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Romain Duris

Romain Duris

Chinese Puzzle, Mood Indigo

Film3Sixty Magazine

June 2014

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Romain Duris on fame, painting and his new films Chinese Puzzle and Mood Indigo

Romain Duris first burst onto the international scene in Jacques Audiard’s The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2005), as the thuggish enforcer with a passion for classical music. While Duris’ wrenching performance deservedly put him on the map, he was a star in his native France way before that and has further boosted his profile with commercial fare such as Heartbreaker (2010) and Populaire (2012). But the 39-year-old Frenchman is not out to please anyone but himself, as he explains to Film3Sixty when we meet in Paris to discuss his latest projects, Chinese Puzzle and Mood Indigo.

The former is Duris’ seventh collaboration with writer-director Cedric Klapisch, and the third chapter in a popular trilogy that began with L’Auberge Espagnole (2002), a comedy-drama about a multinational group of students in Barcelona. Klapisch reunited the gang for 2005’s Russian Dolls and Chinese Puzzle picks up the strands eight years down the line as Duris’ Xavier, a writer searching for inspiration, follows his ex Wendy (Kelly Reilly) to New York because he can’t bear being apart from their children. Cecile De France and Audrey Tautou are also back in the frame as, respectively, Xavier’s lesbian best friend Isabelle and another former flame, Martine. The actors are having fun, and it’s an endearing conclusion to the trilogy.

Later this summer, Duris can also be seen in the latest fevered extravaganza from Michel Gondry, Mood Indigo (an adaptation of Boris Vian’s novel L’Ecume Des Jours), in which the actor plays a Duke Ellington-obsessed inventor who falls in love with a woman (Tautou again) suffering from a strange illness: she has a water lily growing in her lungs.

Do you enjoy reuniting with the Auberge Espagnole gang?
Yes, and after Spain and Russia, I think it was a great idea of Cedric’s to go to New York. There is something about life for people in their 40s: there are couples, there are children, everybody is coming from different places. New York is a good place to express that feeling.

You and Audrey have worked together several times. You must get on extremely well.
It’s very easy with Audrey because she’s so natural. She’s playing with you and not with the camera, so it’s easy to do something different each time. When we were making Chinese Puzzle, I could see in her eyes that I wasn’t the same guy I was in Mood Indigo for her. We have this strange relationship. We do these intense things together on screen but afterwards we’re not going to restaurants together.

Mood Indigo is typically mind-boggling. Have you always been a fan of Gondry’s surrealistic worlds?
I don’t love the surrealistic thing in general but I always love what Michel does with it. I don’t like surrealism when it’s taken too seriously but he does it with the imagination of a child.

Even though you shot Chinese Puzzle in New York, unlike many French actors you’ve almost entirely avoided English-language films. Is that deliberate?
I have been sent scripts but I’ve never found a character to create. I don’t want to go to America just because I’m a little bit famous here; I don’t care.

Are there American or British directors you would leap at the chance to work with?
I love James Gray [We Own The Night, The Immigrant]. There are a lot of directors who are very interesting. But I don’t like to knock on a director’s door and say, “Come on, we have to do something together”. I’m a little bit shy that way. I have to trust directors, and I like it when they want me.

Is there snobbishness in the French film industry about actors who do work outside France?
Maybe in some people. When they see someone like Jean Reno going off to do action movies, maybe they think it’s boring or don’t understand why. But for me, it’s great. When I see Marion Cotillard or Jean Dujardin in big American films, I say, Bravo, come on!

Do you have any issues with typecasting in France?
In France, it’s typical to put people in boxes; I’m aware of it but I don’t pay attention to it. I think the more you work, the more doors open. When it comes to acting, I have many more weapons at my disposal than before. I’m not getting tired of acting at all; in fact it’s the opposite.

Outside France, you’re often viewed as the archetype of the French lover. Are you comfortable with that image?
I don’t feel comfortable with any image! I’m just Romain, that’s it. I like simple pleasures, a simple life. I love the same things now I liked when I was young: nature, the sea, travelling.

At one point, you wanted to be an artist. Is that still part of your simple life?
Yes, of course. I paint but I don’t do exhibitions. Actors have to show a lot so I try to keep this just for me.

What do you paint?
At the moment, I’m painting couples making love, in different landscapes, in different situations. It’s not pornographic, it’s funny. It’s about life. [Smiles] It’s the international language.
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