Michel Blanc: these 80s that changed everything

Marche à l'ombre returns this Sunday on C8, and its creator tells us about this decisive decade in his career.

At the end of the 1970s, despite the triumph of Tanned, you will however choose to move away from the Splendid gang quickly enough and only make appearances in Santa Clause is garbage And Grandpa resists. What pushed you to this?

Michel Blanc: I found it vulgar to write a sequel to Tanned. So I didn't participate in what would turn out to be the better of the two films! (laughs) And, on set, the atmosphere wasn't so good between us, as if something had broken. They were obviously a little angry with me and logically also for having broken the cohesion of the group. My friends might have thought I had gotten a big head. This is actually the only moment of tension we experienced. It was this situation that pushed me to go and work as an actor elsewhere. In this case, therefore, under the direction of Patrice Leconte, with whom we made Come to my house, I'm staying with a friendMy wife's name is come back And Move along, there's nothing to see !

So you leave your ” family “ but you continue to dig into your character Tanned….

In the Splendid gang, we didn't write our own roles but those of everyone else. However, quite quickly, we saw who was going to play what. And when I understood that Jean-Claude Dusse was going to be for me, I immediately saw it as an opportunity. Until then, I had not yet found my comedy job. On stage, for example, Gérard (Jugnot) made people laugh a lot more than me. When I replaced him in Santa Clause is garbage, I went from one failure to another! For Jean-Claude Dusse, I thought of Woody Allen, a neurotic, physically fragile character, who not only fails to seduce, but is not even noticed by women. With this role, I found my laugh and I actually developed it in Patrice. Until I write Walk in the shade, my first film as a director, which I knew would put an end to my café-theater “career”.

What inspired you to get behind the camera?

I wrote with Patrice Come to my house, I'm staying with a friend And My wife's name is come back. And it was he who pushed me to realize Walk in the shadow, which I had the idea for and which I proposed to him… so that he could make it. At the time, I was taken aback but he managed to convince me. He told me to hire a good first assistant and a great technical advisor, in this case Patrick Dewolf with whom I wrote the structure of the story

Was it you who also had the idea of ​​your association with Gérard Lanvin on screen?

Yes, but it almost didn't happen. I wanted Gérard at all costs but he refused to play in Come to my house, I'm staying with a friend where Bernard Giraudeau replaced him. And Christian Fechner who produced the two films then told me that it would be rude not to offer Walk in the shade in priority to Bernard. Deep down, I crossed my fingers that he would refuse. And that's what he ultimately did, finding himself too old for the role. So I immediately proposed it to Gérard who, this time, accepted, to my great relief.

And, in the process, you will move away from comedy…

Yes, I refused all offers of equivalent roles because I didn't want to lock myself into a job that would sooner or later get boring. And there, Bertrand Blier arrived with Evening dress.

A role he wrote for…Bernard Giraudeauagain and always him!

I thought Bertrand didn't love me. In the 70s, he had me try out for a beer commercial. And since he had neither hired me nor offered me a small role in The waltzers that he filmed afterwards and where Jugnot and Lhermitte appeared, I was convinced that he did not appreciate my acting. Without having imagined that my physique did not spontaneously correspond to that of the bon vivant, beer lover… And then, years later, at the beginning of 1985, at the César luncheon – where I was nominated for first film for Walk in the shade and him for the scenario of Our history -, he comes to see me and says: “there, I’m making a film with Depardieu and Giraudeau and then I’ll think about something for you”. Shortly after, he called me and offered to send me the script for Evening dress. And there, I learned that Bernard declined the role at the last moment. And I understand that Bertrand is offering it to me. I then ask Bertrand what he plans to do since I don't particularly have Bernard's physique and playing style… “When you change actors, it's better to completely change your point of view,” he replies.

You have to remember that it was a very inflated film for its time, particularly for its treatment of homosexuality…

Watching the rushes, we were crying with laughter, all the while being afraid that when the film came out, people would spit in our faces. Particularly the homosexual environment. But the gays understood that we weren't making fun of them. We even had a rave article in Gay Foot, title “Don’t touch the white woman”. Then we were selected for Cannes, where I received the acting prize. With The Exercise of the State, this film holds a special place in my career.

How did this happene the collaboration with Gérard Depardieu?

When we first met, he bumped into me. At that time, I used to go to New York for a few days before each shoot. Gérard explained to me that it pissed him off to see me there, even though we had a film to make. I told him that's how I worked and that he wouldn't change me. However, like all big beasts, nothing excites him more than the fear of others. And since I wasn't afraid of him, we became very friendly and had a great time on set. He was always very considerate

After Evening dress, the proposals have changed for you ?

No doubt, but I didn't really notice it. Because, quite quickly, I played Mr Hire, another character very far from what I had been able to do. A role written by Patrice (Leconte) for Coluche before his tragic death.

But just before Mr Hireyou refuse A few days with me, by Claude Sautet. Why ?

Because I wasn't the part. This character required a seductive dimension that I don't have. So I refused. Which is never easy. My agent thought I was an uncontrollable madman who was no longer going to make them any money! No one dared to talk to me about it, because everyone was stunned. Like the day I said no to Maurice Pialat…

In which circumstances ?

I was good friends with his second assistant who called me one day to tell me that Pialat was thinking of me for a role and that I should call him. But knowing his reputation, I knew that if I immediately put myself in the position of asking, I was done. So I told my friend that I would be delighted if he called me. And, of course, I never heard back! But I had my little revenge. I was in Cannes the year he won the Palme d'Or for Under Satan's sun. Gérard Depardieu invited me to their table at the dinner which followed the awards. He introduced me to Pialat who asked me why I refused to act in his film. I enjoyed answering him: “But you wanted to offer me a role? I didn't know… You should have called me, I would have been delighted!” He didn't talk to me about it again.

After Mr Hire, we suddenly saw you less as an actor. Is this a desire on your part? ?

I consider the character of Monsieur Hire to be my first major compositional role. And in the process, I actually did little acting as an actor simply because I was offered less interesting roles.

Were you worried about not playing anymore ?

No, because I am lucky enough to be able to write. Which occupies me more than playing.

For what then having let ten years pass between your two first achievements, Walk in the shadow And Tiredness ?

It took me a long time to free myself from the blockage of the type who, after a success, does not want to remake the same film, while doubting whether I am capable of writing something else. I had the idea of ​​talking about the strange relationship between the public and celebrities. But it took me a while to figure out how. I tried without success first with Josiane Balasko then Jacques Audiard, whom I made suffer because I didn't know where I wanted to go. There, the producer Patrice Ledoux had the idea of ​​bringing Bertrand (Blier) and me together so that I could direct a film that Bertrand would write. I was super flattered. But by having a crazy idea every two seconds, Bertrand is impossible to follow and we end up no longer talking! So I threw in the towel. But Bertrand had a decisive idea on the subject: that of having actors play their own roles. This abyss changed everything. So all of this continued to lurch in the back of my mind. And when I learned that Gérard (Depardieu) was going to take over the project, I took it back, drawing inspiration from Bertrand's findings. And I was extremely touched to receive the screenplay prize at Cannes.


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