When the di­rec­tor of Trou­ble at Tim­petill turns his at­ten­tion to the cheeky school­boy in a red bell­boy out­fit, the re­sult is a touch­ing film full of mis­chief. Meet Ni­co­las Bary, ex­pert in por­tray­ing imp­ish kids on screen.

Milk Magazine (English) - - CONTENTS - in­ter­view con­ducted by angèle rincheval hernu ni­co­las bary’s le petit spirou is on re­lease in france on 27 septem­bre 2017

Young Spirou’s screen de­but

Where did the idea of a film adap­ta­tion of Le Petit Spirou (Young Spirou) come from? — When I was 24, I wanted to make a film based on Soda, another comic book by Philippe Tome, co-au­thor, with Janry, of Le Petit Spirou. In the end, that didn’t hap­pen. But years later, the pub­lish­ing house Dupuis, hav­ing seen my first two full-length fea­ture films, asked me to adapt Le Petit Spirou. I loved the comic book, which I used to read as a child, and, as I knew the au­thor, I said, “Let’s go!” How do you turn a comic-strip for­mat into a movie? — The comic book con­sisted of in­di­vid­ual one-page sto­ries, not the ob­vi­ous ma­te­rial for the plot of a ful­l­length fea­ture film. I didn’t want to change the spirit of the comic, but I needed to find a link so that the film wouldn’t be just a se­ries of sketches. The scriptwriter Lau­rent Turner and I reread all the vol­umes in the se­ries, not­ing the pages that seemed the most ap­pro­pri­ate, as well as de­tails such as the lift cage, which ap­pears anec­do­tally in the back­ground on one page. The idea of a lift used as a prop by the grand­fa­ther when coach­ing his grand­son de­vel­oped from there. The out­fit the hero wears is the film’s cen­tral theme… — This theme is never re­ally ex­plored in the comic, where the red bell­boy out­fit is taken for granted and never gives rise to ques­tions. Whereas on the big screen, if one ig­nores why the hero wears such an out­fit, it might be per­ceived as sim­ply a dis­guise. That’s why we made it the core theme of the film. A purely re­al­is­tic, lit­eral uni­verse would have been too off­beat; we thus moved in a styl­ized, but not too bizarre, artis­tic di­rec­tion! Out­wardly a light-hearted com­edy, the film nev­er­the­less tack­les se­ri­ous sub­jects: in­her­i­tance, de­ter­min­ism, free­dom… — In all films about su­per he­roes, the cos­tumes they wear are highly sym­bolic. In the comics, the mother and grand­fa­ther are dressed as bell­hops, and we en­vis­aged the cos­tume as an al­le­gory of fam­ily her­itage, how things are passed on. Char­ac­ter build­ing as a child in­volves ei­ther

ap­pro­pri­at­ing this her­itage or, on the con­trary, de­cid­ing to re­ject it, to free one­self of it to avoid be­ing smoth­ered. Why did you de­cide to make young Spirou less of a scamp on cel­lu­loid than in print? — In spite of the very naïve, child­like as­pects of his char­ac­ter, it’s true that, in the comics, he some­times finds him­self in sit­u­a­tions teenagers are more likely to face. We didn’t want to re­move his rogu­ish side com­pletely; there’s an air of mis­chief in some scenes, but we couldn’t let it be the dom­i­nant trait of a film meant for chil­dren. We laid the em­pha­sis in­stead on the prob­lems he has with his friend Suzette, for ex­am­ple, or on the fact that he’s a lit­tle bit in love with his schoolmistress… What can you tell us about the way you cast the film? — I wanted droll, off­beat char­ac­ters, with a touch of ten­der­ness. François Damiens was per­fect to play Mon­sieur Mé­got and I saw Pierre Richard as the fun and po­etic grand­fa­ther as soon as we started writ­ing the script. Fun­nily enough, one night I dreamt of the film shoot and in my dream Nat­acha Rég­nier was play­ing the mother. She doesn’t usu­ally play this sort of role, but she im­me­di­ately ac­cepted it. As for Sacha Pin­ault, my young Spirou, he was spot­ted in a park on the last day of cast­ing. He had never acted be­fore, but he un­der­stood what it was all about straight away. He had no qualms about dy­ing his hair red to slip into the skin of his char­ac­ter. How did you trans­pose the comic-book at­mos­phere into the film sets? — We told our­selves that there’s al­ways a mod­ern el­e­ment in comics, so we didn’t want to make a pe­riod film set in the 1950s. Up­dat­ing the con­cept of a bell­boy seemed in­ter­est­ing. We shot the film all over the area sur­round­ing Paris. The dis­af­fected school was in Le Raincy, the chase took place in Le Vésinet, some scenes were shot in Meudon, the house was in Garches… I wanted it to look a bit like San Fran­cisco, es­pe­cially for the stunt scene; the up and down­hill slopes of the streets in Meudon and Le Raincy did the job pretty well. Do you see a lit­tle of your­self in young Spirou? — Yes, I did put a bit of my­self into young Spirou! I grew up in a fam­ily of mu­si­cians; I played vi­o­lin and clar­inet… I was raised to be­lieve that I’d have a ca­reer in mu­sic; Spirou was brought up to be a bell­boy. He chose ad­ven­ture and I chose the world of film!

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