François Damiens in “Sous le vent des Marquises” will soon be in a “trash” film

Known for its hidden cameras François L’émbrouille, his roles as a fierce comic or endearing characters, François Damiens this time plays the role of an actor whose mission is to play Jacques Brel in a biopic. Weakened by doubt and illness, the actor leaves filming and leaves to find his daughter, living on a Breton island.

François Damiens, in Paris for two days to promote the film Leeward of the Marquesasby Pierre Godeau, continues the interviews. “How do we settle in?”, asks the actor after offering a glass of water. In the blink of an eye, he makes the space less formal, establishes proximity by abandoning the somewhat stiff sofa stuck at the back of the room, for a small ceramic stool on which he sits, folding his large legs.

Franceinfo Culture: What appealed to you about the script of this film?
François Damiens: When I read the script, I immediately liked it a lot. It talks about subjects that concern me, like freedom, love, relationships with children, being in one’s place or not. And then it also talks about giving too much importance, at certain moments of your life, to your career, and missing out on essential things because you are caught up in life. And it also talks about illness, denial, and the desire to reconnect with beings with whom we haven’t been very present… I found it very fair in fact, on a fairly strong subject, without being treated with heaviness. I found it “lightly” told.

Weren’t you frustrated not to be the real Brel in a real biopic?
When the director first told me about the film, I was initially very scared. I love Jacques Brel. He’s a gentleman I knew when I was very young, when I was a child. I know all his records obviously. I discovered him through TV shows, through his interviews, his films and especially his songs. So I was very scared at first, I said to myself, no, no, I’m not touching that. I directly imagined the journalists who were going to say to me: so can we touch Jacques Brel? And then it was out of the question for me to sing.

“First of all, I’m not a singer, and what’s more, I don’t know how to sing. And secondly, I don’t have the physique of Jacques Brel.”

François Damiens

at franceinfo Culture

I told the director, I’m willing to make a major effort to try to be a little more like him, but that’s going to end very quickly. And then when Pierre [Pierre Godeau, le réalisateur] explained to me that it was a film around Jacques Brel, that it was not a question of playing Brel but of playing an actor who plays Brel, and that the idea was a mise en abyme between the character that I embodied and the end of Brel’s life, that reassured me. Fortunately, I only ever play an actor who has to play Jacques Brel. When I understood this, I felt liberated.

You play an acting role, do you feel close to the character of Alain?
He has this need to feel loved. He is recognized in the street and I think that when he is with his daughter, whom he has not seen for years, there is a certain pride. It is a form of recognition, but this recognition can become heavy when we have decided to leave the ship in quotes. It can become cumbersome, parasitic, to be recognized when you no longer practice the profession. So it’s true that there were similarities, but it wasn’t so much in the character’s notoriety that I recognized myself.

How did you recognize yourself?
It’s more in his relationship with his daughter. The fact of not having been present at a certain moment in life when we should be there. I think there’s always a time when you have to be in your place. When we are not there, we create damage, and sometimes, it becomes irreversible. That’s what touched me about the character of Alain. Alain has been absent and he wants to reconnect with his ex-wife, with his daughter, and when he arrives on the island with his bouquet of flowers, his wife has gotten back together with a man, and a really nice one at that. And her daughter has a boyfriend.

“Already, when I go away for two months filming and I come back, I have the impression that we did very well without me.”

François Damiens

at franceinfo Culture

Alain was absent for years. When he comes back, we obviously make him pay, and that’s quite normal. All this is exacerbated by a certain modesty on the part of the father and his daughter. So it takes time. And that’s what makes the film touching too. This time. You have to be able to experience things. When you have to fill a hole, it takes time. Like when you have a violent argument with someone, you don’t just decide to make peace and then it’s settled. We must allow time, and the water to flow, so that it can be rebuilt.

Is Alain also a free character?
Yes, I feel quite close to this feeling of freedom. I have always done everything in my life to feel as free as possible, and to have the constraints that I impose on myself and not those that come from outside. So there is this freedom, this need for love and also this denial in which the character is plunged in relation to the illness, the fact of not wanting to see. In life, I always try to be as honest as possible about myself, but it’s not always easy because sometimes there are things that we don’t really want to see, nor to hear them say.

Is this a role that stirred you?
Yes. I already noticed it during filming, my throat was often a little tight before certain scenes. When he finds his daughter who doesn’t forgive him for his absence, this somewhat clumsy father who… But I don’t want to reveal anything. And then when it was over, it still took me a few days to come out of it, which doesn’t happen often…

You began your career as a clown, with the hidden cameras of “François L’embrouille”, then roles in comedies. Today we see you more and more in “serious” roles. Don’t you miss comic roles?
I do it and I will do it again. I don’t go where the wind blows me, but I’m open to all suggestions. I don’t say to myself, I’m going to do one comedy out of three. I don’t calculate. What interests me above all is humans in fact, and obviously the subjects that go with humans.

