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"One of the reasons Chris said yes was that the screenplay was not about, like, this dramatic issue about black and white," Delpy says.
Delpy insists the only aspect of the film that's autobiographical is that Marion, like Julie, has since the first film had to live through the death of her mom. "I included it because she was in the first film, and I didn't know how to exclude her without telling the truth," she says. But Marion also struggles with asserting an identity as an artist, as a domestic partner and as a mom, and this is a conflict that's a part of Delpy's own life since she gave birth in 2009 to a son with her boyfriend of five years, film composer Marc Streitenfeld (Prometheus).
"It's very complicated to be a mother and a creative woman at the same time," Delpy says. "But the minute I started writing again, three months after my son was born, it was like breathing again. It was like being a fish out of water put back in."
Delpy, who edited New York from her L.A. home "with my son coming in and out," says part of her conception of being a good mom is making sure motherhood doesn't completely subsume her identity.
"It's not the kid's fault, but the position of being a mother can destroy you creatively," she says. "If you go and write, you feel guilty. So you have to get over that."
Delpy is startlingly straightforward in admitting that she has very recently stood in her own way, even internalizing the external prejudices that she suggests have held her back. She was initially on board to direct The Right Profile, a micro-biopic about Joe Strummer's calculated disappearance to France in 1982 before the release of the final original-lineup Clash album, Combat Rock. But she tells me she's no longer involved, for fear that the company wouldn't want a French woman directing male-driven, British subject matter.
"To fight a company to prove I'm the right person — I've done that too many times, and too many times it turns out negative," she says, "and then they're not behind me, and they kind of contradict everything I want to do during the film."
This is what happened on The Countess, which Delpy wrote, directed and starred in between Paris and New York. The movie, which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival but had no significant theatrical exposure in the States, is based on the story of Elizabeth Báthory, a 17th-century noblewoman who allegedly believed the secret to eternal youth lay in bathing in virgin's blood. It's definitely a mixed bag but worth Netflixing for its often darkly funny counterpoint to Delpy's '90s image of near-vampiric sexuality. Delpy admits the film was compromised by behind-the-scenes drama — the financiers, she says, didn't believe in her.
"It's very hard because you make a film that's OK, but it's not exactly what you wanted to do because you've been fighting every day. It's much easier when everyone's on the same side."
Getting everyone on the same side — or at least the same page — remains a hurdle holding up another announced Delpy project, the long-rumored follow-up to Before Sunset. Hawke claimed in June that the third film in the series would shoot this summer, but at our lunch a couple of weeks later, Delpy suggests the production is not a done deal.
"We're in the process of talking about it, but we're not sure 100 percent. It depends on — um, I don't know what it depends on. On everything, on the weather ... " She trails off. "The problem is getting the three of us in a room to work, to write and then shoot it."
Delpy sighs. "My life is really stressful, actually, because I don't know anything, and it's stressing me out like crazy."
We're interrupted by a male executive from a distributor, a competitor of Magnolia Pictures, which is releasing New York in theaters and has already made it available on cable video-on-demand.
Delpy and the executive kiss hello. "What's going on, darling?" he asks.
"I'm OK. My film's coming out in August," Delpy says.
"Who bought your movie?"
"Magnolia. You guys didn't buy it." She smiles. "You'll regret it!"
"I want to see it! Why didn't we buy it? It's not me. I would have been all for it."
Delpy says, deadpan, "Because there's a black man with a white woman."
She's joking — sort of — but maybe there's a kernel of truth to the accusation, because instead of quipping back, the exec gets slightly defensive. "No, we did, we did, um ... ." He names a Chris Rock film his company distributed, in which there is no interracial relationship.
"Why, then, didn't you do me?" Delpy asks.
I realize she's doing something kind of incredible, in playfully nudging this mundane kiss-kiss Hollywood run-in into the realm of interrogation. The exec is smiling tightly, trying to keep the encounter light, clearly frustrated that she's pressing the issue. It's almost turning into an echo of Marion's conflict with the critic in Delpy's movie: Confronted with an opportunity to help herself via schmoozing, Delpy can't resist a potentially damaging confrontation.
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