The sense of celebration Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache will remain the last major role of the actor who has just died at 69 years old. That of an organizer of a wedding entangled in logistical and sentimental problems. A character apart, as he loved them.
We are reposting the interview he gave us on October 3, 2017.
Is he scary, Jean-Pierre Bacri? “Is that so? Why ?”, the actor is surprised when it is pointed out to him. With The sense of celebration, Éric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, the actor goes from the role of undertaker in Extreme cold, from Gérard Pautonnier, to that of a caterer organizing a wedding. He just turned big Bang, by Cecilia Rouaud, with Vanessa Paradis.
LE FIGARO. – What do you like about Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache’s films?
Jean-Pierre BACRI. – I collaborated in the writing of Sense of celebration. There is a kinship between what we do, Agnès Jaoui and I, and what they do: choral films, humor, comedies at the same time – well, it’s our ambition – funny and relevant which tell things. There is a cousinhood.
What did you like about Max, your character?
His stubbornness, his discouragement, which we sometimes feel when we say to ourselves that things will not work out, a kind of depression, then life does its work, courage returns and things are sorted out. It’s nice to see this guy fight and go from feeling to feeling.
Isn’t it a bit dictatorial?
Oh no, he’s nice, anyway. For example, he likes Adèle (Eye Haïdara, one of Max’s waitresses, Editor’s note), he is generous, he gives his employees a thousand chances, he doesn’t fire any of them. The characters also look like the actors, it’s exactly them.
Does Max look like you?
Yes, I believe, I share his modesty.
Are you a docile actor?
You have to ask Éric Toledano and Olivier Nakache. It does not seem to me that I am very capricious. I don’t look like the cliché of the actor who asks for things, who refuses some and stays in his dressing room when he should be filming. I play the game, I am on time, I do what I can to be docile. If the director is propped up on a sentence, I force myself to act. Fortunately for me, this doesn’t happen often.
For you, is it not important to forget the technique?
Yes, that’s right. I make sure that we do not see the seams, that we have the impression that I am going through the situation. I believe that an actor must have a certain empathy for people, to understand them and therefore to play them, to feel their emotions.
And be loved by the viewer?
Yes, but that’s not my primary concern. I play the character, if he’s unfriendly, too bad. I just played a very unfriendly one in the last movie we made, Agnès and I (Public place, slated for release in 2018): a declining TV host who feels he is getting old. He is an abject character, I assume.
Are you not afraid that the public will say to themselves: “Bacri is going to be angry again”?
I do not care ! Each time, I am told: “You are always grumpy, etc.” I do not know what to answer, because in my opinion, I do not always interpret grumpy.
Chrysale, whom you performed at the theater in Wise women , directed by Catherine Hiegel, was not a grump …
There are others. Castella in The taste of Others, the character of The very private life of Mr. Sim, by Michel Leclerc, which is even the opposite. Certain roles or attitudes, at the Caesar or elsewhere, have marked people and they love labels. I do what I want, what I find right and right.
This is how you choose your roles …
It is true that I go less towards the heroes, the heroes bore me. If I am offered the role of a guy who is formidable, but to whom the world makes miseries, I don’t want to play it. It pisses me off because I don’t find it believable. So I play people who have problems, faced with contradictions, that’s what amuses me the most.
As in Public place …
Yes, the character is a jerk, a misogynist, a reactionary. I really play the opposite of what I think I am.
Isn’t there something jubilant about playing this kind of character?
If it’s true. Some of these TV hosts disgust me so much that I really enjoyed becoming one of them. I am overwhelmed by my job, writing and acting.
Still don’t like seeing yourself on screen?
No, but I saw The sense of celebration. I have walked in the story and tried to successfully ignore myself.
How do you react when you are recognized in the street?
I am friends with Jamel (Debbouze). He is very popular. He comes out, and in five minutes he’s surrounded by a cluster of people. Me, I live a super easy life. People who recognize me kindly give me a little compliment and leave. We are always happy when we are told that we like our work.
Was it with Jamel that you encouraged young people from the suburbs to vote in 2005?
Yeah, you see, that hasn’t served much. There were a lot of non-voters anyway.
Can your serious demeanor be scary?
Yes, that’s right, I don’t cultivate a permanent smile.
What do you think of the government today?
I can’t think anything, he’s only been in power for three months. I’m not going to give an opinion like all those idiots who have expressed themselves after two days. I have a memory that makes me laugh. It had been three days since Emmanuel Macron was in power, he had given the list of those who were going to surround him and a newspaper had titled: “Macron’s first government does not keep all of its promises.” There is something that I like, it is the exemption from the council tax, 30% this year and total in three years. I have friends in need.
Does your childhood in a straitjacket explain who you are today?
Yes, I don’t have any childhood nostalgia at all because of that. For me, it was only constraints: tomorrow, you get up early, you go to school, no, you can’t watch this movie, no, you can’t see your friends, do this… Adult, I tried to undo it all.
Can we say that your meeting with Agnès Jaoui in 1987 is one of the important meetings of your life?
This is THE meeting of my life. His attendance has brought me a lot, I hope it is mutual. My feminism is more virulent than it was … And my political conscience is only twenty-seven years old. At the time of the elections lost by the left in 1978, I saw Rocard the same evening say : “It’s inevitable, the left will never come back.” I started to wonder if I was on the left or on the right, only to quickly realize that I was on the left.
Does notoriety give you freedom?
Yes, if I didn’t have this notoriety, I wouldn’t have financial independence. There are a lot of films that I could have not made before, precisely, but since we made Kitchen and outbuildings and A family resemblance with Agnès, I choose all my films.
SEE ALSO – Death of Jean-Pierre Bacri: return to the unforgettable films of the actor and screenwriter