SUBWAYaybe because he is fixed in our minds at the time when he became world famous in the mid 40’s as a gauche hitman in Léon: the professionalIt is strange to think of Jean Reno at the age he is now: 72 years old. It already looked timeless, providing gray-haired, existentially cool marinade for hire in numerous Hollywood blockbusters. If you are French, then he is doubly a part of carpentry: in 1993, he played the time-traveling gentleman Godefroy Amaury de Malfête in The visitors, a film that is a national institution.
Yet here it is, caught at one end Dutch angle on my laptop screen, my face fuller than back then, but otherwise healthy. He has been busy during the pandemic, in a six-month filming period in Vigo, Galicia, in a Spanish-language detective series for Amazon. But it has not stopped the melancholy that is approaching. “With the virus, everyone is introspecting,” he says, with French-speaking philosophical syntax. Thinking about the past and aging: what am I going to do? I’m old, I don’t have much time, and if the virus catches me, I’m dead. “
Even at this stage in his career, his name has enough standing to carry him through the Hollywood gate. He fills the bad boy slot The goalkeeper, a new Die Hard-cribbing martial arts movie that sets an art robbery within the confines of a New York hotel. It’s useful fun, no more, and Reno doesn’t pretend otherwise. “I liked the story, and then redoing the villain, why not? And the girl, what is her name? I’m very bad with names. Susie? No. Lucie?
“Ruby,” I say, referring to her co-star Ruby Rose.
“Ruby! I liked it.” Reno praises his butt-kicking skills, but barely lifts a finger himself, rallying a band of mercenaries as they attempt to retrieve a cache of old masters. He is an art lover in real life, but he is not, like his character, willing to kill for it. “I like art, but only if I can see it every day, that’s very important,” he says. He has a Yan Pei-Ming and a Pierre Soulages, but his fees for The Doorman did not allow him to achieve “the dream”: a Magritte.
It’s another notch for him in a Eurovillain series that includes Rollerball, Alex Cross, and, last year, Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods. But he’s relaxed with Hollywood reductionist thinking that often ends up putting European heavyweights like him in such pantomime. “If you don’t follow the path they prepare for you, they change and take someone else. I understand, they don’t have time for feelings. “
Ironically, for someone called by Hollywood to embody Gallic savoir-faire, Reno isn’t even really French. Juan Moreno and Herrera-Jiménez were born to Andalusian parents and spent their childhood in Casablanca, Morocco. At the age of 17, after the death of his mother, he decided to go to France and, to obtain citizenship, he did a year of military service in Wittlich, Germany.
It was, he says, “Stupid, difficult, difficult. No relation to the officers. We were like sheep in the midst of dragons. ” Fortunately, she managed to attract the attention of a superior in charge of the barracks entertainment program, for whom she worked as a secretary. “At that moment I could be happy, because nobody was looking at me, so I could disappear.”
After leaving the army, he went to Paris with 100 francs in his pocket and enrolled in drama school. The theater was, he thinks, a means of escape, perhaps the kind of struggles his immigrant parents experienced. “I’m not Freud, but maybe I wasn’t happy with what I was. Maybe people would love for you to be someone else. “The atmosphere of the company still seems to be crucial to Reno, the basis on which he chooses his roles:” If I can see more or less what the vibe will be, I’ll take it. “Reno He seems to have found what he was looking for in The Doorman; with his producer, Harry Winer, he is preparing a story about an old singer who takes a young musician under his wing.
Which sounds more than reminiscent of a certain hit man movie; In Léon: The Professional, as well as the freediving fantasy The Big Blue, Reno gave Luc Besson a charismatic approach to his Americanized watch movies. And the actor had an endearing and heavy naivety that perhaps allowed the director, particularly with León, his international breakthrough, acceptably package his transgressive side.
Yet concern for Léon has become a significant element in the #MeToo campaign, after Reno’s co-star Natalie Portman revealed how playing a sexualized 12-year-old character clouded her adolescence. One of the first fan letters she received was from a man who fantasized about raping her. In 2018, she told the Los Angeles Women’s March that that role made her feel “insecure” and that “men would feel entitled to discuss and objectify my body.”
Reno says he supports the broader goals of the #MeToo movement, ending the abuse of power inside and outside the film industry, and says he believes Portman could cope with the situation. “She is very intelligent. She had everything to avoid all the problems that you can encounter when you know each other from a young age. Because she understood it: it is yin and yang all the time in life, and you have to find balance.” Did she ever talk about her emotional difficulties with him? “Maybe. Maybe. Ah, Natalie!” He says wistfully, but he won’t go any further. More than 25 years later, he still has a relationship with Portman: she took her children to see him at his home in Provence a few years ago. “She is a true artist and with a certain stability. We need them. We need to see a solid tree that does not move in the wind. She is a solid tree. “
It seems to qualify as a good tree and a sense of permanence. He produces olive oil in Provence and cryptically says that the olive tree is a symbol for his father. Working on the Amazon series, set in 1948, the year she was born and in her mother tongue Spanish, has reminded her of her past and has been gifting her six children with memories of her long-deceased grandfather and her own humble. beginning. The olive gives it a similar root sensation: “The tree is eternal. It will never die. For me, it’s like: Wow! Continuity. He’s doing something no one else will do. “
• The Doorman is available online and on DVD.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism