to be edited but I was able to read and give my response and immediately fell in love with it and wanted to make a movie out of it.
“…immediately fell in love with it and wanted to make a movie out of it.”
I’ve lived here for almost thirteen years. When you hang out in artistic circles, there are people like Frances who will kind of peek their head in occasionally and then go back to their little exclusive clubs. Did you ever run into people like that and did it help you inform the character of Frances at all?
That’s really interesting. Definitely in the film business, you wind up seeing people that have come from old money and you just have had a completely different life. What was interesting growing up around the artists I did is that everybody, especially downtown, had these really big homes. So, it wasn’t a sign of wealth. It was just super cheap rent. You really didn’t know sometimes who had money and who didn’t. Especially with kids, I was hanging out with. It’s always been one of those surprises that happens later on. It’s like, “Oh, this person has a completely different path ahead.” Even though we love the same music or like the same things, we’re actually in completely different places. So that’s been more of my experience growing up in New York is really finding out later on.
The way I ended up connecting with Frances Price was clearly not coming from her money but really liking people who are who they are. No matter what. That can kind of be whether you have money or not.