Rosalie is a compelling and empowering new drama from Stéphanie Di Giusto, which stars Nadia Tereszkiewicz in the eponymous lead role, while offering a fine supporting character for star Benoit Magimel. To mark the film’s release we had the pleasure in speaking to the former two women in Paris, as they discuss the film in great depth during a roundtable interview.

They speak about the original inspiration for the film, while Tereszkiewicz talks about both the physical and emotional process of having to wear a beard, while speaking about the empowering, feminist nature of the film – and what she learnt about herself having taken on the role. Meanwhile, the director Di Giusto explains her decision to not have the two leading stars meet each other before the shoot, while Tereszkiewicz tells us how the animosity on set between the actors was a generous act that helped her access her character. They also talk about the importance of the location, though comment on the negative aspect of having real life villagers take on the role of extras on set.


You’re always picking very interesting stories, how did this story come into your life?

SDG: I came across the figure of Clementine Defait, who was around in the early 20th century. I just saw her picture and what really struck me in this picture was that she very gracious this woman, with her beard. She was very gracious and what I realised was that I was interested in the figure but I didn’t want to make a biopic about her, that wasn’t my idea, so I got more interested in more women who had this hair condition, and the fact that this woman didn’t want to be a carnival freak at all, she decided to live her life as a woman, and understand what was particular about her and to live her life in her time. So I created the story of this woman being inspired by Clementine, in the way she is free, the way she emancipates and how she decided to build her own life, but also what mattered most for me was to make a film about her feelings, and about a love story, an unconditional love story that she really longed for. That was my perspective of the film.

How did you feel having a beard, Nadia?

NT: It made me question many things about my femininity, on what is beauty and what it is to be a woman, because it also questioned me as a person. I had so many feelings, shame, and then accepting it and trying to be far from the judgement of the others, because we are dependant of it, actually. Even on set I got used to it and we worked on it to be more and more accepting, and when I accepted it, because the character has to find her own femininity and I like the idea that she becomes a woman when she has a beard and she assumes it. That moment, she accepts her own desire and she can explore it and accept herself, and to fight for it, because it is not easy, because she is rejected. So how did I feel with a beard? At first I was ashamed, and then I started to like it, and to find a new way to find a sensuality in another place, and to find a new way of sensuality, and a new way to be a woman, with no code, out of the ordinary. We were searching for it, and I don’t know if we made it, but that was the idea.

Is there something of that feeling that you kept after the role was finished and the movie was done?

NT: I kept some things. I like the idea that what I kept from Rosalie was the way of being positive. I like to be that character, to try to be positive and have no anger, to always fight, because she fights all the time, she never lays down. I like that. Also, I thought I was independent but actually we are dependent on what others think, and I think that is not something I have taken, but it’s work in progress. I think it is a movie that, and I love it, because it calls for tolerance and to be more ‘so what’ – to let people live. Today with social media and everything it is so violent now, not just a village, it’s millions of people that can judge you, and because we are fighting to be ourselves and at the same time we can be hated by millions of people in two minutes, it is complicated to deal with the period, to be at the same time yourself, and also being different, because we all have a beard in a way. And then being scared because we have to be perfect, and if we’re not in the group, the power of the group is so violent.


HUG: Am I right in thinking that wasn’t a wig, and they put on every hair? What was the process like for you every day going through that? Did it help you get into the head of the character as it was so meticulous and patient?

NT: At first it was so hard, but then I started to love it because it gave me so much space to dream about the part and to have imagination. We are always doing, doing, doing, so this time was so precious on set for dreaming and for thinking. We were shooting in chronological order, so I had the possibility to remember what happened and what will happen to create something. It was a whole process to get into the character and when I had all the things, and it wasn’t only the beard but the hair and the clothes – then I was Rosalie. It was also the possibility to get away from the character at the end of the day. I work a lot with music and I had a playlist that was four hours long and every day I listened to the whole four hours and I love music as a way to get to a character, I went on a trip and I listened to the playlist and all feelings came back, it was so powerful.

What kind of music was on there?

NT: I listen to a lot of classical music, a lot of Chopin was there. Some are really connected to the movie but I also listened to a lot of rock and Massive Attack and Portishead, and Goldfrapp, and electro also.

What is impressive is the feeling in the movie, in that the more she is herself, the more love she spreads, the more beard she has.

SDG: That is the beauty of the paradox of this film, and what I wanted, that the more she grows the beard, the more feminine she gets. At the same time, it’s only when she realises that she won’t have a child, that she becomes more of a woman. So it was a way of fighting these cliches and these codes about femininity and desire and attraction, to reverse them. It’s something I was hoping for, and a viewer told me afterwards – why don’t you just forget about the beard, you don’t see it anymore – and that’s exactly what I was aiming for, that at some point it becomes abstract and what you get to is the feeling. Also we are talking about her, but him too – he has a shell, and he has to let go of it and to reach desire in what he can desire for her, when he can also dive into his own humanity, and that is what this is all about, for us to dive deeper into the humanity of the character. You have to get further than just the appearance, the body or the shell.

