“Creating stupid characters was my way to heal”

By Vanessa Schneider

Posted today at 04:48, updated at 06:05

After his debut at the café-theater, Jean Dujardin became known to the general public thanks to the television series A boy a girl. Since then, this popular 49-year-old actor has built his career in cinema between blockbusters and auteur films. Awarded an Oscar for Best Actor in 2012 for his performance in The Artist, he is currently playing at Presidents, by Anne Fontaine, and will once again play her character from OSS 117 in Red alert in black Africa, by Nicolas Bedos, screened at the closing of the Cannes Film Festival on July 17, and in theaters on August 4.

I wouldn’t have gotten there if …

… If I hadn’t woken up. At 23, I found myself in military service, in Epinal, in a traditional regiment. I had a year ahead of me to think about what to do with my life. I took advantage of these ten months to give substance to this desire to play that was bothering me. I have always been the jester of the family, I imitated each other, I had done a little theater at the age of 16 and a few short films with friends, I wrote sketches, but I didn’t see myself as an actor. In the army, I asked myself: how to do? Where to start ? I observed, I wrote in my bed, in the morning and in the evening. At the same time, I was reading Gérard d’Aboville’s book, which told of his solo row across the Atlantic. [Seul, Robert Laffont, 1992]. I projected myself, I rowed like him. The advantage of the army is that you have time and that you can observe all of society, it was a good breeding ground. I created mutants, hybrids from high school friends and those from the regiment, I mixed, gleaned, ape, hijacked. In the end, I had eleven characters, I could get started.

Were you sure of yourself?

When I left the army, I said to myself: I will go there humbly. I bought Pariscope to locate the rooms, the open stages – Blancs-Manteaux, Le Carré blanc, Le Point-Virgule -, I looked at what was being done and I decided to try to perform there. I started in a bar in Bastille called Les Portes. There was a vaulted room downstairs, I went to see it and I said to the boss: “You have a room, I have a show, can I play at your place? “He replied:” Well, I never did that … “I replied:” Me neither. I had a nerve that I wouldn’t be capable of today. I was uneasy, but my characters reassured me, gave me faith, momentum, vitality, confidence. On stage, I was strong.

You have 80.45% of this article to read. The rest is for subscribers only.