"I hope you like French people," director Benoît Jacquot (A Single Girl, Tosca) offered by way of introduction to his latest film, Farewell, My Queen, at the North American premiere of the film last night at MoMA. Indeed, the film is French through and through—it traces the earliest days of the French Revolution, and its effect on Marie-Antoinette (Diane Kruger), through the eyes of the Queen's reader, Sidonie (Léa Seydoux). But the audience proved you didn't need to be French to enjoy it; among those applauding were Margherita Missoni, Nanette Lepore, Nina Arianda, Waris Ahluwalia, Brady Corbet, Chris Abbott, Christine Baranski, and Kruger's longtime partner Joshua Jackson.
Jackson conceded he and Kruger had no plans for Bastille Day (it's this Saturday, for Francophiles). "I would not feel uncomfortable doing it—I'm not French, so it's not really on my calendar of things to celebrate," Jackson said. "But I think it's something worth celebrating, the founding of the French republic!" (The couple is likely to do more celebrating the day after: July 15 is Kruger's birthday.)
Jackson said given the chance to portray any historical figure, he might choose his surname-compatriot Andrew Jackson. Perhaps if Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson gets a screen adaptation, we suggested—but the contemporary Jackson's singing powers are limited. "Poorly! To myself! Enough to annoy Diane," he laughed.
Diane, unannoyed, was eager to impart a history lesson or two—apparently, there's a lot the popular narrative of Marie-Antoinette leaves out. " I did not know, and I'm sure a lot of people don't know this, that when she was taken from Versailles, she actually didn't die right away," Kruger said. "She lived for five or six more years—she was imprisoned. And she was beheaded, not because she was queen—they couldn't find her guilty for anything, because she wasn't a reigning monarch; it was her husband, and he was beheaded way before her."
"She actually got beheaded because they took her eight-year-old son and made him sign a paper saying that she sexually abused him," Kruger continued triumphantly, leaving us momentarily speechless.
Hoping to shift to lighter matters, we got Kruger—no stranger to the pleasures and vagaries of haute couture—talking about the film's sumptuous costuming. "It took about a half hour to get dressed and to get out of it, and then I needed three people to help me get in and out. And in the beginning, I was really worried about it: ‘How am I going to act dressed like this?'" she said.
But ultimately, the hassle brought her closer to her character. "It became, actually, a great help, because I figured that this was what her life must have been like," Kruger said. "She couldn't get dressed by herself, and it was this ritual every morning and every night. And so it became something to look forward to."