In 2014, Première met the actor of Qui vive et Hippocrate. Flashback on the occasion of the rebroadcast of Thomas Lilti’s film on France 5.
Tonight is movie night on the 5th channel: Hippocrates will be followed by an unpublished documentary on Jean-Luc Godard entitled Godard by Godard. Our review is to read hereand this portrait of the filmmaker is already visible in replay, free of charge by registering on France.TV.
In 2014, First had met Reda Kateb in Cannes, just before this hospital drama met with great critical success, to the point of being declined in series. We reshare this interview, interspersed with other interviews with the actor, who has since come across quite a few ambitious films.
From A Prophet to Hippocrates: The Quiet Rise of Reda Kateb
Reda, everyone agrees that it’s YOUR Cannes.
Yeah, I’ve been told that before. But I don’t really know what that means and especially what I can say.
What it means ? You have three films here, including one with the Goz, leading roles… Something is going on, isn’t it?
Yes… But you know, things happen to me every day in my life. I have no career ambitions. I don’t tell myself that I absolutely have to explode and that media coverage is a good thing. There, it’s just three films in Cannes, the rest… My food is not my career, it’s beautiful scripts, beautiful films and I’m really delighted to share these stories that we imagined with all the teams…
I’m sorry, but is it fatigue that makes you say such things?
Ah ah… You know it may sound naive, but that’s how I see this job. This morning, when I got dressed, I said to myself: I’m going to Cannes, to present Who lives, I will spend the day doing interviews and I will meet the public. It will be cool. Afterwards, all the journalists ask me the question of the explosion, of sudden notoriety. Yeah, something’s going on. What ? It’s up to you to say. I act in films.
Let’s talk about it then. Who lives ?
That’s what we’re here for.
How do you approach this role?
The main thing was the notion of reality. The desire to be fair in relation to the story, the environment, the director and the partners. And then I often reason in terms of rhythm. Finding the right playing and dialogue tempo. And what also interested me was to tell the life of people that we don’t see so much in today’s cinema. Don’t just talk about me…
A way to get away? Withdrawn?
Not on the sidelines, because I’d be a fool not to see that I’m at the center of the device. But not at the center of my concerns.
Reda Kateb – Omar the Strawberry: “I’m looking forward to Barbie”
I wanted to return to the notion of accuracy. Something hits me in Who livesit’s the way you wear the costume.
I’m glad you told me about the costume, because for an actor, the costume makes the monk. In Hippocrates, if I put on the gown and the director (himself a doctor) is convinced that I am a doctor, then I will have this conviction and it’s won. The security guard’s suit, poorly cut, clumsy and not Lanvin, is the suit for the job. And it’s funny because I realized that to approach a character, I often need the costume and the job. For accuracy… If I see someone playing a doctor who doesn’t know how to take a stethoscope, he can give all the emotions in the world behind, I won’t come, I won’t be with him. It’s super concrete.
And the rhythm?
It’s the movement, it’s the flow, the breaks in the movements, the dialogues… It’s a bit like in music.
Is it theoretical or instinctive?
It’s a back and forth between the two. You know Yoshi Oida ?
The Peter Brooke actor? Yes. In one of his books, The invisible actor, he explained that he wanted to do this job to disappear and not to appear. That he actually wanted to be a ninja. As a child, his mother made him believe that she didn’t see him… It was a game between them, but Yoshi believed it. And he said to himself that if he believed he was disappearing, he could make others believe it… This is what decided his vocation. In short, Yoshi was talking about the different nationalities of actors and he said that, for him, those who best mastered the physicality of the game were the English. That they managed to unify the physical and the intellectual. An actor is first and foremost a being of flesh. So, there has to be incarnation, but at the same time we have to play with what we embody, it’s the notion of play. It must therefore go through the brain. Yoshi said that the French are too much into the intellect, the Americans (especially the Method) too much into the physical or psychologizing… but among the English there is a balance, a balance. They are very raw beings and at the same time very refined.
It’s funny to project such raw, physical intensity and to hear you theorize to this extent…
It’s still my job. But in reality I have no method, no predefined thoughts. I adapt my game and my approach according to each new role. I try to reset the counters each time and to be as accurate as possible about the moment and the story we have to tell.
You were talking about the theater, about Brooke. Does this fuel this reflection?
My father was an actor and I did a lot of acting before the cinema. I want to go back there to defend a text. This is the big difference for me with cinema. In the cinema you defend situations, reality – sometimes there are well-written dialogues, be careful, but we sometimes change it along the way, to match the mood, the moment. Whereas in the theater you play humanities that are bigger than you in forms bigger than you.
I have the impression that your characters in Hippocrates and in Who lives answer each other. Each time, you are the moral pivot of the film, a guy who does not want to give in to corruption and tries to live according to rules…
It’s interesting… Possible. I viewed the two roles completely differently. We also shot them at different times. It’s funny that you can make connections. For me, these are two lives, two different people. I find it difficult to draw links, but I know that journalists know how to do it well.
How do you nourish the roles you play?
There is a part of very concrete work. For Hippocrateswe spent a morning in a hospital ward with Vincent Lacoste. We were disguised as students and no one recognized us. For Who lives, I did a lot of odd jobs and I had vigilant friends at the time. I know the thing he is going through well because when I was looking to be an actor, I struggled a bit like that. There were resonances. And in the preparations, I like to turn around. For example, I always learn my scenes for the next day, I don’t learn the entire script. If I make a preparation, I prefer it to be the most upstream so that it has time to infuse. Not that it’s a copy, an imitation… The idea is to arrive at a day of shooting with a feeling of dizziness. That’s what gets me up in the morning.
Last question, your transcendent moment in Cannes?I don’t need to look far. It is obviously the presentation ofA prophet because it was my first time here and it was a film that marked a lot of people. There was everyone: Tahar Rahim, Adel Benchrif, Leila Bekhti… It’s a super important moment because we heard the cinema doors creak and open a little. Together, all these people who had worked on this film. And then it is in itself a very solemn and important moment of which I knew nothing: for example, I did not know that at the end of the projection the light turned on again and that we were either applauded or booed…. I knew that a Cannes screening could be terrible, even if there, at that time, we knew that the film was special and expected, but in a good way. And we really received the love of cinema. It was like intoxication. An intoxication that had to be measured immediately. I don’t shy away from drunkenness, but I know my limits. I know that there is takeoff and landings and that we must ensure the return to earth… You were talking about a transcendent moment, that’s exactly it. It overtook us, it was stronger than us, than all of us. And we had to deal with the aftermath very quickly.
Interview Gaël Golhen
Excerpt fromHippocrates by Thomas Lilti with Vincent Lacoste, Reda Kateb and Jacques Gamblin, at 9 p.m. on France 5:
Hippocrates lets out a cry of alarm (critical)