Having a little time to fill in his day’s schedule, Jean Dujardin once went to a bookstore to get a little book he could read in two or three hours.
Having already enjoyed the novels of Sylvain Tesson, particularly Berezina and In the forests of Siberia, he chose Sur les chemins noirs. In this autobiographical story, the writer recounts how, after falling several stories high one drunken evening that plunged him into a coma, he promised himself to cross France on foot, like a rebirth of himself.
“I read this book, I liked it and I shared my reading on Instagram, which I do quite rarely, says the actor during an interview with La Presse. Two weeks later, the director [Denis Imbert] called me saying that he had bought the rights to the story and that he had just adapted it with Diasteme [the co-screenwriter]. He asked me if I wanted to read his script. Yes of course. I really wanted to go like that, on the roads…”
Jean Dujardin had been hoping to come across this kind of story for a while. That said, the cinematographic vision of such a story did not appear obvious to him when reading it, especially since it is here an essentially interior adventure, even if it takes place in spectacular natural settings. .
“What interested me above all was to see how one can repair oneself by one’s loneliness by taking one’s own dark paths, specifies the one who has also personified the famous agent OSS 117 three times in the cinema. Going through hidden paths, to rebuild a destroyed soul, with this need to take stock without being seen. How do you make a movie like that? We don’t know, actually. »
To shoot Sur les chemins noirs, a small team of around ten people criss-crossed France from south to north, dealing with the sets, the reliefs, the different natural lights, the vague feeling felt. Everyone was there in the service of the feature film, but several took advantage of this moment to also take stock of their lives.
“I didn’t really feel like I was filming or being a character,” says Jean Dujardin. I embodied both the author of the book and a little me, like a man who decides to take stock at 50 years old. It could have been on the seas, there it is on the roads. »
The team thus crossed the whole of France, from Mercantour to Cotentin, stopping and turning in all the places mentioned in the story, never more than a day. The actor points out that each of the members of the team advanced in the adventure a little in their own solitude, without this approach being really planned. The experience thus took on an intimate character for everyone.
“Denis Imbert stepped aside and that’s what I had to do too,” notes the actor. I went through this book alone and I went through this film the same way. I thought to myself that the man I had to play crashed on the ground after falling 10 meters and that he had to repair himself thanks to this same ground. »
This particular proposal obviously had a great resonance with the public. Sur les chemins noirs has indeed attracted more than 1 million spectators in French cinemas. How does Jean Dujardin explain this enthusiasm?
“I believe some sort of alignment has taken place. There were big demonstrations in France, a lot of anxiety-provoking news, it didn’t smell very good, and I think people wanted to get some fresh air, to forget all that a little and to have fun. GOOD. On the black paths fell at the right time, gave air in a period when there was not much. That said, we will never know why a film works. It’s always miraculous. »
It is impossible to talk to Jean Dujardin without reminding him of the exceptional year that The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius) gave him at the beginning of the last decade. Between the Cannes Film Festival Best Actor Award and the Oscar for Best Actor the following year, the comedian has won just about every award imaginable around the world. However, Jean Dujardin never really took advantage of the honors received.
“I always refused to believe what anyone could say about me based on the awards I received. I only made one film which, at one point, aroused great enthusiasm. I was the main actor, I benefited from it, I had great feedback, but I always said that for me, it was absolutely not a Holy Grail, not an end in itself. »
Aware of being a little “suspicious” in the eyes of those who wonder why he did not take the opportunity to settle in the United States or, at the very least, capitalize on his international notoriety, the actor does not take detours.
“I’m not American, I don’t like to speak English, it’s not my language, and my best roles are here [in France]. Why would I pretend to be someone else, waste time, when in fact, I have everything to gain at home? I never got wet, never lost my footing, I always mastered exactly what I was, who I was, and how I wanted to do this job. If you want to freak out and become a jerk because of an award you’ve been given, it’s very possible. But I refused. I have a family, relatives, and far be it from me to become infrequent and unbearable in their eyes. »
Jean Dujardin even goes there with a last confidence in this regard.
“During my first 20 years of life, I was not a good student. During all this time, I was told that I was a dunce, a moron. But when you are told that in your youth and when at 35 or 40 you are told that on the contrary, you are wonderful, I do not see why I would believe it so much. I never thought I was stupid, but I never thought I was wonderful either. I always told myself that the only person who could be fair in his appreciation and his desire to do beautiful things is me. That I am rewarded, so much the better, if not, so much the worse, but that does not enter into my value judgment. »
The actor first became a popular star thanks to the French adaptation of Un gar, une fille, the Quebec series created by Guy A. Lepage and Sylvie Léonard.
Jean Dujardin established himself in the cinema thanks first to comedies. His surfer character in Brice de Nice (2005) as well as that of Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath, alias OSS 117, which we discovered in 2006, made an impression.
The Artist, a black and white film without words (Michel Hazanavicius), brought him recognition in 2011. In addition to the Cannes Film Festival interpretation prize and the Oscar for best actor, his performance in the role of a Fallen silent film star earned him the Actors Guild Award and a Golden Globe trophy in Hollywood, as well as a BAFTA trophy in London.