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Interview with Dany Boon

By Patricia Connell
10/05/2007

Interview with Dany Boon



Sunday morning, 11am, Claridge’s

Dany Boon is receiving in his suite and that’s where I meet him. He is promoting his latest film: ‘My Best Friend’. In it he has the part of a taxi driver who is a really nice guy and who lives with his parents because his wife has left him for his best friend.
Daniel Auteuil plays the part of an antique dealer who has to prove to his business partner that he has a real friend/a best friend.
Dany Boon is incredibly moving in this film. When I saw it, I refused to read any of the synopsis to avoid knowing too much before hand. All I knew was that the director was Patrice Leconte and that Daniel Auteuil and Dany Boon were in it. I therefore totally assumed that it would be a comedy. Of course I was wrong.



When I go in, DB is still having some breakfast. I heard that his night in London was rather heavy the night before. His wife who is part British has stayed in France.
He’s smartly dressed and wears a well-cut suit and an open white shirt. He is much better looking than I anticipated.

FranceInLondon
I have just seen your latest film and once again, your part is not at all comic but rather more dramatic than I anticipated. At one point, you cry. This is a very moving moment.

Dany Boon
Yes, it’s true

FIL
What made you accept this part?

DB
For the money…(laughs)

FIL
And what else?

DB
First of all I really wanted to work with Patrice because I really admire his films and the way he directs them. He has a very universal side. He is one of the few film directors who are liked and accepted abroad.

FIL
Namely in London.

DB
Absolutely and that’s because he has a sensibility that goes beyond boundaries not just French culture. He makes films that are particularly moving.
When I read the script, I immediately thought to myself that it was along the same line as one of his previous films. The character is very open, very fragile. Obviously, I was very keen to be in a Patrice Leconte movie with Daniel Auteuil. Who wouldn’t be?

FIL
You were in a previous movie with Daniel Auteuil: ‘La Doublure’?

DB
Yes but we never met or even saw each other because we didn’t share any scene. We met for the first time on the set of My Best Friend, on the first day of filming.
I’m glad I did it now. I really enjoy the way people talk to me about my part, which wasn’t just a comic part.

FIL
You were very moving in it at times. You even cry and we believe in it. It’s a beautiful story. Is it Dany Boon?

DB
Do you mean on stage I’m Dany Boon ‘one man show’?

FIL
No, I mean in real life?

DB
Yes it is a little. My relations with people are similar to that. It’s my mother who taught me to be open vis à vis others.
When I wasn’t famous yet and that I wrote, I was like a sponge. I write a lot about people. When you write to make people laugh you have to. When I began to be better known, I thought shit, I’m going to lose that. I will no longer be able to sit in a corner and listen to others talk.
In fact, now that I am in the public eye, people come to me. Some people feel a little threatened by fame and try to avoid you. Other people feel they know you like an old friend and come and tell you their life story, or they take you in their arms and cry.

FIL
They cry with you?

DB
Yes they do
It’s something that really bothers me when people cry. It’s very strange.
To keep things in perspective, I always try to say to myself that I might be famous now but tomorrow I might not be. So I try to find out about them. I am interested in their life and I ask questions.

FIL
What does it create vis à vis others?

DB
It creates an exchange. It shows it’s possible to be interested in others even when we’re famous. As a result, it creates some very spontaneous friendships. Friendships that won’t last of course because it’s just impossible. It creates a trust. Because I have been doing this job for 15 years, it means that some people have known me ever since they were children. Some come and tell me, my father used to love you he used to watch your DVD when he was very sick. I even had to sign an autograph once for someone who had died. A woman told me: ‘My husband used to love you and I would have asked you to sign an autograph had he still been alive. So I did it. She was very touched.
When you make people laugh you have this relation with your public unless you only do it to be famous or simply make money.
I do it because I love the stage and to be in contact with the public. It’s an exchange, a sort of repair.

FIL
But when you are in movies there are no exchanges with the public as such?

DB
Yes, but in theatre you have this relation with your audience when you are in front of 1,000 or 2000 or 400 or 30 people…and there is something that passes its like being in front of an emotional temple…and then it stops. You are then in your dressing room, all alone, then in your hotel room alone again. There is no progression.
So what I like about filming is that it’s teamwork. I love this atmosphere. The team is going to fight to ensure that everything is going to be as perfect as possible.. Every frame is like a picture and every picture has to be so beautiful.

