As the daughter of a sculptor and an actress, Juliette Binoche grew up with an artist’s view onto the world.
Mornings were spent listening to Mozart. On Sundays, Binoche wandered museums with her mother. Today, she invites her son Raphael, 14, and daughter Hanna, 7, to join her on film sets throughout the world. “They are very passionate kids,” she says. “That is probably the best thing you could wish for your child.”
But the Oscar-winning actress is not one to take credit for how her children have blossomed. “Giving birth is like a vase of beautiful flowers,” she says. “Only you’re just the vase, and only for a very short moment. The flowers are beautiful, but they belong to themselves, not to the vase.”
When she’s not acting, she presently stars with Steve Carrell and Dane Cook in Dan in Real Life, which opened October 26 — she paints and is now preparing for an exhibition of her work. Juliette, 43, also posed for the October cover of French Playboy. “French women,” she says simply, “bloom at 40.” Here, she talks to Modern Mom about staying connected and in the moment with her children, even when the continents divide them.
What’s your definition of a modern mom?
I’m not sure there’s a modern mom. I think there’s a trying to be true and full of your feelings, I feel that’s very important. And keep up the happiness — a real happiness, not a fake one. Because children, they feel it, they pick up everything. Try to be true in the moment and embrace you work and embrace your children and embrace what’s given to you.
How do you balance a career and your family?
The secret I think is to be present at what you’re doing. Not thinking I should be here instead of there, or there instead of here. You’ve got to give a balance, of course, between your family time and your work time. We have a very irregular life, you know.
Unless you have TV work, which is very regular. When it’s movies or theatre, it’s another story. So, really, I think the key thing is to be in the moment.
And of course, sending messages, iChat, phone calls — that makes life easier. [In that way, children can] feel support when you have to travel. But when I travel I try to stay for a very short time. Like this visit to L.A., I’m just coming here for a week. And when it comes to shooting, I usually take my kids — they travel with me often. Now, I’m asking my son if he wants to come or not because since he’s been 10 years old I feel he is old enough to choose for himself. Choose his life, what he wants to do.
Do they enjoy coming to the set and seeing you work?
They are very passionate kids and they have activities that they cherish. And that’s probably the best thing you can wish for a child, for him to have a passion so that no matter what happens in their life, you know, of teenage time–when it’s the time of the love, the betrayal, the jealous, the hoping, all that–when they have passion, they can always go back to their world and their personal roots somehow.
What did your parents teach you about parenting?
Yeah, I think with my father it was to enjoy life and being artistic and with my mother, there were more rules but still in a very artistic cultural plan she had for us. Like, we’d go to the museum every Sunday and we would listen to Mozart every morning when we were having breakfast–she wanted us to have culture.
And I thank her for that because it stayed in my mind and I was sensitive to that. With homework and all that, I had to learn it myself. And it was tough. What they ask in school is sometimes very tough in France.
There is a lot of homework, at least two hours of homework a night. My mother was not so much into that.
What do you hope to teach your kids?
They teach me more than I teach them! That I can assure you! You learn to be a parent while they’re growing because you’re not born a parent�??you’re not born a mother. I remember playing with my dolls all the time because I was genuinely drawn to that, to being a mother. But yet, when you’re actually being a real mother, with real children, it’s another story.
They’ve got their strong personalities and you have to deal with that. You’ve got to try and invent ways to see why they’re doing it, and how they need their life to grow. At the same time, you’ve got to give limits.
You know, that’s what you’ve got to do as a parent so they feel like protected, so they feel that you’re there for them, so they can be sociable, that they can live in the world and function in the world. Because you’ve go to learn some rules. Otherwise it’s a wild world!
What do you love to do with your family?
I love reading books before bed. That’s really my treat. Because I get to do all the voices and it’s very entertaining. And I have to say my daughter loves it too, she loves imitating and doing all the voices possible in the story. That’s fun. It’s wonderful because it’s the end of the day and you’re going to go into another world which is you know, the “moon time,”
the sleeping time. It’s just the story before you get into the imagination, the lifting into the dreams, that when you tell a story it’s already a part of it.
That’s what I love about it.
What’s keeping you busy these days?
I’m traveling a lot to promote my work. In 10 months I have been doing five films from last September to June this year. So, I’m taking a break and I’m going to start training for a dance show that’s going to run in
2008 and I’m going to work on painting because I plan to do an exhibition. Then I’m probably going to do a film with an Iranian director. We’re going to shoot in Italy.