“I’m not trying to be a clown. I don’t like the idea of ​​making people laugh for the sake of making people laugh, that doesn’t interest me and it doesn’t make me laugh either.”

François Damiens

at franceinfo Culture

Laughter must always come through something very hard, very violent. You always have to have a very heavy subject, I find, behind the laughter. When there is a very strong subject, and laughter becomes the only way to get through it, then it becomes interesting.

Do you have any production projects?
Yes I am on a film project with a friend. We are in financing, to be honest, and so I hope it will happen!

What is a film about?
It’s a film that’s about a guy who’s having a hard time.

In what register?
The goal is to make it funny, but again, from a heavy subject. There we are, we are witnessing the fall of a guy who was at the very top, and who is falling, with all that follows. There is also denial. It really speaks to me about people who don’t want to face reality. And to see that the more obvious reality is, the more they flee from it, because it is too painful, and therefore it is a perpetual search for excuses.

Is this the story of social decline?
It’s a film about an actor who is going downhill, but he could do any job. For me, the film goes further than that, it talks about all walks of life. If you’re a fashionable architect, a chef, any profession, it can happen. It’s this feeling of a kind of social fall. Things worked out, we don’t understand how it happened, and afterwards, we don’t understand why it’s gone. And it generally accelerates when doubt arises. It’s a bit like bath water that goes faster and faster at the end. At first you don’t feel it. As I often say, we don’t call you to tell you that we won’t call you again…

Is that something you think about, that you fear for yourself?
At certain times in my life, yes, I think about it. I’m not in that phase at the moment, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to write this film, it would be too painful. But yes I think about it. This is a discussion that I have already had, for example, with Benoit Poelvoorde. He tells me, but no, don’t worry, it’s okay, we’ve passed 50 years, it’s not going to stop overnight, we have inertia behind us.

“There can always be the wrong step, the stupid statement or anything, the awkward role or quite simply a fashion effect, or the fact of having too often done the same work in the same register, and that ‘at one point people say to themselves that they have done the trick…’

François Damiens

at franceinfo Culture

A bit like when you’re in a good restaurant, they give you portions that are too large and when you come out, you haven’t been able to finish the plate, and you say to yourself, I won’t go back there again, that’s it. Well, I’ve had enough of spaghetti carbonara! So we must always try to create the desire, the demand, and try not to do too much (“too much”, that’s a Belgianism, right?).

When you imagine this possible end, this disaster scenario, like the character of Alain, do you imagine yourself doing other things?
Honestly, I don’t see what else I would do. I’m a bit of a social misfit, I don’t master new technologies at all. We said that at the time but it’s nothing new anymore. I also say “electronic games” whereas now when I say that to children, they say “electronic games?” and they laugh. No, but so I wouldn’t really know what to do. And that’s why I try not to mess up too much in what I do (even if it happens to me), because if I no longer do this job, I don’t really see what I would do. ‘other. I think if one day I stop, it will be to travel

Do you still have dreams as an actor?
Oh yes. What I like is creating humanity in characters who a priori don’t have any. Narcissistic perverts, despicable characters,… let’s call them disgusting people, period. Trying to find humanity in them. Imagine them as babies, in a little sleeping bag… Life hasn’t made them better, but deep down, if we dig, there is still something to recover. So.

“What I’m looking for is that thing that makes you want to hold a serial killer in your arms at the end of the film. It’s that issue that interests me.”

François Damiens

at franceinfo Culture

So we should offer you serial killer roles?
Yes I already played one in The partners in crime, a serial killer who couldn’t stand the sight of blood. He’s a serial killer, he has to kill, but he’s not that repulsive all the same, I think.

But it was in a comic register…
Yes, but even in a tragic register, I find that there is an interesting issue in trying to find the depth of humanity in people. [Son téléphone bip. Il jette un œil, lit le message, sourit.] It’s a friend who just read my script. He says to me: it’s trashy, finally it’s you. It’s true that it’s trashy, in this case. Trashy and squeaky, and that’s what’s good about it.

When can we see this film?
Next year I hope, but people need to believe in it and follow us…

The interview ends. François Damiens unfolds his 1.92 meter height and stands for the photo, arms dangling, slight smile and imperceptible shyness, before complying, because we are a fan, with the exercise of the dedication and the selfie, which ‘he has repeated many times in life, and in the very moving Leeward of the Marquesasto be seen from January 31 at the cinema.

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