Celine Dion was anything but difficult during the filming of Love Again, a romantic comedy expected in theaters next Friday. In an interview, the director of the film, James C. Strouse, however, reveals a moment when the Quebec artist seems to have played the divas: when she refused to say a line.

Before disclosing the famous phrase that Celine Dion never wanted to say, let’s emphasize how much James C. Strouse “loved” working with the interpreter. In virtual meeting on Zoom, the American filmmaker and screenwriter talks about a star of “great kindness”, a gifted actress, “open and ready to surrender”, and a consumed professional who knew her text by heart.

The example Strouse reported came when she was filming a phone conversation with Mira, a character championed by Priyanka Chopra Jonas. Originally, Mira was to ask Celine, “How did you find my number?” And she had to answer, “I’m Celine Dion.” I can have anything I want! »

“Celine turned to me and said, ‘That’s not something I would say,'” James C. Strouse said. She didn’t want to look arrogant. And that’s why I love him. »

Inspired by a popular 2016 German film adapted from a novel by writer Sofie Cramer, Love Again tells the story of Mira, a woman who, to soothe her grief after losing her tragically engaged, begins sending romantic text messages to the dead man’s phone number… unaware that it has been assigned to Rob (Sam Heughan), a reporter assigned to paint a portrait of a certain Celine Dion.

In the original German work, the star at the heart of the story was made up from scratch: a fictional singer larger than life. This is not an avenue that James C. Strouse and the whole bosses of Screen Gems, Sony Pictures subsidiary behind Love Again, wanted to explore.

“Despite everything, we thought, ‘Let’s think big!’ Fingers crossed…”

Unsure if Celine Dion was interested, James C. Strouse began “studying” her subject, watching dozens of interviews on YouTube. “I wanted to examine the way she spoke, her pace…I wanted to write tailor-made lines for her, so she really felt they were coming from her.” »

The work of the scriptwriter of Grace Is Gone (2007) ended up bearing fruit, but after a (very) long wait. “It’s not easy to get in touch with Celine Dion… And that’s completely normal. It’s an icon. It’s not supposed to be easy to get in touch with an icon! »

Once the script was completed, in November 2019, Strouse and three studio bonzes flew to Minneapolis, where Celine Dion was performing a sold-out show at Target Center. Their objective was clear: to convince her to accept their offer. The evening did not quite go as they had imagined.

The director finally met Celine Dion a few minutes before she went on stage. “They were like, ‘You can say hello to her, but don’t bother her too much.’ My heart was beating hard. They took me to a room, then she arrived. She was so kind and elegant. She said, “I heard you were making a movie? It looks intriguing.” I was paralyzed! I must have had round eyes like marbles. I must have had a silly smile from ear to ear too! »

Almost a month later, Celine Dion broke the radio silence: she was ready.

Although she has limited screen time (a dozen minutes, spread over a few scenes), Celine Dion is everywhere in Love Again. An excerpt from the music video for It’s All Coming Back To Me Now, old photos of her appearing in the background (the “voice of God” era), characters explicitly quoting her song lyrics (That’s the Way It Is, I’m Alive), his great hits which resonate in the background (Where Does My Heart Beat Now, All By Myself), a more obscure track which is the subject of a mention (Have You Ever Been in Love), musicians who play an instrumental version of When I Fall in Love… You could almost think that this is a tribute film.

“I became a fan while writing the script,” admits James C. Strouse. In fact, I must have been an unknowing fan, because in Minneapolis, during his show, I realized one thing that amazed me: I knew the words to every song by heart. Every song! »

The professional and personal life of Celine Dion visibly inspired Strouse, since three times during the film, we can hear the singer and mother of three children talk about René Angélil. An intimate subject that he approached “with great respect”. “I dared because it was consistent with the story. But it was a risk. It worried me. »

In the end, the filmmaker believes he has won his bet, since these sequences are among his most successful.

Celine Dion being Celine Dion, no one will be surprised to learn that between takes, she was transformed into a little clown. “She brought incredible energy to the set,” says James C. Strouse. She entertained the whole team. Everyone had a good time when she was around. He really is a good person. »

Celine Dion, who recently revealed that she has a rare neurological disorder called Moersch-Woltman syndrome, which prevents her from resuming her musical career, was unable to promote Love Again, which marks his film debut.