How Emmanuelle Nicot reveals the very young Zelda Samson as a new Romy Schneider

Some actresses seem to be born to make movies. This is the case of Zelda Samson, heroine of Dalva by Emmanuelle Nicot, an exciting first feature film that won multiple awards at Critics’ Week at the Cannes Film Festival where it was discovered in 2022. The young girl was only 12 when she was chosen to play the title role, woman child that the social services extricate from the claws of her father.

“I had muses in writing like Charlotte Gainsbourg, Eva Ionesco or Vanessa Paradis, confides the director to 20 minutes. I made myself an imaginary character for several years, then I found Zelda through a wild casting. “Emmanuelle Nicot had a nose because the metamorphosis of Zelda Samson going from overly sexualized kid to teenager full of freshness is a wonder.

An incredible talent

“As soon as I turned on the camera, I knew Zelda was Dalva because she immediately had something magnetic about her. She has a Romy Schneider side as she can give the impression of changing age depending on how I film her. In profile, one could believe that the teenager is 20 years old. From the front, she looks like a kid, especially when Dalva talks to educators (including Alexis Manenti, discovered in Wretched of Ladj Ly) or that she finds her mother from whom she has been separated for a long time. “I like the idea that my character gives hope, explains Zelda Samson. She will end up having a normal life by escaping the grip. It’s very positive. »

Zelda Samson appreciated the experience even if she admits that it was not always easy to “shoot in a cramped setting when it’s hot and we would prefer to go outside”. Something to make you smile when you know the dramatic situations that your character has to face. “We see her experience as an actress with our adult eyes, specifies the director. The difficulties that we imagine are not those that Zelda felt. »

Today, the teenager is 14 years old and would see herself more as an astrophysicist than an actress when she talks about her future. We would like to think that the success of Dalva leads her to change her mind as she is naturally gifted to make believe in a heroine so far removed from her real life as a schoolgirl.

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