with Benji Carver
In what has to be the coolest and strangest place to interview an international star, a French consulate’s house in Beverly Hills. I had the privilege to sit down in a round table interview with acclaimed actor Vincent Cassel this past week to discuss about the stateside release of the award winning new French gangster epic Mesrine: Killer Instinct and Public Enemy No.1.- a bio gangster pic about robber/hero Jacques Mesrine film Cassel describes as like "Robin Hood but with all the bad guy parts put into one”- also to give some lite incite into his work of the past and present, while making guys jealous everywhere that he gets to share a bed with the Italian film goddess Monica Bellucci.
Vincent Cassel: At one point during we had a draft of the script where he wasn’t a racist and wasn’t so violent to women etc. It was very much like Robin Hood, I didn’t want to play it that way, and people liked him but also did a lot bad things. That was the challenge for me to create a character like that at the end of the day, though I don’t think he is that likable to begin with.
MH: What was the extended 9-month shoot of the two movies about Mesrine like?
Cassel: We traveled to Spain, Morocco, Canada, and mainly Paris to shoot. A lot of people said it affected me a lot with playing this character, I didn’t think so at the time. Mesrine is a very uncomfortable person to play, where he is always tense, nervous, and violent. It gets very tiring over time. In real life you get made for 3 minutes and then you’re done, yet on a movie set you have to keep that anger and intensity up during every take. So I guess it effect me but you can ask my wife about that.
MH: You had to gain 50 pounds to play Mesrine and lose it all by the end of the shoot, how were you able to accomplish this difficult task?
Cassel: By eating everything you shouldn’t for a start, from beers with syrup and all kinds of horrible foods but I hit a peak at around 30 pounds where I couldn’t go any further and my body started to react violently, I started throwing up in the morning so I went to the doctor and he prescribed these insulin shots for me to take. After that during the 9 months of shooting I lost it all, which was very easy with all of the sleep and dietary issues that come from shooting a movie.
Cassel: Irreversible was very tough to shot due to it being all-improvisational while dealing with this rape and revenge storyline. It was a major challenge due to it having these long sequence shots, where at times would up to 20 minutes. 20 minutes is a long time to shoot. You don’t even remember what you did by the end of a take, a lot of the time. I was exhausted by the time we finished. Well there was that and another called Shietan that made me act ridiculous which is something I don’t like to do.
Cassel: For me movie making is Italian and the best movies come from Italia from Fellini. Monocelli…that era and also the Italian American filmmakers. Coppola. Scorsese. I’ve been dreaming about that kind of cinema forever really. So when I met Monica, she was something right out of a Fellini movie and I just said 'you.' Well that and some more complicated things
MH: What can you say about the upcoming film of Darren Arrofosky's Black Swan?
Cassel: I started as ballet dancer till I was 18, my father was a dancer so I was around that world growing up. With Black Swan, I got reacquainted with that world and I wouldn’t want any of my own kids to be involved , it’s world about suffering for art. To be honest I haven’t seen the completed version of the movie yet, I’ll discover that at Venice which will open the festival. Though I have seen bits and pieces of it from the ADR work and it looks quite scary.
A special thank you to Marina Bailey, Soleil Zunich, and Vincent Cassel for the interview.
Mesrine: Killer Instinct is theaters now and Public Enemy No.1 opens this Friday September 3rd in NY/LA/SF.