Denys Arcand was a historian before he was a writer or director. Everything that Denys writes is tinted by his history point of view. How history how events can change us. Thats important for him.
For me, all these barbarians invasions Barbarians is taken in the sense of something abroad, something from outside that you must live with. It happens to you and you have no choice but to live with it. For example, 9/11. It happened so everyone in North America has to live with it now. Same thing with immigration in our country, for example.
The words 'barbarian invasions' for my character means his own death, his own sickness. But I think the most difficult [aspect] for my character, and maybe the most difficult for me, the most difficult barbarian invasion is what his son has done with his life. This is important for my character to say that what his son has done with his life, Im not in agreement with. Its been 17 years to be angry with this. Thats amazing. He will have to die to reunite with his son. I dont want this kind of thing to happen to me. Its very, very, very difficult to live.
Do you have a group of friends you consider as close as the group of friends your character had?
Not a lot, just three to be honest. I have three very, very close friends and one of the three is my own brother. Hes my brother but hes one of my three best friends. If you have some problems, something thats wrong in my life, I think thats what is definitely for me a best friend.
A strange thing happened to us during the shooting. All the people that were in the movie, we are all in our 50s. We are the age of the characters, so we were facing death for the first time. I remember when we shot the last scene of Remy when he died, when everybody wants to make their farewell to me. Pierre [Curzi] asked me after the shooting, Do you think about death, Remy? I said, No, Jesus Christ. Im a baby-boomer! Im immortal. What are you talking about? He said, Maybe we are on your last lines. I didnt want to talk about it, but something rung in my mind. Thats why this I found very, very difficult to shoot that scene of the death. I remember going home to my wife and saying, Jesus Christ, you dont know what Ive done today. I was dying. I was dying today and I will die tomorrow. Its quite difficult. It was really a marvelous experience.
This character walks a very fine line between being detestable and lovable. Was it tough for you to play that mix of good guy/bad guy basically a human being with major flaws?
In the first movie, when Denys Archand made the script, I read the script and it was the beginning of the 80s, a big time of feminism. I said to Denys, I will be killed. Say something like this about women? I will be killed, Denys. I will never be able to walk down the street again. Every woman who sees me will want to kick my head. He said, Not if you say that because you have a way of saying that. Thats why I choose you. And he was right.
I have this ability as an actor to play this kind of character, but to give him some sympathy, you know? My next film that begins in Montreal in January is the same thing. Im playing a real bad guy, a real bad, ugly and sad guy. They choose me because they said, Yes, we want him bad, but we want him a little bit sympathetic with the public. Maybe its my trademark. I dont know. But youre right, its a fine line to make these characters acceptable for the people.
I think my work was to work on the humanity of the character. I think that is the key. If you talk about humanity, I like a character not for his qualities but for his bad habits. Thats what I look for in a character. What are his bad habits? What is wrong with him? After that, I will attach myself to what is right with him. I think that what makes the character interesting, is what is wrong with him. I dont like perfect people. They dont exist anyway. When I talk about characters in movies and in television, I dont like perfect people. Thats why I like my job, to play the worst and the best. This balance between the two things is very hard sometimes to play, but very fun to play. Its very important.