This is your first lead role.
Yes, I was really excited for it. It was also the first time I read a script where the main character comes from the more underprivileged suburbs of Paris and the character is portrayed in a positive way.
It’s a script loosely based off a real story: a hard-won connection between a handicap millionaire and his ex-con caretaker. How much of your character is creative interpretation?
The two filmmakers who wrote the script had me in mind for the role of the caretaker, Driss—it was supposed to be a gift to me—so they integrated a lot of my own personality traits. Also, I went back to my old neighborhood in the suburbs of Paris, where I grew up, and spoke to my friends. I needed to soak in the atmosphere of what it’s like to be there.
Congratulations on winning the César Award for Best Actor. Is it presumptuous to assume you had some idea you might win?
I really had no idea, I didn’t expect it at all! Even just to be nominated alongside all of those big names was a victory in itself to me. I would’ve been happy for many years with just that. I was shocked.
How did you celebrate?
Well, that night I went straight to bed. I was dead, done for. Then, right after that I went on vacation.
Where do you keep the statue?
It’s on a shelf right across from my main entrance door, so the first thing you see when you come see me is that.
The Weinstein Company is in talks with Colin Firth and Paul Feig for the American remake. Who should play your character?
Actually, one that I just thought of would be Meryl Streep. She can pull off anything.
The Intouchables opens in theatres May 25.
Photo: courtesy of The Weinstein Company