Cannes film festival provided the backdrop to MANINTOWN’s meeting with belgian actor Jérémie Renier, where he graciously took the time to sit for this series of pictures during a hectic press schedule promoting his latest release, Francois Ozon’s L’Amant Double. No stranger to the croisette, he made his debut there with La Promesse in 1996, and more recently was in Le Gamin au Velo, which won the Grand Prix in 2011. We later caught up with him on the telephone to talk about style both on and off camera, acting influences, and his latest releases.
What is your favourite aspect of being an actor?
Preparing for a role. I love discovering new worlds and different professions – for example learning to dance, sing or play an instrument, it can be quite exhilarating.
How exactly do you go about preparing for a role, then?
Of course it varies according to the part and depending on the movie and director, but I like taking a month or two to read and rehearse a script, either alone or with a coach, and fully immerse myself in the story.
Who are the actors who inspired you in your career?
The first actor I looked up to was Jean-Paul Belmondo. I was fascinated by his freedom and panache, and the way he could be at once explosive, sensitive and physical. I also liked Sean Connery with his english sense of class, as well as other anglophone actors such as Joaquin Phoenix, Daniel Day-Lewis, Christian Bale, and Philip Seymour Hoffman – the types who end up in unexpected movies. I love Tilda Swinton and her physical transformations for films: We need to talk about Kevin, Io sono l’Amore, or a Marvel movie – she’s always so fresh and powerful that it completely astonishes me.
Is there a director you would love to work with?
There are many interesting female directors at the moment – or maybe its just that they are finally getting the recognition they deserve: Maiwenn, Celine Sciamma, Valerie Donzelli, Kate Quillevere and Julia Ducournau. I always find their films more stylish, beautiful, intelligent and transporting than those of their male contemporaries – vive les femmes!
It’s not your first time at Cannes – would you say it’s been a good springboard for your career?
I wouldn’t say it’s been an explosion as such; I’ve always been more of a slow burner than ‘a la mode’ . I was very young being sixteen the first time I came here, but over the years I’ve had the chance to return often with diverse projects and meeting different directors – I guess it’s just not in my nature to explode.
You also starred in Potiche by Francois Ozon which was more comedic in tone, especially your portrayal. Do you feel as comfortable in comedies as you do in dramatic roles?
I’d love to say I feel equally at ease with both, but I have to be honest and say that comedy is something that comes less naturally, perhaps because of the specific rhythm it takes. It’s something I’m attracted to but it comes less instinctively and spontaneously, at least for now.
When reading the script for this year’s L’Amant Double, what convinced you to accept the role?
It was the originality of the project, and Francois’s idea of playing twins with contrasting characters in such an edgy thriller that quickly drew me in. The sulphurous, sexually charged element attracted me and I knew that it would be respectful and tasteful with Francois behind the camera. I felt safe and excited to work with him for the third time because besides counting him as a friend, he is also an incredibly gifted, prolific and versatile director.
You play twins, sometimes depicted on the screen at the same time. What was the biggest challenge in playing them? Is there one you enjoyed playing more?
To find subtlety and to keep them disparate and not make caricatures out of them, especially with Louis the more tyrannical, intense, arrogant and aggressive of the two. As for Paul, the other brother, I was trying not to be too linear or soft, but to give him dimension and complexity. What was most interesting as the story progresses and as the character of Chloe loses her grip on reality and her ability to tell the twins apart for me was to switch between them with a smile or a change in expression, for example just in the eyes. But I enjoyed playing both characters equally, from the simple, sweet, and complex Paul to the pretentious, perverted, sexual and physical Louis.
Up next we have your film Carnivores, co-directed with your brother Yannick Renier, a story of two sisters. How was it working with your brother as co-directors, having already worked together as actors?
It happened very naturally. The project has been in the works for many years so we had a lot of time to talk about our respective desires and concerns, so we were able to make sure that it went smoothly – plus we know each other so well that it was quite instinctive and natural.
How would you describe your personal style? Who are your favourite designers at the moment?
It varies, quite casual in general but I do like designers such as Comme des Garcons, Acne, Ami and Margiela. I’m not eccentric, loud, or fashion-forward, I like mixing textures, an old pair of jeans with a cool t-shirt for example. I rarely buy clothes but when I do I tend to look at the materials and fabrics.
Off set, have you ever been inspired by one of your films’ characters in the way you dress in real life?
I would have loved that just as much as reversing it and informing the look of one of my characters myself, because often the costumes aren’t particularly inspiring, apart from in L’Amant Double, where I wear a lot of suits and Francois flattered me greatly with the framing and lighting. But in the upcoming film with my brother, the male characters dress a little more as I’d want to look on screen. I’d actually love to play a character with a strong look but we tend to be quite conservative in France when it comes to style – there’s a fear of portraying trendy or beautiful characters. Sometimes when prepping a film I’ll try on a costume that I think looks good and I’ll be told that it’s too flattering and “he looks like a model” even though I’m clearly not. There’s a fear of doing something excessively beautiful, but I’d say I’m the opposite, to me aesthetics and beauty are important in cinema.
Photographer| Stefania Paparelli
Stylist| Nicholas Galletti
Hair Stylist| Cindy Faugeras for Franck Provost Paris.
Make up artist| Aurélie Payen for Franck Provost Paris
Location| The JW Marriott, Cannes
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