A MEETING WITH JULES BENCHETRIT - CRASH Magazine
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A MEETING WITH JULES BENCHETRIT

By Crash

Rediscover our meeting with Jules Benchetrit from our issue #86.

Nominated in the Newcomer category at the César Awards, Jules Benchetrit already had three films under his belt at the tender age of twenty. Born into a family of actors and artists, he earned two roles in films directed by his father Samuel Benchetrit, Chez Gino in 2011 and Macadam Stories in 2015. This year, he appears in In Your Hands as a young piano virtuoso from a poor background, whose life is changed by the director of the National Conservatory of Music, played by Lambert Wilson. For Benchetrit, this is the first major role in the start of a promising career.

Can you tell me about In Your Hands?

I went to the casting for the film. I arrived near the end and Ludovic was having trouble finding actors who already knew how to play piano. They were all either too old, or they didn’t play well enough. I did the screen tests with Ludovic, then I did a comeback, and that’s how I got the part.

Did you already know how to play piano?

No, not at all. I learned three months before by practicing for a few hours a day. I had to learn all the technique, gestures, posture, how to feel the music… I didn’t listen to any classical music beforehand. It wasn’t enough just to play it, I had to love it and feel it in my own way, so it would look as realistic as possible. I trained with coach Jennifer Fichet, who is a great pianist. She’s the one you hear playing in the film. She also coached Kristin Scott Thomas. It’s just like learning choreography. Obviously I learned all the songs, too, in addition to the gestures.

Are you actually playing piano?

At some points I am actually playing, but we cheated a bit with movie magic.

Are they your hands we see in the film?

No, not always. My character is supposed to have been playing piano for fifteen years, he’s a virtuoso. Even with five years of piano I wouldn’t have reached his level.

What is the film about?

The film is about Mathieu Malinksi, a twenty-year-old young man who is very impressionable and engages in petty crimes. He’s not a criminal, but he puts himself in dicey situations. He doesn’t believe that music will work out for him. It’s so far removed from his background. Mathieu first learns piano with Monsieur Jacques, played by Michel Jonasz, who dies and leaves his piano to Mathieu. But the only place he can play is in train stations. He gets discovered by Pierre Geithner, who is a conservatory director who is a bit lost in life. They are all lost characters who end up helping each other. At first, Mathieu thinks that Pierre is with the law, so he’s very skeptical.

Does he have trouble with the law?

Yes, he does. There is a scene where he robs a house. Mathieu gets mesmerized by a Chopin waltz when he sees a magnificent piano in the house. As soon as he sees the piano, nothing else matters, it becomes his only motivation in life. In the end he gets caught by the police and has to do community service. So he calls the only person who can help him: Pierre Geithner, who gets him a job as a janitor at the conservatory. But he has another idea in mind: to have him take the entrance exam.

This is your first major role, correct?

Yes, it’s my first big role.

Before this, you appeared in films directed by your father Samuel Benchetrit, right?

I had a small part in Macadam Stories, and I did a few little things before that.

When did you decide to become an actor?

I’m not an actor yet, I still need to learn the business. I spent my time watching films when I was little and analyzing them in my own way. I broke down every last emotion I could find in films, until it drove me crazy. I reenacted so many scenes. I was very serious about it!

Perhaps because you come from a family of actors.

I think that’s a big part of it. People often ask me about my actor family, but my father raised me on his own and protected me from a lot of things. The only thing I received was a vast film knowledge. I saw my first film at six months old, it was Deep Impact! I can’t remember anything about it. My father came from nothing and his parents showed him a lot of films in his childhood. He is self-made in the film world and so am I.

What is your outlook today?

I want to work hard to set myself apart from the pack. I also do photography, and I really like it.

You are in a learning stage.

Exactly. I’m going to try to enter the conservatory in March.

When did you quit school?

After I failed my college entrance exam. I was a terrible student.

What school did you go to?

I went to a photography high school. I liked it a lot. I failed the college entrance exam by just one point. It’s stupid.

Even on the retake?

I didn’t go because I started filming In Your Hands that summer.

Is it something you regret?

I can always pass the exam when I’m seventy.

Sometimes I have nightmares about retaking the exam. I have no idea how I would score if I took it today! But you don’t need it if you’re not going to college.

I would love to study theater. The conservatory is a huge school and it’s hard to get in. They only take thirty people out of five thousand who apply. I don’t know much about theater yet. I’m mostly interested in film.

It’s nice to start out with a lead role.

It’s great.

Are you nervous about the film’s release?

Yes, you have no idea. I love filming, but I hate promotion.

I saw you on a TV show and you look pretty confident.

It’s not that I’m stressed about it, it’s that I don’t like doing it. I’m not comfortable with it.

It’s just part of the job.

Right, we have to do it.

Do you like press conferences and festivals?

I like those events alright. It gives me a chance to meet the public and it’s more fun.

What kind of photography do you do?

Photo reporting. My dream is to be a war photographer. That’s my thing. I take a lot of photos of protests and demonstrations. I don’t like fashion photography, and editing even less. There is beauty in defects. I recently started taking Polaroids.

It’s hard to shoot with Polaroids in the street during the day.

Yes, it’s better at night. Older cameras are better, like Diane Arbus’s camera.

Are you working on any other film projects?

I have a film scheduled in French Guiana at the beginning of January, and I have a small part in my father’s next film, which is shooting in June.

What is the film in French Guiana about?

It’s about five young people who try to heal their friend who is going blind. They’ve already tried everything and their last hope is a healer in the jungle. Have you seen Deliverance?

Yes, of course.

It’s kind of similar. It’s directed by Etienne Faure and it’s called River Bank.

How long will you be away filming?

Five weeks.

Is it a big role?

All five roles are lead roles. There are only the five boys: Ernst Umhauer, Lukas Ionesco, Alain-Fabien Delon and Théo Cholbi.

You will have a chance to take photos in French Guiana.

Yes, that’s how I’ll spend all my time.

 

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Photographer : Bertrand Jeannot
Stylist : Armelle Leturcq
Make Up : Aya Murai
Hair : Shuhei Nishimura @Open Talent Paris
Stylist Assistant : Pauline Grosjean

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