‘Brand New Testament’ Cast Talk God, Catherine Deneuve and Gorilla Suits

TheWrap’s Screening Series: Belgium’s submission for the Best Foreign Film Oscar is an “Amelie”-like fantasy comedy

Pili Groyne, 12, who played Marion Cotillard‘s daughter in the Oscar-nominated “Two Days, One Night” and now costars with Catherine Deneuve in Belgium’s Oscar submission “The Brand New Testament,” by Jaco Van Dormael, was puzzled when she met the iconic French actress.

“The first day on the set, I thought, ‘That doesn’t look like Catherine Deneuve.’ Then I realized it was her stunt double,” she told moderator and TheWrap’s awards editor Steve Pond at Los Angeles’ iPic Theater on Tuesday. But Groyne had no such reservations about the script, a fanciful comic fable that has been compared to “Amelie.”

“I was immediately seduced by the universe he created,” she said.

In the film — Dormael’s third foreign-Oscar submission — Groyne plays the daughter of God (Benoit Poelvoorde), who’s a disgruntled Brussels drunk in a bathrobe sitting at a computer causing humans misery. She decides to thwart her dad by making people happy, including Deneuve’s character, a sad wife who cheats on her husband with a gorilla. “It was great fun with the gorilla,” Marco Lorenzini, who plays a hobo recruited by God’s daughter in her quest to help humans, said. “Inside the gorilla was a Spanish guy. Jaco doesn’t speak Spanish, Catherine speaks French and Spanish, so she translated Jaco’s orders to the gorilla.”

For Groyne, the most enjoyable scene was the chase in which she and Lorenzini race to elude God, who’s furious that his daughter challenges his power.

“Walking on the water was fun to shoot, and the part where God fell into the ocean,” she said. That scene was harder for Lorenzini, who said his character is “a lost soul, not only a tramp, he’s something like an angel on earth, and this little girl gave him a new purpose in life.” But keeping up with Groyne was tough. “I had [hobo] shoes that were difficult to walk in — and she was so fast!” Asked how the excellent illusion of water-walking was done, Groyne smiled and said: “I don’t think I should say.”

What was hard for Groyne was getting used to Poelvoorde‘s gruff performance. “When he was so violent fighting with me, I was scared, because he was so convincing,” said Groyne, who soon realized he was only acting.

Neither actor believes in God, but they stress that in intolerant times, no one should take “The Brand New Testament” as an anti-God movie. “If you’re a fundamentalist, you can see it like that, but it’s not a film against religion, or religions,” Lorenzini said, explaining that it is also a change of pace for the director. “It’s the first time he had a cowriter [Thomas Gunzig], and they wrote it in nine months, a very short time. The films he writes alone, it takes three or four years.”

Asked how she hopes to follow up her success in “The Brand New Testament,” which premiered at Cannes, won best production design and is nominated for best European comedy at the European Film Awards, Groyne said, “I would love to do a movie with Tim Burton.”

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