Member of the Comédie-Française, the actor takes a new step in cinema where, after his irresistible supporting roles in Le Sens de la fête and My Unknown, he brilliantly takes the top of the bill in Laurent Tirard’s Speech. Return on the course of a mad lover of comedy.
A pure suicide bomber gesture. Embark on a big number mixing comedy and magic on the stage of the César 2020 (see video below). While you have in front of you the public considered to be the most icy and you are yourself named. This gesture, Benjamin Lavernhe that we find at the cinema in The speech by Laurent Tirard did it. Brilliantly done. Offering the highlight of an evening that would implode in mid-flight a few minutes later. “I had the nervousness of my life“, he confesses to us a few months later.”My legs were wobbly. If I hadn’t done theater, I wouldn’t have been able to!“
The theater and Benjamin Lavernhe, it is a love story that took a long time to take shape in this kid from Poitiers, fed up with popular cinema – from Louis de Funès to Star Wars Passing by Titanic. A teenager who regularly takes a passion for actresses. “I had successive fixettes. For two weeks, after seeing their films, I thought only of them. The first was Geena Davies in Hero despite himself. Then there was Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in Robin Hood, Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love, Julia Roberts in Love at first sight in Notting Hill, Audrey Tautou in The fabulous destiny of Amelie Poulain… The young man with an artichoke heart tastes theater for the first time in 4th year, thanks to a teacher who goes up The Jealousy of the Barbouillé by Molière.
“I found the theater austere, but going on stage appealed to me. I saw that I interested the prof. And I especially remember my pride afterwards, when they came to congratulate me while I was walking in the halls of the college“, he said with a smile. So, the following year, he enrolled in a theater course, but without intending to professionalize himself. Until he came across a documentary series devoted to during Florent on Canal +. “There, it intrigues me and it really interests me. “However, he stops the lessons. Funny paradox.”In fact, I wanted to see if I wanted to do this job for the right reasons. However, the months passed and I did not miss it. When you are assured that you can only become an actor if it is vital, it inevitably gets cold.“
Nothing to lose
The waltz-hesitation will last a little while. The year of his baccalaureate, he took a theater course in Paris. But in the process, he returned to Poitiers to do a literary preparation and then a history faculty. One step forward, two steps back. And when, finally, he decides to register for the Cours Florent, he does the same at the French Press Institute to study journalism. A step forward, a step aside. But not for long. “During Florent, I felt good. I passed the free class people, the stars of the school. I never imagined for a moment to be able to enter it one day.“Here again, the gaze of his teachers is a game-changer.”It is thanks to them that I built my self-confidence. There are so many of us in this profession that when someone tells you that you are unique, you feel like you grow wings. I was in disbelief, but I wanted to be up to it.“
This momentum will propel him from the free class of Florent to the Conservatory, then to the cinema and the Comédie-Française. His enthusiasm in remembering this period of learning did not die out. “At the Conservatory, I learned to have a point of view on a text. The thousand and one ways to play it. To get out of my comfort zones. It is an infinite luxury to work – both intellectually and physically – as the actor you are. Afterwards, we don’t have time. He opens up the field of possibilities. At the movie theater, Radiostars and his character of painkiller, as hilarious as it is creepy, catch the eye of the profession which first names him to the Caesars. “It was a huge chance to debut with a compositional role at the heart of such a happy band.“
Luck, therefore, will never leave him. The luck of the enthusiast, that of the gifted student who transcends his natural gifts by ignoring chapels. Including by joining the Comédie-Française, after an interview with the then director, Muriel Mayette, alerted to her case by her friend Loïc Corbery: “She had never seen me play. We just talked for a long time. She tried to scare me a little by explaining to me that joining the Comédie-Française is a bit like entering a convent: I will no longer have time to see my friends. If Tarantino calls me for a movie, it’ll be niet. I could tell she was exaggerating. But in doing so, she explained to me above all that the Comédie-Française is not an extra line on a CV, but an extremely engaging way of doing this job, by playing several pieces at the same time. Which is not for everyone. But I had nothing to lose. “
The Speech: Benjamin Lavernhe astounding with virtuosity [critique]
From 2012, Benjamin Lavernhe developed his passion for the theater there, but without cutting himself off from the cinema. In dramatic registers (The taste of wonders by Éric Besnard where he plays an autistic Asperger) or lighter (Like a plane by Bruno Podalydès). The French obviously has nothing of a prison. “You just have to be smart and not overdo it. But it also allows you to refine your choices. So, I had to give up the last try to Goodbye up there. At that time I was playing The Straw Hat from Italy and Britannicus. Albert [Dupontel] did not understand my decision. ‘If you prefer to play dead authors, too bad for you‘he replied, explaining to me that Laurent Lafitte was getting there. It’s the game with him. You are at 100% or you are not. I hope we meet again, but these are really rich people ‘s problems!‘
In recent years, with The sense of celebration and My stranger, everything accelerated for the actor. Two César nominations for two major comedy numbers. The kind he is most passionate about. “I think I’ve always made people laugh. It often played tricks on me in more dramatic roles where I did not appear credible.. “For the Conservatory competition, he had been advised to go to Feydeau.”I don’t want to lock myself into a genre, but I love to make people laugh. It’s a science of musicality and rhythm that I love to practice as much as dissect. “
With The speech, Benjamin Lavernhe takes a new step. That of the first real big role in the cinema. In this adaptation of Fabrice Caro’s novel, he plays Adrien, suffering martyrdom at the heart of a family dinner where his mind never stops wandering between the desperate wait for an SMS from his girlfriend who wished “a break” in their relationship and the stress of having to make a speech soon at her sister’s wedding. He is both the interpreter and the narrator facing the camera of this plot based on a logic of permanent rupture. “When Laurent [Tirard] offered me the film, it was only halfway through the adaptation. But, from the start, I liked the singularity of the narration and the responsibility that this role involved. Pretty immodestly, I thought it was for me. “Which will not prevent the anguish on the set in this permanent balance to be found.”This scenario is full of moments when you want to clown. Except that if we go too far in the comedy, the emotion never returns. ”
To be wise and crazy, this is the secret of a role where, more than ever, Lavernhe’s generosity bursts the screen. Never demonstrative and yet astounding with comic genius. A talent that he has since put at the service of Wes Anderson (The French Dispatch), Éric Besnard (Delicious), Yvan Attal (Human things) or even Emilie Frèche’s first film (In an ideal world). The young man who loved actresses has come a long way. Very smart whoever can guess how far it will take him.