Romain Duris: France's 'Heartbreaker'

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The charismatic star of 'The Beat that My Heart Skipped' talks to Time Out about his delightful new romcom, 'Heartbreaker'

Romain Duris is the lantern-jawed French leading man who rose to prominence in the UK for his role as the leather-jacketed street tough turned budding concert pianist in Jacques Audiard’s much-loved ‘The Beat that My Heart Skipped’. Elsewhere, he is best known for starring in the films of Cédric Klapisch (‘Pot Luck’, ‘Peut-être’) and Tony Gatlif (‘Gadjo Dilo’, ‘Je suis né d'une cigogne’). Although his most famous roles are dark and brooding, Duris is also a fine physical comic, as proven in 2007’s ‘Molière’ and his latest, ‘Heartbreaker’, a charming romantic comedy in which he co-stars with Vanessa Paradis.

Heartbreaker’ was a massive success in France. Can you identify the point in your career when you realised you were famous?
‘Yes, it was after my first film with Cédric Klapisch, “Good Old Daze”, which I thought was the first film I did that wasn’t shit. It’s set in the 1970s and the character I play is a hero who dies from drugs in the closing scenes. It was very emotional. So yes, it was a little movie that a lot of people saw, so I knew inside that I was no longer an unknown actor.’

You never had any formal training, do you ever feel like going back and doing that or do you feel that the films you’ve done have been training enough?
‘I am lucky to work with directors who each bring their own way of directing to a film and I feel refreshed all the time, nourished by these new ways to act and to think. Although, I must say that sometimes I am conscious of my own limits because I’m often working with very good people.'

Do you like directors who give you lots of instruction or those who give you a bit more room with your performances?
‘It depends, it depends…Sometimes I don’t know how to describe it, but you feel something. With eyes you know, there’s no rules you know.’

Are there any examples of a director you’ve had one of these intuitive relationships with?
‘Intuitive? Yes with Cédric Klapisch. It’s amazing, when we are doing a take we just look in to each other’s eyes and I understand what he wants. We are on the same wavelength. But with others, sometimes I need words, I need explanation.’

Heartbreaker’ is a textbook romantic comedy. Are you a fan of those type of films?
‘Of course, “Notting Hill”! I love the American romantic comedies from the '40s and '50s: Billy Wilder, Lubitsch, Capra… I love these films…'

What about modern romcoms, like those that have Sandra Bullock in them?
‘[Hesitantly] It depends, it depends…but in general I like this kind of movie.’

Oddly you seem to gravitate towards characters who mime 1980s pop songs. In ‘Heartbreaker’ you have to sing George Michael, and in ‘Dans Paris’ you had to sing Kim Wilde’s ‘Cambodia’. Are you a fan of 1980s music?

‘Of course, yes, it’s my life! When I was…yeah yeah…“Cambodia”! [starts to sing] I love George Michael! This kind of music, you know, pop, rock – I don’t know how to describe it – I didn’t like when I was young, but now it’s very important to me.’
 
In ‘Dans Paris’ how did you come to choose a Kim Wilde song for you to mime?
‘The director Christophe Honoré asked me to choose a song that inspired me during childhood, and I instantly thought of Kim Wilde. Of course! When I was 12, my sister and brother were listening to a lot of music and they really got me in to this song. Even when I hear it now, it makes me feel alright about the moment. I love it.’

I understand that this film has already being optioned to be remade in the States. Have you been approached to play your role again?
‘No.’

If a Hollywood actor was cast in your role…
‘Will Smith!’

Will Smith?
‘Will Smith would be perfect!’

Are you a big fan of Will Smith?
‘I like this guy. [laughing]’

You’ve made ‘Heartbreaker’ – which is a light and breezy movie – on the back of a very dour one, Patrice Chereau’s ‘Persécution’. Do you prefer the darker or the lighter films?
‘Both. I need both. When I shot “Heartbreaker”, I told the director Pascal Chaumeil, “Wow, it’s been a long time since I laughed in a movie!”.’

You fit very well in those kind of brooding roles too, like in ‘The Beat That My Heart Skipped’ and ‘Persécution’…
‘Yes, but I don’t want to be stuck in a brooding rut.’

Read our review of 'Heartbreaker'

Author: Interview: David Jenkins



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