The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, who after a paralyzing stroke, dictated his autobiography through a system of blinks devised by his therapist. Marie-Josee Croze plays Henriette in the film, a version of the real therapist who taught Bauby how to speak with one eye.
Croze Talks The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
"I met her," said Croze. "She exists. We changed the name for the film but she's a real one. She created that system with the letters. That was for real so she's a really creative person. It was difficult because she didn't like the script because she's a medical person and she's not used to reading scripts. She said, 'No, it wasn't like that in real life. I remember Jean-Do never said that he wanted to die.' She was against lots of stuff in the script and I tried to explain to her that it was film and we need drama. But she gave me lots of information in a way."
The original Henriette, real name Sandrine, was not the only source of research for Croze. "I met the real person and I met other speech therapists to be sure to have different points of view. Matthieu [Amalric] came with me I remember at the hospital because we had all the stuff there. So I met with Matthieu a real person like Jean-Dominique Bauby who had a stroke and I watched a speech therapist working with that person. She wasn't as much as Jean-Dominique Bauby. She could almost talk. She was sitting in a chair and would say like, 'Ah, ooh, uh.' It was difficult for her and the speech therapist helped her to communicate and express herself. Yes, we had lots of research to try. I tried to be more close to the reality of this world and it was fun."
Croze's performance was validated by other coworkers who recalled the real interaction with Bauby. "The biggest moment was in the hospital when we were doing some exercises with Matthieu. The real person who knew Jean-Dominique Bauby and took care of him, like other nurses, I saw that they were talking to each other. They said, 'You know what? You're exactly like Sandrine. We hear her voice, the softness of her voice when she was talking to him. It was exactly like that.' I was really happy with that because I want it to be real and close to her softness. She was soft and hard at the same time. Really she knew what she was doing and she wanted to do good work."
For the actual filming, Croze performed most of her scenes to a camera which was capturing Bauby's point of view. "I communicated with the machine actually. I lost pounds, I realized. Every time I was working on that film, I just consumed myself so much because it was so difficult to concentrate on being in the moment with the camera because it gives you nothing. It's cold. You have no response so it's a hard exercise."
Like Bauby's story, the filmmaking experience uplifted the actress's worldview. "For me it was a great experience to shoot the movie. I think in a way it made me a better person because when I was there in the hospital and I could see all those people paralyzed and I was playing that role, I think that I'm lucky something like that hasn't happened to me. It made me realize how lucky I was and enjoy more in a way."
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly opens to theaters on November 30th.