Earlier today I was told a perverse relationship story that allegedly happened near the start of filming of Steven Soderbergh‘s Kafka, which was shot in Prague in 1990. The original source was Soderbergh, I’ve been assured, but since I’m hearing this second-hand please take it with a grain.

La Femme Nikita star Anne Parillaud had been cast as Gabriela, the female lead/significant girlfriend of Franz Kafka (Jeremy Irons ). Filming had just begun and she and Irons went out to dinner together, as actors just starting to work together often do. And Parillaud went back to Irons’ hotel that night, and presumably didn’t sleep much.

The next morning on the set Soderbergh led her over to a corner and says he’s sorry but she’s not going to work out because a significant party has complained about her French accent — Gabriela is supposed to be a Prague girl, born and bred — and that she’s going to have to be replaced. (Theresa Russell was soon after hired.) “But who…who has complained?,” the shocked Parillaud asked Soderbergh. Jeremy Irons, he answered.

In other words, her dismissal had not only been called for by Irons but, she later found out, locked in a day or two before. Meaning that Irons knew that if he wanted to “say goodbye” to Parillaud he had to make his move before she was told the bad news, and he probably knew Soderbergh would be telling her the next day or certainly very soon. So it was basically a “move it or lose it” situation before Parillaud learned the facts.

Even if this isn’t true, it’s a great story. The more likely truth, I’m guessing, is that Irons and Parillaud had already gotten started before the decision was made and that Irons didn’t have the courage to tell her what he was feeling and saying as things went along. Either way I’ve heard some cold-hearted seduction stories before, but this is a classic.