One thousand Times GoodnightFor Norwegian director Erik Poppe, his latest picture A Thousand Times Good Night marks a more personal approach than his previous endeavours, as a film that he even describes himself as being “autobiographical”. Much like the protagonist to the pice, Poppe was formerly a war photographer, and has brought his own experiences in balancing work with his family to devastating effect on the big screen.

“I took my own story, straight from my life, and made it as the film’s story,” he said. “It was very personal, the whole film is telling a story that’s almost autobiographical. It’s almost from my diary. That’s why I needed to show the film to my daughter before closing down the edits, so she could see it and tell me what I could and could not show. Same for my wife. That wasn’t complicated at all though, rather the opposite, they are very proud of the film. My daughter’s reaction was more that she appreciated that I had know her story.”

It’s not only his family who have given the director the seal of approval for this project, as fellow war photographers have also been impressed with Poppe’s efforts in this production. “A lot of really established war photographers have contributed all the way. I want them to feel that this is a film that for the first time, actually has something to say about their lives and their jobs. I want them to show this back home and say to people, ‘watch this, and you can see my dilemma’.”

A Thousand Times Good Night documents the tale of Rebecca, played by Juliette Binoche, a war photographer who returns home injured from her latest job, only to find that she struggles to fit back into her life at home, almost uncomfortable in domestic surroundings – particularly where her daughter Steph (Lauryn Canny) is concerned. Poppe admits that going over such intimate, personal territory was almost a therapeutic process for him.

“I make movies where I can find a personal aspect. Whether it’s a thriller or an action movie I have to find that approach. Stories are about emotions and humans. People need to identify. I don’t believe an audience can identify with a story if I can’t. It’s a therapeutical process because I have to find elements in my own life.”

The one significant change Poppe made, was to change the character of himself, so to speak, into a female – and he tells us of his reasons behind the decision. “I turned myself into a woman to emphasise and make the topic more significant and easier for the audience to grasp,” he explained. “Today we accept that men and fathers go out there and do the job and come back home, without really questioning it. So to turn the character into a woman, with small kids, then suddenly it gets very hard for people to watch and accept, just for the fact she’s a woman. When I’m in Afghanistan or Pakistan, what we really need is women and mothers of small kids to go out there and tell those stories. They get acceptable and they get invited into stories and are able to talk to women, which I can’t when I’m out there.”

Much like the character of Rebecca, Poppe evidently also struggles to let go of his past vocation, as he spends time in places of conflict still to this day. However he stresses that it’s still hugely important the job of war photography is one left to the professionals. “We need professional journalists to go out there. Every media is currently reducing their number of reporters out there, relying on people with mobile phones, and that is become the coverage of the war which is absolutely nonsense. You have no idea who those people are and you can’t tell a story in such a way. You need to have professionals.”

Talking of professionals, Binoche turns is a quite outstanding display in A Thousand Times Good Night, though Poppe tells us she wasn’t actually the first actress ready to tackle this nuanced role. “It was supposed to be a Scandinavian movie first but we couldn’t set it up so we reset the whole thing. I had a great Scandinavian actress who could do it, but as we couldn’t do that any more, my eyes were on Juliette.”

“But there is something in this part I haven’t seen in Juliette before. I was quite confident we could work well together, we could finalise the script together, but I really wanted to push her in a direction I hadn’t seen before, and she wanted to do that herself. As she said herself, this film is more personal than many of the others she has made. Because being an actor and travelling the world with two kids at home in Paris, is almost the same story.” He continued, “Among the big, big female stars today – she is the only person to tell this story, because she has the integrity. She’s been supporting reporters for many years, she’s been investing her time in the freedom of speech from those conflict areas. She’s from my point of view, of of the greatest actors living today.”

Though revelling in Binoche’s performance, it’s not one Poppe is likely to sit down and watch again, as he admits that he has never watched one of his movies since their opening night. “I never see my movies again after the opening night. I haven’t seen any of my movies since they opened,” he said. “ Sometimes I envy you – you can look at it fresh. I don’t have that freshness. Also because I’m working so intensely on them, I need a lot of time to give myself a distance. It’s not a strict rule, maybe in 20 years with my grandkids I can sit down and watch them, but I’m desperately keen on moving on.”

Where Poppe moves on to next is rather intriguing, as though evidently settled making movies in Scandinavia, he tells us that the lure of Hollywood exists – but it’s only something he’d be willing to take up if the project was completely right for him. “The opportunity of going to Hollywood has been there for the last six or seven years. I’ve been getting offers and I’ve been looking into some of them. But bearing in mind what I’d be sacrificing, as I currently have the freedom in telling stories I want, in the way I want. So I wonder what’s the price for someone to pay for me to go over there and work for someone rather than make my own movies? It would have to be the right project with the right producers, who give mr that freedom. I’ve seen too may examples of European directors go to LA and make their films, and often it’s the worst films they make.”

Poppe is not one to count his chickens though, and though the prospect of making movies abroad is tempting, he’s certainly more than happy remaining where is, doing what he loves, and never taking it for granted.

“I’ve been very, very lucky,” he said. “It’s something I love, and I’m very humble to be in a position where I can tell these stories. There are thousands of people out there who would cut off their little finger to be able to do what I’m doing. With big respect for being in this position, I really need to do it properly, and push myself as much as I can.”

A Thousand Times Good Night is released on May 2nd, and you can read our review here.