I am not super-attached to my career,' Audrey Tautou says in that sultry, Gallic voice of hers, a glint of recklessness in her big brown eyes. 'I have several plan Bs: I want to become a sailor; I like to draw; I would love to learn many things, but I don’t have time…' She trails off, leaving an uncertain silence hanging over the Kensington hotel room where we’ve met to discuss her latest film, a delightful comic confection called Beautiful Lies. 'That is the problem, you know,' she continues, more carefully. 'That is the reason why I will quit acting very soon.' She lets out a strange little laugh, a creaky exhalation, as if her own admission has taken her by surprise...
'I didn’t want to have this power,' she says, with a shrug. 'I would rather have freedom; and to find that you have to stop being in big, exposed movies. I don’t surf on the big waves. When I see them coming, I take my board and go straight back to the beach.'...
'I am always surprised to be chosen by a director for a role because I never understand why they like me,' she says. Surely, I suggest, that is false modesty, coming from one of Europe’s most bankable stars. 'Oh no, really, I am serious,' she says, leaning forward and planting her feet back on the carpet. 'I am always surprised to be cast.'
Does her track record – in Jeunet’s hits; or in Stephen Frears’s acclaimed Dirty Pretty Things, or as a compellingly self-possessed Coco Chanel in Anne Fontaine’s 2009 biopic – not give her at least a little confidence? 'No,' she says with a scowl, 'pas du tout.'
'A few months ago, I watched one of my old movies and I thought to myself, 'Oh, Jesus!’ Thank God that at the point I made that film I didn’t realise the extent to which I was terrible. Oh, mon dieu! Mon dieu!' But surely, I say, she can take from that the reassurance that she has only improved as an actress.
'Or,' she says, jabbing a finger in the air, 'I say to myself, does it simply mean that if in another 10 years I rewatch the films I am making today I will say, 'Oh mon dieu, how terrible I was then.’
She laughs that odd, breathy laugh again and then looks me dead in the eye. 'You have to be very careful in this life.