FIL
What was it like to film with Patrice?

DB
It was very studious, very human. We worked very hard in an atmosphere very similar to the movie in fact. You can feel it.
Being from the North of France, it is a tradition to be like the character I play.

FIL
Do you mean open, welcoming?

DB
Yes, it’s a tradition. Most Northern people are and the character I play is like that and my mother taught me to be like that. In the North we talk easily to everyone.

FIL
It’s also very much like that in the North of England.

DB
When I arrived in Paris in 1989, I tried to speak to people in cafés by taking part in their conversation and they thought I was mad. I was therefore pleased to be able to have a part that was a little like me.

FIL
What was it like to work with Daniel Auteuil given that it was the first time you had met him?

DB
I was really pleased of course. He is one of the greatest French actors. He’s also one of the rare ones to have kept his spontaneity and his generosity. He still learns his lines.

FIL
It’s rather basic?

DB
It’s not that common amongst actors.
There are so many that don’t know their lines. You’d be surprised. They think they know them but they don’t really.
But he is not like that. Generally, theatre actors know their lines absolutely perfectly.
He is very much liked by everyone who has ever worked with him. Because he makes things look simple. He knows where the essential lies. He’s not a prima Donna who gets annoyed with an assistant or spends all his time on the phone.

FIL
He respects other people’s work.

DB
Yes and he loves what he does. He continues to love his work like a little child. That reminds me of something that marked me in the past.
I know Bono. I was lucky enough to spend some time with him in the South of France. It was 6 or 7 years ago when his album, you know…at The Airport…We were leaving a restaurant to go clubbing and we were in my car. He said to us ‘Can I make you listen to something?’ and takes out a CD and puts it on. There were 4 or 5 songs on it for their last album and he says to us ‘What do you think?’.
I was thinking to myself, I can’t believe that Bono is actually asking me ‘what do I think?’ He was there asking this with such modesty. Like a teenager who has just made up a song in his bedroom that he has taped and wants to find out from his mates if it’s any good.
I thought to myself, that’s the secret of his longevity.

FIL
To constantly re-assess yourself?

DB
Yes and to also have the same emotion and the same desire that one has as a child or as a teenager. You have a vision of what this business is and you wonder if you are going to succeed.

FIL
Isn’t that often the case with actors and singers to be unsure about themselves and their success?

DB
Yes of course, we are all insecure and we are constantly re-assessing ourselves. It’s the definition of any art. Some of us just use the same old recipes to give people what they expect. People won’t be surprised they will just get want they want. There’s a cynical side to that. These artists are no longer in touch with their dreams. They are somewhere else in their easy life.
Some artists will make one album, one show, one film and then they stop. That’s because they are no longer dreaming. I think that that’s because they have spent 10 or 15 years dreaming about this moment and working on it to build themselves. At the end of these 15-year slog, suddenly it works. People discover you as if you have just done it. The next minute, they expect you to produce something else but this time, you only have two years to do it. You’re going to have to do in two years something you have done in 15 years without producing something similar. It will have to be different but not too different. The second show, the second book or the second film is the hardest thing to produce. It’s a step, an obstacle, a war a battle. Not only do you have 2 years but in addition, people are not looking at you in the same way. Initially, people were asking you what you did and people were discovering you. Now people know you and they ask you ‘so what’s the next one going to be like?’

FIL
Actually, that was my next question.

DB
It’s very destabilising and many artists then stop. It’s harder to manage a success than a flop.
It’s like people who win the lottery. They stop dreaming. They have won. So what else? They have achieved their life’s dream. If the dream was to win the money to be able to do something with it then so be it. But if the dream was to simply win.
It’s the same with artists. If the dream was simply to be famous then once they are then they have nothing else.
I don’t care about being famous. Of course I’m happy about it but I am sometimes worried about my children because that’s complicated to have parents who are famous.
But what I care about is what I write, what I play, what I share with others, with the audience, my colleagues…I want to enjoy those moments.
Making people laugh is a ‘repair’.

FIL
A ‘repair’. What do you mean by that?

