The cast for "8 Women," a comedic murder mystery directed by Francois Ozon and set in the French countryside during the 1950s, is comprised of just that -- eight women. The sole male actor is only glimpsed from the back and never speaks.
"It's very unusual you know to work only with actresses. I can't think of any other experience close to that," says Deneuve, as she fiddles with the large, rectangular amber earring in her right ear. "I think it was like finding the relationships of when we were much younger. We were very supportive of each other. We were like a team."
In Toronto to promote "8 Women" at the Toronto International Film Festival, Deneuve says she had no problem joining a cast of all women and was looking forward to it. When working with an all-women cast, there are no sexual tensions, no acts of seduction or flirting. Something Deneuve found refreshing.
"I like very much women," she says. "I like to work with actresses. It's really like being a young girl again all of a sudden."
A demure and talkative classic beauty, Deneuve easily looked 10 years younger than someone in her late 50s and even more beautiful in person than on film.
As the mistress of a large and isolated country mansion, Deneuve's character was a suspect in her husband's murder along with her two daughters, mother, sister, two maids, and sister-in-law.
It was a film that revealed surprisingly dark family secrets, mixed with musical interludes, as it twisted and turned toward a conclusion starring Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Beart, Fanny Ardant, Virginie Ledoyen, Danielle Darrieux, Ludivine Sagnier, and Firmine Richard.
Deneuve, however, says she is nothing like her on screen character in the film and couldn't identify with her at all, her own real life relationships being so different.
"Maybe that's why I had fun," she says. "It was so far away from me you know the relationship with the children, the relationship with the sisters ... it was exactly the opposite of the relationships I have with everyone around me."
Not being able to find something within herself that identified with the character was an unusual experience for the charismatic actor.
"Most of the time when you play a character you always have to find things in yourself...that relates to the person and sometimes it's helpful and sometimes it sort of holds you to the ground," she says. "It's more liberating to be able to go somewhere else where it's foreign country. To me the character I'm playing was so far from who I am it was almost laughable."
In real life, Deneuve has a son and daughter who have also embarked on acting careers while her sister was also a well-known French actress and their father was a veteran of the stage and screen.
Known for her roles in "Belle de Jour," "East-West," and "Indochine," Deneuve has been acting since she was a teenager.
For Ozon, the young director of "Under the Sand," "Water Drops on Burning Rocks," and "Criminal Lovers," making "8 Women" was a labor of love.
"I thought it would be fun to have all these big stars," Ozon says. "I didn't think they would all accept. It was a dream cast."
Deneuve was one of the first actresses he approached and she accepted even before the script was finished confidant that Ozon had the necessary vision to pull of the film.
"8 Women," winner of the Silver Bear Award for its ensemble cast at the 2002 Berlin International Film Festival, is due for release in New York and Los Angeles on Sept. 20.
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