Guillaume Canet began his career in the movies as an actor—you may remember him from Danny Boyle’s The Beach. But since then, Canet has exploded onto the scene as a director with 2006’s critically acclaimed Tell No One, an adaptation of the novel by Harlan Coben, which won four Césars—including best director. Canet’s latest writer/director credit is Little White Lies, which premiered in New York on August 24th at the Angelika. The film stars an ensemble cast that includes The Artist’s Jean Dujardin, a very high-strung Françoise Cluzet, and Canet’s real-life love interest, Marion Cotillard. Reminiscent of The Big Chill, the film tells the story of a group of friends whose lives are sent into a tailspin after a member of their group is seriously injured in a motorcycle accident. With moments of laughter and tears, the film is set mostly in Cluzet’s character’s beach house, and though the dialogue is all in French, the soundtrack has plenty of Isley Brothers, Gladys Night, and David Bowie tunes. Here, Canet talks about the making of Little White Lies and his next film, which is set in 1970s Brooklyn.  

The film is very touching and sincere yet also funny. Is any of the story based on real life?
GUILLAUME CANET: Yes, it’s very personal. It came from a lot of different things. I was in the hospital and I was busy and hadn’t taken any vacation. It just struck me that I had not taken any time for myself, and I wasn’t taking very good care of myself. I realized how you can lie to yourself and your friends. You pretend things are okay, but they aren’t. I was also a big fan of The Big Chill, so I was thinking I wanted to make a movie about friendship and everything just sort of came together.

How long did it take you to write the script?
GC: Not very long at all—about five months. I was just opening my laptop and writing every day. I was really surprised to see how fast it all came together.

This film is a major departure from your last film, Tell No One, which is basically a noir and was adapted from a novel. When you are writing a script, do you have a favorite genre to work in?
GC: I actually like the genre of this film. It’s really cross-genre. I love it when something begins as sad and then as you’re writing it, you see it turn and change. You can put the audience in front of it and suddenly it’s different. As a filmmaker, I love writing that type of tragicomic movie because it’s closest to real life—it can go up and down. That said, I like all genres. I’d love to do a sci-fi movie or a horror movie.

The cast was so natural together. Did any of them have friendships prior to filming?  
GC: Yes, absolutely. They all know each other very well and they have worked together a lot. They are my friends. For instance, I’ve known Jean Dujardin since I was eight. It’s partially why I wanted to do this film, because I wanted to work with friends. I think it really helped the film.

The movie is really about friendship. There was an article in The New York Times not too long ago about the difficulty of making new friends after age 30. Do you think this is an issue for French adults as well?
GC: We have the same issues in France, definitely. Nowadays we are all living very fast. Everyone is working and you also want that time to yourself, so it’s hard to make time for friendship. Maybe you have old friends, but you have trouble respecting who they have become. I was just in New York for six months and I was amazed to see how fast life goes there. It’s exhausting and you forget to live. Life is more than just work. That’s really the message of this film, it’s important to spend time with the people you love because you never know when they might be gone.

You began your professional career as an actor. What drew you to directing?
GC: I love acting because it’s a great form of expression; it’s a great way to get those emotions out. But I also love to be at the head of it all, making films. It’s a way to realize your dreams, what’s going on in your mind. I love to be able to put that on screen. But truly I love both.

What’s your next project?
GC: I have a new film—it’s untitled—that I just shot in New York. It stars Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Mila Kunis, and Zoë Saldana. It’s a drama that takes place in the ’70s in Brooklyn.

What was your favorite part of New York—your favorite place to visit?
GC: Oh, I really loved Shake Shack. That is one great burger.

Like what you're reading? Get it delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up now for our newsletters >>