DB
What I like is touching on difficult subject and making people laugh about them. In fact, at the beginning of my career, producers were refusing to take me on because they thought that you should not make fun of really serious stuff. But in fact, that’s what made me different and that’s why people came to see me. Because I could make them laugh about what made them cry the rest of the time. This emotional moment that I share with the audience, I give them ‘repair’. We become human again and instead of closing ourselves, we open up. In fact, sometimes I see people we are in the first row who tell one another: ‘ That’s so much you!’

FIL
You mean they see themselves in the character that you are playing.


DB
Yes. The emotion that they are feeling is the most important and the work I have to go through to achieve that is key. There are different types of laughs: ‘There are visual jokes that generate childlike laughs. Adults look at you in the same way they might have looked at a clown when they were little.’
Then there are most subtle jokes that will generate more serious laughs. What’s interesting is to create the show in such a way that you get the audience to move through various types of laughs.

FIL
You effectively build the show in the same way that you would write a piece of music?

DB
Yes, that’s it. I didn’t do this from the start, it came with experience.

FIL
So what you do is give them time to catch their breath before moving on to a more demanding laugh?

DB
You joke, but last year at the Olympia in Paris, someone had a heart attack. Fortunately he didn’t die.

FIL
You’re not serious.

DB
Yes I am, it happened in the first 20 minutes. His wife started to scream and people thought it was part of the show. I came down and the fireman arrived. I ensured that we checked how he was by calling the hospital.
I still managed to crack a joke by saying the audience: ‘ A seat has just been freed up’.
You know, Raymond Devos had someone die at one of his shows. It was in the first few rows. Everyone left and someone stayed seated. He had died of laughter. It’s beautiful, no?

FIL
Talking about death, at the beginning of the film there is a funeral and the person whose funeral it is has no friends. Has that made you think about your funeral?
Do you think that Patrice Leconte has been thinking about it and that might have influenced him?

DB
It’s true to say that sadness is not the loss of a life but more in the fact that people might forget us altogether once we are dead.
Because once you are forgotten, you no longer exist.
When we lose someone close to us, we always re-examine our life. It takes us back to our own life.
One of my best friends died a few years ago and I was at his funeral. Before the funeral, I went to see the priest and said to him: ‘ if you want, I can speak to you about him’. To which the priest says: ‘Don’t worry, I have it all taken care of’.
He had a text that was all typed up. The text started with: ‘Today you leave us Thierry…’. Thierry was written on top of a thick layer of Tipp-ex.  There were probably 20 to 25 Thierry in the text and every time, it was written over a thick layer of Tipp-ex. The priest was burying the first name of all these people in the Tipp-ex.

FIL
This is horrible! To be buried in Tipp-ex.

DB
I’ve never done anything with it to this day but one day I might. This is awful to think that this priest is so used to doing this that he doesn’t even realise the significance of his act.

FIL
It’s like being buried on a conveyor-belt.
Let’s talk about something slightly more joyful?
Do you have some new projects in the pipeline?

DB
I have return something called: ‘Bienvenue chez les chtimis’
It’s the story of a civil servant who lives in the South of France in Aix-en-Provence near Marseilles and his wife dreams about moving to Cassis. So he asks for his transfer however, he makes a stupid mistake and to punish him they send him to the North Pas-de-Calais.

FIL
And he arrives there…

DB
His wife doesn’t come immediately. He tells her to stay where it’s nice and warm and he arrives there with many preconceived ideas about the North and about the Northerners.
Slowly, he will discover what they are like.
So this will give me for the first time the opportunity to film the region I come from. I’m really pleased about it. It starts in May.

FIL
When do you think it will be out?

DB
February or March.
And I am also going to be in ‘Diner de Cons’ in Paris at the Porte St Martin Theatre.
This is going to last all of next year. I’m delighted because I love Francis Weber.

FIL
That’s the second time, you’ll be doing something with him: The film ‘La Doublure’ and now the play Dîner de Cons.

DB
Absolutely, I love Francis’s work.

Read more about My Best Friend, see screening venues

COMMENTS:

22/08/2016 - patriciaconnell said :

The interview was conducted in French and translated into English.

21/08/2016 - okrent said :

Was this interview conducted in English?

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