By Crash redaction

Tomorrow is a big day for french actor Melvil Poupaud. Starring alongside Marion Cotillard in the highly anticipated Cannes Film Festival selection Frère et Sœur , as well as in Un beau matin with Lea Seydoux as part of the Quinzaine des realisateurs selection,  both films are being screened tomorrow, Friday May 20th. Discover Crash’s interview and photoshoot with Melvil from 2006 where he speaks about his beginnings and gives us a glimpse into his personality and sense of humor.

Tell us about your career, how did you start?
I started as an actor at the age of 10, in a film by Raoul Ruiz, whom my mother knew from working with him as a press agent. This shooting in Portugal, on a small island, alone with this crazy team, deeply influenced me. It was like being the hero of a pirate novel, like being Jim Hawkins for real. Moreover, two years later, Raoul entrusted me with this character to play in his adaptation of Treasure Island. This world, surreal for a child, of cinema, dreams and blood (I played for my first film the role of a child murderer) I never left it. I will be eternally grateful to Raoul, and to my mother, for having drawn me into it.

You have worked with great directors such as Rohmer, James Ivory, Raoul Ruiz, but you remain a rather discreet person, a little apart on the scene, do you agree?
I don’t know. Maybe because my real ambition is unmentionable… It’s like a secret that no one must discover, so of course…

In The Time That Remains, François Ozon has given you a role to suit you, a sensitive film that has allowed you to express a very rich palette as an actor. This film introduced you to the masses, had taken you out of a certain underground and had opened a horizon for you… What did this film bring you?
This film allowed me, apart from the pleasure of working with Ozon whom I admire a lot, and Jeanne Moreau, to travel a lot. To show the film in China, in Russia, all over Europe and the United States. From these experiences, I finally got another perception of France and French cinema, a more positive one. It also gave me the desire to shoot abroad. It’s very motivating to make films that speak to such different people. I think that this film allowed me to open up more to the world… Even if the subject was quite hard, it also, from an intimate point of view, reinforced some of my beliefs.

Tell us about Zoe Cassavettes’ film, Broken English, how did you meet her and how was the shooting? How did it feel to shoot with Gena Rowlands and to meet this mythical family of cinema?
Zoe is a long time friend. I knew her musician boyfriend (he did the soundtrack for the film).  She is very strong, very funny and very talented, what she does is very different from her father’s films. She’s very humble about it, even though she was born to two prominent figures of cinemas. I don’t have any scenes with Gena Rowlands, I only met her.

What is your role in Broken English?
For me, my role in this film is a bit like that of Jean-Paul Belmondo in Breathless, or rather that of Jean Seberg. It’s a bit like Breathless in reverse. I was definitely inspired by JPB’s character. He is a Frenchman who meets an American woman in New York. He is different from the other boys in his life… lighter. A love story with Parker Posey, a great actress. The film is in competition this year at Sundance.

Do you have other projects with Raoul Ruiz?
No, not at the moment.

Do you think you will evolve towards a more international « career »? You just shot in the USA and now in London with Sean Ellis. Is Hollywood part of your concerns or not at all? Do you have an agent there?
Of course I do. It is a dream to shoot in Hollywood, preferably with Scarlett Johansson. In a Scorsese movie if possible. The role of a superhero to earn billions of dollars to finally buy a mansion like Hugh Heffner and give huge parties, and be able to end the night peacefully with my head in the toilet bowl puking Dom Perignon grand cru.

Tell us about this project in London with the director Sean Ellis, a former fashion photographer, how did you meet him, have you seen his film that is being released now, Cashback?
I have an agent in London who introduced me to Sean. We hit it off right away. His film is a fantastic thriller, quite dark and contemporary with the living dead living on the other side of the mirrors… He’s good. It’s funny because it’s a totally English film shot in London but produced by « LA » Gaumont. I love shooting in English, it’s almost another job. His film Cashback is very original, not at all what I expected. It’s a kind of teen-movie, quite sensitive and successful.

Other projects in progress?
I am leaving, if all goes well, to shoot a film in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, at the beginning of January. A film by Danielle Arbid with an English actor who played in Syriana, Alexander Siddig. The film is called A Lost Man and tells the story of a French photographer’s fascination with a man lost in the Middle East. It is very strong, very beautiful, one of the best scripts I have ever read. Besides, I’ve never been there, and I love discovering countries… It’s perfect for me, it’s when I travel that I feel the most like myself.

You have just directed a feature film, Melvil, which was presented in Cannes and produced by Anna Sanders, who produces mainly artists’ films (Pierre Huyghe, Philippe Parenno). Can you tell us the story of this film and in what context it was produced? You had already made short films as a child, tell us about them, what format were they in, Super 8?
I don’t know… Cannes was so incredible, this film is the continuation of a work I started as a child (exhibited in 2003 at the Emmanuel Perrotin gallery and released in 2005 by MK2). Work or rather play. I have always shot video films, more or less long. Melvil is 67 minutes long and talks about incarnation. It’s the story of someone who is looking for his place in a family. The place of the son, the father… A role to play and which escapes. Since Cannes, I have made other films: a very long film in Siberia, and a documentary on a singer I love: Henri Bassin. Making these films is stronger than me, I can’t not make them. After that, I don’t know if people will see them… It’s part of the secret I was talking about before, maybe one day…

Your reference film?
Grizzly man by Werner Herzog.

Your favorite music?
Apart from Dylan, out of category, at the moment I love the « Heart break hotel », a new band and the Plastiscines.

Your favorite smell?
The smell of the houses where I have good memories.

What’s your favorite place to live?
New York or the Deux-Sèvres.

Your worst nightmare?
To be eternal.

Interview by Armelle Leturcq

FASHION Armelle Leturcq
HAIR Leslie Thibaut @Airport
MAKE UP Brigitte Hymens

melvil poupaud photographed by Kate Barry for CRASH magazine

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