The final part of our Black Swan interviews features a Q&A with Vincent Cassel, who plays Natalie Portman’s ballet instructor plays Thomas Leroy. Read our conversations with director Darren Aronofsky, actress Mila Kunis, and The Chemical Brothers, who contributed to the soundtrack, in previous posts.
What was your initial perception of Darren Aronofsky?
It was great. It was in London, and I was attracted to him from the start because he’s very handsome. I’ve been a fan of his work since Pi.
Is your character Thomas as sleazy as one might think?
No. He’s not very responsible and he should have understood better that Nina is very fragile, but he’s not sleazy. He just doesn’t care, because he’s so egocentric as artists can be. I understand why he does what he does.
His treatment of an older ballet dancer in the film is quite unkind…
That’s because he’s used her already. But I mean, you know, men can be like that. Once you’re not in love anymore, you can be tempted to not answer the phone, and be a coward sometimes. So you know, he’s not very different than the rest of us.
How much of his behaviour is just Nina’s point of view? Maybe he’s not really such a jerk?
Well he’s not a jerk, he’s just not a nice guy. I think this guy is very lonely. He’s 40 something, just like me, strangely enough, he has this huge, empty apartment. He has no kids, so what he does is the only thing he has you know. I think in that sense the character is understandable and touching.
He’s a very powerful figure in the ballet world. At one point he raises a grateful smile just by giving a thumbs up. He must have been quite fun to play.
He was, and plus I mean, to be surrounded by all those dancers, you know, they’re all really cute. The fact I could be the only guy around those actresses was a cool situation to have fun with. To be in the theatre, and to see them dance really close, and to hear them breathe sometimes, was really interesting. I felt like they were horses.
How much dancing did you have to learn?
In the movie, not that much. I had this scene where I’m directing her in a closer way. But otherwise, I think I could have danced that scene a little more. I’m not playing a dancer, I’m playing an ex-dancer. So it’s more the way you carry yourself, and the kind of physicality you adopt.
Does Hollywood differ greatly from French movie-making?
Naturally, although it’s not the language, it’s about the director. What makes one movie different from the other I guess is just the personality of the director. Maybe there is a little more hierarchy in America.
You just made a movie, Notre Jour Viendra, with Romain Gavras, director of the controversial MIA video. What’s that like?
It’s not as violent as his videos, I don’t know if you’ve seen ‘Stress’ by Justice, or the MIA redhead thing. This is much more poetic. But what he talks about is the same kind of subject matter. It’s identity, crisis, and all these things you know. But its fun, it’s more fun acting.