Montreal native Sophie Desmarais has been catching the eye of film critics with outstanding performances in films like Denis Coté’s Curling, Benoit Pilon’s Décharge, and Sébastien Pilote’s Le Démantèlement, but it was her starring role as an ambitious track and field star in Chloé Robichaud’s Sarah préfère la course (Sarah Prefers to Run) that had Hollywood taking serious notice. The film was a hit from Cannes to TIFF in 2013, landing Desmarais a prime spot on Indiewire’s “10 Actors to Watch” list. The breakout performance also landed the up-and-comer a Vancouver Film Critics Award for Best Actress in a Canadian Film and a RiverRun Spark Award. With roles in Julie Hivon’s Qu’est-ce qu’on fait ici?, Martin Tallbot’s Henri Henri, and Rafaël Ouellet’s forthcoming feature, Gurov and Anna, on the horizon, Desmarais’ career is only gaining steam. Is it any wonder she’s one of TIFF 2014’s Rising Stars? We caught up with Desmarais to find out more about her blossoming career.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What should people know?
I love cinema. I love traveling off the beaten track. I love literature and poetry. I’m fascinated by Buddhism and yoga (in another life I would probably be a monk in Sri Lanka). I love people and having real encounters with them. I’m proud to be an actress and to be able to make a living out of it.
Did you always want to be an actor? How did you get involved in the film industry?
No, I didn’t. I would have preferred to become a writer or a gymnastics champion. But I discovered that all theses desires were coming from characters of movies I’d seen! The desire to become an actress came at 14. I was in an all-girls college and my French teacher came up with a project to work on classic scenes from Corneille’s Le Cid and Moliere’s Don Juan. Nobody wanted to play Don Juan. So, I raised my hand and I said, “I’ll do it.” My encounter with this character was the turning point for me. Travesty gave me wings and I was able, in my mind, to become Don Juan. After, I entered drama school for four years and then I never stopped working.
You’re one of TIFF 2014’s Rising Stars. Congratulations! What does that mean to you and how do you see it helping your career as an actor?
It’s a wonderful opportunity that TIFF is offering me. I feel very grateful for it. I have had the chance to have a well-established career in Quebec, which is extraordinary, and to be thrown into the English film industry is both exciting and challenging for me. As an actress, if I can work elsewhere it would mean a greater diversity of projects, characters, and collaborations. Being chosen for the Rising Star program is a huge pat on the back! The programers are amazing and so are the donators!
What have been some of the most stand-out “pinch me” moments of your career so far?
When my friend, the filmmaker Chloé Robichaud, told me that Sarah préfère la course (Sarah Prefers to Run) was part of the official competition in the “Certain Regard” section in Cannes last year. Pure joy and pride! Also, while there, I met the magnificent Emmanuelle Riva! I was starstruck.
What are three things you can’t live without?
Love, joy, sun.
What’s one thing most people would be surprised to know about you?
I’m kind of a hypochondriac.
Where do you hope to see yourself in 10 to 15 years?
As happy as a human being can be. I hope I’ll be fearless!
Let’s get social for a moment. How do we stay up-to-date with you?
I quit Facebook recently. It was numbing me! I’m on IMDb. I have a Twitter account but I never use it, so send me a letter or a telegraph!