We speak with the renowned actor-turned-director about his upcoming romantic thriller
French actor-turned-director Guillaume Canet returns to the big screen this month with his second directorial effort Tell No One. Based on Harlan Coben's best selling novel, the story follows the trials and tribulations of Pediatric doctor Alex Beck (Fran 1ois Cluzet). The man finds himself still devastated by the savage murder of his wife Margot (Marie-Jose Croze) some eight years after the brutal event occurred. One late and lonely evening, he receives an anonymous email and clicks on the provided link only to see a woman's face standing in a crowd and being filmed in real time. Is it the face of his dead wife? Is she still alive? And why does she instruct him to Tell No One? It's a mystery that won't be reveled until the final moments of this nail-biting thriller. It's definitely one you won't want to miss.
We recently caught up with Canet to discuss the making of the film with him. Always a pleasant conversationalist, Guillaume was eager to delve into the production process behind his latest film. Here is our conversation:
This story has been around for a while. Why did it take so long for Tell No One to reach the big screen?
Guillaume Canet: In the beginning, the film was supposed to be made in the United States. Michael Apted was supposed to direct it. When I first read the book, I really loved it. I wanted to adapted it, but from what I understood, it was already being made. But that fell through, and it eventually wound up in my hands.
It seems like there has been some considerable time between this and your last directorial effort. Why has it taken so long for you to jump back into the director's chair?
Guillaume Canet: I had been working on something else that was close to being finished. While working on that, I read Harlan Coben's book, and I was totally amazed by the storyline. I loved the main character. I loved how this thriller is really a love story. The romance is really the engine of this particular story. I was really passionate about it. But it ended up taking me a long time to get it made. Also, I am an actor. And I am working on a lot of projects in France while I am trying to direct. That means that I can't do films one after the other.
So, you see this particular story as more of a romance than a thriller? Or an action film?
Guillaume Canet: Yes. I think it is really working from an engine built on romance. It looks like a thriller. It does have a lot of action in it. But that is why I love the book. There are so many points that I could divide up. To me, the love story is at the center of this. It is the most important thing here, because it is love that drives this man to do anything. It is his love that drives him to look for his wife after so many years.
Did Michael Apted already have a script for his version of the film? And did you guys ever consider using that version of it?
Guillaume Canet: He did have a script, but I never read that version of it. I don't know what his movie was about. I know that he loved it. What I heard from Harlan was that the time between her death and her reemergence was not eight years. In the American version, she comes back after only three years. They took to showing more of the action. They were holding onto the thriller aspect of it. But I don't know too much about the differences in our adapted stories other than that.
You created the aspect of an eight year separation?
Guillaume Canet: No, it was eight years in the book. I thought that was important to respect that aspect of it.
What changes did you make? I understand that Harlan was okay with everything you wanted to change.
Guillaume Canet: Yeah, he was. There are actually very few changes. The biggest change comes at the end. All the explanation at the end is different from the book. There are certain little details that I could not express or show on screen. Some of the stuff was too easy. These were ideas that you could accept as a writer. And you could accept them as a reader. But when you put the simplicity of that on the screen, you have to give much more detail and explanation to it. There are some little things that have been resolved in the book too easily. I had to change some of that. When you start to change some of it, everything else falls apart. That is why I needed to change some of the ending. I also added in the horse side of it. That wasn't in the book. Neither was the character that I play.
How do you think the idea of the lead character being a Pediatric doctor tied into the themes of his character being so sympathetic to the audience? Do you think his profession played into this idea of making him a more likeable character? Somone that we could root for?
Guillaume Canet: Absolutely. I am sure that his profession plays into making him more likable. We understand that he was all about making his life about his wife. She died, and we understand that they never got a chance to have kids. To know that he is a pediatric, and that he is taking care of these kids, and is interested in their health, you do have more sympathy for him.
This film is already a big hit in France, and it has already played very well to the critical press and media. How do you think it will play to general audiences in the Unites States? Are you at all nervous about bringing it to a different country?
