Mathieu Amalric on 'Heartbeat Detector'
Since winning a César for Arnaud Desplechin‘s ’Ma Vie Sexuelle‘ in 1997, the prolific actor and new Bond villain Mathieu Amalric has worked with such directors as Raoul Ruiz, Olivier Assayas, André Techiné and Alain Resnais, winning a best actor César last year for Julian Schnabel‘s ’The Diving Bell and the Butterfly‘. In London to play the bad guy in Bond 22, ’Quantum of Solace‘, he took time off to discuss his role in Nicolas Klotz‘s extraordinary French thriller ’Heartbeat Detector‘
‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ has given you great international exposure.‘Yes, we spent ten days in the United States, in Los Angeles and New York, doing promotion for the film. I could feel that people were really touched by it. But Marc Forster’s people struggled to get me in the Bond film, you know? [Forster is the director of ‘Quantum of Solace’.] And I know that because it was only when the Sony people saw "The Diving Bell" that they said okay to me being in it.’
You were doing the fight scenes for Bond this morning.‘Yes, at 7 o’clock this morning. I was in Pinewood for the fight. I love physical stuff. Being an actor makes me think more and more about being an acrobat. Like in the circus, you have to be very precise and very strong. You have to be very good with your hands, with your body, to be an actor in movies.’
How did your involvement with ‘Heartbeat Detector’ begin?‘I had already seen Nicolas Klotz’s films “Paria” and “La Blessure”. And I knew his films had nothing to do with naturalistic cinema. But that’s the attraction: how to enter a special language. The film is so much about language, about the uses of words.’
What kind of character is Simon, the role you play?‘He doesn’t talk that much. He listens. You don’t know if he’s a confessor, or if he’s a denouncer. But I like that kind of uncertain position. He’s part of the human resources department – again, words that mean exactly the opposite.’
Is the film making a thesis?‘I hope not too much. The problem is that I knew a lot of things, as I’m Jewish, from Poland. I knew about the letter written by the Nazis quoted in the film, because it’s in Lanzmann’s “Shoah”. But I tried to forget all that and tried just to be a man of today: a man without any memory but who has a belief, who has this sort of religion – that wouldn’t be church or things like that, but just about the company. I tried not to be evil but a bit obsessed with perfection, maybe. That can be a sickness.’
What was it like working for Nicolas Klotz?‘I don’t know if you’ve met him but his eyes make him look a bit like a clown. The first thing he would do is touch you, embrace you. Like Simon’s life during the night, you know, Nicolas needs this contact, to be part of the others. For instance, in the difficult scene when Valérie Dréville, the secretary, tells me this long story about the 88 dead, the 88 names and all that, Nicolas just told me: “Just imagine her naked. Imagine making love with her.” ’
Why are you so prepared to expose yourself for directors?‘You’re not alone, you know, when you work with great directors. It’s a lot to do with mimetism, with copying. Often directors love – I’ve noticed this – to play with their alter ego. I often play the director’s alter ego. Maybe it’s because I’m also a director. [Amalric has directed three features and several short films.] Directors love that because they feel they’re not alone.’‘Heartbeat Detector’ opens on May 16. ‘Quantum of Solace’ opens on Oct 31.
Author: Interview: Wally Hammond
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