Best-known for her role as Noemie in the hit French series “Call My Agent!,” Laure Calamy has emerged in recent years as one of France’s biggest stars and most versatile actors. After a busy career in theater and many notable supporting roles, she finally got a shot at leading roles, and kudos have followed, for Caroline Vignal’s romantic comedy “My Donkey, My Lover and I,” which was part of Cannes’ Official Selection and earned her a Cesar award, and Eric Gravel’s social drama “A Plein Temps,” for which she won best actress at Venice in the Horizons section.
Calamy is now on a roll and she’s shown that she can play anything. Case in point: Over this summer, she was at Locarno to present Blandine Lenoir’s period drama “Angry Annie,” in which she plays a working mother who joins the Movement for the Liberation of Abortion and Contraception (the film won Variety‘s Piazza Grande Award), and she’s now at Venice with Sebastien Marnier’s psychological thriller “The Origin of Evil,” in which she flirts with genre. In-between Locarno and Venice, she also made a stop at Angouleme Film Festival, where she presented “Angry Annie” and Marc Fitoussi’s “Two Tickets to Greece.”
“I don’t have any morality when I play a role. I’m like a speleologist [cave expert] of human feelings, I try to understand my characters and I don’t limit myself in any way, even if there’s some monstrosity and violence embedded in them, because these traits are part of human nature,” she says.
“The Origin of Evil” marked a departure for Calamy, who explained she had never been given such a dark role. She says Marnier “was interested in using the image of (her) candid character in ‘Call My Agent!,’ Noemie, whom ‘you would give communion without confession’ as we say in French, and then pulling her into profound and amoral waters.”
“It’s like contemplating a painting that looks like it’s from Henri Matisse, and then suddenly realizing it’s from Francis Bacon or Pierre Soulages,” she quips.
Calamy, who is a politically minded artist, says she also liked the layers of Marnier’s film that makes it timely and compelling. “It’s a social critique and a metaphor about the end of patriarchy, and it uses the grammar of genre cinema, some suspense and even grotesque humor, to make it an entertaining watch.”
Although she’s a powerhouse on set, Calamy says she’s always very nervous before the start of shoot, as if she was about to “skydive.” “The Origin of Evil” also felt like an “adventure,” because it shot during a lockdown and all the actors and crew bonded like a family alongside Marnier whom she praised for his “charisma, his enthusiasm and strong vision.”
Speaking of “Angry Annie,” another film showcasing her political engagement, Calamy says, the timing is auspicious.
“We need to put these rights in the constitution because as Simone de Beauvoir said in 1949, ‘Never forget that it will only take a political, economic or religious crisis to question women’s rights.’ These rights are never to be taken for granted.
“There is still an anti-abortion movement, some complacency towards it, and some discussions, especially within the [far-right] National Rally party, but not only to change the law so that this medical act won’t be reimbursed by the social security system, something which [former French prime minister and president] Jacques Chirac was in favor of at some point in the 1980s. Today, even in France, there are still regions where it’s an epic journey to access this right.”
She says: “The film is singular, luminous, it tells part of our collective national history that we know very little about. It’s about these women from every social background who joined forces and broke ground together and came up with such a simple, almost painless technique, even if they were not doctors. “
Calamy has become popular abroad thanks to “Call My Agent!” and says she’d be “open to working with directors outside of France.” A film buff, she cited Lars von Trier, Pedro Almodovar, Maren Ade, Andrea Arnold, Park Chan-Wook and Hong Sang-soo, among others, as favorites.
As for the spinoff of “Call My Agent!,” she says it was still in development but didn’t disclose any further details. “The idea is to bring back the key cast so I’ll of course be part of it.”
Next up, Camaly will reteam with Vignal, the helmer of “My Donkey, My Lover and I,” on “Iris et les hommes.”