When most of us admire the music of our favorite performer, we attend numerous concerts to show our adoration. But when Valérie Lemercier decided to show her appreciation of the legendary Celine Dion, she took all of this a giant step further.
Using her acting, writing, and directing talents, the fruits of her labor are the tender new biopic of Celine Dion, Aline, The Voice of Love, which debuts on April 8. The film had its world premiere at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.
Lemercier, a French stand-up comedian and actress has written, directed, and starred in the film about Aline Dieu, a fictionized version of the pop icon, who becomes an international pop sensation amid starting a relationship with her much older manager, a fictionalized version of Rene Angelil, her great romance.
For Aline Dieu, nothing in the world matters more than music, family, and love. Her powerful and emotional voice captivates everyone who hears it, including successful manager Guy-Claude Kamar (Sylvain Marcel).
As Aline climbs from local phenomenon to bestselling recording artist to international superstar, she embarks on the two great romances of her life — one with the decades-older Guy-Claude and the other with her adoring audiences.
This accomplished actress plays the fictional Aline from ages five to 50 in a musical film that was “freely inspired” by Dion’s life, both the joyous highs and the overwhelming tragedies.
Lemercier made her screen debut in 1988 in the television series Palace. Lemercier has won two César Awards for her supporting roles in Les Visiteurs (1993) and Fauteuils d’orchestre (2007) and hosted the award ceremony in 2006 and 2007. She has subsequently become a successful director. Lemercier released her first music album, Valérie Lemercier chante, in 1996 and has subsequently recorded three singles with other singers.
Read on to see why Lemercier wanted to pay homage to Celine Dion’s extraordinary early life, love story, and career and why she had to make the film Aline.
Monsters and Critics: This is a beautiful movie. You wrote it, you directed it, you starred in it. It’s obviously close to your heart.
Valérie Lemercier: Yes, it’s my baby.
M&C: Why did you want to bring this to life?
Valérie: Because I’m a big fan. Because I was touched by that girl. Because I feel that when I was a small girl, I was such a strange little girl with a strange face. I don’t know. I was very touched by it. I spent 30 years of my life on stage, and I know what an artist’s life is, even if my audience is smaller. But I wanted to speak about the artist’s life and about that incredible love story. It’s also a tribute to [Celine’s late husband] René [Angelil] because it was a real love story, and I wanted to say that.
M&C: You have referred to Celine Dion as a positive heroine. Can you explain that to me?
Valérie: Because when you make a movie about a singer or a star, I mean they want to say that they’re an alcoholic or they’re taking drugs — their bad side. And it’s not Celine’s case, so I think it’s possible to make a movie about something happy. I mean, at first, it was something, even if they were poor or she has strange teeth. But it’s a fabulous success story, and I want to speak about that also. It was never my ambition to control anything. I wanted to be able to remain faithful to Celine’s story and to also invent certain things and therefore maintain a certain respectful distance from her.
M&C: What else struck you about this story?
Valérie: For me, it was very interesting. I learned a lot because, you know, 14 children in a family in Quebec is still considered a small family. The mother who built herself the house with her hands didn’t want that last little girl. I think it’s something very important because the last one was not welcome. But she went on to change that.
M&C: Who personally inspires you musically and creatively?
Valérie: Movies from Sidney Pollack. Blake Edwards and Mike Nichols. Leonard Bernstein’s music. Henry Mancini’s music. American culture in the 70s and 80s.
So that’s what I like, and I like also French cinema. I love the mix of comedy and drama. When I saw even an actor saying one small word in a movie, I try to write down his or her name.
We had some professional actors, and I liked that. And I like to shoot. It’s like the American rules for shooting in Quebec. It’s the same, and it was okay for me. I was very lucky to have such actors. For me, I think my pleasure and the thing I prefer is writing, editing, and directing actors. For me, when an actor is not good in a movie, it is not their fault. It’s better they are not well chosen or not well directed.
M&C: What do you hope that my readers will get out of it?
Valérie: I want them to love it and to cry, and I want them to see that this love story is really the main aspect of Celine’s life. Or Aline’s life. It is the making of a fairy-tale. Her mother wanted to be an artist and lived that dream through her daughter. Dion wanted to be a star, and when she fell in love, she pursued the relationship and had the strength and the will to make her desires a reality.
As for Rene, he was lost until he met her – he was thinking of quitting his job as a manager, as he wasn’t representing any more artists… When he met her, he mortgaged his house in order to make her first record. Nothing was too good for her. These three people saved each other in many ways, creating this big dream together.
M&C: Do you feel the same about your career and singing that you feel Celine and Aline do?
Valérie: Yes. When you have people around you who are taking care of you, it helps you. Sometimes people are jealous.. But that René was a very generous husband, and not only the guy who played poker. I know it’s not that. I had a boyfriend who, when I had a very bad critique in a magazine, would buy all the magazines because he didn’t want me to find them. For me, it’s the most beautiful thing you can do if your wife is an actress.
M&C: What aspect of her life was the most poignant?
Valérie: She wanted to have babies, and it was something very important for her, and she couldn’t. And when she was a mother, at first, it was not important for her to be on stage. And it’s true that she wanted to stop everything in Vegas, but it wasn’t possible. But she was so happy with her little boy that I think she didn’t want to sing at that moment at the beginning of her motherhood journey.
She spent 16 years on stage in Vegas, which is something really crazy, without putting a finger outside to be able to have a family life. That’s why I made the last sequence in the street in Las Vegas. Because when I’m traveling, I like to wake up at five a.m. and see the town and walk alone under the sun when I want. But I’m not famous, so I can do it, but she couldn’t because she would have been bombarded by so many fans, so I did that for her.
M&C: Celine Dion’s songs are highlighted throughout your film. Did you have trouble getting the rights?
Valérie: No, since she didn’t write most of them, it was quite easy. We got all the songs we asked for, except one, The Power of Love.
M&C: How many songs did you record?
I think it was 16. It took a lot of time, but it was vital to get right. This process of recording the songs, mixing them, and superimposing them onto the images was the most difficult task – it was a completely new language for me to learn.
M&C: How did you get into character?
Valérie: I watched many performances by her. When I look at people, I find it quite easy to imitate them. I didn’t want to imitate her, and I didn’t want to make an imitation of her voice. It was her body that struck me, so I tried to move like Céline. She’s a fighter and has so much determination and perseverance, so I did a lot of boxing training and lost a lot of weight. It was all about details – Céline always holds her microphone in her left hand, so even if the film is called Aline, I wanted to get these small aspects right.
Aline is in theaters nationwide starting Friday, April 8.
For more movie magic, please check out, Interview: Why Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem are so smitten with I Love Lucy.