Marjane Satrapi is an endlessly talented writer, coming onto the scene in 2000 with her wonderful comic book about growing up in Iran called Persepolis. She later directed the amazing movie based on the same and has since directed a few other films before her latest called Radioactive, an adaptation of Lauren Redniss’ graphic novel of the same title. It is about the life of Marie Curie and also the lives of her discoveries, Radium, and Polonium. Rosamund Pike delivers a career-defining performance in the film, and the film itself is gorgeous and thought-provoking. I daresay it is one of the top films of 2020. I was more than delighted to speak with Satrapi about the film and Madame Curie herself.
The first question I wanted to ask you is, to you, what is the most striking thing about Marie Curie as a historical figure?
Marjane Satrapi: The most striking thing about her is… Well, of course, I mean historically, she’s the only person in the world who has won two Nobel prizes in two different fields, chemistry, and physics. Nobody else has done that. And she and her daughter, the only couple of mother and daughter that have won the Nobel prize. So historically, this is that. But, for me personally, what is most striking is her character. Is the fact that she was really not looking for any kind of applause and prizes and recognition. She really wanted to do good turns. And the fact that she was so uncompromising, and the fact that she was so free. At one point she talks about radium, and she said, “I will talk about radium the most peculiar element because it doesn’t behave the way it should.” And I think she doesn’t behave the way she should. And I love that about her.
That’s kind of what I got from the movie. Kind of an extension of that question is what qualities of Marie Curie do you see in yourself?
Well, Jesus Christ, not many, but I think she’s a genius. She’s a genius and I’m not. Yeah, but probably the fact that she did not need the actual work of other people. That she didn’t care about what other people thought. I think I have that in common with her. Because when I came to the conclusion that I don’t like most of the people in the world, mathematically, there is no reason that most of the people in the world would like me. So, normally most of the people in the world should not like me and that would be okay. And from the moment that I understood that, I think my life became much easier for me. What should I say?
Yeah. I mean, I’m still to this day… I’m trying to get over that, but yeah, I bet that’s very freeing.
It’s an exercise, I assure you. You have to… It’s like training. You have to train it every day. And at one point, actually, you can make the gymnastic figure at the end in a very graceful way.