Mathieu Amalric interview

Mathieu discusses his performance as paralysed former French Elle editor, Jean-Dominique Bauby in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

French star – and new James Bond villain – Mathieu Amalric, 42, talks about his stunning performance in the Oscar-nominated The Diving Bell and the Butterfly as Jean-Dominique Bauby, a former French Elle editor who was paralysed with ‘locked-in’ syndrome.

Did making The Diving Bell and the Butterfly change your attitude to death?

No, it changed more something about my life. The body is something absolutely miraculous. It’s amazing, the five senses. I try to, but we live so quick and work so much, all the time, and have so many problems, that sometimes we just forget the miracle it is to touch something that is cold, and what the cold does on our hands. Sometimes, I think of Bauby and take thirty seconds to remember that life is absolutely marvellous.

How was it to play a role where you couldn’t move?

I mean, it’s very, very hard not to move. Try it for two hours! Just try it. When you can move, you have to move your muscles not to move. So in fact you’re always contracted, so it’s exhausting. At the end of each day, I couldn’t do anything. It’s like if I’d done an action film! It was action to do that.

You’ve also directed films, so what comes first?

My life as an actor has submerged me completely because?I don’t know why. I keep meeting directors that are so?irresistible. I only do irresistible films, because I don’t need to act to feel myself alive. William Friedkin had asked me do a part in his next film [about Coco Chanel], with Marina Hands, and I told him I couldn’t do it. It was like I had to go through the fact of refusing something irresistible, so now I have the strength to continue with my own stuff.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly opens on 8 February.

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