Gifted actor, unrepentant hard worker, Pio Marmaï is above all a free actor who leads his career in reverse and is preparing to experience a second wave of notoriety. On the poster of How I became a superhero, he gives us an update on his busy news.
FIRST: How are you Pio?
PIO MARMAÏ: It’s not bad. No, it’s going great. I am very happy, very very happy. The resumption, the reopening of cinemas, life in general … When you’re happy, you have to say it, right? So where do we start?
I wanted to take stock, because we get lost a bit there …
If I can help you, tell me.
You will be in the Catherine Corsini (The divide) who goes to Cannes, you just finished the new movie
by Thierry de Peretti (the adaptation of State traffic Emmanuel Fansten) who could also go …
Rhooo … I had forgotten that one.
You are just emerging from the success ofIn therapy, you start The three Musketeers, and we come to talk to you about a finished film …
Pfff … a year and a half. No two years. It’s crazy. The temporality has completely exploded. We must stop thinking like before. It goes all over the place and it’s true that we are a little lost.
Isn’t it complicated to promote?
No, because I want it to be simple. The memory that I keep of How I became a superhero is very clear and I can relate to it easily. Between the first version of the script that I read four years ago, the production of the film, the staggered release, the Covid epidemic … it was a long and torturous experience. But when I tell you about it, what immediately comes to my mind is the initial impression. Douglas ambition, energy and daring [Attal] who came to offer a very unique reading of the superhero film. I immediately liked the breath and the boiling of the group. And then, if the Covid has scrambled everything, I do things one after the other. There is no career plan. From Thierry de Peretti’s film to Musketeers, It is sure that this is a hell of a big gap.
And a good summary of your career, which explores all genres and still leaves in all directions.
Hmm. Say like that, is it positive for you?
Well I will return the question to you …
I do not know. (He reflects.) But here I am at a point where I am offered the possibility of doing everything. And it turns me on to death. Not sticking to what has been learned, changing perspectives, always being on the go … Not working, me, that exhausts me. I need movement to exist. And, honestly, for the past few years I have been working with directors who each have their own universe, an exceptional sense of writing and dramaturgy. I’ve always thought that an actor is just a performer, and I have absolute confidence in the directors I work with. They take me on journeys which are not always necessarily great, but which offer a particular dynamic and which nourish me with an energy and a kind of powerful fire. When the projects are good, when there is evidence in the writing, when there is a meeting, you do not ask yourself the question of consistency, legitimacy or even the result. You go for it.
Even when it is, a priori, broken or risky like the film by Douglas Attal, a first feature on French superheroes?
Obviously! Same with In therapy: who would have thought it would be such a success? We are still talking about 35 hours of programs where people are face to face on a sofa. You will tell me that there was the Israeli series, and that the names of Toledano and Nakache should reassure. But I swear to you that, from a rational and objective point of view, it was a game of poker. What immediately appealed to me was the crossing of the language, the device … I wanted to explore that, to test another way of working. Knowing that a few months before, I was on the set of How I became a superhero: I was flying hanging on cables, I was getting lasers in my face, and Swann Arlaud was shooting me in a hallway. It’s true, it seems to go all over the place as you say, but what unites what I do is that I try to be as fair as possible, as close as possible to the truth of the characters.
How I became a superhero on Netflix: an ambitious but unfinished move [critique]
This was precisely the heart of the In therapy project. We know you in a jumpy register, and suddenly, you spend hours sitting on an armchair in introspection.
And I rediscovered the sensations experienced when I was playing in the theater. As in the Peretti, there was a quantity of text to learn and to come out in a very restrictive framework. In the series as in this film, there was an almost liturgical relation to the verb, doubled, in the Peretti, by a strange filming rhythm. No action, no “Engine!” », Only sequence shots. I had to work on very long texts for months … It’s true that it went against what I did for a long time and I understand that people talk to me about rocking. But it goes back a few years already; I am now trusted for more singular cinema experiences, with what I call more “language thickness”.
When did this rocker date?
From In freedom I think. Pierre [Salvadori] offered me a very complex role with very sustained writing. There was a very moving sense of language but not easy to develop as an actor. When they saw the film, people said to themselves that I was able to work in those directions, with this precision. It’s really from this film that I have access to other types of roles, that I explore other universes and that I cross paths with different artists.
One of the charms of Attal’s film is precisely the duo that you form with Vimala Pons. A great idea, because beyond the fact that we are all in love with Vimala Pons and Pio Marmaï, your worlds blend together wonderfully.
We knew each other with Vimala. We hadn’t worked together, but I had seen his shows. I believe that there is an area of strangeness that is unique to us. His theatrical proposals with his company of Circassians are very funny. His universe has a particular poetic identity. And me, I have a personal life that is a bit off the wall with my garage and my other passions. We both went to theater school, we share the same sensitivity to writing and collective work. It all meant that something electric happened between us. And then we are not used to participating in big movies like this. When people who come from auteur cinema land on more important projects, they go all the way. We really had fun, it was really exciting; this idea of dystopia and superpowers …
It’s funny, I can’t imagine either of you being superhero fans …
I like Burton’s Batmans. Their excessive side, the colors, the pop: it touched me as a child. And then, I love explosions in the cinema. Especially the bazookas. I grew up at the Opera in a very spectacular universe. I like the Dardenne cinema as much as the big pyrotechnic productions. And what I liked about How I Became … is that a lot of effects were produced on the set with cables, machines. There was a theatrical aspect that suited me well, a little roots …
Finally, what would be your analysis of what you embody in French cinema?
I have to clear something … a little … let’s say it always feels like I’m going to do some bullshit. Something elusive in attitude perhaps. (He laughs.) The guy who tells it to himself: “I consider myself elusive. You can put it in teaser, it works well for a paper, very sales. (He turns serious again.) Sassy, you might say, but I’m ALWAYS at the service of what I’m asked to do. And then something else that defines me as an actor: for me, the most important thing, what makes a sequence or a film, is the combination with my partners. I am very much on the subject. I try to be a good partner for others. For the rest: why do they come looking for me? What do I embody? I’m a little tough, a little funny and … not boring. There you go: I’m funny and not boring. Come on, send the films!
HOW I BECOME SUPERHERO By Douglas Attal • With Pio Marmaï, Vimala Pons, Benoît Poelvoorde … • Duration 1h37 • On Netflix July 9