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French TOUCH: Clémence Poésy


Clemence Poesy is the incarnation of CAREFREE ELEGANCE, a delicate French woman with the face of a thoughtful elf. Playing in the Harry Potter epic laid the foundation of her international career; In Bruges established her as an actress born to play in art-house cinema

Clemence Poesy grew up in a Paris suburb. Her father, Etienne Guichard, was an actor with a passion for theatre; her mother taught literature. Clemence acted alongside her father in short mises-en-scene. “I wouldn’t call my childhood experience acting; it was more a way of getting inside the adult world and pretending that I too could work!” Of her childhood Clemence says: “You find out plenty about yourself when your parents are always telling you the TV is broken. Then one day I caught my dad watching a tennis match and I realized they were fooling us. He turned the TV off immediately and missed the end of the match, poor man!” Instead of watching the endless soap operas that were popular in the 1980s, Clemence and her sister glued themselves to Charlie Chaplin films and Fred Astaire musicals from their parents’ video collection. And read non-stop. At school — an alternative school where children had more freedom — Clemence was not popular with her classmates. “I was often told I was strange, although to my mind I’m extraordinarily normal. Maybe that’s because my face lacks symmetry — so people think I must be off my rocker as well.”

Clemence enrolled at acting school when she was in the sixth form, got herself an agent, and started travelling to Paris for auditions — to see what would come of it, although in Paris she felt like a lost provincial. Getting some small TV roles made her realize the game was worth the candle. It was at this point that she decided, for the sake of her career, to change her surname to her mother’s maiden name; she became Clemence Poesy. It’s something she has never regretted.

Clemence was a little more than 20 when the British director Gillies MacKinnon chose her to play Mary Stuart in the BBC TV drama Gunpowder, Treason, and Plot. “As a girl, I wanted to be an actress so I could wear fine dresses with corsets and ride horses — and now I had my chance.” To begin with, she had difficulty understanding her co-stars, who spoke with a Scottish accent, but soon she learnt to speak like them herself. “So I found my way into French cinema through the back door. I got noticed in France thanks to my English films.” True fame, however, came later, when the Harry Potter films left Clemence no chance of remaining unknown. “Of course, you can’t compare me with the true stars of the Potter films,” she says. “And I was only in two parts. For me it was fun, an adventure.

For instance, while filming The Goblet of Fire I learnt to aqualung.” It was at this time that she learnt to keep the doors to her bedroom and kitchen firmly closed to the prying gaze of the public. “I’m amazed,” she says, “at what’s happened with the generation which has grown up in the age of social media — where people put their entire life on display. It’s now regarded as normal to be always cuddling photos of oneself and covering virtual walls with them. Perhaps this sounds strange coming from an actress, but I find it odd for people to create memorials of themselves from selfies.” Clemence’s fame was growing, but she kept her enthusiasm for it in check. The year that she filmed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, she also played in Danny Boyle’s Hollywood Project 127 Hours. This is what you would normally call a ‘breakthrough’ moment, but Clemence did not lose her head. “I always realized that my contribution to these hints was not very big. For me films like this are a way of making money to live on. They’re not a reason to think myself especially lucky.”

For a young woman with such fairytale looks Clemence Poesy is surprising rational. “I cannot assume that when I grow old, I shall still be offered good roles. It’s stupid to sit and wait an eternity for your agent to call; you need to be able to do something else to pay the bills.” Clemence views her work as a model — she is the face of Chloe — not as a concession to her own vanity, but as another way to earn money. “I’m in love with fashion. My personal style dates to the 70s. My absolute icon is Dustin Hoffmann’s character in Kramer Versus Kramer — I think his clothes in this him are perfect. And working as a model gives me freedom to choose: because I have income from another source, I’m able to appear only in the hlms I want to appear in, without being afraid that I shall have no money to pay my bills.”

Clemence Poesy prefers not to advertise her own off-set life. “In hlms I’ve been married four times already in all kinds of beautiful dresses, so for my own wedding I’ll probably wear jeans,” she once joked. In 2016 she married Emeric Glayse, a curator of photographic exhibitions, and a year later gave birth to a son. Now she has her own family, but this family still has no TV.” ♦

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