Hong Kong megastar Maggie Cheung played a Hong Kong megastar named Maggie Cheung in her first Olivier Assayas collaboration, Irma Vep, but her turn as the castrating rock widow Emily Wang in Assayas's Clean (opening this Friday) is actually closer to Cheung than "Cheung" was. "Emily is me," Cheung says. "People always have me play characters so different from how I am, whereas Olivier thinks what I am is the most watchable. He wanted to make a film that was close to who I am and how I look in everyday life."
Cheung says she used her own clothes for the movie and kept the electric-frizz hairdo she was sporting at the time. "Olivier insisted that I make it straight again, but I said if it goes straight, how would it be different from Irma Vep? I thought the hair would help the character be the mess that she is without trying too hard." For Cheung, who splits her time between Paris and HK, one of the most difficult parts of the shoot was the French dialogue. "I speak French on an everyday basis, but doing it in a film is much harder than in real life because you can't stop to think what you want to say. But I thought Emily shouldn't speak fluent French because she maybe lived in France for two years 10 years ago. So I was confident that I didn't need to learn my French lines. But when we were shooting, Olivier didn't allow that."
Though they were in the process of finalizing their divorce, Cheung says she and Assayas remained professional throughout the filming. "We didn't have a fight where I would walk off the set and say, Fuck you, I'm never coming back! Nothing like that happened. I'm not sure whether people were disappointed or glad." Cheung insists she still admires Assayas as an artist. "I liked Cold Water a lot. Paris Awakening was good too, but he wasn't as mature as he is now. Les Destinées, I liked a lot. But I didn't like demonlover, and I know a lot of people did."
Get the Film & TV Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.