THE OTHER ARTIST Toledano (center) on set with actor François Cluzet (left) and directing partner Olivier Nakache (right).
While The Artist was busy scooping up accolades, adoration, and Oscars stateside, another film was busy winning the hearts and standing ovations of France. The Intouchables (Les intouchables) is the story of a millionaire rendered quadriplegic by a paragliding accident, Philippe (François Cluzet), and Driss (Omar Sy), the young man from the projects he hires as his caretaker. Based on a true story, and directed and written by Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, the ebbs and flow of the plotline are pure French: moments of unadulterated joy (the pair ditches Paris for a day to parachute among the mountains — watch Driss's face, it's priceless), melting seamlessly into Philippe's ghostly pain and alienation, and then swinging up again. The chemistry between Cluzet and Sy is effortless, and the cinematography is stunning.
>> READ: "Review: The Intouchables" <<
I caught up with Toledano during his time in Boston to find out what it's like to be behind a cinematic powerhouse, and found out it's just as weird as you'd expect it to be.
What was the most challenging aspect for you in adapting this story? Not disappointing the people who had the generosity to allow us to adapt it. In general, they are both very symbolic: for disabled people, as well as all the social groups from the projects. It was a challenge to not disappoint anyone involved in and around these two groups. In truth, we were scared about what the reactions from the handicapped world would be to our jokes. We make some politically incorrect jokes, and we didn't want them thinking we had no right to speak on their behalf. The second challenge was that in France, it's not always easy to touch people through film. On this point, we feel extremely fulfilled. When you have so much success, it's not normal! In the States, you have no problem with this kind of success, it's easily respected.
How does the measure of success of Les intouchables compare to your other films? There is no point of comparison! We made 42 stops in the tour before release in France, and each time, there was a standing ovation, with two or three minutes of applause. That's never happened to us. People weren't saying "Bravo," they were saying Thank you after they saw it, which is weird for us, to hear. My neighbors never came to say, "You made that movie!" before, so everything has changed. It's a little bit unexpected and you don't know how to react. Give me two million admission and I'm happy, but 20 million . . . I don't know how to react. It's once in a lifetime, I don't think it will ever happen again like this.