Aki Kaurismaki and André Wilms meet again in Le Havre
TORONTO—French actor André Wilms ( Europa Europa) claims that he’s a little embarrassed by what he does for a living. “Robert Mitchum, he says it’s not a man’s job to be an actor, it’s a girly job. And it’s true. It’s not a job for men.”
Sitting down to a lunch of Thai food with a glass of white wine just after the North American premiere of his new movie, Le Havre, at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, Wilms recalls a night many years ago when his mother invited all her friends over to watch him on French TV. “I made this movie where I was in bed with two girls and you see my dick. My mother, she calls me at three o’clock in the morning and she said to me: ‘I have not so many money, but you are not forced to make pornographic movies.’ ”
Wilms’s mom and her friends would probably approve of his new movie, Le Havre (named after the French port city), about a shoeshine man (played by Wilms) who helps rescue a young African boy from authorities tracking him like Javert in Les Misérables. “It’s a fairy tale,” Wilms says.
Wilms is personally pleased the movie is dealing with immigration—even if it is dealing with it in a comedic way. “France always said we are the country of égalité, liberté, fraternité, and we treat people like shit, and I am ashamed about my country too. I am ashamed with [French president Nicolas] Sarkozy like Americans are ashamed with Bush.”
This latest movie by Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki is also a crowd and critic pleaser, winning the FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) prize in Cannes and the award for best foreign film in Munich.
Wilms has no problem declaring that Kaurismäki—with whom he has now made four films—is his favourite director. “He is the only great director in movies I work with. But I don’t like a lot of directors. It’s like love you don’t encounter every day, the love of your life; it’s very rare.”
The way Wilms tells the story, it was love at first sight. “Twenty years ago, I didn’t know him. Someone says to me it’s a Finnish director, he is working in French, he wants to do La Vie de Bohème. He saw a lot of French actors and he said no to everybody, even to stars, every big star he said, ‘No, no, no, no.’ And a friend of mine said, ‘Could you perhaps meet a Finnish director at two o’clock in the morning in a bar?’ I said, ‘Okay, that’s a good beginning.’ And I came and he was sitting behind a bottle of vodka, behind a bottle of white wine, behind three beers. I come in and he says, ‘Oh, you have a very big nose: you can smoke under the shower. And you have sad eyes. You are engaged. And now let’s talk about something else.’ He never saw me play. He’s a strange guy.”
Watch the trailer for Le Havre.