Jean Reno speaks at Karlovy Vary

French star is in the Czech Republic to star in a Chinese action film

Jean Reno came to the 51st Karlovy Vary International Film Festival to receive the Festival President's Award at a special screening of the film Léon: The Professional.

He spoke to the press beforehand about that film and his career. He is about to make a film in Prague and Karlovy Vary, but he declined to give many details.

“I am going to do a Chinese movie shot in Prague. That is all I can say today. It is a big production for China with big Chinese stars. … It is an action movie,” Reno said. Online sources identify the film as The Adventurers, directed by Stephen Fung and co-starring Andy Lau and Shu Qi. It is described as a treasure hunt. Filming will take place until the end of September a several Czech locations.

In Léon, which came out in 1994, he worked with a very young Natalie Portman. “She was 11 and a half. … She understood very quickly that it is work. It is not a game. We are not playing. It is more acting than playing. She understood very quickly. She has always been smart. She is a very smart person with a big heart. I had a very good time with her. I have good memories of that summer in New York,” Reno said.

As for his time-travel comedy film series The Visitors, he says the recent film will likely be the last as the characters are getting old, he said. The series began in 1993 and has three films plus a remake in English.

The Visitors: Bastille Day, released in April 2016, was also partly shot in the Czech Republic. “We were very happy in Prague last summer. We spent two months in the country and also in Czech studios. And we appreciate a lot Prague and the restaurants and the quality of life here in the Czech Republic. I mean it,” he said.

He expanded on the topic later. “I am very happy here. I was very happy last summer. … People here they have a way of living very warmly— no tension, no aggression is what I feel,” he said. He travels with an assistant. “We were so happy to come back again this year. We have beautiful women, people are very nice, and very good food. And if I have another movie next year, I will come back again,” he said.

He also looked back to the beginning of his work with director Luc Besson, the 1988 film The Big Blue. “He had the idea when he was very young, when he was living on a Greek island. … The script already had the big adventure spirit [jumping] out of the pages. It was something very big. It was the first success we had with Luc in terms of international box office,” he said. Shooting took nine months and training for the diving took one year because they were filming 30 meters underwater without tanks.

“It was a big adventure, a big human adventure and also a cinema adventure. He changed my life because we traveled all around the world with that movie,” he said. “It is a strange movie but very beautiful too,” he said.

Reno was already working as an actor in theater, and he does not know what would have happened if he had not met Besson.

Most of the time when he chooses a role it is due to the people he will work with, and less often due to the story. “If I don't feel comfortable with the people I will say 'No, thank you.' I do this not for the story I am telling. I do this to spend my life with people I like,” he said. He gave Sean Penn as an example. “It was only because Sean Penn would direct the movie [The Last Face]. I was so happy to spend time with him and look at how he works … and look at his ideas,” he said. The three directors who have touched him the most, aside from Luc Besson, were Ron Howard, Roberto Benigni and Sean Penn.

He added that he did not understand the extremely negative reaction from the critics at the Cannes Film Festival to The Last Face, a film about Doctors Without Borders. “I don't understand why they did that. The first ones to criticize the film were the Americans. I didn't understand, honestly,” he said. “I don't think the film deserved [it]. … It is not a war [film]. You do not see bad people. You just see people trying to live. … The two main roles [Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem] were fantastic,” he said.

“My wife liked the movie. People I know liked the movie. Otherwise I would have said to Sean, 'Don't go to Cannes because they are going to kill you,'” he said. “Sometimes in Cannes they kill you. Maybe the food is not good or whatever.”

He added that in real life he laughs all the time. He recounted working with director Michelangelo Antonioni, who had been paralyzed after a stroke. He made the director laugh, but Wim Wenders, who was also working on the film Beyond the Clouds, chastised Reno for being disrespectful. “I said I don't care. … and Antonioni was very happy. So I laugh all the time, which doesn't mean I am not going to do things very, very seriously because I am aware we are a crew and we have a budget to finish the movie. That is always on my mind,” he said.

He said he wanted to be an actor since he was a child. “We had plays at school. … And the ambiance, the wooden stage, the smell, everything, that was the attraction that I had. Not the movies but the theater. I come from theater. I can remember today all the sensations … the clothes, the sounds,” he said.

He was recently on the stage in Paris and is currently trying to get a play staged on Broadway in New York, but he declined to give any details beyond that Matthew Broderick was also involved. Broderick appeared with Reno in the 1998 film Godzilla, and the two have remained friends.

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