Julie Delpy is set to start shooting The Countess, her second feature as director, in Eastern Europe in October. Geoffrey Macnab reports.

Julie Delpy is set to start shooting The Countess, her second feature as director, in Eastern Europe in October.

She will co-star alongside Ethan Hawke, Radha Mitchell, Daniel Bruhl and Vincent Gallo, in a story based on the life of the notorious Countess Bathory, a historical figure alleged to have bathed in virgins' blood to retain her beauty.

Delpy, however, promises her version will not be exploitative.'There will be gory aspects but at the same time I want to make the film closer to something like The Name Of The Rose than just horror,' Delpy says.

'She was smart, strong politically and influential. Maybe she did a few bad things, but she was just a woman who didn't accept the condition of being human, which is ageing and dying.' In other words, what Delpy calls 'the weird sexual stuff' will not be at the foreground of the movie.

London-based Intandem has racked up pre-sales on the project, with deals already closed in a slew of international territories including Benelux (Dutch Filmworks) and Scandinavia (CCV).

Delpy spent several years trying to finance The Countess. Despite her illustrious credits as an actress (with directors such as Krzysztof Kieslowski, Jean-Luc Godard, Richard Linklater and Jim Jarmusch), it has been a struggle to establish herself behind the camera.

But two events have helped: being Oscar-nominated for her screenplay for Before Sunset, and the success of her debut feature, romantic comedy 2 Days In Paris. Handled by Rezo Films, 2 Days has now sold to 51 countries. As Intandem's Billy Hurman puts it, sales figures like these 'give buyers great comfort in her abilities as a director'.

'When I started [co-writing] Before Sunset, people made fun of me,' Delpy recalls. 'Even my agent at the time fired me, saying I was writing a stupid sequel to an independent film that would probably never be made. He said the script was retarded, with all those people talking so long.'

Based in Paris and Los Angeles, Delpy wrote her first screenplay when she was 16. People did not take her seriously then and she does not find it much easier now.

'When I enter the room, I don't have the kind of personality that says, 'Listen, I'm a fucking genius, give me the fucking money.' I can't tell someone I'm going to make a masterpiece. How can you make good work if you are so secure that you have no doubts''

Early on, Kieslowksi (who directed her in Three Colours: White) advised Delpy to base her screenwriting on her own life experiences. Godard, meanwhile, warned her the world was very conventional and she would come under pressure to conform.

'He put it in a poetic way, saying they were trying to make me go a certain way, but that I was the wild river and should go the way I want.'