Go backBack to selection

Thread Again: SCAD Lacoste Film Festival Honors Lesley Manville (Sponsored Post)

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris screening outdoors at the Maison Basse

in Filmmaking
on Jul 24, 2023

“To get a good script is a thrilling thing,” said Oscar®-nominated actor Lesley Manville during this month’s SCAD Lacoste Film Festival. “It was a privilege when a good script would plop through the letterbox—it now pings through your email.”

Manville’s good humor and insights infused the event, which took place July 1-2 in France’s Luberon Valley at the international location of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Fittingly, the festival paid homage to tradition as it looked to the future—while having a great time in the here-and-now. 

“La Maison Basse, with walls dating back from the 12th century, transforms into an outdoor stage and theater where art can be enjoyed under the stars,” pointed out SCAD Lacoste executive director Cédric Maros during an opening night soiree on the lawn at La Maison Basse of SCAD Lacoste. “Every second feels special here in this unique setting for artists sharing their work with the students and the community.”

It was a gorgeous midsummer weekend as this year’s festival shone a light on fashion in film, connecting many of the university’s top ranked degree programs including fashion, film and television, production design, performing arts, and sound design. Saturday’s spotlight on Emily in Paris featured a spirited discussion between costume designer Marylin Fitoussi and production design professor Lisa Tinley Ryan. A tribute to French film icon Jean-Luc Godard was led by SCAD dramatic writing professor Chris Auer, featuring a screening of the French New Wave classic, Godard’s 1960 masterpiece Breathless.

Costume designer Marylin Fitoussi right at Maison Basse

As for Sunday, well, that was pure Lesley Manville.

The acclaimed British actor brought down the house—and not for the last time—as she was presented with the prestigious SCAD Étoile award, which she refused to set down. (“I’m hanging on to this—you don’t often get awards where you’re not up against six other formidable actresses in competition!”) 

Renowned for her Academy Award®-nominated role in Phantom Thread, Manville was joined by SCAD performing arts professor Ashanti Brown in a discussion of a legendary career across film, television, and stage.

“I’ve lived through truly halcyon days coming up through a period [when] nobody thought about being famous,” Manville said. “You just wanted to do the work and do the best work you could in the best place you were offered it.” After exalting her incredible working experiences with directors Mike Leigh (Vera Drake, Mr. Turner) and Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread), Manville said: “I sort of would quite like to go back to those days when I was 20 just doing plays at the Royal Court [Theatre].”

Perhaps the play’s the thing. Asked by Brown for the proudest moment in her career, and Manville mentioned receiving the Olivier Award for Best Actress for her performance in 2014 as Helene Alving in the Henrik Ibsen play Ghosts. “In my heart I’m a theater actress and it’s where I began. I feel it’s where I learned everything, it’s where I’ve got some of my best memories.”

But this was a film festival, and before the screening of the universally adored Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (dir. Anthony Fabian, 2022), Manville spoke of her role as a cleaning lady named Ada who falls in love with a couture Dior garment, then travels to Paris in an attempt to possess the dress. 

“I did already know a lot about [couture fashion] because of Phantom Thread, a film that’s all about 1950s fashion and I was playing the woman who ran the [fashion] house. So I came to [Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris] very armed. [My character] Ada has a take on Dior that’s a fantasy. She thinks you can go to Paris and buy the dress off the rail. And, of course, you couldn’t do that—everything was a couture one-off.”

The key to her developing the role of Ada while working before filming began with OSCAR®-winning costume designer Jenny Beavan. “Jenny made me understand that Ada might be somebody who would try and make her clothes look a bit nicer, pretty them up a bit because she had no money to buy new ones. Ah, so she’s that kind of woman!” 

Manville’s performance in Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Comedy or Musical. On a gorgeous evening in Lacoste, it took the festival to another level to watch the film in the company of its star.

In parting, Manville had words of encouragement for the students in attendance, many of whom she had met in a classroom setting earlier. “I think it’s harder now being a young actor starting out. What SCAD is affording you is something rather wonderful. You’re in a great place. Learn everything you can. You want to be in it for the long haul. I salute you for having the strength of character to push through in an industry that is tricky and difficult. You’ve got to keep going.”

Lesley Manville in conversation at the SCAD Film Festival

The SCAD Lacoste Film Festival is presented by SCADFILM, the leading programmer of events for students and working professionals in animation, film and television, interactive design and game development, motion media design, immersive reality, and digital media arts. The 2023 festival included a screening of the animated film Le Futur, a tribute to the storied life and career of fashion designer and longtime Lacoste resident Pierre Cardin, executive produced by SCAD President and Founder Paula Wallace and directed by Matthew Miller. For a look back at this year’s schedule of events, visit SCAD Lacoste Film Festival 2023.

© 2024 Filmmaker Magazine. All Rights Reserved. A Publication of The Gotham