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She knows the territory

In `2 Days in Paris,' Julie Delpy returns to the acting trenches of ill-fated romance, but this time as a writer-director too.

July 29, 2007|Gregg LaGambina | Special to The Times

"I spent a lot of time talking to Kieslowski and he knew I wanted to direct because I had written a screenplay already when I was 17 that I didn't get a chance to make," she recalls. "He advised me. He said, 'You should go to film school if you want to direct. You should really do it.' So I went to New York to study. And I did learn things. What's interesting is that when you go to film school, it's pretty clear if you can handle directing a movie or not. Because it's a lot of work."

Although she studied cinema and screenwriting at New York University, Delpy acted in more than 40 films before getting behind the camera for "2 Days." Yet it's while she's directing that she feels most comfortable.

"It's funny, because as an actress I'm a mess. I feel totally insecure. I've been doing it for 20 years, but I don't know what is going on every five minutes. I'm lost all the time. But as a director, I feel like I could be doing it for the rest of my life without even blinking."

Her next film as director, "The Countess," which she also wrote and stars in, has recently secured financing. She's lined up most of the cast and is hoping to begin shooting in the fall. Delpy stars alongside Radha Mitchell, William Hurt and Vincent Gallo and has landed Benoit Debie, the Sundance-award-winning cinematographer for the thriller "Joshua." Ondrej Nekvasil, the production designer from "The Illusionist," and Pierre-Yves Gayraud, the costume designer from last year's "Perfume," are both on board to lend credibility to Delpy's small-budget period piece.

"We have lots of good, good people involved," she says. "It's a drama. It's about murder, cruelty and vanity. It's 16th century. It's a very dark movie. It's very different."

While Delpy seems deep into the next phase of her career as a writer and director, the fragility of her newfound and hard-won status is not lost on her.

"I wrote my first screenplay at 17, and I directed my first film at 36," she says, pausing. "I've shopped around many screenplays that people liked, but there's a stigma about women not being capable, not having the strength to do a movie from beginning to end. If you see a woman director and she fails on one movie and it doesn't do well, it will take her 10 years to do another film."

With "2 Days in Paris" being followed closely by "The Countess," Delpy has every reason to shrug off any lingering pessimism, for the time being at least.

"I'm very excited," she says, wide-eyed, glasses off now as the sun disappears behind the monolithic 16-story hotel. "I can't wait to be doing my next film. If I could, if I had control over my life, I would do a movie every year."

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