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Midnight in Paris is the second occasion when Rachel McAdams and Owen Wilson co-starred as a couple, after ‘Wedding Crashers’ in 2005. “I was so excited to work with Owen again because we had so much fun when we worked together a few years ago,” says McAdams.
“As this was a much more antagonistic relationship than the one we had in the other film, I was curious about how that would play out. So our characters aren’t getting along this time around— but we did again.” Says Wilson: “I loved working with Rachel again. She came in during the second half of filming, and I think she brought this burst of energy and got everybody renewed, got us charged up for the final push.”
While in Paris, Gil encounters Adriana (Marion Cotillard), an exquisitely beautiful aspiring fashion designer who has been the lover and muse to a series of famous artists. “Adriana doesn’t know where she belongs. She is searching for her place,” says Cotillard. “She admires artists because their world is wide and their imagination takes them to some marvelous places.
She needs to dream.” Says Allen: “There are always special women that artists painted a number of times, women that lived with the artists and provided an enormous amount of support for them. Adriana is not only lovely, she’s also very intelligent, someone who can provide a very strong artistic force for them to bounce things off, to support them when they’re down, to encourage them when they need it, and to tell them when they’re wrong. In many cases this can provide a rich partnership with the artist.”
The role of Adriana fits Cotillard, an Academy Award winner for ‘La Vie en Rose’, like a lace glove; one look at her leaves little doubt about Adriana’s ability to become an object of desire for so many formidable men. “Marion has got a built-in charisma,” say Allen. “She makes the most ordinary kind of moments and dialogue sound interesting because she herself is such an interesting movie actress.
And she’s got a very lovely and interesting face to look at; I never get tired of looking at it. I also noticed that she’s able to call up any kind of emotion she wants quickly and easily.” When Adriana hears the first sentences of Gil’s novel-in-progress, she is almost instantly drawn to him. “She has always felt she didn’t belong to the era she lives in and she feels Gil is the same kind of person,” says Cotillard. “She recognizes herself in him.”
Despite his almost-married status, Gil is amazed at his good luck in having attracted the attention of such a beautiful woman, and flattered that someone who has been the muse for so many virtuosic artists would admire his writing. But as Gil’s interest in Adriana deepens, his doubts about his relationship with Inez increases.
“While Gils’s very smitten with Inez,” says Wilson, “he also sees that there’s a disconnect about where they want to live their lives, what he would like to do, and even if she’s the right person for him.” In a way, Gil and Inez are both caught up in illusions: he dreams of being somewhere else, and she expects a status quo that might not exist.
“I don’t think they’re seeing each other anymore,” says McAdams. “They’re both just going through the motions, and carrying on—nobody wants to rock the boat. But I don’t think they could be any further apart than they are at the moment.”
While Gil is otherwise engaged, Inez spends time with Paul (Michael Sheen), a handsome intellectual visiting Paris with his wife Carol (Nina Arianda), while he lectures at the Sorbonne. While Inez sees Paul, who she has had a crush on since college, to be as charming as he is cerebral, Gil finds Paul to be an insufferable know-it-all, and can’t stand to be around him. As Gil is increasingly absent, both with his novel and with Adriana, Paul makes a move and starts flirting with Inez.
While Gil sees Paul as an annoying stuffed-shirt, he does possess a substantial body of knowledge, which presented a balancing act for Sheen. “Michael had to do the pseudo-intellectual, the genuine intellectual, the pedant, and he came in and nailed it from the start,” says Allen.
Perhaps the height of Paul’s pompous actions is when he argues with the tour guide at the Rodin Museum, played by none other than France’s First Lady, Carla Bruni. Allen offered Bruni the role almost as a lark when he and his wife and sister were invited for breakfast with Bruni and her husband Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the French Republic.
While chatting with Bruni, Allen found her so charming and beautiful, and knowing that she is a celebrated singer/songwriter and performer, he decided at the spur of the moment to offer her the part. “I told her, ‘I won’t take much of your time, you won’t have to rehearse—just come in for a couple of days and shoot,’” says Allen. “And she said, ‘Yes, it would be fun. I’d like to be able to tell my grandchildren I was in a movie, just for the experience.’”
Allen adds: “She did all the scenes very well, and I think if I cast her in a larger part, she would have been just as good, but I don’t think it would have been practical for her to take seven weeks off to shoot a movie.” Owen Wilson was impressed by how down-to-earth First Lady Bruni-Sarkozy was. “She was so gracious and nice to me and to all the crew,” he says. “She’s a great ambassador for the country.”
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