Guillaume Canet: Yeah, I am a little nervous. It was a really huge hit in the UK. It had the highest score of any French film in England. I was really afraid of people having to watch the film with subtitles, but it was a surprise hit. For sure, I am a little nervous, but hopefully people will have the curiosity to go see the film, even with the subtitles. I think this film has great potential in the states. It is not like some of the other French films that have come out. Don't get me wrong, I really like them as well. But this is perhaps more geared to a wider, more popular audience. We will see if it finds its public.
From what I understand, it was a bit of a challenge to get Francois Cluzet cast as the lead in your film. Why was that?
Guillaume Canet: It is a long story. I was thinking of Francois Cluzet while I was writing, because he is one of my favorite actors. I thought he was the best actor for this role. I wanted someone that could have a broken side. When I finished the script, and I offered him the part, he was very grateful. He was expecting a role like this in his life. He was very passionate about it. But we soon came to realize that the studios didn't want him because they didn't think he was bankable. I had to fight with the financiers for a long time. I had to push them. Most of them then left, so we had some trouble closing the picture. But when we finally got it made, and it was done, he won the French Oscar. That was a really good response to that negativity.
Was Francois game in doing a lot of the action scenes that we see him do in this film?
Guillaume Canet: Yeah, he did a lot of those himself. He jumped on the highway in that scene where he is chased. He did all of those stunts. There was one that he didn't do. If you remember the truck on the highway? That was too dangerous. But for the rest of them, he did them by himself. I am really proud of that.
Guillaume Canet: What about the scene where he runs into traffic. I mean, it looks like you actually had him run directly into moving traffic.
Guillaume Canet: Yeah, he did that. I played with the lens sometimes. It looks like he is closer to some of those cars than he actually is. But I really wanted people to get the feeling that he is in danger. So, I made it as adventurous as I could.
I thought the scene where Francois is in the Internet Cafe, and the U2 song comes on, was rather unique. Are you a huge fan of U2?
Guillaume Canet: Yes. I was listening to that song when I was writing that scene. I had some music on, and I heard this song. I though it was so powerful and so moving. I have known this song for a while. With or Without You. But it was then that I realized it was such a great song for this. I imagined that it would be their song. The husband and the wife. While I was writing the script, I actually made a playlist of music that these two would have listened to together. Stuff that they would both like. The U2 song was in it. After that, I couldn't take it off my mind. During shooting, I told my producer that we were going to have to pay to use that song. It was that important.
In bringing this to the states, did you ever consider having the film dubbed?
Guillaume Canet: No, I never really considered that. I didn't want to dub it. The distributor bought the film like it is, and wanted to show it in the way it is. I think it is always nice to have the film with its original language. That goes for French and Spanish films. It is always nice to see some movies in their original voice. I hate watching an American movie with French voices. I think it takes away all of the emotion and the sincerity.
Do you find directing films more challenging than some of the work you have done as an actor? Or do you think it is on equal par?
Guillaume Canet: Well, in the last couple of years, I have been able to do some really wonderful films as an actor. Perhaps because I became more mature. And I got older. Suddenly I have more interesting parts. Right now, I find acting and directing to be about equal. At the time I made my first film, I was a little fed up with acting. It was always the same parts. They were naive characters, and not very deep. Now, I have been able to change that. I have had some great pleasure working as an actor. I need both of them. I can find different things that are challenging in both of them.
I see that you have numerous acting roles coming up. But do you have anything new that you are looking to direct?
Guillaume Canet: Sure. I have two projects that I am working on right now. One of them is a French project that I am working with. It is an original script. The other one is a French film that I would like to remake.
What is that film?
Guillaume Canet: It is a movie that hasn't come out yet. It came out only in France. It is a movie that I played in as an actor.
Remaking a movie that you acted in has got to be a challenge in itself.
Guillaume Canet: Tell me about it. Yeah. For sure. But I really want to do it again, but totally different. We will see if I succeed.
Have you talked with the original director of that film? What does he think of you remaking it?
Guillaume Canet: For sure, I have spoken with him. And he is really happy that I am doing that. He likes my work, and he thinks it is a good idea. We have talked about it for a while.
Tell No One opens June 27th in limited release.