“Do you want me to look this up?” I asked, reaching for my smartphone, and she responded as if I’d reached for the grenade pin. “NO! DON’T!” She shook her head firmly. “Then we’ll never learn.” She caught a glimpse of the Seine and was gone again.
Frances McDormand, or Fran, as she is called in regular life, cuts a handsome figure on the street. She is 60 and sexy in the manner of women who have achieved total self-possession. She eschews makeup unless she is working, doesn’t dye her hair and despises the nips, tucks and lifts that have become routine for women of her profession. Her clothes are well made — she loves clothes — but utilitarian and comfortable. On this day she was wearing loose-legged cropped pants, black-and-peach sneakers, a navy sweater and a thin headband shoved in and out of uncombed hair as the mood struck.
She doesn’t do press junkets, and for most of the 20 years since she won a Best Actress Academy Award for playing Marge Gunderson, the tremendously pregnant, improbably cheerful police detective in “Fargo,” she has refused interviews. Her publicist explained to me that his job is to politely tell people to go away.
“I was never that involved in the machine of press and publicity as an actor because I’ve always kind of worked on the margins of my profession,” she explained as we made our way toward the river, reoriented at last. “And then when my son was younger and it did get a little bit more intrusive, I tried to come to terms with how I was personally going to handle someone coming up to me on the street and wanting some part of my time.” We turned onto the Boulevard de Sébastopol, and the river enlarged itself on the horizon. “Now what I do — because this is how I live — when someone approaches me and says,…