Jean Reno: Becoming Famous Is Very Different From Becoming An Actor

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The Karlovy Vary international film festival came to an end this week. As usual, the festival welcomed many film professionals from all over the world. One of the most notable guests was veteran French actor Jean Reno, who received the Festival President’s Award. He visited the Czech Republic only briefly, but he spent some of his time talking to journalists. Youth Time is publishing the most interesting excerpts from the meeting.

You are here for one day only. However, you will be back in the Czech Republic soon, as you are launching a new project in Prague and its suburbs. What is it?

I’m going to do a Chinese movie, to be shot in Prague. It is an action movie, and it called “The Adventurers”. That is all I can say for now. 

Your parents emigrated from Andalusia to North Africa before you were born. What do you think about today’s migration issue? 

I’m not a politician, so I’m not going to answer that question, you know. I do not have enough information to speak about that. I’m an immigrant, that’s all I can say.

 

Photo by KVIFF

I would like to ask about the role of Luc Besson in your life. How did you meet? Will you continue working with him?

Every time you experience success it is because you’ve been working with somebody. Luc was very important because I met him when I was young. But I was already working in the theater successfully, and I don’t know what my life would have become without him, and I don’t care. What I care about is friendship, he is a friend of mine. We are working on a project, a play, maybe in Paris, we don’t know exactly.

You’ve played very different kinds of characters, what makes you choose a role?

Most of the time it is the people. Sometime it is the story, but mostly it is the people. You are spending two months, three months with them…if I don’t like the people, if I don’t feel comfortable with the people, I will say, “No, thank you”. I do this to spend my life with people I like, and I feel good with them. For example, when I took parts in Sean Penn movies, it was only because Sean Penn would direct the movie, and I was so happy to spend time with him and to watch him, how he works and how he directs people, and his ideas etc., etc.

How much did you actually like shooting the “Da Vinci Code”, how did you get along with the people, and are you one of Dan Brown’s readers, are you a devoted fan? 

I’ve worked with, let’s say, three directors who touched me more than others – Ron Howard, Roberto Benigni, and Sean Penn. Apart from Luc, he is more of a friend than a director. That was one of the encounters that touched my life and changed my life as a man. Tom Hanks and Ron Howard, because they are larger than the movie. When you work with them, you can understand that they are larger than the movie. Most of the time when you work with people, the team, they concentrate on the movie, they are making the movie and they follow the movie. It is quite rare that you can see that the people are larger than the movie. They are like that, so, I was very happy with them. I do not believe in the Da Vinci code, but it is a good book. 

Which role in film do you want to play? 

I have missed music in my movies, because I’m always fascinated by people who see something or hear something that you cannot see or cannot hear. I’ve been spending nights and weeks and years with Eric Serra, who is Luc Besson’s composer, and every time I have been very surprised to see him writing music alone in his studio, in his place, and the music comes from his head – that fascinates me. So, maybe, somehow I will find some music.

Why did you become an actor? Was it your dream since you were a kid, or you were thinking about another profession?

I didn’t dream about cinema. We had a very good teacher, and we had plays at school. I started in the theater, I came from the theater. I can remember today all the sensations, the approach. And the women also, the place of the women backstage, the smell, the clothes, the sounds – everything is fascinating for me … maybe, because I didn’t like myself, I’m sure I didn’t like myself.    

 

Photo by KVIFF        

What does the European movie industry need, in your opinion?

In Europe the cinema will be alive. I see a lot of young people, they put money into movies. We will continue to have a way of telling our stories. Czech stories, Italian stories…Some years you are going to have ten movies, twelve movies, some years you are going to have three because the budget is bigger, but we will continue.

What would you recommend to young people who dream of becoming good and famous actors? Is it possible to teach people how to act?

The question is very good, only the word “famous” is not good in that sentence. Becoming an actor is enough, famous is another story, and it can kill you if you think that you will be “famous”.

I would say, go to school, go to art school, follow teachers, read plays, read everything you can read. Because for me the image is a building. You want to build something high, you need a foundation. How many actors, young actors I’ve seen on stage, they don’t know half of Shakespeare’s words, they know nothing, they just think “I look great now”. No, it is doesn’t work like that.

Don’t forget, you are going to do that all your life. You have to be happy every day, you have to go to a set and work every day with intelligent people, with stupid people, with talented people, with complete idiots. You have to be there every day, and be happy and feed yourself through what you are. And it is not about being famous, or great outfits, we don’t give a shit about that. Honestly, I believe that. The goal is to be there all your life and to be good if it is possible.  

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