On this week’s episode of The Cut, co-host (and avid moviegoer and film buff) B.A. Parker asks producer Noor Bouzidi about going back to the movie theater after more than a year and sits down with senior editor Kerensa Cadenas to talk about their new favorite film, Titane. The French film marks the debut performance of actress Agathe Rousselle, who joins Parker to discuss how she got into the right mind-set to play a dancer turned serial killer and just how much fun she had doing it. Don’t worry, though, she doesn’t think she’s anything like the character she plays.
To hear more about Titane and what it feels like going to the movies IRL right now, listen below and subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. You can also read the full transcript below.
B.A. Parker: When was the first time you went into the theater during the pandemic?
NOOR BOUZIDI: It was a few weeks ago, and I went to see Free Guy with my boyfriend at this theater that is not too far from where we live. I was stuffing my face with popcorn, actually inhaling it, and there was so much butter that I started coughing like crazy. I was terrified that people around me were going to think that I was this idiot that got infected with COVID and then came to the movie theater and was now infecting them. Throughout the entire movie, I was suppressing my coughs and choking, and it was bad. Aside from that, it was a freaking lovely time.
KERENSA CADENAS: I think that The Green Knight was very special when we saw it. Cause who else was I gonna freak out with about, like, Dev Patel’s clavicle bone.
PARKER: His beauty is beyond compare, like Jolene.
CADENAS: His body is sort of concave.
PARKER: I just realized so much of that film was built around the police.
CADENAS: It really is. Maybe we need to —
PARKER: Unpack that.
CADENAS: Oh my God, I can’t wait to see Titane again. Anyone who sees it should go in knowing nothing about it. I know for a lot of people, it will be difficult, but I just haven’t seen anything like it and it just feels so new and interesting.
PARKER: To process the film in a theater was the only way because so many things were happening and everyone was getting grossed out and shocked and confused at the same time.
CADENAS: I want to know everything that’s happening in that woman’s head. That was like such a peak. I want to go see it again.
PARKER: It’s violent and filled with body horror and bizarre things, but there’s also the sweet story at the center of it, like a found family.
CADENAS: Yeah, it’s a very queer movie. It’s just so fascinating.
AGATHE ROUSSELLE: I could feel it was going to be very physical and very challenging and demanding. I’m not interested in just walking by the sea and whatever French bullshit. I’m still not over it. Being an actress was my dream job, so I did this movie, fulfilling my lifelong dream, but I still don’t know how to process it. I didn’t know I was going to fulfill that dream to that kind of level. I didn’t know I was going to be in New York, talking to you for the Cut, having coffee in a hotel near Central Park. What the fuck?
When I was a photographer, I was happy doing it. I was making a living out of it, publishing books and everything, but there was always something missing for me.
Being on set is the first time in my life, ever, that I felt complete because I was being seen. I would make my brain work. I would make my body freaking work, making the director happy. I would meet people. I would have teamwork but also solo work. It was the perfect environment for me.
PARKER: All the things came together for you.
ROUSSELLE: I’m so grateful that I’m coming into this industry being 33 and not 23. I don’t know how they do it. Twenty-three years old, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know who you are, your identity is all fucked up. You don’t know anything. People tell you what to do or where to go all the time, and you want to party. But now I’m 33, and I’m very grounded. I do my yoga every day. I know who my friends are. I know what’s good for me and what’s bad for me. Like, last night, I knew I had a Q&A at the end of the movie, and I was jet-lagged as fuck so I didn’t drink at dinner, which I would’ve never done being 20 years old.
PARKER: There is real confidence at the beginning of the film, like the intro shot where she’s walking through and she has internalized composure in who she is. You’re coming in with this personal sense of self. Do you think that there’s some kind of alignment with that?
ROUSSELLE: Yeah, the sense of self and the sense of “This is who I am. Take it or leave it.”
But I can’t relate much to this character, and that’s a good thing because she’s a psychopath. Let’s not forget about that. She’s someone who has never been loved, she isn’t loved by her father, and she doesn’t know how to love. She doesn’t know intimacy. She is attracted to cars.
PARKER: Like attracted to cars.
ROUSSELLE: She is gonna find her humanity. She’s going to discover what it is to love and be loved and to feel protected and to protect someone. She’s not just a psychopathic crazy killer. She’s also a person, and she’s going through shit like all of us.
PARKER: How do you prepare to play a serial-killing dancer who’s in love with cars?
ROUSSELLE: I trained a lot with a coach, with a dancer, with stunt people. I also watched a shit ton of things. Interviews from Ted Kemper or Ted Bundy. I rewatched Monster, We Need to Talk About Kevin, and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.
PARKER: I love that.
ROUSSELLE: Oh my God, it’s so scary. Horrible, but yes. I also watched TED Talks about psychopathy.
PARKER: Because this is your first film and the film is so intense, is there anything that pushed you out of your comfort zone?
ROUSSELLE: Everything pushed me out of my comfort zone. I was no dancer. Doing this first scene where I’m dancing on the car, I had a blast doing it, even though we did it like 34 times and my legs were dead after it. I had such a blast doing it because there were all of the extras on set, so I was doing a show in front of many people and I enjoyed that so much.
Of course, the sex scene with the car, I was not going there singing. The director told me that it’s going to be a very small team on set because you gotta be naked and faking having sex with a car. To be able to do it and to get through it — and it was the same with all of the scenes that were hard to go through — I just had to take a breath and think, This is just like when you were a kid and you were doing shows for your parents. This is fun. Don’t forget that this is called play. So let’s play with it. Let’s let it be playful, even though it’s freaking weird, even though it’s embarrassing. Just do it, and just have fun with it. And that’s what I did every time.
People have been saying, like, Oh, this is very violent and horrible. That people go to the movies and are very stressed out.
PARKER: I feel like the film is more than that.
ROUSSELLE: It’s not a horror movie. If I’m able to watch it, it means that it’s not a horror movie. That’s how you know.
PARKER: You mean you watched the whole film with your eyes wide open?
ROUSSELLE: Except for the nose-breaking thing. That’s horrible. What amazed me most is that people have very different reactions and perceptions of what this movie means because they have their projections and they have their own history. I’ve noticed that in Paris, most of the people that stopped me in the street are kids between 17 and 22 years old, this kind of nerdy crowd in high school.
PARKER: [Laughs.] I was one of those.
ROUSSELLE: I was you! I was you with blue hair. They’re just like, “Oh my God, I’ve seen Titane four times, and I have like a thousand questions for you. It changed my life in so many ways.” I feel like it freed those kids, identity wise.
When you’re like 17 or 20, you don’t know who you are, who you want to have sex with. What do you want to do later? Are you good enough? For me, it was a very intense part of my life, and for them, it’s the same. I’m so glad that this nerdy high-school crowd is so into the movie. I see these kinds of people on the train or in the street and think, They’re going to come, and they always come in and they’re like, “Oh my God, I’m so happy I’m seeing you. I love the movie. I’ve seen it like six times.”
I’m like, Oh my God, what the fuck? Six times.
PARKER: The character’s already iconic. Like I’ve already seen on Instagram that people are dressing like you. They’re prepared for Halloween already.
ROUSSELLE: No way. Are you for real?
ROUSSELLE: I love that.