Born in London, England to a French mother and a Vietnamese father, Claire Tran did not find her move to Paris easy as a young girl. Happily, she found her “équilibre” at the dance barre, nurturing a childhood passion that became her “raison d’être”. She was no typical teenager dreaming of fame. Claire worked hard for it, joining the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris at the age of 15.
She has danced the steps of internationally-renowned choreographers and tried her hand at creating for others. Now 31 years old, Claire is leaping in a new direction: acting.
With her striking Eurasian face and commanding stage presence, she has landed roles in several French TV series and played herself in a documentary on the blood, sweat and tears of the dance world. This past summer, Claire appeared with French actress Juliette Binoche in the film, “Clouds of Sils Maria”, as Maria’s London assistant.
INSPIRELLE caught up with Claire Tran before her next round of major auditions to talk about her exciting artistic path.
What was it like growing up tri-cultural in Paris? Has your diverse background influenced your life in any way?
I was born in London, when I was very young I wanted so badly to be a “normal English girl”. Looking Asian was already a lot to deal with at primary school. So, until my parents moved to Paris, I didn’t embrace my tri-cultural background as much as I could have. Then of course, when we moved to Paris I had to learn French and make new friends in a new environment. Funny how children adapt so quickly.
I went to a bilingual school (EIB) and all my classmates were children of expats from various countries. Suddenly, I didn’t need to deny any of my origins anymore. We were all different and all struggling to learn French. And it was hard!
Growing up tri-cultural influenced my life by making me an open-minded adult.
You started dancing at the age of 3 and joined the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris at 15 years old. What made a teenager give up her adolescence for the rigorous discipline of dance?
Passion for dance! Nothing else mattered more to me than dance and training to become a professional dancer. The rest was unimportant.
The beauty of dance lies in its seemingly, effortless grace and movement. But is the world of dance as harmonious?
Nope. Not at all. People are hard on each other, and the efforts to maintain excellency are constant and huge.
The dance world is tough and asks you to be tough: Rock inside, but silk outside.
From classical to contemporary dance, you have graced the stage, moving to the steps of famous choreographers such as Marie-Claude Pietragalla, Franck Chartier and Andonis Foniadakis. And you have created choreography for others such as for Christine and the Queens’ first musical video. Is it a very different experience?
Yes indeed, choreographing for others is a totally different job, and even though I have given it a try, I know it’s not what I want to do. I’ve always preferred being a performer. Being on stage is essential to me, and I have to admit I don’t think I have a great talent for creating movement. People often think dancers are naturally good choreographers, but it’s not true. I’m stimulated by being asked to do something the director or choreographer asks, and proposing my own interpretation of it.
Giving life to an idea is fabulous. Sometimes I realize I am very lucky to do that for a living.
Today you are pursuing an acting career. How did you leap from the stage to the silver screen?
It’s come naturally, little by little. I didn’t really see it coming, to be honest. One day I would be on stage with Pietragalla, and the next I would be acting in a short film. That was my balance. I think I just loved the challenge. I loved having a secret garden: cinema.
WHEN I WATCH A VERY GOOD FILM, I IMMEDIATELY THINK “I WANT TO BE PART OF THAT”.
I cannot live in front of the screen; I want to be in it, to create the magic. In order to do so I knew I had to make a choice, and it was a surprisingly easy one to make.
Filming scenes in blocks and out of sequence over and over again seems to be the opposite of performing live before an audience. Does acting come naturally to you?
Well, before performing on stage we first rehearse the dance piece for months! I’m used to repeating the same thing over and over again — the ballet barre is the best example I can give you.
Acting is something I love to do, but I need to work beforehand to be good. I work with a coach or on my own, but I rarely just arrive on set without any preparation.
What was it like performing with Juliette Binoche in “Clouds of Sils Maria” directed by Olivier Assayas?
It was a dream come true! I am a huge fan of Juliette; I think she is one the best French actresses. She was so nice to me on the set, and so very focused… I will treasure those moments my whole life.
With several French films under your belt, you appear this season in an English speaking film, “The Model”, set in Paris. Tell us about the film and your role.
The Model is a Danish film, directed by Mads Matthiessen. It’s in the English language, and set in Paris. A tri-cultural film! Hahaha!
It’s about the rise and fall of a young Danish model (Maria Palm) who comes to Paris to start her career. I play Mika, the discreet and efficient assistant of the photographer she falls in love with (Ed Skrein). What I found interesting in the script is the very honest and violent way it describes the fashion world, and how models are often badly treated. I don’t want to reveal the plot, but it gets quite dark and has a thriller taste to it.
Danish cinema suddenly leaped forward when the Dogme95 filmmaking collective was founded by Lars Von Trier and Thomas Winterberg in 1995. Since then young directors have been ultra creative and audacious, while using the best of the manifesto. Mads Matthiessen, for example, does a lot of shoulder camera filming, thus getting close to the characters. The realism is an essential part of Danish cinema, and I particularly like that.
How would you describe yourself at this stage in your life?
Ready. Steady. Go.
If Hollywood were to open its door to you what would be your reaction? Are you ready for this next step?
If that door opened I would walk right through it!
What I find exciting in Hollywood at the moment is the quality of the TV shows. I watch a lot of them and I see new faces all the time, that’s wonderful. It’s a big mountain to climb, but deep inside.
I DO BELIEVE THE SKY’S THE LIMIT!