|WEBDO: L'ILLUSTRE Magazine (Swiss)
November 6, 2002
The romantic young man with the Swiss passport continues his international career as an actor and satisfies his desire to direct. At 38 years old, he is about to become a father for the second time and welcomes this magazine journalist into his exclusive Parisian residence.
On a Friday morning, Vincent Perez pushes the door open onto a bar-restaurant on Montaigne Avenue in VIIIe district of Paris. Dressed in black and wearing attractive eyeglasses, he is smiling and looks relaxed despite a charged timetable between the promotion of Peau d'ange and the filming of Fanfan la Tulipe. Fifty years after the original version, which matched up Gerard Philipe and Gina Lollobrigida, he plays the title role with Penelope Cruz as his co-star.
This morning, however, Vincent Perez does not seem obsessed by his professional life. On the table is the national daily newspaper showing the dramatic taking of hostages in a Moscow theater. "Ah! Moscow... Tchétchènes... Do you know that I got close to the Tchétchène Mafia during the filming of Ligne de Vie six years ago?" And this international star is again reminded with pleasure of some surprising details about making this film and of the Russian capital. "Chicago of the thirties..."
After coffee, Vincent Perez proposes that I follow him to his luxurious apartment, a few meters away on the same avenue. "It is the first time that I have brought a journalist to my home. But since we are Swiss, we can trust each other," jokes this native of Cheseaux, in the canton of Vaud. "Nevertheless, I have to inform you that it's a little disorderly with the children..."
On the table in his office are many books, including a collection of new photographs of Charlie Chaplin. Vincent prefers to him as a "a man of genius who knew how to create a true character." Dispersed are some compact disks, a portable computer and a bottle of perfume - Le 3e homme de Caron. The "clap" from Peau d'ange sits on a throne above the chimney against a mirror. After having directed three short films in the '90s, Perez finally launched out in directing a full-length film, thanks to the motivation by his wife Karine. Former partner of Gerard Depardieu, with whom she had Roxane, the actress, born in Senegal, married Vincent in 1998. "Karine has been my best friend, my confidante. We were both very sad at a given time. We became closer and voila!" From two sorrows was born a love as well as a family: adorable Imam at 3 1/2 years old and twins due in January. Karine, who co-wrote the screenplay with Vincent, stars alongside Guillaume Depardieu, the half-brother of Roxane.
"I had already directed my wife in a previous short film. It is different when you're looking at a person you're in love with and whom you know so well. It was more difficult for Karine to surprise me." Not only does he adore directing, but the profession of a director seems to help him reconsider his career as an actor. "After having played in about thirty films, one forgets the chance you have in creating real emotional characters. It's fascinating!"
Directing was an old dream which Perez, the artist, nourished for a long time. It began at 17 years old when he trained as a photographer in Lausanne before beginning his acting studies in Geneva and then the Paris Conservatoire. On the wall is an overflowing paperboard of various photographs taken during filming Peau d'ange. Vincent Perez remembers his need as a teenager to be identified with famous people. "The writers, painters... Their force of creation convinced me to take on a vocation. I've always liked the image and I return to it more and more. I wanted to finish a chapter in order to begin another one as a director."
He is one of the rare French-speaking actors with a presence in the United States. Whereas Johnny Depp in America devotes himself mainly to films breaking out of his beautiful image, Vincent Perez still seems to sail between both sides of the water. He doesn't belittle his roles in Cyrano de Bergerac, Indochine, Fanfan, Queen Margot or Le Bossu. But he also stars in darker films. "I don't disapprove of these roles as the seducteur. On the contrary, they are among my facets as much as characters, such as a transsexual in Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train or the living dead in The Crow. There isn't any real logic in my career. However, I now wish to have more control of my characters and of the production."
Among his projects, this adopted Parisian, with a Spanish father and German mother, still shows an interest in his country of origin, in spite of the loss of his Vaud accent. The proof - he is passionate about the William Tell hero. "It is an old dream of a child, even if Americans have approached me several times with script proposals on this Swiss legend. I am writing a synopsis on this famous character."
If Vincent Perez does not see himself as director of such a project, he readily cherishes the idea of playing William Tell on the big screen. "I was always attracted by heroes and their legends. However, William Tell has the same roots as me in a certain way. This is why I would like this role, a little like Antonio Banderas as Zorro," says Vincent with a smile. Then his clear eyes are lost in thinking as he's reminded of the open-air production on William Tell in Interlaken back in 1982. So his Swiss past influences his professional choices!
Before arming himself with a crossbow on the big screen, Vincent will star with Sophie Marceau in Je Reste next January. The cinematographic reunion of the romantic couple (previously together in Fanfan)will be appreciated by the general public. And the release of Fanfan la Tulipe is planned for spring 2003. This large production by Luc Besson should be a world success.
[Interview by Frederic Nejad]