Pio Marmaï is everywhere. Filming for The Three Musketeers, nominated for the César for La Fracture, in L’Événement (also prominently awarded for the César) which won the Golden Lion at the last Venice festival, soon to be in cinemas alongside Agnès Jaoui in Compagnons, and on sale today for the very good Investigation into a State Scandal. In this new feature film by Thierry de Peretti, he plays Stéphane Vilner (aka Emmanuel Fansten), a journalist from Liberation who helps tell the he story of Hubert Antoine, an undercover agent of the narcotics brigade who decided to swing Jacques Billard (Vincent Lindon), a high-ranking French police officer in a case of cannabis seized in Paris. On the occasion of this adaptation of the book L’Infiltré, we asked him a few questions to find out more about his role, the filming and his work with Roschdy Zem. How did you end up on this project? I think it was simply Thierry de Peretti who called my agent and pitched the project to me. Then 250 pages of text arrived. When you don’t know exactly what it’s all about, the French affair, when all that is opaque, reading 250 pages of this subject was quite austere. But I loved Thierry de Peretti’s previous films so much that I thought the adventure was going to be incredible. Reading 250 pages with snippets of dialogue was austere at first. How did the preparation for the film go? We did a lot of rehearsals, with Roschdy Zem in Corsica: we listened to all the interviews with Hubert Antoine and Emmanuel Fansten, at the time when they had launched the process of writing a book on what was called the François Thierry affair. There were hours of exchanges, which told the whole story of Hubert Avoine, a former communist who was at one time in contact with El Chapo. It’s a big machine. It’s part of Thierry’s job and I’ve never worked like that. There was such a density of writing, that we couldn’t arrive like that, with a few snippets of dialogue in mind. And I think that was important, because I was trying to be as precise as possible. The idea was to manage to make audible the whole political and sprawling dimension of what international drug trafficking can be and of this affair, in this case. It wasn’t obvious. Everything seems of a rare clarity when you meet Thierry, and when he walked away, it was impossible to be concrete. After this work, it felt on the set. With Thierry, there was no “engine, action”: we made sequence shots that could last between 10 and 35 minutes. He then took snippets. At one point, the scene begins. Upstream, we do what we want. The first scene, which takes place during an editorial conference at Liberation, even before Alexis Manenti and I spoke, there was already a quarter of an hour of preliminary play. Yes, it was written , but the actors came with real articles that they were supposed to write on the day. We worked for two weeks so that there was this consistency in the image. So for 15 minutes, you wait, and when it’s going to go away, you have to be precise, be at the level of the guys… In terms of the rise in stress, that was something. “Boys, do you have something to say?” There, you must know what you are talking about. We worked alongside real journalists, they worked all the time, and we warned them when we were going to shoot. I rehearsed for a month and a half, four times a week. Two hours later my brain was exploding. But then it pays off. Also, what Thierry loves is that if your phone rings, you can answer it. He liked accidents. It’s not posture. For the party scenes, it was spinning all the time. It’s really a party around us. At times, people are a little pissed off, and some didn’t understand that we were filming. A friend of mine, for example, said to me: “Damn it, but Pio, Roschdy Zem is there at the party, right?”. Sometimes they forgot. There were some disturbing moments. As with the techno party scene, we had a real Possession party. There were guys who said while we were filming: “What the fuck are you doing at a Possession party?” (Laughs). It’s not talk, and it’s what creates wealth of this work: you both do a techno party on Saturday evening and on Monday, you talk about tonnages at Liberation, it creates a depth on the character and at the same time, it requires concentration. Libé and knowing how to let go at a party.Did you manage to let go at some point?It’s not that you forget, because there is always a conscience.At Liberation, I knew roughly when people were calming down, that the chief operator Claire Mathon was starting to frame or that Thierry was making a gesture and saying to us “Guys, it’s going to go. Also, we did very little post-synchro, which is crazy. Unlike an interior scene because there was a sound of Lady Gaga. By the way, it’s a scene where Roschdy Zem proposes to a character from the film, and people present in the restaurant thought it was a real request and it ended up in the tabloids. Did you realize how far away the camera was? I didn’t realize it because we didn’t. never has access to the frame. I suspected that we were not tight. Leaving in 35mm, even being quite far away, the fact of being in a square format narrows the viewer’s gaze. He gets lost less. When you’re very tight, there are little nuances, you worry less. How thoroughly do you investigate your characters before arriving on set? What’s tricky is that I’m playing someone in the film. ‘one who exists, who is 42 years old, and who is almost of the same generation as me. Very quickly, the question of mimicry arose. On the contrary, I tried to find the power in the language to make the subject accessible. This is what has always impressed me with Emmanuel, to manage to make everything understandable. I have integrated his words so much that it becomes natural and disconcerting. When I got there, I got something enjoyable. I knew what I was talking about. The tonnage, the guys, the traffic, it was almost obsessive. 8 months of work around this subject. It’s one of the rare moments when I was able to create a character that doesn’t belong to me either. I couldn’t get into “What is it, 300 tons, 400 tons?” mode. You had the same speech with the main character of the movie But you’re crazy. Yes that’s right, but with this movie it was something else, because there it was of the order of a physical state, of anguish, of anxiety, of paranoia, without being in superincarnation. With Enquête sur un scandale d’Etat, it was through language. What was it like working with Roschdy? We didn’t know each other, and basically, we’re quite different. I say that because we are 20 years apart, but in work, we have the same requirement. He worked on the character of Hubert Antoine, and in the fact of copying, it was exactly him. After 6 months, that was what I heard on the interview tapes. He arrived, he knew the text perfectly. It’s a relationship that is also created, over 6 months with exchanges of this type, you have to trust each other. After this film, what is your next project? A comedy directed by Éric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, alongside by Alban Ivanov. I had already worked with them for In therapy, of which I have just finished the second season. We turned around a bit, we needed an idea, and there we go.
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