Emilia Perez: meeting with Karla Sofia Gascon, the actress who is shaking up the Croisette

Emilia Perez: meeting with Karla Sofia Gascon, the actress who is shaking up the Croisette
Emilia Perez: meeting with Karla Sofia Gascon, the actress who is shaking up the Croisette

On May 18, in Cannes, Karla Sofia Gascón will climb the steps of the Palais des Festivals alongside Jacques Audiard, and Zoe Saldana and Selena Gomez, the two actresses with whom she shares the poster of “Emilia Perez”, the new feature film by the French director. But she’s the one who will attract all the attention, that’s for sure. At 52 years old, Karla Sofía Gascón has nearly thirty-five years of career behind her. On both sides of the Atlantic, in Spain and Mexico, it has been known and recognized for a long time. But Emilia Perez, the character she plays and who gives her name to this musical, spiritual and family epic, is her first role as a woman on the big screen. And promises to dazzle the Cannes jury chaired by Greta Gerwig.

All human beings, to be truly complete, should experience both genders

Gascón plays a character at two distinct moments in his story: married and father of two children, Manitas, a broken-mouthed drug lord and head of an ultra-violent Mexican cartel, wants to change his life. To carry out this transition, he hires Rita (Zoe Saldana), a brilliant but frustrated lawyer, struggling with a corrupt justice system and a glass ceiling that crushes and discourages her.

Rita has a mission: to help Manitas become Emilia. That is to say, to reinvent, for this man trapped by violence and gender assignments, a new existence, more in line with his deep aspirations. The moving film, produced by Why Not Productions, Audiard’s historic partner, with the support of Pathé and Saint Laurent Productions, is also a musical, for which singer Camille and musician Clément Ducol composed songs. unforgettable.

As a child, I was quite introverted, but I always had an artistic temperament

If Emilia Perez is particularly dear to the heart of Karla Sofía Gascón, it is because she also turned a page in her life six years ago. Born in a man’s body, she chose late in life to embrace what she knew she was since she was 4 years old: a woman. Her career began when she was 16, following another realization: “As a child, I was quite introverted, but I always had an artistic temperament,” she confides to us at the end. some thread. I loved painting and writing, but as I emerged from adolescence, I woke up one morning knowing exactly what I wanted to do with my life. »

Without a second thought, she telephoned the only television channel at the time, and began her career by appearing as an extra in series. A few warm-up years followed: she played here and there in small productions for TV and cinema, and earned her living between two shoots as an electrician. At 19, she met the woman who is today her wife and the mother of their 13-year-old daughter. Little by little, she established her name in Spain, but made the mistake, she admits, of “too much [s]e conform to what I believed to be the expectations of the industry and directors. I imitated others, their voice, their way of playing, and I moved away from what made me original, and therefore desirable.”

A new career

She bounced back at the end of the 2000s by starting a career in Mexico. In 2013, she starred in “Nosotros, los Nobles”, by Gary Alazraki, a comedy of manners in which the children of a rich businessman find themselves forced to work for the first time in their lives after that their father cut them off. The film, which attracted seven million spectators, was a huge success, and Gascón’s career enjoyed a second wind. In South America, she happily embraces again this role of Latino Ryan Gosling, a hidalgo with bulging muscles and a charming smile who wears very open shirts on honey-colored skin. “I was very handsome and I was quickly assigned this role of a big, slightly macho guy… I gave my all to get there and I took full advantage of my life as a man,” recalls Karla Sofía .

A “warrior” who claims to be such

Chatting with Karla Sofía Gascón is like finding yourself face to face with a force of nature, a “warrior” who claims to be such, who has given herself, throughout her life, the means to make her most desires come true. deep. Occupy the top of the bill, build a stable and loving family, embody complex and exciting characters, and exist stronger, more fully than ordinary mortals.

“I know that many people experience their trans identity in a very painful way because this thwarted identity can create an insurmountable dilemma for some. I have often felt bad about myself, of course, but for me it has always been very clear. I had no choice but to move forward. I didn’t get help from anyone, and I didn’t realize until late in life that transition was a possibility. I deeply believe that all human beings, to be truly complete, should experience both genders,” she says.

I refused to settle for what we were assigned at birth

When she talks about her refusal to “be satisfied with what we were assigned at birth”, she is of course talking about her trans identity, but also about everything else, and in particular about this childhood in a loving middle-class family. , united by the loss, when she was 20, of a beloved older brother, and the power she demonstrated to imagine an extraordinary life. She’s a little young to have fully participated in Movida, the cultural movement which, in the aftermath of the fall of the Franco dictatorship, repainted Spain in bright colors and extravagant characters, but she cites the trans actress and singer Bibi Andersen, faithful to Pedro Almodovar’s films in the 1980s and 1990s. However, she would have to wait until her forties (and a severe existential crisis which notably saw her leave her wife for a time to embark on a romance with a Mexican senator), to allow yourself to think about a transition.

I’m not a believer, but crazy things happen to me all the time

Funny and sharply intelligent, Gascón is a character, a powerful woman who recounts the adventures of her life in a playful tone. “I’m not a believer, but crazy things happen to me all the time! I could tell you dozens of incredible stories,” she laughs. In Mexico, she was robbed at point-blank range by a man who let her go before stopping her again a few meters later to ask her for a selfie. In 2004, as she was preparing to embark with her wife for a month’s honeymoon in Thailand, a phone call informed her that she had landed a role in a series and forced her to cancel the trip, at the same time avoiding the tsunami which devastated the coasts of South-East Asia a few days later.

When I don’t have a fight to fight, I get bored

But the simplest crazy thing that happened to him in his career was without a doubt meeting Jacques Audiard. After having searched for a long time for the actress who could play Emilia Perez, this repentant woman who tries to redeem herself in a country plagued by violence but is unable to give up her children, the director of “A Prophet” immediately knew it would be her and no one else. On the other hand, it was Karla Sofía who convinced him to let her also interpret the sequence of Manitas, this boss trapped in an existence that he did not choose.

The desire for revenge is an excellent driving force to achieve it in life

In this double character, Gascón put a lot of herself. She is, after all, a mother, but also a woman who sees in “the desire for revenge an excellent driving force to achieve it in life”. “When I don’t have a fight to fight, I get bored,” she confides, “and I believe that Jacques, who is very perceptive, saw in me something that only those close to me know: I am very gentle and very nice, but I can also, if pushed to my limits, become explosive. »

In addition to her acting career, Karla Sofía Gascón wrote two novels and, when the role of Emilia Perez fell to her, was preparing to exhibit her paintings in a gallery in Mexico City. Large format paintings where she gives free rein to her obsession with monarch butterflies. The chrysalis, the moult, the metamorphosis, the rebirth… Is this aspect of his art a frontal evocation of his experience of transidentity? “I understand why you would think that,” she smiles, “but in reality, it’s more of a tribute to the four thousand kilometer journey that these creatures make every winter from Canada to Mexico. » For her, this spring, all roads lead to the Croisette. Karla Sofía Gascón is ready.

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