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Julie Delpy.

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Julie Delpy on 2 Days in New York, Cold-Calling Chris Rock’s Agent, and Cutting Out the Bullsh*t

Some actors disparage the Hollywood machine but lack the mettle to challenge it. Julie Delpy is not one of them. The actress-director seems to live by a principle of bullshit-free candor, and this manifests in charming ways in her new film 2 Days in New York, a follow-up to her 2007 film 2 Days in Paris. In this sequel, which she wrote and directed, Delpy plays an artist who lives with her boyfriend Mingus (Chris Rock), each with their own child from a previous relationship. The story unfolds over the course of a whirlwind visit from Marion’s loopy French family, which includes her dad (played by Delpy’s real-life father), sister, and sis’s sleazy boyfriend. We spoke with Delpy about her collaboration with Rock, her disdain for Hollywood ass-kissing, and why she loves to call men chinchillas and koalas.

So I have to say, first off, that I love your dad in this movie. I forgot how much I enjoyed him in 2 Days in Paris.
[Laughs.] He’s very cute. I agree. I have fights with him all the time, but he’s very sweet. I was very lucky to be raised by him and my mother, who was also the sweetest person I know. With a temper, but sweet, like a real person should be.

You wrote this script with Chris Rock in mind. Was it easy getting him to play the role? Was he onboard from the beginning?
Pretty much. I hesitated for a while. I was like, Should I call his agent? Should I not call his agent? I mean, it’s very unusual to do that: I just called his agent without going through my agent or through anybody. I just went on IMDb Pro and was like, “Who’s his agent?” [Makes the sound of her typing on a keyboard.] Oh! Eddy Yablans. He used to be my agent! Perfect. So I called Eddy and was like, “Hey, do you think your client would be interested in working with me even remotely?” Then he called me back three hours later and was like, “Yes, write a good script.”

So you hadn't started the script when you reached out?
I had written a few scenes and stuff with him in mind, and then I was like, Fuck it, I’m just gonna call his agent and find out if it’s totally out of possibility. If he had told me maybe, I would have kept on writing for him. But if he would have said no way, ever, then I would have said, "Okay, I’ll write it for someone else." It’s better to find out. My agent was like, “You’re crazy, you called an agent directly!” But I was like, Ugh, whatever, life is short, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. I like to cut the bullshit as much as possible, you know? There’s gonna be bullshit anyway — there’s always bullshit in this business — but to have the least possible bullshit is actually great.

Chris talks a lot about relationships and married life in his stand-up. Did this candor help when you directed him? Were you guys on the same page?
We didn’t always agree on everything, but he was respectful of my vision. He wanted to do my film. Once he decided to do my film, he kind of agreed on, I would say, 99 percent of things. But he’s such an interesting, smart person, obviously he had something to say and I was open to that, too. That’s why I wanted him.

At one point, your character calls him a "sweet little koala bear." Does he really remind you of a koala bear, or was that just having fun with animal analogies?
[Laughs.] I just love calling [men] cute little animals, like furry little bunnies or chinchillas. They’re more furry than women; they deserve little cute furry names. You don’t think? They don’t want to be objectified as a teddy bear, but I love to objectify them as something children sleep with. I think it’s funny. They hate it.

Vincent Gallo has an unexpected cameo, buying a piece of your character's artwork. How did he get involved?
I wrote that scene for him. When I started writing the thing about the soul and selling the soul, he was the person I had in mind to play the part because I really thought if someone’s gonna buy my soul, it’s gonna be Vincent Gallo. He would be the person to buy a conceptual piece like this. I’ve known him for 25 years or whatever and I know his taste, and I know that’s the kind of thing he would totally buy. When I gave him the script, at first he wasn’t sure. Then he read it and was like, “Well, if there’s one person that would buy a piece of art like a soul, it would be me. If there’s one person in Manhattan that would buy, for $5,000 or more, a soul, it would be me.” I was like, “Yeah, so do it!” And he did it.

One of my favorite scenes is where Marion encounters the art critic and asks him for his honest opinion. Have you ever done that with a film critic?
I’ve never done that, and if I did it, I think I would be a little less aggressive and more funny. I’m not very confrontational, actually. If people don’t like me, they don’t like me. Whatever, it’s not the end of the world. I don’t like when people attack me personally. Sometimes I’ve had people say things that had nothing to do with the movie ... like I didn’t speak to that person at a party. Which happens, because I’m not the most — I mean, I’m friendly, but I’m not kissing people’s ass and sometimes people expect to have their ass kissed. I don’t do that much. Kissing ass is not my main feature. I’m pretty direct with people.

A lot of people have been comparing your movie with Woody Allen’s films.
Hey, you know, I say thank you because if I have a tenth of his career I’ll be happy. He’s one of the most productive, creative directors. I never think of Woody Allen when I make my films, but maybe we have some of the same neuroses. Same obsessions: sex, relationships. But I love his films, all his films. Even the ones people like less I kind of like, anyway.

I’m sure you’re getting asked this a million times a day right now, but are there any updates on the third Before Sunrise movie?
We [Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater] actually started writing it, so ...

Are you going to keep “sun” in the title?
That I don’t know yet. But I think “before” is gonna be in the title.

You’re running out of times of day with the word “sun” in it.
Yeah, sunrise, sunset, what else? Sundown? No, that wouldn’t be good.

You could always move on to "moon"?
No, that’s cheesy. I don’t know, we’ll see what happens. First we have to write it.

Photo: ANDREAS BRANCH/Patrick McMullan