Marjane Satrapi Discusses Her Latest Directorial Effort, Radioactive Image

I know that you didn’t write the script for this movie, but it is an adaptation of a graphic novel. And you’ve done that before with your own work. So I was wondering what’s the difference between adapting a comic book or a graphic novel that you didn’t write?
Lorry, to be honest with you, I did not know even that was a graphic novel behind it. I mean, at first, I read the script of Jack Thorne, but I thought it was a great script because if… No matter how much I love Madame Curie, if it’s not a good script, then I don’t care. It’s not the figure. It’s not her character that makes a good movie. You have to have a very good script. And the title of his script was Radioactive. And I thought it was so interesting that not only would he talk about her and her discovery, but then we are like, “Okay, I was happier with the discovery.” So we talked about the aftermath and that was the thing that was the most exciting for me.

And then I realized it was a book. And the book of Lauren Redniss. Obviously it was great because she has the intelligence actually to mix this discovery of radioactivity with the life of Pierre and Marie Curie and actually to make… At the same time, the story of radioactivity and the title is beautiful. The story of love and fallout is great. But then, the work of Lauren Redniss is very artistic. It’s great for a book, but it was completely… We could not use it at all for a film. So yeah, the way she made her story, the way she constructed it, Jack was very faithful to this construction and this is it. But it is really by coincidence that it was a graphic novel. It was not made on purpose. Not from my side, at least.

“I still have to prove that I can do it. So, it has not helped me a lot.”

This is kind of an aside, but there’s a line where Marie and her sister are walking and Marie says, “Fame is for idiots.” And that really struck me. And I wanted to know how you feel about that statement, personally?
I think she’s completely right. It is for idiots. I mean the only thing that it gives you, I mean, there’s recognition of your voice. The only thing that it should normally give you, it has to make your next work a little bit easier. So you don’t have to prove again that you’re able to do it. Until now, and I’m almost 50, I can tell you each new project, I still have to prove that I can do it. So, it has not helped me a lot. But enjoying fame, I think is really made for idiots. Because you know your own value. It’s not because… Like, I don’t know, lots of people say that you’re great that you’re suddenly going to become great. And the contrary is also true. It’s not because everybody will say, “Oh, this person is s**t,” that suddenly you will become s**t. You’re a person. You know your own value.

Since you wear so many hats and you do so many things creatively, I was wondering at what point in your life did you grab onto the possibility of becoming a filmmaker?
I made my comic books and one day there’s this guy who wants to become a producer. And he tells me, “Oh, let’s make Persepolis.” And I’m like, “Let’s not.” Because, I mean, why on earth would I make a film out of it? And at the same time, I’m thinking this guy is willing to pay me money, so I will learn something new. Because normally YOU pay money to learn something new. Now they’re paying me money and they’re telling me, “Oh, you can try something new.” But in my head, it was like, “Okay, let’s give it a try. And then, in the worst case, I will make the worst film in the world. Okay. And then if it’s not good, then I go back and make my comics.” That was really the beginning.

Then I started working and until then I have always worked solo. I am quite a totalitarian person. I love to be by myself doing my thing, not having anybody who I have to discuss with. I found the joy of working with others because when you work with other people, you have this notion of surprise. When I work by myself, I have control over everything. When you make a film, you have the actor, you have the DOP, you have this, you have that. Everybody comes with their own vision, with their own talents. It adds layer over layer. And in the end you have something that happens. But most of the time, I can be surprised, with what is happening. And I really loved it. But it was really by coincidence. I never had the plan that oh, I’m going to become a film director. But to be honest with you, I’ve never planned anything in my life. I’ve always lived life to bring me its own surprises

No, I mean, that’s a great way to live.
Yeah. Each time I really wanted something very badly, it never happened to me. As long as I’m very cool about it, then they propose it to me. So, I just wait and see what happens.

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