In the space of three years, these two actors have become inseparable on the screen. As they unveil their fourth joint film this Wednesday, Champagne!they tell the underside of their duo.
At a time when film duos have practically disappeared, Elsa Zylberstein and Stéphane de Groodt have been together for three years, almost in spite of themselves, on screen. Like a French equivalent to Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, who made three films together between 2011 and 2016, including La La Land.
Friends in The Virtue of the Imponderables (2020), couple in crisis in Everything smiles at us (2020), lovers in BigBug (2022) and finally best friends in Champagne! (in theaters this Wednesday), Elsa Zylberstein and Stéphane de Groodt are currently the favorite couple of French directors.
“Actually, there’s a fifth movie, Mina Tannenbaum (1994), but I was erased during the editing”, specifies Stéphane de Groodt. “I like to tell the anecdote because the first time in my life when I found myself in front of a cinema camera, it was next to Elsa. I was erased in the editing, because I was horribly bad.”
At the time, they did not know each other yet. Stéphane de Groodt then chained the panouilles while Elsa Zylberstein is one of the figureheads of a new generation of actresses with Virginie Ledoyen, Valérie Bruni-Tedeschi or even Romane Bohringer. In 1994, she had already won two César nominations, in the best female hope category. “I was very impressed,” recalls Stéphane de Groodt.
“Elsa is my Claude Gensac”
Thirty years later, this unlikely duo is starring in their fourth straight film. “People want to marry us,” remarks Elsa Zyberstein with humor. “I would like it to be like that in life, but anyway she is taken,” laughs Stéphane de Groodt. “He has a tumultuous life. I don’t dare to venture into it,” the actress replies tit for tat.
“For fun, I say that Elsa is my Claude Gensac, because Louis de Funès always had the same actress to play his wife on screen”, teases Stéphane de Groodt. “Besides, I thought for a long time that they were married in life, they were so associated.”
More seriously, “it’s a total coincidence”, insists Elsa Zylberstein: “It’s too cute. It’s as if we were cousins.” Stéphane de Groodt risks an analysis: “When a director wants to compose a score, he imagines people who can go together, and for it to be credible, he thinks of us.”
“Stéphane feels things”
Over time, automatisms were born, notes Elsa Zylberstein: “With Stéphane, there is a pleasure in playing together. He feels things. We are like two animals. other. We waltz well together. And it’s true that we don’t always have that with our playing partners.”
“The proof is that Everything smiles at us was honored at Alpe d’Huez and the other two prizes were for Elsa and my apple, which proves that there was a complementarity”, adds Stéphane de Groodt. “I always consider that my character is composed in partly by my apple and largely also by my partner watching me. It was insane that I couldn’t share with her the price for Everything smiles at us.”
Their friendship grew away from film sets. In the city, they evolve in the same circle. “We are part of a group of friends,” says de Groodt. “We were on a jury in Beaune. It was Danièle Thompson, the president, who took the initiative to bring us together for dinner. For five years, every quarter, we meet at each other’s homes. We have become friends.” Their complicity is such that they finish each other’s sentences.
That’s good, it’s in Champagne!, a comedy of friends signed Nicolas Vanier, that the duo is reforming. A film of which they are particularly proud: “Our characters are all with their ambiguities and their paradoxes. That’s what I found well written in the screenplay: the fairly strong relationships in a group of friends who will explode in a closed place .”
When a sixth film? “It’s not us who decide,” smiles Elsa Zyberstein. “It will be thanks to the imagination of the directors.” They did not ask their respective agent to force fate. “We trust the desire of the directors. I know that I will be very happy and that it will go very well.” “If tomorrow I am offered a new project with Elsa, I will be delighted”, concludes Stéphane de Groodt.