Cast: Sophie Marceau, Gad Elmaleh
Director: James Huth
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Running Time: 105 minutes
Synopsis: Sacha likes his friends, his piano and partying. He spends his evenings playing in a jazz club where he seduces pretty girls. He is happy and free as the wind, living the thrill of the moment. No alarm clock, no wedding ring, no taxes.
Charlotte has three children, two ex-husbands and a career to manage. She doesn't have any space for romance in her life.
They are poles apart and have nothing in common...
But they are made for one another.
Happiness Never Comes Alone
Release Date: May 30th, 2013
Question: Since Priceless, you haven't appeared in any romantic comedies. Is it a genre that you especially like?
Gad Elmaleh: I was offered a few, but none had the right balance between comedy and the romantic aspect. As an actor and comedian, I'm always afraid that there isn't enough comedy. On this project, knowing James Huth's poetic, amusing and hyper-sensitive universe, I knew there would be comedy whatever happened. Not only is that the case, but there's also a real love story which you buy into. Finding the couple and the story credible is the basis for any romantic comedy.
Question: What appealed to you about the script for Happiness Never Comes Alone?
Gad Elmaleh: First off, I wanted to get back to moviemaking after four years on tour. I used to run into James, we'd wave to each other in bars, we felt we should work together, but we didn't really know on what. When I read his script, I was drawn to the character, notably the fact that he's a pianist. And to be honest, the idea of acting opposite Sophie Marceau was extremely attractive! Even before making this film, I'd wanted to work with her.
Question: Were you slightly overawed finding yourself face to face with her?
Gad Elmaleh: That's not the word. I was just very enthusiastic. If someone had asked me which actress in the world would I like to make a romantic comedy with, I'd have said Sophie Marceau.
Question: What does she symbolise for you?
Gad Elmaleh: She represents at once something sexy, attractive, stimulating and totally reassuring. A mix of nervousness and great solidity. I really loved working with her. And what a sense of humor! Not only did she play along with my craziness, but sometimes she went even further than me. I'm not from the generation who grew up with The Party. Since I was in Morocco when that film came out, I only saw it some years later. In fact, I discovered Sophie Marceau late in life.
Question: How did your first meetings go? Apparently you weren't totally at ease...
Gad Elmaleh: I don't think she was either. I wanted to be liked by the person with whom I was going to share a set for three months. Both for artistic reasons and from a personal point of view. And I didn't want to perform gags just to make her laugh. So it's true, during our first meetings, I was pretty well behaved.
Question: Do you have anything in common with the character of Sacha?
Gad Elmaleh: Actually, he's quite different from me. I'm eaten up with guilt and very responsible, always on hand in case my family needs something. I'm completely unfamiliar with Sacha's insouciance. Unlike him, I need everything to be in order and the bills paid. The only thing we have in common is music. I would have loved to have been a pianist and that will always be a great frustration for me. I do play the piano but I'm not good enough. I think his sense of humour also comes from that frivolity. In fact, Sacha is someone in love. And me too, I'm always in love! Not just with women – it's a state of mind. Like him, I enjoy the state of being in love. What I like in the film is the fact that he's swept up by this affair that he absolutely wasn't expecting. At a stroke, he finds himself living with a woman who has three kids and two very present ex-husbands.
Question: It's unusual that the couple fall in love at the beginning of the film and not at the end...
Gad Elmaleh: At the start, we see him in a club getting drunk and kissing a girl. You understand that he likes his freedom, and falling in love hits him like a hammer blow. I love that moment when they look at each other and realise that it has to be. At that moment, I think he gets a little melancholy. When Sophie had to throw herself to the ground in the pouring rain, I was amazed. I was being a bit la-de-da, and she wanted to go all the way with it. She's a real pro.
Question: Sacha doesn't know how to look after himself. His mother takes care of him, his grandmother gives him advice, and his buddies are his second family…
Gad Elmaleh: It's true that his mother and grandmother protect him, while that's not the case with Charlotte. The grandmother is really wonderful. For me, it was a real composition role to play an Ashkenazi. (laughs) And it's true that friendship is something that counts a great deal for him. He's not a teenager with arrested development, but when he's with his buddies, they get a little nostalgic about what they could have become. What's more, I'd like to say I had a lot of fun acting with Maurice Barthélemy. He's amusing, yet intense and dramatic. At times, he manages to inject a scene with incredible emotion. I like the power he projects.
Question: The transformation of Sacha is interesting. Despite all the constraints involved in this love affair – in particular the kids – he still goes for it.
Gad Elmaleh: I really like the scene where he's eating pasta and he doesn't know what to do. The comedy also comes from the fact that he wants the kids to like him. It's not easy, especially with the youngest one. It's always a bit difficult working with children, but I have to admit those three were pretty amazing.
Question: What do you think of the relationship between Charlotte and Sacha?
