It wouldn't be a stretch to call Isabelle Huppert the Meryl Streep of France.
The Elle star, a prolific actress in her own right with 15 César Award nominations, is the most-nominated actress for the French equivalent of the Academy Awards. Now, Huppert has earned her first Oscar nomination. Shortly after the big announcement, she got on the phone with ET to reveal how she reacted to the news and how she felt about competing against Streep (the Isabelle Huppert of America?) for Best Actress.
ET: You've only had a small bit of time to process the nomination now, but how are you feeling?
Huppert: Oh, I feel great. I just feel great. What else can I say? Nothing better could happen to me today. It's just amazing. It's amazing for me, it's amazing for the film, it's amazing for [director] Paul Verhoeven. It's just incredible.
How did you find out this morning?
I was on a film set. I just started a new film yesterday with French director Benoît Jacquot, and it was during lunch break. It was lunchtime in Paris. So, I went to my room and I got the phone call. [Laughs] And that was it! I was alone when it happened, and then I was able to share it with so many people around me on the film set, so that was great.
What was your initial reaction when you first got that call?
An explosion of joy. It's my first nomination. I've never been to the Oscars before, nor had I ever been to the Golden Globes, so this is all new for me, and I thought it was absolutely extraordinary.
It's a journey for that film. It becomes a journey when you start the film, in the most intimate and private part of your mind. And then it leads to such exposure, to such recognition-- it's a miracle, actually. I think an event like this, a nomination, in one second, you rewind the film and it's a concentration of all that you went through to make that thing happen. I did the film a year ago and so many things happened as I was doing the film and since. This is what you feel when it happens. I think it's the same for lots of people.
How does an Oscar nomination compare to a César nomination?
Well, César is the little cousin of Oscar in our little country. No, I'm kidding! It's at the same time the same and different. It's the same, because it's a celebration of cinema, of something that we all care for. But instead of being only French, in this case it becomes more international, because I'm being nominated for a French film, being directed by a Dutch director, with an American screenwriter. I'm very grateful to the Academy for that, because it's the indication that the Academy is very open to a film that comes from far. Which is wonderful! Absolutely wonderful!
You're competing against Meryl Streep, who just earned her 20th nomination. Is that intimidating at all?
[Laughs] No, it's not intimidating. But it's funny, because she's got the 20th, I've got the first, and I'm really, really happy. She's the immense actress that we know she is, and it's a big honor for me to be in this selection. And to be with the other actresses, as well: Emma [Stone], Natalie [Portman], Ruth [Negga], and myself.
Have you seen the films by the other women in your category?
I haven't seen all the films, no. I've seen La La Land, which I loved. This is the only one I've seen, and I'm really impassioned to see the other ones. Really impassioned. And I will! Absolutely. Shortly! Because most of them are going to be released here.
You were quite emotional during your Golden Globes acceptance speech. What would winning the Oscar mean to you?
You'll see! I'll let it be a surprise. [Laughs] I haven't figured it out yet.
I was also sad to see that Elle, the movie, didn't get nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. How did you react to that?
I know. Well, it's the game. What can you say? But I was so happy that Paul Verhoeven got the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film. And in my nomination, the film and Paul Verhoeven are being rewarded as well, so I'm really happy for that. Cinema is a collective happening. You can't do it by yourself.