NT: I wanted to add, how the movie is feminist after, it’s not the first thing. She wanted to tell a story, and it reveals itself to be feminist at the end, and for me, feminism is to want to be loved, to love and to have babies, and at the same time, when she learns that she can’t have a baby, it is disconnected from the fact that she can explore her sexuality, her own sexuality, without men or with men. I felt she awakes as a woman with all these possibilities of what it is to be a woman, and I feel you can do what you want, if you want to be married with children, or independent, all of these possibilities, that for me is what femininity is. This kind of freedom of becoming a woman, this was really powerful and also disconnected from the image to be a woman, why we have to be that way.

SDG: We focus on her, but the reality is that she already has this freedom in herself, whereas him? The real epiphany is his, because he is destroyed, and he really doesn’t believe in anything anymore, he is disconnected from life, but then this desire surprises him in a way. He discovers, and he goes into another trajectory and he’s the one who really reveals himself and reconnects to his life and desires.


HUG: I was reading that you didn’t want the actors to meet beforehand. What was the thought process behind that?

SDG: That was very important form me, I really didn’t want them to have any contact beforehand, to not know each other and not talk and not discover anything. I was unlucky that they were lucky, because they both won a Caesar award and I said – just avoid each other, don’t spend time together! But then on the set it was very important, because I wanted to shoot in chronological order which I don’t always do, but for this film I thought it was very important for them to actually be in real conditions and to be in real time and when you see the first gaze of Abel on Rosalie, it’s really the actual first gaze of Benoit on Nadia, because he had never seen her before, so you had in real conditions how he sees her and how he rejects her. The thing is, he actually did reject her also as an actor, even between the takes he would be extremely harsh to her and that was very generous of him, because that helped her to be Rosalie, even between takes.

HUG: You have to always respect an actor’s process, and especially an actor like Benoit Magimel, if that process works for him, then that’s wonderful. But as a co-star was it disappointing to be on set and have that disconnected relationship? Because I imagine you may have been excited to work with him and to get to know him?

NT: Yeah but at the same time, no. Because I was here for the movie and to tell a story, I’m not here to have friends. Actually, he helped me. What was harsh was that I felt rejected and I felt that he had disgust for me, and this was really violent, but actually I used that. I wasn’t myself broken, but I used these real feelings to act and this was really powerful because I understood at the end how strong he was. Then we started to love each other, and not even in a friend way but in a colleague way, we loved each other as we were shooting and the complicity that came in real life meant we were able to connect in a way. Even though I still feel like I don’t know him. I met him at a party two weeks ago and he gave me a key ring and he told me it was for my career, for me to be successful and he wanted to give it to me, and there was a respect he had for me, and it was generous and we had something really strong. Now we are distant with it, but it’s really important because imagination and acting is really fragile, that if between takes you become friends it is even harder to get into the character, and he had so much mystery and I loved this idea of not knowing him and I couldn’t wait to discover him. At the beginning of the movie I was searching to please him, I wanted his attention, and this was also true of the character of Rosalie, so in a way he really helped me. We met just once before the shoot, in Cannes, and we both had a movie on the same day and we crossed each other in the street and he looked at me and he said ‘we’re not supposed to talk’ and we just said ‘bye’. It was super exciting because in that carriage in the beginning, I was interested to meet him, I didn’t remember him, Cannes was a year before. So I liked this movie when acting is mixed with reality, when it is in the limits of consent.

SDG: The very first time she walks into the café with her beard, the reaction you get from the forty people, I had extras in the room, are real. There is one man who had the reaction of hatred and that was real, the extra had that reaction, and I kept it for the film.

NT: We had to put him out of the movie because he hated me too much. It was real villagers, they were not extras.

SDG: We had to fire him because he behaved badly with the women of the crew. He was violent.

Where did you shoot, how did you find this village?

SDG: It’s an incredible story because I wouldn’t have been able to make this film without the location, because with the budget I had I couldn’t have afforded to have this set built, so I needed to find an industrial village like this. Firstly because Clementine Defait lived in a place like this, so I started searching but couldn’t find the right place, and then finally in the middle of nowhere in Brittany I found this village. The ‘forge’ that has been preserved by a couple since 1870 and they had preserved it perfectly, everything has been kept, the houses of the workers, it has all been kept, it was the perfect location and it was really the condition for me to be able to make this film. The café where Rosalie worked was the inn of the workers and it has been kept like this, it’s original.


Rosalie is out in the UK now.