French actor Omar Sy is hoping his recent hot streak continues. His latest film, “The Intouchables,” is already a hit across Europe, in Japan and in its native France, where it has become the second most successful French film of all time and earned Sy a César Award for Best Actor — beating out “the Artist” star Jean Dujardin. Now, Sy is hoping to find similar success in the United States — even with an American remake already on the way.
How did you come to be involved with the project?
I had already done three films with the directors, Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano. As the films went on, the roles that I would play was more and more important, and at the end of the third film they said, “We want to write something for you as the main character,” and they showed me the documentary on the real story and said, “If you’re in we do it, and if you’re not then we don’t move forward.” And I did.
Did you get to meet the real-life counterparts, Abdel and Philippe, prior to making the film?
Yes and no. I met with Philippe — I went with [co-star] Francois [Cluzet] and the directors to Morocco, where he lives. We talked a lot about his condition and the special treatments he requires. We stayed three days to meet with him. And we also talked a lot about his relationship, of course, with Abdel. What I really remembered was the special bond that they had together. That’s really what I took out of that meeting. Abdel I met after the film, the night before the premiere of the movie in Paris. I actually liked not having met Abdel beforehand because already there was a huge pressure that this was based on a real story, and I wanted to bring a lot of myself to the character. That’s why I enjoyed meeting him afterward instead of beforehand. Otherwise the pressure would’ve been even more.
How do you find the balance between creating your own character and telling someone else’s story?
I don’t have a formal actor’s training, so I went a lot with instinct and what felt right. I would be like a horse galloping, and the directors would be handling the reins and reining me back in. So that’s how I found the balance.
The movie opens with you behind the wheel of quite nice Maserati Quattroporte. Did you get to do any of the driving yourself?
Of course. That was a condition for making the film — otherwise I wouldn’t have done it. (laughs)
The success in France has been fantastic. How do you feel about heading into the U.S. with it?
Because of its huge success not only in France but in countries like Italy, Germany — you know, all over Europe — we’re really hoping that in the States it will also have some impact and have some success, because now we’ve gotten used to all that success and attention. So we’re really hoping it will work here.
There’s been talk of an American remake as well.
Yes, there will be an American remake, but I don’t know when it will film or which actors will star in it. I don’t have the details.
Who would you cast in the remake?
I would probably cast Colin Firth for Francois’ role. For my role, I don’t know. If you want to keep the same sort of balance that you have in the film with the character being an immigrant, you wouldn’t use an African-American in the remake, which is of course the obvious first impulse — but you would go with a Hispanic actor, because there you have that relationship of immigration and of the same condition that the character in the original has. Or Meryl Streep is always a good choice. (laughs)