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Romain Duris is a Heartbreaker

The Parisian star of The Beat That My Heart Skipped talks to Dazed about his latest flick, Dirty Dancing and RomComs in general

At 19, Romain Duris had zero acting ambitions. Then, after being spotted smouldering in the street in Paris by a casting director, he was offered a part in Cédric Klapisch’s 1994 film, Le Peril Jeune. A decade of success in French cinema followed, but he didn’t catch the eye of English-speaking audiences until his breathtaking turn as a piano-playing thug in 2004’s The Beat That My Heart Skipped, directed by Jacques Audiard (A Prophet). He recently took a more light-hearted turn in Pascal Chaumeil’s Heartbreaker, opposite Vanessa Paradis. He lives in Paris with his actress girlfriend Olivia Bonamy and their one-year-old son Luigi.

Dazed Digital: You’re better known for more serious roles. What drew you to a fluffy romantic comedy like Heartbreaker?
Romain Duris:
Actually when I first read the script I was afraid. I didn’t want to be stuck in a mindless popular comedy format. Also, I felt, ‘why me?’ In France, we have lots of good comedic actors for this kind of role. So I told the director Pascal Chaumeil that I wanted to feel free, and to put some of my own personality into the character. It was a long process and part of the preparation was to understand this guy who seduces women for a living. Vanessa and I added some stuff. We spoke on the phone before we started filming and we both wanted more romantic scenes.

DD: So you had some creative input?
Romain Duris:
 Yes, Pascal understood so he was very open to ideas and happy to change things. The experience was très agréable. Even once we started filming, it was very free, very spontaneous. Working with Vanessa was great because we agreed on everything. We are on the same wavelength so it was very natural to play with her.

DD: So what did you and Vanessa add to the film?
Romain Duris:
 The first version of the script was lighter, less convincing. We wanted it to be true. More profound. So the night that our characters spend together in the film – the crazy night with the Dirty Dancing routine and the dolphins – we really put our personalities into those scenes.

DD: How long did it take you to learn the dance from Dirty Dancing for that scene?
Romain Duris:
 I don’t know. We both love to dance so we danced a lot on set. I don’t know how many hours. When it’s a pleasure, you don’t count.

DD: Tell us about your new film, The Big Picture?
Romain Duris:
 It’s adapted from a book by New York writer Douglas Kennedy and it’s the story of a guy who kills his wife’s lover and then adopts his personality. He changes his entire life and actually comes out of it better. The film gave me the chance to work with Catherine Deneuve, who’s great. She is 66 but still very curious and interested in the modern world, and she works fast.

DD: Have you ever done an English language film?
Romain Duris:
 Yes, I did one two years ago. It was an American film called Afterwards. I’m interested in doing more but it really depends on the role. I don’t have any imminent plans to do one.

DD: Are they doing an English-language remake of the Heartbreaker?
Romain Duris:
 Yes, in the United States. But we are not involved in it.

DD: If they asked you to be in it, would you take the role?
Romain Duris:
 Why not? (Thinks for a minute) Actually, I don’t know if I’d want to do it again in English. It’s dangerous. And without Vanessa? No. I can’t do it without her. If they cast Hollywood stars, I would like to see Will Smith and Reese Witherspoon in our roles.

DD: So you live in Paris. What do you love about the city?
Romain Duris:
 The people are crazy. Do you know any Parisians? They are fucked up. The city is so beautiful: the architecture is so romantic and so poetic. But the people are crazy. (Starts shouting in the manner of an angry Parisian) ‘Shit, fuck, shit!’ It’s crazy. They are so busy and the traffic is terrible, it’s a mess. But it’s funny because I feel most myself there. It’s natural for me to live there.

DD: You’re a father now.
Romain Duris:
 Yes, and it’s great, of course! So we will definitely stay in Paris for now. But there are so many beautiful cities: London, New York, Tokyo, Rome. In the future, who knows?

Text by Rosamund Witcher

Heartbreaker is released on DVD on Monday 22 November