His first film role, his first César nomination, his first staging at the theater… Laurent Lafitt comes back with us on the great premieres of his career on the occasion of the release of “The Origin of the World”, his first production.
Rejected twice, the first production of Laurent Lafitte for the cinema will be long overdue. But the public’s patience is finally rewarded with L’Origine du monde, a comedy adapted from the namesake play by Sébastien Thiery which stands out in the current French landscape with its trashy and limitless humor.
A project and a humor on which the actor and neo-director came back with us, in addition to talking about the great premieres of his career, between theater, cinema and César.
AlloCiné: What attracted you to this piece and made you want to make it your first film production?
Laurent Lafitte : I didn’t think of that right away. I just laughed a lot when I saw the play. How I hadn’t laughed for a very, very long time. I was really doubled over with laughter. Physically. I had a stomach ache. And then after that, it stuck with me. I thought about the play more and more. She interested me on a lot of different subjects, as if there were several levels of reading, a bit like at Pixar (laughs) I told myself that it went really far as a subject.
Suddenly I began to imagine what I could add, what I could take away, the great things that Sébastien Thiery, the author of the play, had found, which should not be touched, which were really the DNA of history. And it became obvious that this was going to be my first film.
You say that “The Origin of the World” goes a long way, and that can be felt in particular in the humor, which is striking because it goes beyond the framework to which we are accustomed with recent comedies.
Yes, especially with French comedies. The others, and in particular the Americans, have been more daring than the French in recent years. They pushed the sliders a bit. The English also by the way: Sacha Baron Cohen went very far, for example. And I hadn’t felt a form of freedom of tone like that since certain French films which were more on Blier’s side.
And that’s what I like. I like to be a little rushed as a spectator, that a film provokes things to me and makes me think. Since anyway, it’s not a movie. So you might as well go and not be afraid of being pushed around.
I like to be a little rushed as a spectator, that a film provokes things to me and makes me think.
And this is proof that, contrary to what we sometimes hear, we can laugh at everything today.
I think we can laugh at everything. But the intention of the artists must be pure. If the intention or the approach is vulgar, or if it’s just provocation, I think it affects people less.
Were there times when you thought you were going too far?
At times, yes. But after that it’s very subjective. Too far for me, it’s already going to be too far for other people or not far enough for others. So it’s very, very subjective. But it’s a comedy that’s very edgy, so I was very careful not to switch to a side that didn’t look like me anymore, or that didn’t look like the movie I wanted to make.
Does that mean that there was a balance to be found during filming and then during editing?
All the time. In writing, filming, editing. A lot during the editing itself.
Was a particular scene difficult to obtain?
Let’s say that there is a nudity scene in the film that I wanted to dose: I wanted to both assume it and at the same time dose it so that it is viewable, and that it does not become embarrassing. Let it be just a little further than usual. So a little funnier I think. But it’s not nudity just to be naked.
What is funny is the situation that Sébastien Thiery invented in the play, namely the ploy they put in place to trap the character of Hélène Vincent. And it turns out that in this stratagem there is nudity. But it’s not funny in itself. What’s funny is why she steps in.
There’s also the progression of the scene, and that moment where you think it won’t get that far.
Yes it is graduated like that in the play and I wanted to recreate a cinema version of this progression that there was in the staging of the play.
The faculty of work impresses me a lot at Paul Verhoeven, Albert Dupontel and Guillaume Canet.
Have any directors you worked with inspired you in any way for your film?
There are several of them. It is true that Paul Verhoeven [qui l’a dirigé dans Elle, ndlr] is very free. He is not scared. He does not care what we think. He is sure of his intention, he knows that it is right. It’s not perverse, it’s not manipulation, voyeurism. Compared to self-confidence, I find it quite impressive.
Albert Dupontel too. He impressed me with the way he is prepared. He is very, very prepared when he arrives on his shoot, his cutting, he has his actors rehearse a lot beforehand. He is totally invested with a lot of notes, a lot of notebooks. It impressed me. Guillaume Canet also prepares his films a lot. The faculty of work impresses me a lot in these directors.
Interview by Maximilien Pierrette in Paris on October 14, 2020