INTERVIEW. To make “Intouchables”, Éric Toledano, with his sidekick Olivier Nakache, was inspired by the story of the businessman, quadriplegic, who disappeared on June 2. He remembers.
Interview by Philippe Guedj
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Swe have an atypical journey, told in the book The Second Wind, had inspired the two directors Éric Toledano and Olivier Nakache. In 2011, their film, Untouchables, was a hit at the box office, attracting 19 million spectators and revealing to the general public the extraordinary destiny of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo, played on screen by François Cluzet. A triumph, including criticism, which, according to Éric Toledano, very touched by the death of the businessman, would not have been possible without his help, he who had from their first meeting “knew how to break down the barriers” .
Point : How do you feel about the announcement of the death of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo?
Eric Toledano: My reaction is an immense sadness and an awareness of the immense influence of Philippe on our lives and our destinies… Those of Olivier and myself but also of Omar (Sy), of François (Cluzet) and of the public through this film, Untouchables, which crossed borders, which was adapted to America, to the theater… Today I want to remember the dignity and courage of this man who always showed the will never to show his suffering, to always display something of positive. I remember one of his sentences, heard at a time when I still didn’t know him well and which struck me: “There is always a reason to rejoice every day, if only the good smell of coffee in the morning. Believe it or not, every morning since that sentence, the smell of coffee reminds me of Philippe. We learned so much from him…
We still often meet, Olivier and I, people in wheelchairs who say thank you for the film, but it’s really Philippe that we have to thank. Me, I thank him for this longevity in our friendship, he gave us news regularly and all the management of the enormous impact of the film could not have happened better, thanks to his personality.
At the end of the preview of “Intouchables”, Philippe had this magnificent sentence: “François knew how to catch my eye”
Do you remember your first meeting with him?
Yes, it was in Essaouira, where he lived and where we had gone with Olivier and Nicolas Duval (the producer ofUntouchables, Ed) to talk to him about the film. We suddenly saw this guy rushing straight towards us on the edge of the beach and laughing… In less than two minutes, he blew up the barriers, there was no longer a person in a wheelchair with people standing, just a beautiful atmosphere and quickly a huge desire to introduce Philippe to François and Omar. They came there to meet him, for a week, and that was the birth certificate of the film. After the premiere ofUntouchables, Philippe had this magnificent sentence: “François knew how to catch my eye. »
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Was he a heroic figure in your eyes?
Yes, Philippe was a hero and his passing is a real pain. He donated part of his income related to the film to the houses of the Simon Federation of Cyrene and I love the fact that he contributed to the betterment of the lot of people with disabilities by his way of thinking, his writings but also by this kind of concrete action. He is a hero because he suffered while leading the fight, he left on tiptoe and, as I said earlier on the phone to Omar Sy, we will have to keep trying to perpetuate all of his fights, to ensure that all his actions do not fly away with him. We will continue to respond with the film whenever we are asked.