Heart-throb movie star-turned director Guillaume Canet is a top actor in France. Son of horse breeders, the young man spent his childhood in the countryside near Paris.
In his youth, Guillaume wanted to be a horse-rider, and briefly followed a professional career in the sport. A bad fall broke his dreams, but is at the origin of his acting career, and success.
Often cast in roles of naive young men in such films as “The Beach” and “Joyeux Noel”, Canet knew how to be hired for other parts. Chiseled features and real talent brought him to stardom quite soon. Eclectic and moving, Canet has emerged as a successful director, who has worked with ex-wife Diane Kruger. His latest film is the errie triller “Tell No One”, based on an American novel.
The film revolves around pediatrician Alexandre Beck who misses his beloved wife Margot, who was brutally murdered eight years ago when he was the prime suspect. When two bodies are found near where the corpse of Margot was dumped, the police reopen the case and Alex becomes suspect again. The mystery increases when Alex receives an e-mail showing Margot older and alive. The director talked exclusively to Paul Fischer.
Question: This is a really fascinating film, very intriguing. It’s based on a novel, I guess, right?
Canet: Yeah, yeah, exactly, it’s based on a book from Harlan Coben, an American writer. I had this book offered to me one day, I was writing on my second script, and I was really amazed by this story and how this love story was being this great thriller. And the character is everything, so I was really excited about it.
Question: Was there ever a hesitation for you to do an American story, or did you feel it was easily translatable into a French setting?
Canet: No, actually, when I read the book and the story itself takes place in the United States. I really quickly imagined that it could be in France, you know, and the way I was imagining it was working really well. So I really want it to be a, I wanted it to be a French movie, because I thought that we’re not having that much movie like this in France. So that’s why I was, yeah, I wouldn’t change this translation and adaptation.
Question: What challenges did you face re-interpreting the book for the French? What kind of changes did you make from the original novel to the French movie version
Canet: Oh, I made a lot of changes, because you know there are some stuff at the end, some little details that are, which too quickly resolved in the book. There is some things, some information that give the writer in the book that goes, you know, quickly like that and you can read and you just turn the pages and you forget it. But after that, when you put that on the screen it’s not possible. You’re much more focused on the character and what he was saying and everything, so, there are some details that I couldn’t keep like this and I had to change. But it’s so well constructed, so complex, that if first you change one thing, everything falls apart. So for all the ending I had to change a lot of things. So I changed all that, you know, explanation, with the TV and everything doesn’t exist in the book. And also, I changed the character of the woman who’s torturing, with her fingers, you know? But in the book it was a Chinese guy, and I thought it was a little cliché, you know? Chinese martial arts guy. You know what I mean? Like I thought it was more interesting to have a woman torturing a woman. And I also put all this horses, side of it, you know, like quarter horses[?] that was not in the book. And in the book, each time you are seeing this rich guy, Neuville, you know, played by Jean Rochefort, he would have some theme in contrast. I didn’t want to see myself directing a scene with hundreds of extras, you know, like, with the cup of champagne, like cling-cling-cling. So that’s all the, one of the changes.
Question: The Americans are very good at doing these kinds of serial killer thrillers. Why doesn’t French cinema tackle this material to any kind of degree?
Canet: Why they don’t do that much film like this? I don’t know, I just don’t know. It’s part of the, I don’t know, it’s the French cinema, it’s how it is, you know? Perhaps people like to do like more intimacy movie. But I think it’s the wrong idea, because this film is a good example of the fact that you can do a thriller and being really close to the characters too, and being in the intimacy, and not being only on the action side of it.
Question: Since French films don’t make these sorts of genre movies, how hard was it for you to get the film made? In terms of getting the money to get it made?
Canet: The most difficult thing that we had was the budget with the actors, because I really wanted Francois Cluzet to play the part, because I think he’s a great actor. And a lot of problems just pulled off, when we knew it was Francois Cluzet, because they didn’t want him in the part because they thought he was not big enough. So I hated that, and I decided to move on, and keep Francois Cluzet and try to find some other finances, so it took a while to find someone who trusted me and Francois. And finally, Francois did the film and won the Cesar, the best actor, so that was the best response we had to those financiers.
Question: Talk about the location, because location is very important; was it very difficult to find the right location for the opening, for the lake sequence?
Canet: Oh, actually, I’ve been looking and searching for some, so many lakes, before the shooting, and I couldn’t find the right lake, I couldn’t find it and I was really, really in trouble, because the shooting was starting very soon, and one day I was going to the countryside in country house of the friend of mine. We were going there to discuss about the cutting of the film, how we were going to shoot it and everything. We pass by a road and we saw some ducks flying, it was like seven or eight o clock at night. We understood that if there were some ducks like that, there would be a lake. And so we just climbed the property, it was a private property, and we just entered into it. I discovered this lake that there is in the movie, and I was amazed, because there was some, some set, you know? It was beautiful. The same place, there was this tree that you see in the movie. So that’s how we find this property, and we called the owner of the property, and pretending we just buzzed by helicopter and we saw the lake and we want to shoot in it.
Question: The film was very successful in France, wasn’t it?
Canet: It was a big hit, and in UK too. I was really happy because I really wanted the film, to exist. So even if we had some prizes, like, you know, the four Cesars, and everything, the fact that the film really worked, the film really worked that was the best award to me. And the fact that the film worked so much in UK, was a really good thing for me, because I understood that the subtitles were not a problem for the people who were seeing the film.
Question: What are you doing next, do you know?
Canet: I’m shooting a film right now with Christian Carion, who is the director who did Merry Christmas, with a lot of great actors like Willem Defoe, and Emir Kusturica, and I’m shooting as an actor. It’s called Farewell. Also I’m writing my third script right now.
Question: The one you’re shooting now, is it another thriller?
Canet: It’s like, not really a thriller but more a spy movie. It’s a real story about farewell, the story about this guy from the KGB, in 1981, who gave all the microfilm and a lot of information to someone in the West. That’s how all the communism fell down, you know? It’s a really great film.