After earning high praise for her performance in Olivier Assayas’ 2014 Cannes competition film Clouds of Sils Maria, French actress Juliette Binoche has returned to the Croisette with another movie competing for the Palme d’Or (Bruno Dumont’s Slack Bay) along with a few choice words for directors Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese.
Speaking Sunday at the Variety and Kering “Women in Motion” series panel discussion at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, Binoche recounted specific instances where she confronted the iconic American directors because she felt they weren’t doing enough to make films led by female characters. Binoche said that in her decades-old conversation with Spielberg, who also recent screened his new film The BFG at Cannes, he was defensive of his creative decisions, citing 1985’s The Color Purple as his last film to feature a predominantly female cast. Following the exchange, the Oscar-winning actress reportedly declined the role of Dr. Ellie Sattler in Spielberg’s 1993’s action-adventure film Jurassic Park.
“Saying no to certain films is as important as saying yes, because it really defines you,” she said, noting her decision to work primarily in European cinema with directors like Assayas, whom she said was more receptive of her criticism against male directors not helming stories about women. “What I’ve been seeing is that I’ve been refusing roles, instinctively, out of the need to talk about the feminine. The feminine has to have its place. It needs space, and we don’t have the space, so we have to take it.”
Binoche said she also directly discussed her feelings about the underrepresentation of women in cinema with Scorsese. “He has a very feminine side of himself… But for me, he doesn’t explore it [in his work].”
Aside from representing Slack Bay as it screens in competition, Binoche is in Cannes on behalf of We Do It Together, a non-profit, female-focused production company that seeks to diversify Hollywood in terms of the amount of women working in the industry. Binoche sits on the company’s advisory board with Queen Latifah, Catherine Hardwicke, Jessica Chastain, and Freida Pinto.
“I felt the need to do something like this since very early on as an actress,” Binoche said. “When you read scripts, you ask how you serve the story. Very early on, you see how you can be used… I was drawn to films that were very different, from different countries. I never chose to live in Hollywood because I didn’t conform to a mold.”
For more on the panel, head to The Guardian.