Gaspard Ulliel played the main role in the film by Xavier Dolan "This is only the end of the world" presented at the LXIX Cannes film festival. The tape was presented for the "Palme d'Or", but awarded other awards – Grand Prix of the jury and the Prize of the Ecumenical (Christian) Jury. Few people know that Gaspard Ulliel – world cinema star, the holder of brutal appearance, an outstanding artistic talent and the army of enthusiastic fans, in his free time likes photo shooting on black and white film, experimenting with painting, has a reputation as a gourmet and an epicurean... He also has his own special relationship with time. Perhaps that is why an hour reserved for our conversation, passed so quickly...
You often play villains, paranoids, sullen mad men. Why do you choose such roles? Aren't you afraid that you will be identified with them?
After I happened to play the most desperate villain in the cinema – Hannibal, I'm not afraid of anything. I used to play bad guys. I, in my opinion, have even formed a dependence on such roles. Recently, I like to live with a sense of danger and risk, it stimulates me. I never blame anyone – as a good lawyer who always takes the side of his clients, no matter how serious their sins are, I always take the side of my heroes. They all deserve to play them. Well, if a character is completely unattractive, I try to create some psychological distance between him and myself in order to protect myself emotionally.
This year several pictures with Gaspard appeared on the big screen. In the "Eva" Gaspard Ulliel played a gigolo-writer seduced by a strong and vibrant woman (actress Isabelle Huppert). At the Cannes Film Festival, the Frenchman presents Guillaume Nicloux's film “To the Ends of the World” (Les Confins Du Monde), where he acted as a soldier, bringing himself literally to the limit of his emotional possibilities. It is interesting that not so long ago, he starred in Xavier Dolan's film with the same title, "This is only the end of the world", and in the same line, at the limit of his emotional and physical capabilities. Given this feature of his, Bertrand Bonello entrusted Ulliel the role of a fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.
What attracts you to the heroes that are unstable and impermanent?
I like the movie on the verge of reality and fiction. For me it is the essence of cinema, where films are fiction, and actors are professional liars. Therefore, I do not like to answer questions that begin with the words "Is it true that..."
However, the French occupation in Vietnam was not fiction, just like the hell that your hero falls into...
You know, you can say that the young French guys, who were sent to Vietnam in the 19th century, also lived in fiction: they were promised an exotic country, fabulously beautiful women, strong drugs that help to see life in a charming light... Nobody told them about mass slaughter, beheading, slavery... After so much time, it is difficult for me to judge the situation, especially about the motives of the behavior of the French in Vietnam. However, I consider any form of colonization to be absolute folly and a crime against humanity. I regret to say that I am ashamed of France – during that period of its history.
Ulliel's debut in big cinema took place in 1999 – in the short film “Nickname”. Then there were the mystical thriller "Brotherhood of the Wolf" and the comedy "Summer things", a role in which he was first nominated for the prestigious film award "Cesar", which is called the French "Oscar".
Have you ever been to jungle before? How did you feel about parting with your girlfriend and two-year-old son?
I have already once been filmed in the jungles of Cambodia. But this is nothing compared to these shots when we spent four and a half months in the forests of Vietnam. Already in the air there is some anxiety, danger, and it made us be extremely careful. And still life in the jungle teaches an understanding of what is really important in life, and what should be discarded as unnecessary. After a similar experience, I better recognized myself as an actor and person. As for the family, the shooting of such a film is better done away from loved ones: it would be worse to return home every evening with such a heavy emotional burden. Everybody in our family has got used to the meetings and partings. After all, I deliberately chose the profession of an actor, as I deliberately made friends with my girlfriend, because we will look the same and understand all the costs of such a lifestyle.
Fateful for Gaspard was a meeting with the filmmaker André Téchiné, who has given the young actor a major role in his drama "Lost" – the history of the teenager. His teacher had fled to the province of occupied Paris, and in the difficult years of World War II he helped her survive.
And your heroes are often close to death, but somehow they get out of the most difficult situations...
Indeed?! It's horrible! You're right, I died so many times on the screen, that almost became immortal!
Do you have special rituals to get out of the image?
No, I'm not burning costumes after shooting. Although I love mysteries and mysticism, I have not brought myself to shamanism yet.
By the way, about clothes: how do you feel about fashion, brands?
I like the aesthetics of fashion, but not materialism and consumption. I rarely go shopping and do not track trends. I love classics, timelessness, style and creativity.
What can you say about female fashion as an actor playing Yves Saint Laurent?
I did not become an expert in fashion after this role. But I really like women's clothing by Saint Laurent as a social phenomenon. After all, the designer actually freed a woman from frigidity. He made her casual clothes more comfortable, added personality to her. When I played a designer, I happened to inspect fashion houses, I spent all my days sitting in the apartment of Saint Laurent on Rue de Babylone in Paris, in his “natural habitat”. I realized that every dress he created was a jewel that was created almost by hand.
Do you remember the scenes when Saint Laurent draws sketches? So, I actually drew these sketches myself, and in the frames you can see my hand painting models.
How interesting! Do you have something to do with painting?
