50 years of cinema: tribute to the career of Louise Portal

Louise Portal shed a few tears when she learned that she will receive the Iris Tribute at the next Gala Québec Cinéma, tomorrow evening.

50 years of cinema: tribute to the career of Louise Portal

Louise Portal shed a few tears when she learned that she will receive the Iris Tribute at the next Gala Québec Cinéma, tomorrow evening. This recognition from the film world warms his heart, especially since it comes at a time in his career when on-screen roles are becoming rarer. "It's a real gift and I didn't expect it," she confides in an interview.

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“I knew it was an honor I deserved because I am aware of the journey I have had and that, at my age, we take stock of our lives, whether we like it or not. But it was still a big surprise. I feel blessed to be able to experience this. And it comes at a good time. Thank you life ! exclaims the 72-year-old actress.

Louise Portal gives us this interview from her cottage, located on the edge of the lake of her childhood, in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean. The actress returned to live in her native region a few years ago near a lake in Saint-David-de-Falardeau where she went with her family more than 50 years ago.

"It's a place I've known since I was 8 years old," she says, showing us around this rustic chalet through her computer camera.

“A few years ago, when I saw that a chalet was for sale on the edge of this lake, I felt that I had something to come and live here, perhaps to come full circle. I spoke to Jacques [his spouse] about it and he accepted. I am a girl by nature. I like the territory. »

A born actress

Louise Portal (Louise Lapointe, her real name) grew up in Saguenay, surrounded by three sisters, including her twin, Pauline Lapointe, who died 12 years ago of breast cancer. Already small, the four sisters had fun dressing up to play all kinds of characters. Attracted from a young age by the profession of actress, Louise Portal left home at the age of 18 to study theater in Montreal. Shortly after leaving the Conservatory of Dramatic Arts in 1971, she landed her first major film role, in the film Taureau, by Clément Perron. Love at first sight for the 7th art was instantaneous.

“I was 22 years old and it was a whole new universe that opened up to me, she recalls. I said to myself: wow, is this cinema? I had started by playing in soap operas filmed in the basement at Radio-Canada and there, I found myself in Beauce with lots of actors and actresses. I immediately felt that I was in my element! »

Since the release of Taureau in 1973, Louise Portal has acted in more than sixty films – 47 feature films and 17 short films –, including several outstanding works of our cinema (Cordélia, The Decline of the American Empire, Il was raining birds, etc.). Add to that thirty roles on the small screen, twenty books and a handful of albums as a singer.

"I'm starting to know who I am quite a bit because all the incarnations I've played on screen have allowed me to touch all sorts of aspects of my sensitivity, my interiority, my passion and my sensuality, observes she. I feel like I've made my way. What's still to come, because I feel like I still have elk, it's going to be just giveaways. »


In recent years, on-screen roles have become increasingly rare for Louise Portal. We saw her well last year in the comedy The guide to the perfect family, and she will be, this summer, in the distribution of the police drama Confessions, by Luc Picard. But both of these movies were shot before the pandemic. In fact, Louise Portal has not walked on a film set for almost three years.

"When you turn 65, there are fewer characters available even if, as far as I'm concerned, at 65-66, I had some great roles, especially in Les loups, Le garagiste and Paul à Quebec,” she adds.

“We are a generation a little invisible on the screen, but yet, we are still there, and we are very much alive. We have a lot to say and bring to society. But I understand that filmmakers aged 35 or 40 want to talk about their reality or their youth. It’s okay, I did some detachment work. And I don't want to complain because I've been so spoiled in my career! »

If she says she is semi-retired today as an actress, the writer in her is more active than ever. Louise Portal will also publish her 21st book next fall.

“Writing brings me a lot of satisfaction because there is no longer any character between me and the public,” she underlines. In my books, it is Louise who meets her audience. And that, I think, is amazing. Even if I play less, I will always continue to write. This is what I will leave as a legacy. »

♦ Louise Portal will receive the Iris Hommage at the Gala Québec Cinéma, presented Sunday at 8 p.m. on ICI Télé.


“Those two films were so important to me. It was great to meet the whole gang, 17 years apart, on the edge of the lake in Magog. Just thinking about it, I get emotional. And when I think back to Rémy's death scene in Les invasions barbares, phew... I remember when Denys [Arcand] invited us to watch the film for the first time. It doesn't make sense all the emotion we've been through. Denys is at the top of my list as a director. »


“It is certain that embodying a character who has already existed, as was the case with Cordélia Viau, it was very vibrant. For the Cordélia hanging scene, I remember saying to Jean Beaudin [the director]: I gave you one take and I won't give you two. I felt there was danger. At that time, we didn't have real stuntmen on the sets. They finally replaced me with someone for the next takes and the rope broke! The person fell on mattresses, but still...”

WOLVES (2015)

“I have so many fond memories of this shoot, in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine. It was a fabulous role, perhaps one of my finest. For my most significant roles in terms of inner vibration, I would say that there was Cordelia and there was Maria in Wolves. »


“I had the chance to work with an extraordinary film family on this film set. It was a great reunion with Gilbert [Sicotte], with whom I had already played, notably in Cordélia and Les loups. It was also my fourth or fifth collaboration with director François Bouvier, with whom I had already worked on Casino and Prozac, among others. He is one of the other directors with whom I would very much like to work again. »


“The success of The Decline of the American Empire opened a few doors for me in France and notably allowed me to obtain a fabulous role in this film by Jean-Marie Poiré. At 39, I found myself for three months on a film set in France with actors like Gérard Lanvin, Christian Clavier and Jean-Pierre Bacri. Over time, My Best Friends has become a cult film in France. People remember my character Bernadette. I have already met a young French couple who were on their honeymoon in the Chic-Chocs about ten years ago. When I told them I had been in My Best Friends, they freaked out and started reciting lots of lines from the movie to me. They took pictures and they sent it to their friends in France. It's quite rare to have this kind of project in a filmography. »