Versatile French actor Romain Duris, born in Paris in 1974, and now a star leading man. He has made over 40 films since starting acting, almost by accident, in 1994.
What is the main interest in your playing Louis Echard in Populaire?
RD I like how he is complex, you know? He is closed to sentiments, to love. He is frustrated (in his desire) to be a champion .. I think he has a difficult education, I like to play this guy, who we begin to understand through the movie. He is cold and then he warms as we move through.
And this world of typewriters? It’s a strange, antiquated world…
RD I love that. I love that world. If it was boxing or tennis, it would not be quite so interesting
He’s a first time director. How did this project come to you?
RD Regis sent me the script…
Through your agent…
RD Yes, well, through the producer because the Regis met the producer first and it came through him. It was great. Every step was exciting…
Had he written the part with you in mind?
RD No, no I don’t think so. When he was writing with his writers, they were just writing the script, you know and then they thought about the casting afterwards.
It’s unusual for you to do a Romantic lead…
RD I have done it before… not so many, but… the genre is not so important for me, I am interested mainly in the characters.
You are very much playing the underdog. It reminded me of a Frank Capra movie..
RD Ah, which one?
Quite a few of them actually! Striving to win. Your character is striving to win.
RD Yes. But I did not think alot about that. I saw American comedies from the Fifties, but it was not really about that. For me it was more that more focus in what happened in France. I needed to see some French movies from that time to see how they behaved… witness to see what happened.
RD Documentaries not so much, but Godard for instance, to look at the background… the people in the background to get a feel for them, even if it’s not documentary, you can feel how they are.
Mad Men. Do you watch Mad Men? You character is very Don Draper.?
RD Yes, I love Mad Men…
Cos he smokes alot…..
RD That kind of thing, yes.. But mainly the resemblance is the reserve. Don Draper is very reserved. And sharp and my character is similar.
Do you find that in your own career that you have had to fight to get a part? Do you feel that has happened to you at all?
RD No, no, not at all. [everyone laughs]
You’ve always got it? You’ve always got what you wanted?
RD It’s strange because maybe I have missed a role, but I don’t have any moment where I wanted to have something and it didn’t (come to pass)…like, you know, sometimes I was preparing for (auditions) and so -I think I am ambitious- but I am more like.. if it is (right) for me (to get it), then it is right, but if it is not to be, then.. it is not to be. So maybe I am an optimist. But yes, you know, I never then fought for a role that (passed me by) [more laughs] I have a kid so… maybe I fight for him, you know?! [more laughs] then, that’s a good fight.
I understand that your career came to you rather unexpectedly. You weren’t looking to act but were found on the street, literally, can you talk about how that came about?
RD It was very… you know… I grew up in Paris and at this time there was alot of castings in the street, because casting directors wanted to find different faces, so it happened several times and I always said ‘no’, but this time, I said yes. And I met Cedric Klapisch the French director.?
Why did you say yes this time.
RD Because of the director, because he did a movie before and I watched the movie and I said ‘yes ok’, because I was interested. I was 18 years old, I was very wild and shy and scared to be on the TV.. but I thought I would give it a go.
But you had studied art before at university?
So what was interesting to you at Art School- what were you studying?
RD I was looking for a way to be free and a way to earn money in art, but mainly a way to be free. I never reached that point to make any money with my art. I never managed to earn any money. The goal was that. To express myself with painting, with drawing, but to find a way to be free, maybe I (would have) decided to (illustrate) children’s books, because I think that there, you can have some freedom.
You have just gone back to work with Cedric again, is that right?
RD Yes, that’s right Chinese Puzzle…
Can you say a little about that movie?
RD It’s a part of a series of movies we (first) shot Spanish Apartment when I was 25, after that we did Russian Dolls in Russia. It’s a movie about young people in the beginning, in Spanish Apartment, with European students sharing the same apartment… so Cedric is shooting different (ages)- 25 and 33 and 40’s and he is shooting life and the world through the eyes of those characters…
So you’ve got two films with Audrey Tatou coming up, because you’ve got that and Mood Indigo, so you two must love working with each other then!
RD We are good actors… [laughter] no, no she’s good. She doesn’t have too many obstacles that get in the way of her (emotion) and I am quite like that too, so it’s good, she’s great.
Have you got many international offers at all?
RD Yes, I have a few, but I really need to fall in love with the character first, you know, I need to have an idea I want to do it. And up until now there hasn’t really been…
You tend to get offered the same part..?
RD Yeah, yeah, the French lover.. [laughter] he’s nice you know.. but, I need to do something more (interesting)..
After the Audiard film (The Beat My Heart Skipped) you did, didn’t you get offered the tougher roles from America?
RD Yes, a few, but mostly small parts. I do not wish to be in this uncomfortable position you know, to play only small roles. I want to play something important.
But the Gondry film (Mood Indigo)… that’s big, that’s going to be important… that’s a big movie, surely?
RD Yeah, that’s a great movie..
You’ve seen it already?
RD Yes, I liked it.
Audrey Tatou is here in this hotel upstairs, promoting another movie… and so she was trying to explain that it is about a water lily that grows inside her or something..? very strange.
RD Yes, it’s a very famous book in France, you know? So, to try and explain is difficult… it’s a love story… and she is sick, so I try to make her feel better and go to buy her some flowers…
If you had a favourite scene when making Populaire, what would it be?
RD I love the scene with Marie- my ex- I love that scene for my character, it gives some clues for why he is the way he is and I love that scene because in that kind of movie I love to have that place to play something like for real like that, because Berenice Bejo was playing with her art and very natural and I really liked that moment.
Do you have another movie coming up; are you taking a break?
RD No, I am taking a break for a while, but I am open to any offers.. [laughter]
If you could take any role, what would you like to play?
RD I want to have something dark now. Deep. I need that. Between these movies I did some theatre, which I liked.
Was that difficult to do? Walking on stage is a very different thing from doing a film… presumably you’ve not had that training- to project your voice..
RD Yes, but I was in good hands I worked with Patrice Chereau so.. I trusted him totally.. but it was really intense!
Is it easy for you to walk around Paris and not get accosted?
RD Yes, it’s ok, if you wear a hat, keep your head down… go where you want to go- and people are nice, you know. It’s just a question of… sometimes, I try to tell them I need space.. Today it’s everywhere. I am trying to find a way to escape. Today it’s photos. Everyone wants a photo and I don’t like this so much, really. Because of the internet now you can follow the life of anyone and I don’t like that.
Did you ever question whether acting was the thing you really wanted to do? Did you ever think about going back to your art..?
RD Yes today! I don’t have any plans, so I will do some today, it’s still there, I paint when I can.. I still do it. I am always still searching… finding what I can do with my painting. But is difficult, because I do not just want to be a ‘Sunday Painter’, you know. I want to be more involved.
Have you exhibited, ever?
RD No. no.
Would you, ever?
RD I don’t know… when I am old, maybe… not now.
I’m sorry, we need to end now.
RD Thank you very much indeed..