Rivals : Guillaume Canet Interview


What did you think of the Papet brothers’ story and the script, each being pretty different to the other?
I’ve rarely read such a well-written script. Jacques spent so much time interviewing the brothers that the initial script was 700 pages long! Between their lives and what happens in the film, it’s very rich material. Even if the brothers hadn’t actually existed, it would have made an exceptional detective story, but the fact that it is based on real events adds even more emotion to your feelings.

What made you want to take the part?
The script was predominant in my decision, with its very complex characters who find themselves in some pretty painful situations. I also liked the relationship between the brothers – that fraternity that I lack as I never had a brother myself. The fact that François Cluzet was in it was another factor. He is an actor I like a great deal, I’ve been lucky enough to direct him and I admire him. All that was hugely motivating.

Did the fraternity theme strike a chord in you?
The story of the Papet brothers who, despite their very different paths in life, started out and ended up together could be a kind of fable or parable. This was the first time I’d played someone who had really existed. I met them on the set and we talked a lot. Firstly, I was curious about this man I’d so wanted to meet, even though just reading the script taught me a lot about their lives. There was an enormous complicity between the two of them that was really touching when you know what went on. When they were on the set, they must have sometimes been very moved by certain scenes like the one where I come to meet Gabriel when he comes out of prison. It must have felt like they were reliving it. Having the people who’d really experienced that there with us was pretty surreal.

As an actor, how was it for you performing in front of them?
They were very discreet, always in the background and yet available to advise us if we approached them, but without trying to impose anything on us. They understood that François and I tried to stick to their story while of course, adding some fiction. They respected that and I think they liked it.

How would you define your character?
He doesn’t give away what he’s feeling very much. He’s modest. He’s someone with integrity, someone upstanding, who likes order. These are no doubt things that reassure him when faced with the instability he has experienced. Contrary to his brother, he wants to know if their mother really did abandon them or not. Being a cop is about that too – wanting to know the truth, not liking falsehood or confusion. I can relate pretty well to his obstinacy, his sensitivity, his difficulty in giving free reign to his emotions, to his kind of complex relationship with his family towards whom he is always restraining himself.

How did you approach the character?
In several of the films I’ve made before, I’ve met quite a few cops who have taught me certain things, like how to hold a gun, their attitudes and ways of speaking. Of course, we had to adapt to the constraints of the decade we were in, like changing a few too-modern words for example. The guns are no longer the same either, and the way you hold them has evolved. Cinema culture also allows us to reproduce things we’ve seen in movies by people like Peckinpah and Lumet.

What was it like working with Jacques Maillot?
Working with Jacques is quite different because he really likes listening to his actors and letting them make suggestions, whilst knowing exactly what he wants. It’s pretty surprising sometimes. Even if he has an idea in mind, he lets us think about it and waits to see what we come up with. It’s really enjoyable because it gives us a lot of freedom. In the end, he does what he wants to do but he feeds off what we give and he’s ready to change the way he sees things. That’s a little like how I work as a director, even if I’m less open than he is. Things are more prepared in advance with me but he likes working out how to do things with the actors. He needs that group work.

What was it like working with François Cluzet ?
The first day of shooting with François, we were like two kids because we were acting together on set again – something we couldn’t do on my film. We were really happy and we didn’t stop fooling around. We also share the same desire to make great movies, and to tell great stories with a good director. That’s the situation in which we found ourselves working together again and we were really happy to be making this movie. I miss not having a brother and in François, I’ve found a cinematographic one. We have something of that big brother – kid brother relationship. Playing the character of the younger brother therefore made a lot of sense to me. I appreciate his advice about things, I love listening to him talking. Without being overly sentimental, to me he has the wisdom of someone who has a great deal of experience and he can share that with me.

Can you tell us about your female partners?
The whole casting was a great success. Jacques has a real talent for finding the right people for his roles. Everything works perfectly. In this film, which started out as a guy-film, he managed to create a real place for women. They are allies, they are something to fight for, they are drivers and they are not just objects as they often are in detective films. All the female partners were amazing. I love working with Clotilde Hesme. She’s a remarkable woman with a great deal of talent.

The love story is important. It’s another side to François, as powerful as that of cop and brother...
The ambiguity of love drives him, as someone who likes order, to pursue the female companion of a crook he has locked up for longer than authorized by the law. The character forms a whole. He’s more vulnerable in love, although he wants to be very cold and very strong. In the scenes with her, it was really great to be able to drop the “confident guy” thing and take on the “unbalanced guy”. That opened up the interpretation of this complex character who wants to be right and good, but is sometimes overwhelmed by emotions, family and blood ties.

What did you think about the film once it was finished?
It was a fine promise that has been kept. I really like this film and I think it’s a great success, extremely well filmed and full of humanity. I’m very proud to have been part of it. The relationships and the story in it are really wonderful, poignant and absorbing. The narrative is sophisticated, with no repetition and the sentiments and how they are expressed are right on the money. It’s wonderful.