I confess that in childhood I dreamed of becoming an artist. My father is a designer. I often saw him leaning over the desk – he was painting. My passion is sourced from there. True, neither the artist nor the designer didn’t come out of me, but as you can see, that experience was useful in the shooting. I still have a sketchbook somewhere, which I, alas, almost never use.
Why did you become an actor?
My acting career has developed, it can be said, by itself. At first I was fooling around in the yard and entertaining the local kids. When I was 11, a friend of my mother recommended me to the casting agency, where they took me. A year after that, I began to appear regularly on television, to play different roles. Until I was 17, I didn’t think seriously about acting as an actor – I just had fun. But then fate began to give me specific signs... much later... for example, when at 29 I changed Anthony Hopkins in Hannibal, worked with Gus Van Sant, and then played Yves Saint Laurent.
Nevertheless, Gaspard has a prestigious award – work in the detective drama “The Long Engagement”, filmed by Jean-Pierre Gene for the novel of the same name by Sebastien Japrisot, in which Ulliel`s partner became Audrey Totu, brought the actor not only the long-awaited “Cesar”, but also worldwide fame. He proved his success wasn't mistaken by the leading role in the "Hannibal Rising" movie, even though the picture failed in release.
As a native Parisian, you must be naturally not indifferent to art...
The impression is that we are talking about Paris 'Belle Epoque'. A modern Parisian is a gloomy, arrogant type, who does not see beyond his nose.
Are you like that too?
Not! But I also have bad Parisian habits. For example, I live in the Second District and almost never visit the other side of the river.
What for?! In France, people are busy with their own business, they are not obsessed with someone else's popularity. Honestly, sometimes they recognize me on the streets. But when I travel abroad, only the French people will recognize me.
What qualities, in your opinion, should an attractive man have?
A man must be active, spread energy and masculinity. But he should also not be afraid to expose his sensitivity.
We need more details!
It seems to me that a man should not be overly confident or impregnable. He is also characterized by doubts, both in work and in personal life. Personally, I doubt very much. And these doubts are extremely important for me as an actor. Probably, on the day when I stop doubting myself, I will tie up with my profession and do something else.
Aren't you afraid that a man who manifests his vulnerability may fall victim to strong, unpredictable and experienced women?
I'm French! Women don't scare me. Of course, some women can have a destructive effect on a man, especially if they expose their feelings too much. Anyone can get caught on the hook for a woman, even one who considers himself a veteran. That's the life to teach us. We gain experience not when it is good for us, but when we get into trouble. In my experience, women are of two types: fatal – ready to destroy others – and those that are ready to sacrifice everything, including themselves.
How ended your experience with fatal women?
In the past, I had connections with egoistic, selfish women. I loved and did not realize that the poison of relationships penetrates deep into me, paralyzing logic and common sense. But everyone should have experience at least one unhappy love, because it helps in the future to deal with their feelings, so as not to miss the real love. Only by failing one can appreciate success.
The first advertising campaign with Gaspard Ulliel, shot by Martin Scorsese, was released in 2010. Gaspard is the messenger of the male fragrance Bleu de Chanel and the face of the Monsieur de Chanel men's watch.
You are the face of Chanel. You represent the Monsieur de Chanel men's watch, I see it on your wrist...
I am impressed that this novelty is the first manufactory Chanel men's watch, that is, fully developed by the brand and its craftsmen. Special attention is paid to the Caliber 1 mechanism. The clock has a 72-hour power reserve and an original retrograde minute hand with a scale of 240 degrees.
What is the original arrow?
It moves along the scale and, having reached the last division, makes an instant, almost imperceptible jump to the zero mark. Such a display is more comfortable for the perception, because the time does not go in a continuous closed circle, and is divided into certain steps. This watch is my style – looking at them, I want once again to think about what has been done and what remains to be done...
Have you ever been tempted to stop time?
I have a very personal relationship with time. From childhood I was told that I was too slow. Indeed, I do not like to hurry. No, I do not want to stop time, and it is because of my own rhythm that I feel it very well. I like living in harmony with time. After all, sluggishness is just a special rhythm that brings a little poetry to life, when you can more deeply appreciate and feel different moments, even silence. Therefore, I have never experienced anxiety between filming or annoyance during periods of inactivity between projects. Xavier Dolan, with whom I worked, unlike me, is hyperactive: he seemed to run a hundred miles an hour, the second hand on my watch seemed too slow to him.
Don't you think that everything is happening too fast?
What scares me the most is the discrepancy between the speed of life and the abundance of opportunities. I even want to deactivate my phones in order to somehow get rid of hyperconnection to the universal network. In the virtual we communicate more and more, but in reality we communicate less and less. We exchanged sincere communication for countless photos and messages...
But photos are also to stop the time!
My son is growing up, and I can't help but think about the thousands of photos we took while he was growing up. All these indelible traces of his past are carefully archived in a giant photo album. But I sometimes think: do we not deprive him of our own memories? His personal memories will inevitably be changed, roughly speaking, damaged by all these photographs.
Images, in my opinion, destroy the imagination...
INTERVIEW: TATIANA ROSENSTEIN
PHOTO: MATTHEW BROOKS FOR CHANEL
The interview was published in the 53rd issue.