Gad Elmaleh: Watching the film, I thought a lot about all those women who allow themselves to live freely. Those who dare, and those who don't dare to start a new relationship. The film is also a reflection on this subject. And I hope it will give ideas to all those single women with children who dream of starting a new life, and also to all those men who go from one fling to another every night. It's funny at first, but at the end of the day, it's quite sad.
Question: One thinks that you must have had to improvise in certain scenes, putting in a bit more of yourself. I'm thinking notably of the scene in which you had to put the little child to bed, when we see a little of Gad's stage show.
Gad Elmaleh: True, but everything was kept on track by James. He didn't let me do my show, he just used it. In fact, he's one great big thief! But he doesn't take the big, bulky stuff; he only takes the little gems. He's right to do that, and I like that approach. This balance also comes from the fact that, during the shoot, he worked a lot in tandem with his wife, Sonja.
Question: It was even she who suggested you for the role…
Gad Elmaleh: Yes, that's true. On the shoot, they set limits between themselves and it was no bad thing. When James veered off too much into madcap slapstick, she refocused the film on the love story. The combination of the two resulted in something credible. In fact, you can do whatever you want as long as the situation remains credible.
Question: Why did someone as shy as you are agree to bare their backside?
Gad Elmaleh: It's a first! In fact, I decided to do this movie whilst totally abandoning myself to the director, not being in control as I am for my stage shows or in other films. So getting butt-naked is no more indecent than being really moved and making a declaration of love. I also knew that James would go wherever the film required. And to be honest, there's a scene in which Sophie pulls on a skirt and you also see her ass. So since she did it, I couldn't really say no! But I have to say, we did fall about laughing doing that stuff.
Question: Has nudity always been a problem for you in cinema?
Gad Elmaleh: Yes, it's a matter of one's modesty, and you can't explain it. But I'm not just shy on film sets. I don't even wear swimming trunks on the beach. It's partly a sense of modesty and partly a complex, which doesn't get any better over time. In the film, there's a scene where I have to run off with the duvet. Since I was naked, they made some kind of duvet pants for me, which I had to wear to cover myself up. But I looked ridiculous. So I told James to forget it and I just got naked.
Question: What did you most appreciate about James Huth's way of working?
Gad Elmaleh: He has a way of provoking things that I've never seen in anyone before. On one occasion at the end of the day after 42 takes of the last shot, all I wanted was to get away from him. But once I got home, all I wanted was to call him! I called him practically every evening to ask him if we were right to do this or that, or what he thought of something. When I finished the film, I felt like I'd made five action movies.
Question: What would you say about how he directs actors?
Gad Elmaleh: In his own way, he has tried to capture the energy that I have on stage – to be as close to what I really am, without inventing things. That's the problem we comedians have in movies. People always want to avoid coming too close to our personas, when in the end, you just have to move towards what you are. Not do sketches, but try to find some truth in the comedy. That's what James was after. He managed to capture the things that I improvised – little things, a few words. I liked the way he didn't miss anything. It's good, but it's exhausting. This film drained me more than any other in making it, but it replenished me most in watching it.
Question: This film also marks the coming together of France's favorite comedian and best-loved actress. What do you think of this status?
Gad Elmaleh: You should ask the marketing specialists, not me. It may be the encounter of two popular artists, but that's not how I see things. Everything happened quite naturally. I'd already been offered a film with Sophie, but the idea wasn't only to film with her. I wanted a great project because she's someone who counts for a lot in cinema. Her career path has been so rich, brilliant, singular and astonishing. She really has that something extra, that thing you can't control and which has no name. She is genuinely unique, it's not a myth.
Question: What memories do you have of filming the scenes in New York?
Gad Elmaleh: It was interesting because we shot on the hoof. When you block off a neighbourhood, what happens is very dynamic. But when you haven't closed off Times Square and you arrive with a camera, it's hilarious! My memory is of something insane, electric – and I have a real soft spot for that city. I've performed there and I always feel good in New York.
Question: Did you know Robert Charlebois before?
Gad Elmaleh: Yes, we'd met in Quebec. He came to see my shows. In my opinion, he's a great poet, and what's more, he makes me laugh.
Question: You recently worked with Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, Al Pacino, Costa-Gavras, Olivier Dahan and Michel Gondry – that's quite a roll call.
Gad Elmaleh: While it doesn't take anything away from the power of those experiences and the pride I have in doing them, with Steven Spielberg and Woody Allen they were only small roles. But it meant I got to meet them and be directed by them. It's true that in a short space of time, I've worked with some major directors, filmmakers with their own stamp. Like James Huth; from Hellphone and Lucky Luke, he has one hell of a universe.
Question: One gets the feeling you've hit the accelerator in terms of cinema.
Gad Elmaleh: I haven't hit the accelerator, I just opened the car door and people got in!
Interview by Thierry Colby