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"It's very complicated to be a mother and a creative woman at the same time because it's not just a job I'm going through. It's something I really want to do," Delpy says. "If it weren't that, maybe I wouldn't want to be going back to work. But the minute I started writing again, three months after my son was born, it was like breathing again. It was like being a fish out of water put back in.
"Not everybody understands that," she continues. "I always say, 'Guess why Sylvia Plath put her head in the oven?' It was because she was a creative woman in a world where being a mother was [placed] way above being a creative woman."
Delpy, who edited New York from her L.A. home "with my son coming in and out," is determined not to live in such a world. Part of her conception of being a good mom is making sure motherhood doesn't completely subsume her identity.
"It's not the kid's fault, but the position of being a mother can destroy you creatively," she says. "If you go and write, you feel guilty. So you have to get over that, because in the end, it's not good to have your mom hanging from a tree or, you know, in a mental institution for the rest of her life."
But Sylvia Plath wasn't the first female writer to battle insecurity or to have her own priorities scrambled by societal expectations. Delpy is startlingly straightforward in admitting that she has very recently stood in her own way, even internalizing the external prejudices that she suggests have held her back. According to IMDb, Delpy's next project as director is The Right Profile, a micro-biopic about Joe Strummer's calculated disappearance to France in 1982 before the release of the final original-lineup Clash album, Combat Rock. But she tells me she's no longer involved.
"I was offered to direct [it], because I love the Clash, and I love Joe Strummer," Delpy says. "And then I said no because I got scared, as a woman and as a Frenchwoman, especially, to touch such British subject matter. And then after that, I met the guy that story's based on—because it's about Joe Strummer and a friend, a French friend of his—and actually, he told me, 'You are the best person to do this.'"
"It's stupid," Delpy admits, defeatedly. "But maybe I thought [U.K. financier] Film4 didn't like me. Like I had the feeling they didn't want me to do it because they probably wanted a British director. And I felt, I don't want to fight to do something when I have other things that people want me to do. To fight a company to prove I'm the right person—I've done that too many times, and too many times it turns out negative, and then they're not behind me, and they kind of contradict everything I want to do during the film."
This is what happened on The Countess, which Delpy wrote, directed, and starred in between Paris and New York. The movie, which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival but had no significant theatrical exposure in the States, is based on the story of Elizabeth Báthory, a 17th-century noblewoman who allegedly believed the secret to eternal youth lay in bathing in virgin's blood. It's definitely a mixed bag but worth Netflixing for its often darkly funny counterpoint to Delpy's '90s image of near-vampiric sexuality. Delpy admits the film was compromised by behind-the-scenes drama—the financiers, she says, didn't believe in her.
"It's very hard because you make a film that's OK, but it's not exactly what you wanted to do because you've been fighting every day. It's much easier when everyone's on the same side."
Getting everyone on the same side—or at least the same page—remains a hurdle holding up another announced Delpy project, the long-rumored follow-up to Before Sunset. Hawke claimed in June that the third film in the series would shoot this summer, but at our lunch a couple of weeks later, Delpy suggests the production is not a done deal.
"We're in the process of talking about it, but we're not sure 100 percent. It depends on—um, I don't know what it depends on. On everything, on the weather..." She trails off. "The problem is getting the three of us in a room to work, to write, and then shoot it. They're not very long films to shoot because it's usually three weeks. It's mostly the two of us. But it's very hard to get the three of us focused on the one thing. So we'll see. Maybe it will happen; maybe not. I hope it will. I don't know."
I ask if she's concerned about talking on the record. "No, it's not that," she says quickly. "It's that, when I don't know, I'm kind of insecure to talk about it. I feel like, OK, what am I talking about? It's kind of a pointless conversation."
She sighs. "My life is really stressful, actually, because I don't know anything, and it's stressing me out like crazy."
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