Princeton is the new party hotspot for French celebrities with César awards. Well, not really. But the dashing Pierre Niney said he had a great time partying on campus when he first visited Princeton as a student five years ago. It was his first trip to the United States.
This week, Niney is back in Princeton with his fiancé, a César award for best male actor and upcoming meetings in Los Angeles for his next film on Jacques Cousteau. I think it’s safe to say Princeton was the catalyst.
Niney arrived on Tuesday to host a free showing of one of his latest films, “Yves Saint Laurent,” at Princeton’s Garden Theater. The film follows the life of French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent through the gaze of Pierre Bergé, his longtime lover and manager.
University French Theater Professor Florent Masse planned Niney’s visit over the course of a year and a half, and said he was thrilled to have Niney back on campus.
This week, Niney will be rehearsing scenes with members of Professor Masse’s French theater troupe, L’Avant-Scène, and other student members of the University’s theater community.
Rehearsals began on Tuesday in the Rocky common room.
“Pierre gave such insightful advice,” Avant-Scène member Jin Chow ’17 said after the workshop. Jin performed a scene from Racine’s “Phèdre.”
Pierre said he usually applies real-life situations to a given scene and thinks of people in his life to conjure the appropriate emotions.
“I’d like to start doing this more, because I think it could help to make my acting more genuine,” Jackson Salter ’17, who played scenes from “Phèdre” and “Antigone,” said. He explained that Niney made them whisper their lines to each other and then yell their lines across the room while he played the piano.
“I think that experimenting with these techniques helped the scenes evolve, whereas they otherwise would have remained static,” Jackson said.
“Pierre Niney brought an insightful, creative approach to the workshop, one that I genuinely felt improved my scene work and comprehension of theatre as a whole,” Emma Michalak ’17, who also worked on Racine, noted. “It’s so incredible how intelligent and accomplished he is at such a young age.”
Niney gave a question and answer session moderated by Professor Masse in East Pyne on Tuesday night.
He said he was very impressed by the student performances, and that it was great to be back in Princeton.
Niney spent about six months working on his character before shooting the Yves Saint Laurent movie, his longest preparatory work for a film so far.
“I didn’t know a thing about fashion when I started,” Niney said. Niney explained that he worked with a drawing coach, a vocal coach and a fitness coach to adapt his mannerisms and skills to Saint Laurent’s distinct persona. He also listened to Saint Laurent’s voice, immersed himself in old footage, and visited archives.
“I was basically living with him,” Niney said of Saint Laurent. “I wasn’t seeing anyone else.”
The movie includes real costumes and artifacts from Saint Laurent’s atelier and even Saint Laurent’s dog, Niney said, who seemed to mistake Niney for his former owner. Saint Laurent died in 2008 at the age of 71.
Niney will be holding a question and answer session in French on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m.
The slender Frenchman can also be spotted strolling up-campus and in the Lewis acting complex, so keep your eyes open this week!