Feature: Nora Arnezeder Dazzles in Paris 36
Thu, 02 Apr 2009 13:35:36
Only 17 when she first auditioned for the lead female role in director/writer Christophe Barratier's romantic musical Paris 36, Nora Arnezeder says the casting process itself was "like a love story. I waited for about six months, and I said to myself, 'If he doesn't want me now, he will never want me!'"
She didn't have to worry. The Parisian native had aced the unusual tryout process, which consisted of performing two songs on a large Paris stage. "We had eight days, with dozens of candidates," Barratier says. "I had some friends to make a little audience, with all my crew and the camera and spotlights. So it was going to be tough for a beginner to be there. Usually for a cast audition, you have only the casting director and a video camera."
“Director Barratier on Arnezeder: '[I]t was obvious she was the character.'”
Barratier remembers Arnezeder singing with such impressive emotion and energy that he looked around and saw "oh my God" expressions on people's faces. She still was his favorite after her acting auditions. Finally, when he dressed her in a 1930s outfit with makeup from the time and presented her to the producers, "it was obvious she was the character, and everybody agreed."
In fact, Arnezeder's very retro makeup and bright yellow curls make her so period-piece convincing in the film that it's a surprise to see how top-model contemporary she looks in person, with shoulder-length light brown hair and a flawless face that's not pancake-powder pale.
Still, Arnezeder says she felt "really stupid" when she arrived on set to begin shooting. "They were all a big family, and I was the newcomer, and the only lady," she remembers. "I really wanted to do well."
Arnezeder was able to turn those insecurities to her advantage when she realized how much she had in common with her character, a small-town girl named Douce who arrives in the City of Light hoping to launch an onstage career. "Douce is like a newcomer who wants to prove she's not just a beautiful girl, she is a good singer," Arnezeder explains. "When Douce has to do her audition, she's very shy, and I was really shy at that time…After, when I got to know people, I felt more and more confident."
Although she had watched movies and read books about the era to prepare for her role, she says, "I didn't really want to imitate those actresses from the '30s or '40s or '50s. I wanted to do research, but just to feel the atmosphere of that period. But when I was on the set, I forgot everything!"
Arnezeder, whose mother is Egyptian and whose father is Austrian, spent a year in Bali during her childhood before the family returned to France. She took acting and music classes, appeared on some French TV shows, and landed a small movie part before being cast in Paris 36.
Her MySpace page says her musical influences range from Edith Piaf to Norah Jones, and she is recording music for her first album. "I love jazz music, so I want to have a real jazz inspiration," she says. "I like to write lyrics, and sometimes when I have music in my head I record it, but I like to work with people that are really professional…it's good to have another eye who can look at your work."
When it comes to future movies, the current economy has something in common with the hard times portrayed in Paris 36. "There's a big crisis even in the movie industry," Arnezeder notes. "Producers and directors don't have a lot of money to make movies. So we have to be patient and wait."