Interview with Thierry Lhermitte

French film and stage actor THIERRY LHERMITTE charmed American cinema fans in Le Divorce. He talks to Pamela Leavy about his life and love for his native country...

 

When did you realise your love of acting? I grew up in Neuilly-sur-Seine near Paris, a fancy suburb close to the beautiful forest and park, the Bois de Boulogne. Friends from school and I staged productions and founded the caf�-theatre troupe Le Splendide, similar to Chicago’s Second City.

Who did you most enjoy working with in Le Divorce? Glenn Close. I was so happy working with her and our scenes together were just wonderful. Years ago I starred with Karen Allen in Until September. She went on to Raiders of the Lost Ark fame and we stay in touch once in a while.

You are often compared to the American actor Tom Hanks. Do you like this comparison? I am flattered. I am a great admirer of Tom Hanks. He has been able to do comedy and serious movies, a man of talent.

Are you part of the celebrity scene in Paris? I am a family man, not a night clubber. My wife Helen and I live in the Bastille area of Paris, in a penthouse near street markets and not far from La Promenade Plant�e, the popular pedestrian walkway fashioned from a railroad viaduct. I have three children, one still at home.

How do you compare acting to living in France? France sparkles and creates life and so does acting. There is a spark that exists with actors and we talk the same language even when it is another language. Our craft is to create life.

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Are you a fan of the Cannes Film Festival? Going to Cannes is like going to Nice or Saint-Tropez. I prefer going to small festivals, such as the British Film Festival in Normandy and Dinan.

Where in France do you go on your holidays? The Auvergne, the wildest part of France in the mountainous Massif Central region. My family enjoys horseback riding, backpacking trips and camping. While I prefer international cuisine, the Auvergne offers potatoes and cabbage and pot�e Auvergnate, pork with stuffed cabbage. This cuisine has spread to Paris, especially to small caf�s run by Auvergnats.

What are your favourite dining spots in Paris? I prefer world cuisine, a mixture of the best. I enjoy sushi which is available all over Paris. I do like the restaurant of Paris’ H�tel Bristol and Le D�me brasserie near Montparnasse for the fish.

Where in France do you like to visit? In Paris everything is on the tourist track because it is just beautiful and serves a good purpose. Every time I go away and return to Paris I am reminded of its beauty. Just like tourists, we like to get in a car and drive around to Le Mont-Saint-Michel on the salt flats of Normandy or Beaune in the Burgundy wine country. Some day I will take my car and go all around France and visit people.

Are there other French regions you recommend to visitors looking for a gourmet experience? People need to go to Lyon, a popular destination with food you don’t find anywhere else; Lyon’s own charcuterie and special Lyonnaise cuisine, duck p�t�, roast pork, bugnes de Lyon – miniature beignets. Bouchon restaurants in Lyon serve this home cooking and it’s not nouvelle or haute French cuisine. The name bouchon comes from small inns visited by silk workers passing through Lyon as early as the 16th century. Bouchon comes from an expression for a bunch of twisted straw. This symbol continues to mark the doors at bouchon restaurants. Another region to visit is France’s southwest. Here they have the foie gras and other French products, and in Bordeaux there’s the wonderful cuisine as well as the vineyards.